Stone me! Rotund rabbit Pebbles goes on crash diet

Pebbles with vet Amy Labbate, and owners Emily, Alice and Amy
Pebbles with vet Amy Labbate, and owners Emily, Alice and Amy
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A chunky bunny from Blackpool – so overweight he couldn’t hop – has reached the finals of the UK’s largest pet slimming competition.

The rotund rabbit, hoping to lead the way for millions of overweight pets across Britain, is the only bunny to be selected to compete against 12 other overweight pets in the PDSA Pet Fit Club.

Big bun Pebbles

Big bun Pebbles

Pebbles once tipped the scales at a colossal 10Ib (4.5kg), making him nearly 50 per cent more than his ideal weight (7Ib/3kg).

The three-year-old rabbit piled on the pounds through a combination of poor quality rabbit food and an aversion to rain.

His owner, Christine Howard, 39, thought she was setting Pebbles up for a perfect life, giving him full run of the garden and taking advice from a pet shop on which food to feed him. But despite her best intentions, the muesli-style food she was using was incredibly high in sugar, making it bad for Pebbles’ waistline and teeth.

Pebbles’ poor diet was compounded over the winter months, when his dislike of the cold weather and rain kept him tucked up in the comfort of his hutch, rather than exercising out in the garden.

Because he doesn’t like being out in the rain, he didn’t get much exercise in the winter months

As a result, Pebbles piled on weight and began finding it difficult to groom himself. This lead to a condition commonly known as ’sticky bum syndrome’, which can cause serious problems, such as flystrike, if left untreated.

Christine said: “Pebbles and his hutch-mate Rascal were a few months old when we got them and the shop advised that we continue feeding them the food they were used to, which we didn’t realise was bad for them.

“Because he doesn’t like being out in the rain, he didn’t get much exercise in the winter months. One day I noticed his back end was all dirty so I took him to PDSA. They explained he was overweight and struggling to clean himself properly, I’ve had to start bathing him every week.”

Christine cut out the unhealthy muesli and started Pebbles on a diet straight away. He’s now down to a healthier 8Ib (3.6kg) but she hopes Pet Fit Club will help him shift the final, stubborn pound.

She said: “I want the best possible life for Pebbles. He’s already done really well, but now I really want to hit his ideal weight so he can have a happier life.”

As part of Pet Fit Club, Pebbles will embark on a strict six-month diet and exercise programme, specially tailored by the vets and nurses at Blackpool PDSA Pet Hospital on Hawes Side Lane.

Simone Der Weduwen, PDSA vet, who will oversee Pebbles’ diet, said: “Obesity is a serious issue that affects millions of UK pets. Like humans, pets carrying excess weight are at risk from developing serious health conditions which affect their welfare and wellbeing and their lifespan.

“Christine has already made some fantastic lifestyle changes to help Pebbles slim down. Now, with the help of PDSA Pet Fit Club, we’re hoping to get him down to his ideal weight.

“If owners are unsure what to feed their pets, or are concerned about their weight, they should always seek advice from their vet.”

Pebbles will be competing against seven dogs and five cats, including Cilla, a crumpet-loving American Bulldog from Liverpool who tips the scales at a hefty 8st 8lb (54.4kg). Also taking on the six-month weight loss challenge are podgy puss Puff, from Sheffield, who weighs 1st 3lb (7.5kg).

PDSA Pet Fit Club was launched in 2005 and has already helped 74 dogs, 32 cats and six rabbits lose a total 63 stone 11lb - equivalent to over 400 bags of sugar, 6,500 tins of tuna, 7,000 sausages or four heavyweight boxers. See www.petfitclub.org.uk.