Nation's Largest Pet Insurer Reveals Pet Obesity Costing Millions

VPI Reimbursed Policyholders More Than $14 Million for Conditions

Associated with Obesity

Aug 16, 2007, 01:00 ET from Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.

    BREA, Calif., Aug. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- A fat cat, or dog, may result in
 a fat bill. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest
 provider of pet health insurance, recently reviewed policyholder data to
 find that it reimbursed more than $14 million last year for claims with
 links to pet obesity. Claims related to obesity represented 7 percent of
 all medical claims submitted to VPI in 2006.
     "Pet owners may think a few extra pounds is acceptable for their pet,
 but no one finds extra veterinary bills very appealing," said Dr. Carol
 McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary officer for VPI. "Obesity in
 pets should be taken seriously by all pet owners. It shortens pets' lives
 and dramatically increases health risks."
     Veterinarians have long known that obesity is as harmful to pets as it
 is to humans. Nearly all body systems are required to work harder to
 support the extra weight, raising the risk of arthritis, intervertebral
 disc disease, spondylosis and cruciate ligament rupture. There are other
 diseases also correlated with obesity, such as diabetes, hypertension,
 asthma, hepatitis and lipomas. Besides adversely affecting pets' quality
 and length of life, any one of these diseases could require costly
 treatment. In 2006, the average claimed cost of treatment for the
 aforementioned medical conditions was $832, up from $713 in 2005 and $702
 in 2004.
     "Pet obesity begins with excessive kindness," said McConnell. "Food is
 the primary way some pet owners demonstrate love to their pet. When dog
 treats and table scraps become signs of affection or behavioral tools, it
 becomes difficult to effectively regulate a pet's diet."
     Studies suggest that between 25 and 40 percent of American pets are
 overweight. While ideal weight varies among breeds and individual pets,
 smaller pets can tip the scales with only two to three pounds of extra
 weight. A simple way to determine if a pet is overweight is to feel its
 spine and chest. The backbone and ribs should be easy to distinguish and
 void of excess fat.
     In order to lose weight, pets must reduce caloric intake while
 increasing physical activity. For pet owners, this means regulating or
 eliminating their pet's snacks and treats and finding a fun way to remain
 active with their pet. Since pets have varying responses to weight loss,
 advice from your veterinarian is essential for a safe and effective weight
 loss regimen. A veterinarian can identify a pet's ideal weight and
 customize a diet and exercise plan to promote healthy weight loss.
     "Most pet owners think of pet insurance in the context of routine care
 and the unexpected; they fail to think of how it protects against illnesses
 like those associated with obesity," said McConnell. "VPI Pet Insurance
 reimburses for conditions potentially related to and exacerbated by obesity
 and offers options for routine care coverage to encourage pet owners to
 bring their pet to the veterinarian for regular physical exams and
 preventive health care. The good news for pet caregivers is that obesity
 can be prevented and the excess costs avoided."
     About Veterinary Pet Insurance
     Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency is the nation's
 oldest and largest pet health insurance company. Providing pet owners with
 peace of mind since 1982, the company is committed to being the trusted
 choice of America's pet lovers and an advocate of pet health education. VPI
 Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple
 medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and
 injuries. Optional Pet WellCare Protection(SM) for routine care is also
     Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of
 Columbia. More than 1,600 companies nationwide offer VPI Pet Insurance as
 an employee benefit. Policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance
 Company in California and in all other states by National Casualty Company,
 an A+15 rated company in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information about VPI
 Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

SOURCE Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.