A taste for leftovers leaves New Zealand pets obese

Wednesday , 12 October 2016 by Alistair Gray

Feeding your pet leftovers from last night’s dinner may seem like a great idea at the time, but it’s contributing to excess weight that can have dire effects on their health.

It’s Pet Obesity Awareness Day on Wednesday, and recent Southern Cross Pet Insurance research shows that 11% of dogs and 15% of cats are overweight in New Zealand.

One thing that definitely doesn’t help pets is an unbalanced diet – which includes being fed leftovers or sharing lunch with an owner.

More than seven-in-ten (76%) dog owners, and one-in-four cat owners, feed their pets human food. This includes:

 Forms of food  Dogs Cats 
 Leftovers from dinner  76%  57%
 A bite from lunch  25%  18%
 Most things I eat 13%   6%
 Ice cream  6%  11%
 Chocolate  2%  3%
 Other  17%  33%

Southern Cross Pet Insurance head Anthony McPhail says we’re all guilty of falling for our pets big imploring eyes, but it’s important that the 52% of New Zealanders who own pets realise the dangers of being over generous around mealtime.

“This is a worry as there are a lot of human foods that cats and dogs aren’t able to eat - things like onions and chocolate for example – are actually poisonous.

“Not only that but a bit of your lunch here and there is the equivalent of an extra meal for an animal and can add up to significant weight gain. This puts a lot of stress on the animal's joints, and can lead to diabetes, heart conditions and generally a shorter life span.”

Despite this McPhail says it’s encouraging to see pet owners are being proactive when they realise there is an issue. Nearly three quarters (72%) of overweight dogs and nearly half (47%) of overweight cats are on a diet.

“The health risks of obesity for a pet are significant and can be costly – if you think your animal is overweight you need to discuss it with your vet and put a plan in place to fix it.

“There’s no public health system for pets which means that as an owner it’s up to you to pay for any treatment. Toxicity and weight related claims like ligament damage are some of our most common claims and can range between $300 - $1400.”


The Southern Cross survey was conducted by TNS online amongst 2,006 randomly selected New Zealanders and was carried out in June 2016.