Top 10 Diseases in Dogs and Cats

Dr. Phil Zeltzman, DVM

Once a year, VPI, the pet insurance company, publishes the top 10 medical conditions in dogs and cats. Numbers are based on the claims received in the previous year (2009). These numbers should be significant, since VPI receives over a million claims each year for treatment of cats and dogs.

So there you go, the top 10 in dogs and in cats:

Top 10 conditions in dogs

  1. Ear infection
  2. Skin allergy
  3. Skin infection/hot spots
  4. Gastritis/vomiting
  5. Enteritis/diarrhea
  6. Bladder infection
  7. Arthritis
  8. Soft tissue trauma
  9. Non-cancerous tumor
  10. Eye infection

Top 10 conditions in cats

  1. Lower urinary tract disease
  2. Gastritis/vomiting
  3. Chronic renal failure
  4. Hyperthyroidism
  5. Diabetes
  6. Enteritis/diarrhea
  7. Skin allergy
  8. Periodontitis/dental disease
  9. Ear infection
  10. Eye infection

So what can we learn from these lists?

  • Some diseases are common to cats and dogs: ear infections, eye infections, skin allergies, vomiting due to a stomach problem (gastritis) and diarrhea due to an intestinal condition (enteritis).
  • Some of these conditions are simply unavoidable: skin allergies, arthritis, tumors, lower urinary tract disease, chronic renal failure and hyperthyroidism (due to an overactive thyroid). Some would argue that proper diet can prevent lower urinary tract disease.
  • A few of the top 10 conditions can be associated with an animal’s natural aging process. However, many can occur in any pet.
  • Some diseases MAY be avoidable which proper healthcare. Good ear hygiene may prevent ear infections in some cases. Vomiting and diarrhea can be avoided in many cases by avoiding switching diets abruptly or by preventing consumption of… junk.

Diabetes can be prevented in some cases by avoiding overweight and obesity.

Dental disease (periodontitis) definitely can be helped with good oral hygiene and regular dental cleaning.

Other conditions MAY be helped with surgery. Called me biased, but as a surgeon, these are of course the diseases I’m the most interested in.

  • End stage ear disease (eg in Cockers) can be helped with ear surgery.
  • Some bladder infections in female dogs are due to an extra skin flap. It is easy to miss, but when it is discovered, removing it surgically can resolve the problem. This is called a redundant vulvar fold. The procedure is called a vulvoplasty or an episioplasty.
  • Some forms of arthritis can be helped, but not cured, by surgery. Let’s say that some types of arthritis can be slowed down by surgery.
  • Most tumors can obviously be removed surgically.

VPI’s conclusion is a logical one: “No matter the age or breed, whether it be an indoor or an outdoor dog or cat, pet owners should familiarize themselves with their pets’ daily routine in order to identify abnormal behaviors that might indicate an injury or illness.

In addition, regular semi-annual physical exams can help prevent and identify certain conditions before they become serious or costly.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I have written before, it is now recommended to visit the vet twice a year for a physical exam, especially in senior pets.

Prevention is indeed the best medicine.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons


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