Think it’s no big deal your cat or dog packed on pounds over the holidays too? Having a fat pet can hit you in the pocketbook, and endanger your animal’s life.

New stats just out show for the seventh-straight year in a row pudgy pets are on the rise. Nationwide reported, in its most recent count, twenty percent of all pet insurance claims the company received were related to pet obesity.  

The most common overweight pooch related conditions the company tabulated ranged from arthritis to diabetes, and even heart failure. In felines those extra pounds caused many of the same ailments, but bladder and urinary tract disease were number one on the list.

Veterinarian Lori Teller, who is on the Board of Directors for the American Veterinary Medical Association, warned not taking your pet’s weight seriously could cost you more in medical bills, and cost your pet his or her life.

“Obesity is the number health problem facing our pets,” Teller said. “Excess weight affects major organs and can exacerbate many conditions, resulting in a decreased quality of life and poorer health for our pets, and increased costs to clients as they strive to keep their pets comfortable and manage their health problems.”

The cost of paying for these chronic conditions can add up to thousands of dollars, especially if your pet suffers a weight related orthopedic issue.

“Many breeds of dogs are predisposed to tears or complete rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. Obesity further increases this risk,” Teller said. “Dogs and cats are also prone to arthritis in their joints, especially hips, knees, elbows, carpi (wrists), and shoulders. Obesity significantly worsens this condition to the point where some of these animals can no longer walk more than a few steps, get into bed, or even, in the case of cats, use the litter box.”

There’s such a simple way to prevent all this stress on your dog, cat and checkbook: Make your pet’s New Year’s resolution to slim down. It might motivate you as well.

Sometimes all it takes is gradually increasing exercise, and decreasing food, but consult your vet first.

“If a pet is overweight and has health problems, it may still not be too late to improve those conditions simply by getting the excess weight off the dog or cat,” Teller said. “This can be done with a diet and exercise program designed in conjunction with your veterinarian to reach your pet’s ideal weight and to monitor changes in health as the pet’s obesity diminishes.