By Dr. Becker
Banfield Pet Hospital has put its annual State of Pet Health Report online, making the information available with the click of a mouse to pet owners and anyone who cares for and about cats and dogs.
Five of the Most Common Chronic Diseases and Conditions in Pets
In its 2012 report, Banfield focused on five chronic pet health problems that have been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years:
Overweight and obesity. Since 2007, overweight and obesity have increased by 37 percent in dogs and a whopping 90 percent in cats.
Arthritis. Over the past five years, arthritis has increased 38 percent in dogs and 67 percent in cats. And to no one’s surprise, 40 percent of arthritic dogs and 37 percent of arthritic cats are also overweight.
Kidney disease. Kidney disease is nearly seven times more common in cats than dogs, and one in every 12 older cats has the condition. A significant percentage of both dogs and cats with kidney disease also have periodontal disease.
Thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism has increased six percent in dogs since 2007, and hyperthyroidism increased 13 percent in cats during the same period.
Heart disease. Heart disease is three times more common in dogs than cats. Twenty-eight percent of dogs and 25 percent of cats with cardiomyopathy also have periodontal disease.
Other chronic diseases all too commonly seen in dogs and cats include dental disease, dermatitis, diabetes and ear infections.
Many of these conditions can severely compromise your pet’s quality of life and can also become quite costly to manage.
Tips for Preventing Chronic Disease in Your Pet
- Feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet. Skip all the commercial weight control and 'low fat' diets. Regardless of her weight, your dog or cat still needs the right nutrition for her species, which means food that is high in animal protein and moisture, with low or no grain content.
- Practice portion control -- usually a morning and evening meal, carefully measured. A high protein, low carb diet with the right amount of calories for weight loss, controlled through the portions you feed, is what will take the weight off your dog or cat. And don't forget to factor in any calories from treats.
- Regularly exercise your pet. Very simply, your heavy dog or cat must take in fewer calories and expend more energy to lose weight. Daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes of consistent aerobic activity, will help your pet burn fat and increase muscle tone.
- Consider chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, massage, stretching exercises, laser therapy and water therapy to alleviate arthritis symptoms and slow joint degeneration.
- To prevent kidney disease in your dog, and especially your cat, feed moisture-dense, species-appropriate, high-quality (human grade) protein in its natural, unadulterated form. As much as possible, you should also remove toxins from your pet’s environment, offer clean, fresh, filtered drinking water, and strictly limit the number of vaccines and other drugs your dog or cat receives. Another crucial step in preventing or managing kidney disease is diligent monitoring of your pet’s organ systems through regular veterinary wellness exams. Pets in kidney failure “look fine” on the outside for many months or even years. Be proactive in identifying organ disease by checking your pet’s blood work regularly.
- Avoiding unnecessary vaccinations and regular wellness checkups are also necessary to prevent or manage thyroid disease in pets. A balanced immune system, routine monitoring of thyroid levels and early detection/treatment of a developing problem are essential tools in maintaining your pet’s thyroid in good working order. Also discuss the optimal time for spaying or neutering your dog. Pre-pubescent desexing increases your pet’s odds of having hypothyroidism. Avoiding excessive iodine consumption for felines (don’t feed seafood to cats).
- A wonderful supplement to support heart health in dogs and cats is CoQ10, or more specifically, ubiquinol, which is the reduced form of CoQ10. Ubiquinol is a powerhouse supplement, providing energy to the cells of every organ in the body. It is an antioxidant, supports heart, kidney and nervous system health, boosts immune function, helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, promotes muscle recovery after exercise, slows the progression of organ degeneration, and even helps prevent plaque buildup and inflammation of gum tissue. Make sure your pet’s diet is loaded with fresh, human grade meat. Meat is your pet’s source of important amino acids for heart health, including taurine, carnitine and arginine.
- Another supplement almost every dog and cat can benefit from is omega-3 essential fatty acids. An omega-3 supplement like krill oil can help with weight loss in pets, reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, promote normal kidney function, support heart health, and improve the condition of your pet’s coat and skin.
Visitors to Banfield’s StateofPetHealth.com can download the full PDF version of the 2012 report. You can also click around on the site and find lots of interesting information, tips and advice.