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5 common dog and cat health issues

As a veterinarian, there are lots of health issues I treat dogs and cats for daily. However, some conditions occur much more frequently than others. These common conditions are evidenced in the most frequent pet insurance claims that Pets Best pet health insurance has received in over 10 years of business. As pet owners, being aware of these issues can help you be more proactive if or when these occur in your pet.

Here are the top five most common pet insurance claims for dogs:

  1. Atopy allergies—Atopy is the medical term used for environmental allergies. Atopy is very common, and many different allergens may be to blame for your pet’s skin allergies. These include grasses, pollen, animal dandruff from other species, dust and other environmental contaminants. Signs of atopy include itching, flaky or red skin, licking and chewing on paws, hair loss and skin infection.
  2. Otitis—Otitis, or ear infections, are the number two most common claim seen. These infections are often caused by a fungal overgrowth, but may also be caused by bacteria such as Staph. Most pet owners know that ear infections can pop up at any time. Most pets will scratch at the ears, shake their heads or tilt one ear to the side. You may notice brown wax or yellow crusty debris in addition to a foul odor coming from the ears. Use a veterinary-prescribed ear cleaner weekly to keep your pet’s ears clean and dry.
  3. Osteoarthritis—Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is one of the most common diseases seen in senior pets. Natural aging, obesity, daily wear and tear on the joints as well as traumatic joint injuries can contribute to osteoarthritis. Proper nutrition and keeping your pet at a healthy weight are the most important aspects of slowing down osteoarthritis. Treatment includes veterinary prescribed anti-inflammatories, joint supplements, injectable joint protectants, acupuncture and cold laser therapy.
  4. Mass—Cancer in dogs is extremely common as they age. It’s likely that your pet will develop one or more masses in old age. Fatty tumors, known as lipomas, can develop and typically do not cause many problems. However, many masses and tumors can be malignant and life threatening. These masses may be present in the spleen, liver, lungs, heart and elsewhere inside the body.
  5. Cruciate ligament injury—One of the most common orthopedic injuries seen in dogs is a cranial cruciate rupture. This is similar to an ACL tear in a human knee. Dogs with this issue often limp on the affected hind limb and may sit with the knee and foot out to the side. Often times, these pets need surgery to fix this problem.

Below are the top five most common pet insurance claims for cats:

  1. Renal failure—Kidney failure is the number one disease seen in older cats. Your cat may experience weight loss, increased water drinking, larger volumes of urine in the litter box and recurrent urinary tract infections. Cats that are diagnosed with kidney disease should be swapped to a special low-protein diet made for this specific disease.
  2. Hyperthyroidism—Hyperthyroidism involves an overactive thyroid gland. This may be due to a malignant cancer or a benign thyroid issue. Elevated thyroid hormone leads to weight loss, altered behavior (including increased vocalization) and poor-quality hair coat. Untreated thyroid disease can lead to irreversible heart disease and kidney disease. It is important to have your senior cat’s thyroid checked annually.
  3. Diabetes mellitus—Diabetes in cats tends to involve Type 2 insulin resistance. This is often due to obesity, similar to humans. You may notice increased drinking of water, more frequent urination in larger amounts, and weight loss. Cats who become diabetic often need daily insulin injections, but they may be able to come off their insulin with weight loss.
  4. Allergies—Cats can experience allergies just like dogs. These allergies may include flea allergy dermatitis or environmental allergies. Cats may experience itchy, red skin, sneezing, watery eyes, raspy breathing and scratching at the face. Allergy medications prescribed by your veterinarian can help control these uncomfortable symptoms.
  5. Inflammatory bowel disease—This disease can be frustrating to treat for owners and pets. IBD leads to chronic diarrhea and weight loss. Your veterinarian may prescribe certain medications as well as a restricted-ingredient diet to help your cat return to a regular intestinal system.

If you have questions on these health conditions or any other concerns about your pet, you should contact your veterinarian.