So, you’ve decided to welcome a new kitten or puppy into your family. Well, congratulations! May all the best snuggles and love come your way. Having a pet is a wonderful experience for everyone involved: it teaches patience, responsibility and especially, how to care for another living being. You can bet that little guy/gal will get into some trouble down the line that will put their health in question. So, what do you look for? How do you know when your pet is suffering from a particular ailment and what are the most common maladies to expect?
Here are the Top 5 most common ailments for cats and dogs.
1. Ear Infection
One of the most common problems that Scooby will face throughout his life will be an ear infection. It can be very painful and, if not treated appropriately, could lead to surgery. The biggest cause is allergies, which causes them to pop up seasonally, year after year (if the problem persists year-round, it could be a food allergy). Symptoms include a stinky odor coming from the dog’s ears, redness, brown or black discharge/debris and excessive itching. Treatment could include antibiotics, diet change, medications or surgery.
2. Skin Allergy
When Admiral Snuffykins won’t stop itching or gnawing his skin to the point of irritation and bleeding, it is most likely caused by an allergy. Skin allergies are usually seasonal and happen most in the spring and summer. This malady cannot be cured – only controlled through allergen identification and avoidance, administering medications and improving skin health. Symptoms of a possible skin allergy include excessive paw licking, scooting, scratching, chewing, hair loss or bleeding due to scratching.
3. Dental Disease
If Lady Macbark has a cute face but vile breath, it may indicate dental disease. It is extremely common and estimated that nearly 80% of dogs over the age of three have some form of dental disease. Examples include a broken tooth, gum disease or tooth root infection. A tell-tale sign is the kind of breath that can peel wallpaper and shrivel flowers within a ten-foot radius. Few dogs show obvious signs, however, and it is up to the dog’s family and vet to diagnose it. Treatment includes tooth extraction, antibiotics and deeper surgery.
4. Urinary Tract Infection
For a dog, this can happen anywhere and at almost any time. If your pet seems to be straining to urinate or whining when it does, it’s past time to visit the vet. A UTI is characterized by a frequent need to urinate, discomfort or pain doing so or blood in the urine. The situation can be very serious if a bladder stone or other debris blocks the entrance to the bladder. A UTI is an urgent situation and should be treated as such.
Dogs are living longer now than ever before and with age comes complications, the most common of which is arthritis. The more ongoing wear and tear a dog’s joints have experienced (and its weight) can contribute to development of this condition. Arthritis is recognized by your pet’s reluctance to jump or play, limping, lagging behind on walks, yelping when touched, trouble getting up off the ground, or a change in personality. The good news is that veterinary medicine has uncovered a plethora of remedies from medications to laser therapies. The best way to stave off arthritis is to keep your dog active and control their body weight.
1. Urinary Tract Infection
This is the most common malady for cats. If Chairman Meow is crying in the litter box, it could be due to an infection. The UTI can be caused by bacteria in the bladder or urethra, or crystals and stones in the cat’s bladder. Symptoms include frequent urination, urinating outside the litter box, blood in the urine, crying out in pain while urinating and increased licking of the urinary opening. If you think your cat may be suffering from a UTI, call your vet immediately. Depending on severity, it can be treated by antibiotics or surgery.
2. Chronic Renal Failure
Scary, isn’t it? One of the most common ailments for cats is kidney failure. As cats’ lifetimes become longer, chronic disease is more common. Chronic renal failure is caused by infections and blockages, advanced dental disease, high blood pressure, thyroid problems and cancer. Treatment ranges from change in diet to medications and surgery. Symptoms are frequent urination, drinking an abnormal amount of water, weight loss and decreased appetite, bloody urine and diarrhea, bad breath with an ammonia-like odor, a dry coat, indifference, a brownish-colored tongue and mouth ulcers.
This disease most commonly happens in older cats. It is caused by the overproduction of the thyroid hormone which can affect other body systems, specifically the heart. Symptoms are subtle at first but grow over time. These include weight loss despite an insatiable appetite, increased thirst, restlessness/hyperactivity, aggression, difficulty breathing, depression, matted or greasy hair, vomiting and diarrhea. Treatment includes a change in diet, medications, surgery or radioactive iodine therapy.
4. Diabetes Mellitus
Today, more and more cats are developing diabetes mostly due to poor diet and increased weight. Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar levels. If left untreated, it can cause weight loss, vomiting, dehydration, severe depression, coma and death. Treatment can be a simple change in diet or insulin therapy and insulin shots. Diabetes in cats cannot be cured but can go into remission with the right diet. The four biggest symptoms are weight loss and an increase in urination, thirst and appetite.
5. Dental Disease
Like dogs, dental disease is under-diagnosed in cats. It is estimated that possibly 90% of cats over the age of four have some form of dental disease. Cats with dental disease may exhibit bad breath, tooth discoloration, difficulty eating, drooling, pawing at the mouth, red or bleeding gums and weight loss. The three most common dental diseases in cats are gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth resorption. Regular dental treatments at the vet along with brushing your cat’s teeth will help ward off significant problems.
If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from any of the common ailments listed, please contact your veterinarian.