The Fat Gap: Up to 95% of People with Overweight Pets Can’t See the Extra Pounds

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Petplan warns that owning a pudgy pet can cost thousands extra in veterinary bills in honor of National Pet Obesity Awareness Day

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Extra pounds have a way of surprising us—and the problem’s worse when it comes to our pets. Research conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 90 percent of owners with overweight cats and 95 percent of owners with overweight dogs incorrectly identified their pet as being a normal weight.

The perception of a few extra pounds as simply “more to love” has serious consequences; pets at unhealthy weights are susceptible to health conditions that can degrade the quality of their lives and cost thousands each year to treat.

To mark National Pet Obesity Awareness Day on October 12, Petplan pet insurance is warning pet parents about the danger of denial when it comes to what their pets weigh.

Approximately 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs were overweight or obese in 2015, according to the APOP, with alarming increases specifically in the obese category – or pets who weigh 30 percent more than the ideal weight for their breed. That’s more than just a few pounds!

“Our pets are approaching an obesity epidemic, and it’s already costing pets and pet parents dearly,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, Petplan Veterinary Advisory Board member and founder of the APOP. “Obesity puts pets at risk for a host of injuries and illnesses. It also exacerbates existing problems. From arthritis to respiratory issues, extra weight is wreaking havoc on the health of our pets.”

Being plus-sized is not just a pain for pets—it can hurt a pet parent’s budget, too. Here are the average treatment costs* of common conditions caused or worsened by extra weight:

  • Orthopedic issues: $3,480
  • Diabetes: $1,786
  • Arthritis: $953
  • Respiratory obstruction: $954

Conditions like diabetes and arthritis are chronic, meaning pet parents will incur these costs year after year.

As with so many things when it comes to pet health, preventing pet obesity is the best cure. To keep pets from packing on dangerous pounds, follow these tips from Dr. Ernie Ward:

1. measure meals: Ask your vet to calculate your pet’s daily caloric needs. Don’t trust the feeding suggestions on pet food; owners can easily overfeed by 20 to 30 percent if following the label. And if your pet notices less food in his bowl, add some canned green beans. They’re calorie-free but full of fiber so they help pets feel full.

2. treat intelligently: Choose low-calorie, whole food treats that provide health benefits, like sweet potato, salmon and blueberries. When giving goodies, be sure to reduce kibble to account for the calories. As few as 30 extra calories per day can cause a pet to gain more than three pounds by year’s end.

3. sweat it out: When it comes to living a long and disease-free life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. For dogs, as little as 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking per day can boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce anxiety. For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy or a ball for five to 15 minutes each day.

For more advice about helping pets slim down, shape up and live their best lives, point your paws to

*average costs per year, per pet based on 2015 Petplan claims data

Petplan has built the industry’s leading pet insurance for pet parents who demand a higher pedigree of care for their best friends. We’ve leveraged 40 years of global experience to create completely customizable coverage pet parents can feel confident in, and world-class claims service that’s second to none—24 hours a day, every day.

Petplan’s innovative approach to pet insurance has been recognized by Forbes, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Inc. magazine, Smart CEO, the Communicator Awards, Ernst & Young and many others.

Petplan policies are underwritten in the U.S. by XL Specialty Insurance Company and in Canada, by XL Specialty Insurance Company-Canadian Branch. The company is rated A+ by S&P. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. For more information about Petplan pet insurance, visit or call 1-866-467-3875.

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Jessica Kinney
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