Insurance for overweight pets

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Photo of an overweight cat

It’s all too easy to overindulge our pets. We get it, showering them with treats is easy when they’re so cute.

However, combined with a lack of exercise, this can lead to weight gain – a problem that increases the risk of numerous health issues, from joint problems and high blood pressure to heart disease and cancer.

We’ve compiled everything you need to know about managing overweight pets, the impact on insurance and dealing with the side effects of obesity.

Does weight gain impact pet insurance?

Most pet insurance policies cover overweight pets.

However, your premium can be more expensive if your pet has pre-existing health issues cause by their weight.

If you’re worried that your pet is overweight, don’t panic: the health problems associated with obesity can be tackled with a few simple changes.

What are the causes of obesity in pets?

There are two key reasons for pet obesity: overeating and under exercising.

From leftovers from your meals to too many treats, it’s easy to accidentally overfeed your pet.

Pets need different amounts of exercise. Ask your vet how much exercise an animal of their type should be getting per day, and follow their advice to keep your dog or cat fit.

If you’re worried that your pet is gaining weight due to illness, book a vet appointment. They can diagnose what’s wrong with your pet and suggest the best treatment.

How can I tell if my pet is overweight?

A vet can diagnose weight issues by weighing them on a scale. Your pet’s breed will usually have a typical weight range.

When checking your pet’s weight between vet visits you should be able to:

  • feel their ribs through a slight fat cover when you run your hand along their side
  • look at them from above and see the definition of their waist

Any “padding” around the base of the tail indicates that they’re overweight.

Dangers of obesity in pets

Weight gain in animals has a much greater effect than it does in humans.

For example, a 5kg Shih Tzu gaining an additional 2kg is the equivalent of a 10 stone woman gaining an extra four stone.

Obese pets are more prone to health problems and live shorter lives, and vets are reportedly seeing more overweight animals in their surgeries.

Some of the health problems that can occur because of being overweight are:

  • breathing difficulties
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • liver disease or dysfunction
  • osteoarthritis resulting in lameness
  • lowered immune system function
  • increased risk of developing malignant tumours (cancer)

The impact of food is greater too. For example, a Dachshund ate 25g of cheese is like a human eating two large muffins. The same amount of cheese for a cat converts to three and a half hamburgers for the average person.

Foods you shouldn’t feed your dog or cat

  • alcohol
  • apple seeds
  • avocado
  • bones
  • chives
  • chocolate
  • coffee (and caffeine)
  • corn on the cob (whole)
  • citrus
  • coconut
  • dairy
  • fat trimmings
  • garlic
  • grapes
  • onions
  • nuts
  • raisins
  • salt
  • sweets
  • yeast

Allowing your dog or cat to share your food encourages bad behaviour too.

If your vet indicates your pet’s a bit on the heavy side, it’s important to follow their dietary advice to get your pet back to a healthy weight.

Watch out for commercial foods which contain the following:

  • Ethoxyquin - used as a preservative but can cause health problems
  • Propylene Glycol - used to control bacteria and moisture in the food but can cause problems to intestines
  • BHT/BHA – used as a preservative, but can cause damage to kidneys and have been linked with cancer
  • Corn syrup - a sugar often used to help sweeten food. However, too much sugar over time will lead to weight gain, diabetes, hyperactivity and a change in mental behaviour

What should I feed my pet?

Buying good-quality, balanced pet food is important, but different types of animals need different food.

Kittens and puppies need higher protein to help their growing bones. Senior dogs and cats need lower calories and higher fibre.

Look at the label of the food you buy. Often, it'll give guidance about how much to feed your pet based on their weight.

How to exercise your dog

The easiest way to exercise your pet is by walking or running. Always give a pet time to increase fitness.

And don’t forget about you cat. It’s unlikely you take your cat for a walk, but there are still things that can be done to keep your cat fit.

It’s even more important with indoor cats; make sure you encourage playtime.

You should try and spend 15-20 minutes a day playing with your cat. If they're snoozing away on the windowsill in the sun, wake them up to come and play to ensure a healthy heart and happy mind.

How often should I give my pet treats?

If treats are part of training, consider using part of their normal meal in small portions during training.

You can also change your rewards – verbal praise and stroking are often enough to say well done. Clicker training works too.

What happens when your pet reaches their goal weight?

The job isn’t finished when your pet reaches their goal weight. Your first step is to reward them – after that it’s time to maintain their weight.

The three best ways to maintain your pet’s weight are to prioritise:

  • good-quality food
  • portion control
  • regular exercise

Give your cat or dog the cover they deserve