Pixabay, bulldog

With people spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many pets have garnered extra treats, leading to some extra pounds. While more pets may be pudgy now, the health issues related to obesity in pets have long concerned veterinarians, according to officials from Nationwide, a provider of pet insurance.

Data from Nationwide shows that claims for conditions linked to or made worse by obesity increased for the ninth straight year. Over a recent 12-month period, obesity-related claims accounted for 20 percent of Nationwide members’ pet insurance claims, totaling more than $90 million in veterinary expenses, according to officials.

“As with people, excessive body fat in pets increases the risk of preventable health issues and may shorten the life expectancy of dogs and cats,” officials said.

Nationwide recently sorted through its database of insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat conditions related to or made worse by obesity. The results ranked in order of most claims received:

Dogs

1. Arthritis

2. Bladder/urinary tract disease

3. Soft tissue trauma

4. Torn ligaments in the knee

5. Liver disease

6. Low thyroid hormone

7. Diseased disc in the spine

8. Diabetes

9. Chronic kidney disease

10. Heart failure

Cats

1. Bladder/urinary tract disease

2. Chronic kidney disease

3. Diabetes

4. Liver disease

5. Asthma

6. Arthritis

7. High blood pressure

8. Soft tissue trauma

9. Heart failure

10. Gall bladder disorder

The most common disease aggravated by excessive weight in dogs is arthritis, which represented more than 85,000 claims and carried an average treatment fee of $349, according to the data. For cats, bladder or urinary tract disease was the most common obesity-related condition, which accounted for nearly 14,000 claims, with an average claim amount of $529 per pet, the data revealed.

“Veterinarians have been sounding the alarm about overweight pets for years now,” said Dr. Jules Benson, chief veterinary officer for Nationwide, which is based in Columbus, Ohio. “Part of the problem is that pet parents often don’t realize when an animal is overweight, or if they’re aware, they struggle with helping their pet lose weight. The silver lining of the prevalence of pet obesity is that your veterinary teams have lots of experience assessing pets and helping pet parents with effective weight loss plans.”

Officials offered tips pet owners can take in partnership with their veterinary team:

• “Have your veterinarian assess your pet’s weight, help set goals and offer advice,” officials said. “In some cases, a veterinary-prescribed or -recommended calorie-reduced pet food is ideal.”

• “Measure your pet’s food accurately,” officials said. “Veterinary nutritionists often advise adding healthy ‘filler,’ such as thawed frozen green beans, to help pets feel satisfied.”

• “For treats, use the smallest you can find and break them up even smaller,” officials added. “Use treats for training or as a reward for an activity instead of handing them out just for being cute.”

• “Have pets ‘hunt’ for the meals,” officials said. “Food puzzles and food mats or slow-feeding bowls exercise body and mind, and help gulpers feel more satisfied.”

• “Set aside time for you both to be active together, with indoor games such as ‘cat fishing’ for felines and walks or retrieving games for dogs,” officials said.


For more of PPN's coverage on pet obesity, read: