DEAR READERS: Pets Best, a United States pet health insurance company, encourages cat owners to watch closely for the symptoms of the five most common conditions among cat-related claims filed with the agency:
1. Chronic kidney failure. Symptoms can include anorexia, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, constipation, depression and weight loss.
2. Hyperthyroidism. Common symptoms include a voracious appetite, weight loss, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea and restlessness.
3. Allergies. Skin allergy symptoms often include raised, thickened raw skin; small scabs; face and ear itching; and bald spots. Food allergies tend to include scabs and other signs of itching around the face or neck.
4. Cancer. Cat owners should watch for symptoms like lumps and bumps on the skin, lack of appetite, lethargy, excessive salivation, difficulty chewing or swallowing, rapid weight loss and abnormal discharges. Other warning signs include abnormal odors, abnormal defecation and urination, vomiting and diarrhea.
5. Diabetes. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, unusual appetite and rapid weight loss.
A recent Zoetis drug company pet wellness report disclosed a disturbing finding that apparently healthy dogs and cats who had been seen by a veterinarian in the past 90 days were found to have "new health risks" in 36 percent of dogs and 28 percent of cats. Top new health risks for dogs were hypothyroidism, urinary tract infection, protein in the urine and dental disease. Top new health risks for cats were kidney disease, dental disease, hyperthyroidism, eosinophilia and protein in the urine.
According to a professional survey conducted by the British Veterinary Association, in the U.K., the most common health conditions seen by veterinarians treating cats and dogs are skin disease (mentioned by 70 percent of respondents), gastrointestinal disorders (54 percent), musculoskeletal (45 percent), obesity (31 percent), dental disease (24 percent) and ear disease or infection (18 percent).
The best preventives continue to be good nutrition, as posted on my website, and regular veterinary wellness examinations at least annually, and twice yearly for young and old animals, with in-home visits by veterinarians being ideal for stress-prone animals, especially cats. Some caution must be applied in interpreting pet health surveys, especially when they are focused on selling often-dubious pet health insurance plans and policies.
DEAR DR. FOX: I recently lost my papillon after he battled Cushing's disease for several years. We went through all the periodic testing and daily doses of trilostane, and there is no doubt in my mind it was all worth it. Even though it was always tough to find the money to pay for his treatment, I know it extended his life several years. I was very lucky to have a great vet attending him, and my advice to any caregiver would be to follow her vet's advice and follow through with appropriate treatments. -- R.D., St. Louis
Dear R.D.: I appreciate your response to my advice concerning dogs with Cushing's disease, and am well aware of the need for periodic monitoring of this adrenal gland disease and the calculated benefit of trilostane medication. Without careful monitoring, this drug can actually destroy the adrenal glands.
It is more than likely that this all-too-common disease could be avoided by not spaying and castrating dogs. There is a trend now to avoid doing such surgery, especially in small breeds such as yours who are easy to handle when the males are aroused by the scent of a female in heat and using sanipads when the females have a heat period twice a year. This "inconvenience" is a small price to pay for the probable prevention of Cushing's disease, but the risks of increased chances of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and pyometra (infection in the uterus) are part of the equation. So now some veterinarians are simply removing the uterus and leaving the ovaries to eliminate chances of the latter problem.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)