Heavy pets - not healthy

Recognising Pet Diabetes Month

When we’re staying home and staying safe, it can be too easy to comfort-eat our way through the long lockdown days. But it’s not just us hoomans who are prone to gaining a few extra kilos – the fur kids have chunked up too.

When puss looks at you with those pleading eyes, or Fido puts his paw on your lap during dinner, who can resist sharing a treat here, there and any time?

While Instagrammers may celebrate their portly pets and have even coined a cute term for overweight fur kids, having a ‘chonky’ pet is not as cute as it may seem. With more than half of all dogs and cats globally being overweight, medical and emotional damage from pet obesity has reached epidemic proportions.

Obesity in animals can cause complications in almost every system in the body, including the life-threatening condition of diabetes.

Stay alert for pet diabetes

November is National Pet Diabetes Month, and pet insurance provider PD Insurance (pd.co.nz) is keen to build awareness of the danger of diabetes in cats and dogs.

“Injecting your precious pet with daily insulin shots is no fun for them or you,” says Michelle Le Long, Chief Operating Officer of PD Insurance. 

“To keep blood sugar levels stable, owners of diabetic pets have a lot of work to do. They need to feed their pets a specific diet, conduct regular testing of blood glucose levels, and monitor any changes in symptoms. Then there’s the worry and stress.”

Signs of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eyes, especially in dogs
  • Chronic or recurring infections

“If your pet exhibits signs of diabetes, see a vet ASAP,” advises Le Long. “Early detection and swift treatment are key to giving a pet the best quality of life; with good medical care and lifestyle management, diabetic pets can live long and healthy lives.”

Beware the fatty treats

National Pet Diabetes Month is a timely reminder to be aware of overfeeding and/or feeding unhealthy foods. It may be tempting to offer treats from the table, but high-fat human food is a major cause of another dangerous condition in dogs – pancreatitis. This is especially true if they get a large helping of fatty food in one sitting.

“Pancreatitis releases a flood of enzymes, inflaming and damaging the pancreas,” she explains. “Symptoms include a hunched back, repeated vomiting, abdomen pain or distension, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, dehydration, lethargy and fever.

“In some cases the enzymes begin to digest the pancreas, which is extremely painful. If you suspect pancreatitis, visit your vet as soon as possible as it can be fatal. There is no cure and dogs may experience repeated attacks. Early intervention and monitoring are key in preventing further complications,” she advises.

Le Long recommends vigilance so pets aren’t tempted by high-salt or high-fat foods like roast pork off-cuts or bakery treats left in easy reach. These are unhealthy for both cats and dogs.

Cut the chonk

Dr Joanne Lonergan, veterinarian at PD Insurance animal sanctuary partner HUHA, says the issues resulting from pet obesity can be heartbreaking. “Obesity generally makes pets unhappy and leads to a lower quality of life and reduced life expectancy.” 

There are simple things we can do to help our pets slim down, she notes. “The first is to be open to discussing the issue of your pet’s weight with your vet, so you can work out a plan together. A good tip is to measure how much you’re feeding them with a measuring scoop, and ensure you feed them a nutritious balance of ingredients that helps keep them full.”

She says her clients often feel they’re being mean to pets if they don’t dole out treats: “Still give them treats, but you have to be mindful of what you’re feeding them. Most dogs are not fussy – you can cut up a carrot or a banana. But do balance treats with how much food they’re getting at mealtimes, and regular exercise is important too.”

Insure to insulate

As with humans, pet obesity can cause or contribute to several other serious conditions and illnesses.

These include:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic inflammation
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Reproductive disorder

Fortunately, PD Insurance’s cost-effective pet insurance can insulate against the often-high costs of treatment for many obesity-related diseases.


Media contact 
Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]