Obesity-Related Claims Rise Among Companion Animals

Nation's Largest Pet Insurer Reveals Top 10 Dog and Cat Obesity-Related Conditions

Giving pets table scraps and treats may seem like a harmless reward for your cuddly canine or friendly feline, but it can lead to health problems down the road, including arthritis, diabetes, and liver disease. Just like their human counterparts, excessive weight increases the risk of additional health problems and shortens the life expectancy of pets.

Over the last three years, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, has seen pet obesity-related claims steadily increase. In 2012, VPI policyholders filed more than $34 million in claims for conditions and diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by excess weight. The company recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat obesity-related conditions in 2012.  Below are the results:


Most Common Dog

Obesity-Related Conditions

Most Common Cat

Obesity-Related Conditions

1.    Arthritis

1.     Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease

2.    Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease

2.     Chronic Kidney Disease

3.    Undiagnosed Limp

3.     Diabetes

4.    Low Thyroid Hormone

4.     Asthma

5.    Liver Disease

5.     Liver Disease

6.    Torn Knee Ligaments

6.     High Blood Pressure

7.    Diseased Disc in the Spine

7.     Arthritis

8.    Diabetes

8.     Undiagnosed Limp

9.    Heart Failure

9.     Heart Failure

10.   Chronic Kidney Disease

10.    Gall Bladder Disorder


"Taking your pet to the veterinarian for regular wellness visits is the most effective way to monitor your pet's weight," said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "Routine exercise, a regulated diet, and watching for signs of excessive weight gain are important steps in avoiding pet obesity and the additional health concerns that are associated with it."

In 2012, VPI received more than 34,000 canine claims for arthritis, the most common joint disease aggravated by excessive weight. The average claim fee was $300 per pet. For cats, bladder or urinary tract disease was the most common condition that can be aggravated by obesity. VPI received more than 4,200 medical claims for this ailment: with an average claim of $415 per pet. 

In addition to taking pets to the veterinarian for regular wellness visits, below are simple tests you can perform to determine if your pet needs to lose weight:

  •   *You should be able to feel your pet's ribs without pressing.
  •   *You should see a noticeable "waist" on your pet, between the back of the ribs and the hips, when viewing your pet from above. When looking from the side, your pet's belly should go up from the bottom of the ribcage to inside the thighs.