A dog can catch a chicken but it can't catch chicken pox. A cat can swat incessantly at a dangling be-feathered teaser but it won't develop carpel tunnel syndrome. And humans almost never come down with a raging case of mange. Still, there are many afflictions which people and pets endure in common. Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (VPI) recently reviewed its 2008 claims data and compiled the following list of the top ten medical conditions common to people and pets.
1. Allergies - In 2008, VPI received 63,761 claims for skin allergies. Allergic reactions in pets can result from flea bite saliva, the pollen of nearby plants or foods that pets eat. Treatment for pets is relatively the same as it is for people: control the pet's exposure to allergens (in the environment or to certain foods), administration of antihistamines, and, in severe cases, administration of anti-inflammatory medications.
2. Bladder infection - 23,915 claims received. The symptoms of a bladder infection, or bacterial cystitis, can be difficult to recognize in pets. Don't assume all "accidents" in the house or a pet's frequent urination pattern is simply a behavioral issue. There could be medical basis to a pet's change in urinary habits. It is important to never ignore a pet that appears to be experiencing painful or difficult urination.
3. Arthritis - 19,537 claims received. The aging process occurs more rapidly in pets and has many of the same effects on pets as it does on humans. Arthritis, or degenerative joint disease, most often results from a lifetime of wear and can cause pain or decreased joint movement. Pets suffering from arthritis may need anti-inflammatory medications and/or pet specific pain relievers for their arthritis. (Note: never give a pet a human drug or pain reliever, since these can be toxic to pets.)
4. Diabetes - 8,590 claims received. As with humans, diabetes requires daily management of the disease and a combination of treatment involving weight control, specially timed meals, insulin injections and/or oral medications.
5. Skin Cancer - 2,114 claims received. It would be easy to think that with hair usually covering the majority of their bodies, pets don't have to worry about skin cancer. Unfortunately, the three most common skin cancers in humans also occur in pets. Areas of skin that are white or pink on a pet's coat are particularly susceptible to sunburn which, with long-term exposure, can lead to skin cancer. As such, it is important to monitor the skin of pets with white ear tips and pink noses.
6. Gum Disease - 1,748 claims received. Pets have a disadvantage compared to people in the dental category. Food particles tend to gather in the corners of their mouth after a meal, so tooth brushing and regular checkups are necessary. Without tooth brushing the pet is susceptible to the potentially harmful effects of excessive plaque buildup on the tooth's surface. The plaque harbors bacteria, which easily invade the adjacent gum lining, leading to gum recession and gum disease.
7. Acne - 705 claims received. Acne in dogs and cats affects the chin and lips. While dogs often outgrow the condition, cats are more likely to suffer lifelong breakouts. Most pets are not bothered by the condition, but in severe cases, the affected areas may become painful or itchy. Topical medications may be prescribed by a veterinarian to relieve the pet's discomfort.
8. Stomach Ulcers - 584 claims received. Ulcers in pets can be caused by drugs, cancer, kidney or liver disease, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease or chronic stomach inflammation. Pets with stomach ulcers may vomit or display abdominal discomfort.
9. Cataracts - 495 claims received. A cataract is a change in the transparency of lens in the eye. An opaque lens blocks light from reaching the retina and may cause a partial or complete loss of vision. Cataracts in pets may be caused by diabetes, malnutrition, radiation, inflammation, or trauma. Like humans, surgery may be required to remove the affected lens or lenses.
10. Laryngitis - 382 claims received. Dogs and cats can bark or meow for hours upon hours, but every so often, one will lose his voice. The cause may be an upper respiratory tract infection, irritation due to an inhalant, or just excessive vocalization. An inflamed larynx will cause vocal difficulty. Fortunately, it is rarely serious.
Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Image Library