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Why Slimmer Pets Make Smaller Vet Bills

Feb 29, 2008
As if we weren't concerned enough about our own expanding waistlines, now it appears we need to be concerned about our pets' bulging bellies as well. According to Sainsbury's Bank research, the UK is home to literally millions of hefty cats and puffy pups. In fact, there are 2.72 million overweight dogs and 2.87 million overweight cats in the UK.

Despite the fact that our pudgy pets don't need to worry about outgrowing their wardrobes, the pet obesity epidemic does have some far-reaching effects, say veterinarians. For starters, those effects could reach right into your wallet - many pet insurance policies won't cover overweight pets for specific conditions - or at all.

Most pet owners are more concerned about their pets than their wallets, though, and there the news is even less rosy. Overweight animals may suffer from a variety of health conditions, just as their overweight owners do. Those conditions include a number of long-term ones that will require lifelong treatment and changes to diet. They include diabetes and osteoarthritis, heart conditions and liver or pancreatic damage.

A pet treated to chocolate and other rich foods not meant for them can suffer damage to their heart and liver or even death. Obesity can trigger many conditions in your pet. In fact, about 81% of animal physiotherapists say that obesity is the single most significant health danger for dogs. An overweight pet will be less happy, less active and far more likely to require visits to the vet.

And just when you thought you'd heard all the bad news, here's one last bit of it. Your overweight cat or dog can easily run up thousands of pounds in medical bills - which you'll gladly pay, out of love for the cherished pooch or kitten. And you may have no choice but to pay it, because many insurers won't pay for treatment if your pet is overweight.

How to Help Your Pet and Your Wallet

There is a way to avoid all of the problems above - get your pet into shape. Here are some tips for shrinking your furry friend - and your vet bills.

- Bump up the exercise level. Stretch your pet's daily walk a bit, and add in some playtime. A cat or dog pet that does nothing but lay around the house is going to gain weight far more quickly.

- Cut out the human-food snacks. High-fat dinner scraps and treats like chocolate, ice cream and beer are not good for your pet. Their bodies just aren't meant to handle them.

- Cut down on the amount you feed. Many of us tend to overfeed our pets, and while most cats will stop eating when they're full, not all do. Dogs, on the other hand, are notorious for wolfing whatever you put down for them, and rummaging for more - especially if they're bored.

- Invest in a high quality pet food designed especially for obese pets. There are a number of diet pet foods on the market that are nutritionally complete but lower in calories than standard supermarket products.

Finally, make sure that your pets are covered by good pet insurance. Generally, the conditions not covered are those that have a connection to obesity, and those restrictions will fall away once your pet is in better shape. Pet insurance is an excellent value, when you consider how high vet bills can be. Depending on the provider, you may be able to insure your pet's health for as little as 5 a month.

Do shop around for the best policy though, and keep in mind that cheapest isn't always the best deal.
About the Author
To find UK insurance companies that offer policies which cover pets for lifetime illnesses visit UK Insurance Index at http://www.uk-insurance-index.co.uk/pet-insurance-companies-1.html where you can also read reviews of popular insurers like Marks and Spencer and Pet Plan insurance.
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