Obesity is a leading health concern for today’s pets, with more than half of U.S. dogs considered overweight or obese. It’s also a costly concern for pet owners. Information from leading pet health insurance companies shows just how much obesity-related health problems can weigh on dog owners’ wallets.
Obesity is a common link
Excessive body fat is associated with several health conditions in dogs, many of which appear on pet insurance companies’ lists of most frequently claimed conditions. Nationwide reports its policyholders filed 1.3 million pet insurance claims, totaling more than $60 million in veterinary expenses, for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity during 2015. The company also reports the total obesity-related claims has grown by 23 percent over the last three years.
Here is a closer look at the average costs associated with specific obesity-linked health problems in dogs that have been reported by three pet insurance companies — Nationwide, Petplan and Trupanion.
Joint disease is one of the most common health issues associated with obesity and is a leading cause of lameness and limping in dogs. Extra pounds put extra stress on dogs’ joints and ligaments — and on pet parents’ wallets. According to Petplan, in 2016 the average cost to treat lameness was $966.
Torn knee ligaments
Pudgy pooches are also at increased risk for injuries to the cranial cruciate ligament, an important ligament located in the stifle (“knee”). Some veterinarians may refer to this ligament by the human term anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. Depending on the severity of the injury, dog parents will opt for surgical repair of a ligament that’s been torn completely and will also have their dog complete physical therapy. That makes cruciate repairs one of the priciest pet insurance claims at an average cost of $3,480, according to Petplan.
Insulin resistance, which increases in overweight and obese dogs, contributes to the development of diabetes, along with other health issues. Insulin resistance reflects the inability of body cells to respond normally to insulin, the hormone that helps cells use blood sugar for energy. Dogs with diabetes require insulin for the rest of their lives and tend to need more veterinary care than dogs who don’t develop diabetes. In 2014, Trupanion policyholders with obese dogs or cats spent over 10 times more on diabetes treatment than owners of normal-weight pets. The average cost associated with a Trupanion claim for diabetes treatment was $1,600.
Certain types of cancer
Studies suggest that certain types of cancer may be more common in overweight or obese dogs, although more research is needed. Not only does cancer diagnosis take an emotional toll on pet parents, but treatment — with an average cost of $2,033 in 2016 — can strain dog owners’ budgets.
Excess weight can be associated with high blood pressure, or hypertension, in dogs. Plus, the extra pounds mean your dog’s heart has to work harder. Petplan reports that the average cost of treating heart disease in 2016 was $1,232.
What you can do to help your dog and your wallet
Unlike many of the conditions noted above, obesity is 100 percent preventable and curable. If you’re not sure if your dog is overweight, you can check your dog’s body condition score (BCS) by following the steps outlined here. Or you can talk with your veterinarian who will not only determine your dog’s BCS but also create a weight management plan to help your canine companion lose weight if it’s needed.
And of course, you can always consider buying pet health insurance. Check out Pet Insurance Review for lots of information about the various pet insurance providers and how to choose insurance that’s right for you and your dog.