LONDON, September 4 /PRNewswire/ --

In the most recent Petplan Pet Census, an annual study of pet ownership in the UK, 97% of vets reported that a lack of funds had led to owners choosing euthanasia over treatment.

As many households start to feel the financial pinch, there is greater concern than ever that pets with treatable conditions are at risk. Whilst some cases are the result of one-off 'emergency' treatment, manageable long-term conditions are often at the root of much unnecessary euthanasia because owners simply cannot afford the cost of ongoing treatment. Reported increases in pet obesity and diabetes, arthritis and behavioural problems have all been cited in the Pet Census as common causes of increased and ongoing vet bills.

Vets have been reporting a rise in diseases that are related to obesity in companion animals for some time and with the Petplan Pet Census panel of almost two hundred (198) UK veterinary practices, reporting that more than one third (36%) of all dogs and one quarter (29%) of cats they treat are obese the future for many pets looks bleak. More than half (53%) of vets say that cases of cat and dog diabetes are on the increase. Obesity is actually bucking the trend of more historically significant diseases, including kennel cough and feline leukaemia, which are either remaining static or decreasing.

The number of pets with behavioural problems is also on the rise, with more than half of vets (55%) reporting an increase and most (95%) practices offering support for these animals. Effective treatment is not a quick-fix solution and requires changes to the owner's lifestyle and lengthy work with experts in the field.

Petplan Vet of the Year, Brian Faulkner said: "I think it is a common misconception that the predicament forcing pet owners to euthanase their pet is the out-of-the-blue, one-off vet fees for emergencies. But in fact we are noticing that owners whose pets have on-going illnesses such as diabetes and even behavioural problems that are very manageable are being faced with the dreadful decision to have to euthanase than face the ongoing financial burden.

It's even more devastating when the owners have actually taken out an insurance policy but the nature of the policy only covers treatment of any one condition for up to one year. I always advise people to make sure their policies do not cap the time period over which any one condition is covered to avoid this very problem as more comprehensive insurers are then unable to offer cover on a pre-existing condition."

Simon Wheeler, Head of Marketing at Petplan, believes the report makes depressing reading.

"We receive over 8,700 claims per week and of the top ten claims, six could be recurrent manageable conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis - the very animals that are currently most at risk of being euthanased."

The vet industry itself, suspicious that companion animals with manageable long-term conditions, such as diabetes, are being euthanased due to owners underestimating the cost of treatment, has launched a study through the Royal Veterinary College to understand the situation better.

Vets report that dealing with insured clients is much easier as the full range of available treatments or therapies can be explored. Indeed, in many cases more extensive treatment is sometimes avoided altogether as insured clients tend to be more willing to seek veterinary advice in the early stages thereby preventing the number or severity of cases.

Editor's notes

All figures are taken from three reports: Petplan UK Vet Report 2007; Petplan UK Dog Owners Report 2007; and Petplan UK Cat Owners Report 2007. The reports provide an overview of a nationwide survey (198 UK veterinary practices; 398 UK dog owners; and 363 UK cat owners respectively) conducted directly by Petplan during winter 2007. Raw results for the reports are available upon request.

Petplan is the largest provider of animal health insurance in the world. Established more than 30 years ago, it is part of Allianz Insurance, one of the largest general insurers in the UK.

For more information please contact: Clare Smith, Blue Zebra PR on +44(0)1865 861600 or Or Sophie Parker, Petplan Press Office on +44(0)20-8580-8140 or