Pet insurers are turning down claims because the companion animal is obese

Financial Services Ombudsman finds insurers wrongfully turning down insurance claims arguing that the pet is obese
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UK: Back in April 2018 there was a news media story about the need for pet owners to watch the weight of the companion animals because insurers were refusing to pay out on the basis that the animals were obese and the injury or illness claimed for was caused by the obesity.

At that time around 45% of dogs and 40% of cats were estimated to be overweight; a number which is probably very stable in the UK. You can see, then, how illnesses and injuries can be caused by obesity and also how insurers – who historically do all they can to avoid paying up – use obesity to their advantage.

RELATED: Top 10 pet health insurers in the UK and what insurance does not cover

Moving forward to yesterday, 27 December 2023, The Telegraph reports that pet insurers have been ordered to pay out by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for wrongfully refusing claims by arguing that the health problem was due to obesity.

Because insurers are using obesity against their clients to refuse claims, some clients complained to the FOS arguing that their claims were unfairly denied. All the complaints were upheld by the FOS and in every case the insurers had claimed that the illnesses and/or injury was brought on by the animals’ obesity.

On reviewing the complaints, the FOS discovered that vet reports said that obesity had nothing to do with the treatment and therefore had nothing to do with the illness.

A typical complaint was that of a dog which jumped off a sofa and injured their leg. Insurers claim that the injury was caused by the dog’s excess weight. Apparently, it wasn’t.

RELATED: If your cat is overweight disclose it to your pet insureror get your pet’s weight down before insuring.

In the UK, it appears that two insurance companies were more often mentioned than the others for wrongfully denying claims, namely Casualty and General Insurance and Building Block Insurance.

The FOS admitted that veterinary bills had increased substantially this year because the surgeries were being bought up by private equity backed chains whose priority is to turn a big profit whereas often independent veterinary businesses are less business-oriented and more concerned about patient care [click to read about this story].

The above being said, pet obesity does carry a lot of health problems and it is certainly a big issue in the UK and the USA and has been for many years by the way.

Pet insurer Many Pets conducted a survey which found that 51% of cat and dog owners are concerned about their pet’s weight. It seems they know that their companion animal is obese but are unsure how to tackle it. Comment: feeding them less as the certain way succeed.

The kind of claims being turned down were leg injuries, cruciate ruptures, and diabetes which in cats and dogs can be brought on by obesity in the same way as for humans (Type II diabetes).

The combination of backyard breeders importing dogs into UK which are unhealthy (during Covid), the increasing veterinary services prices as mentioned, the increased retail prices of pet products including food due to inflation post-Covid and the obesity epidemic among cats and dogs is making cat and dog ownership too expensive for many. Feeding cats and dogs less would save some money.

Casualty and General Insurance were approached for comment by The Telegraph and Building Block Insurance said that the claims were handled by Perfectpet and they’ve stopped using them.

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