Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently reviewed all medical claims received in 2006 to identify the top 10 reasons dogs and cats were taken to the veterinarian.
Compared with last year's list, the usual suspects -- skin allergies, urinary tract infections and upset stomachs -- remain near the top for both pets. Some conditions absent from last year's list were pyoderma (or hot spots) for dogs and tooth extractions for cats.
"Almost all pets will have one of these conditions throughout their life," said Dr. Carol McConnell, director of veterinary relations for VPI. "In general, younger pets have a tendency to eat things they are not supposed to eat, which may result in stomach problems. Older pets are prone to tumors and arthritis."
To see the entire list click here.
The addition of pyoderma to the list reflects the prevalence of skin allergies among dogs. Like humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to food or pollen. Many dogs are allergic to contact with grass or carpet. The most common allergy is a reaction to flea bites. These allergies may cause a dog to lick or chew at an area on their skin until it creates a wound. Infected wounds from self trauma are what veterinarians call "pyoderma."
On the feline side, cats are susceptible to urinary tract infections caused by viruses, urinary crystals, or even stress. Due to differences in the size and position of the urethra, male cats are more likely to get urinary tract infections than female cats. Always monitor a cat's frequency of visits to the litter box, as urination may increase with an infection.
With each of the top 10 conditions, early detection by the owner and early treatment from a veterinarian is essential. In order to detect illnesses early, pet owners should pay attention to their pet's behavior and schedule regular visits to the veterinarian. McConnell recommends that young puppies and kittens see the veterinarian every two to three weeks and older dogs and cats visit once or twice a year.
"Daily care and attention is important," said McConnell. "If you are touching your pet every day, you increase the chance of feeling a tumor, discovering an infection, or noticing if they have a sensitive area." Without detection, pet health problems can become serious and expensive.
"All of these conditions on our top 10 list can adversely affect the pet's quality of life. Some could even become fatal," said McConnell. "Veterinarians never want to euthanize a pet, especially for something that could have been managed earlier in the course of the disease. That is why many veterinarians are focusing on preventive health care. Pet insurance is a way to help them with that."