Large commercial organizations are a relatively new phenomenon within the veterinary profession. Some people lament the advent of corporate practices and pet health insurance companies, but they do have some unique capabilities. For example, they can quickly compile information taken from very large groups of animals.
Every year, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) receives thousands upon thousands of reports from across the country about what ailments plague our pets. VPI recently released a list of the top 10 most common medical conditions affecting pets in 2010, according to their records. The results for cats are as follows:
1. Lower urinary tract disease
3. Chronic renal failure
7. Skin allergy
8. Periodontitis/dental disease
9. Ear infection
10. Upper respiratory infection
One thing that struck me about this list is the predominance of diseases that have a strong likelihood of causing cats to leave their owners unwanted "gifts" on the carpet, couch, or bed. The top six slots are all taken up by conditions that have vomiting, diarrhea, and/or urinary dysfunction as primary symptoms.
Not too surprising, I suppose. I’m as much to blame as any owner for turning a blind eye towards mild or vague symptoms that aren’t too inconvenient for me. But let me tell you, sticking my bare foot into a slipper containing a cold, congealed mass of hair and partially digested food sure got my immediate attention a few weeks back.
The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" probably explains why dental disease only comes in at number eight while it is, in fact, one of the most prevalent diseases affecting cats these days. Flip your cat’s lip; chances are you’ll see gingivitis, plaque, tartar, periodontal disease or something else that warrants a trip to the vet.
The presence of lower urinary tract disease at the top of the VPI list is one of the reasons why I’m dedicating a special series of weekly blogs to this vexing problem. You can check out the first installment this Friday. Cats and the people who live with them will all benefit if we better understand the causes of and solutions to feline urinary issues.
Dr. Jennifer Coates