Top 10 Animal Ailments Exacerbated by Obesity

January 4, 2019
Amanda Carrozza

Amanda Carrozza is a freelance writer and editor in New Jersey.

Nationwide has identified the top 10 health conditions related to or worsened by obesity based on pet insurance claims.

New data from pet health insurance provider Nationwide reveals that pet obesity is on the rise for the 8th consecutive year. And your 4-legged patients' expanding waistlines are causing notable health repercussions, with nearly 20% of pet insurance claims to Nationwide in 2017 being for conditions and diseases related to obesity. According to the company, these claims amounted to more than $69 million in veterinary expenses. And the boost in total obesity-related claims signifies a 24% increase over the past 8 years.

These data mimic results from the most recent Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) survey, which found that an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese—this equates to an estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats. “We’re continuing to see more pets diagnosed with obesity rather than overweight,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, APOP founder. “Clinical obesity results in more secondary conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and certain forms of cancer. Pets with obesity also have reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy.”

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To create a clearer picture of how obesity impacts a cat or dog’s overall health, Nationwide analyzed its database of more than 700,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 medical conditions related to or made worse by obesity.

While there are parallels between the 2 lists, the rankings highlight how severe weight gain affects each species differently. For example, chronic kidney disease is the second most common obesity-related condition among cats, yet is 8th on the list for dogs. For canine companions, arthritis and liver disease are among the conditions most exacerbated by added weight. Interestingly, bladder/urinary tract disease ranks high on both lists and was also the most common medical reason that cats visited their veterinarian in 2017.

"Obesity can be detrimental to the livelihood of our pets," said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary officer for Nationwide. "The New Year presents a perfect opportunity to create regular exercise routines for our pets and to effectively manage their eating habits to avoid excess weight gain."

The top 10 obesity-related conditions are:

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. Liver Disease

3. Diabetes

4. Low Thyroid Hormone

4. Asthma

5. Torn Knee Ligaments

5. Liver Disease

6. Diseased Disc in the Spine

6. Arthritis

7. Diabetes

7. High Blood Pressure

8. Chronic Kidney Disease

8. Heart Failure

9. Heart Failure

9. Gall Bladder Disorder

10. High Blood Pressure

10. Immobility of Spine