By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
Taking care of our pets, especially their health, is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Understanding the basics of some common problems affecting dog health and cat health can help you take even better care of your pets, helping them lead happy and healthy lives. Here are the top pet health issues seen by veterinarians.
Top 3 Dog Health Issues
Fleas are pesky little parasites that can cause intense itching and scratching and make dogs feel miserable. Fortunately, there are many veterinarian-prescribed flea preventatives that work in different ways, such as killing fleas and interrupting their life cycle.
Prevent flea problems by regularly checking your dog’s fur for flea dirt (black specks that are actually flea fecal matter) and administering your chosen flea preventative as directed.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
Dogs vomit or have diarrhea for many reasons, including food poisoning, intestinal parasites—especially roundworms in dogs—and systemic illness (e.g., liver disease, kidney disease). Depending on the underlying cause, the vomiting and diarrhea may be mild and brief or become quite serious. If you see blood in your dog’s vomit or diarrhea, or your dog is looking really sick (weak, not eating), take them to your vet for diagnosis and treatment.
Ear infections in dogs can be caused by such things as bacteria, yeast and allergies. Long-eared dogs and dogs that love being in the water can get recurrent ear infections. Signs of ear infections include head shaking, pawing at the ears and a foul odor from the ears. Treatment typically includes regular ear cleaning and administering vet-prescribed topical ear medications for pets in the ears.
Top 3 Cat Health Issues
Vomiting and Diarrhea
Like dogs, cats commonly experience vomiting and diarrhea. Some of the many causes of feline vomiting and diarrhea include kidney disease, food poisoning, intestinal parasites and hairballs. This gastrointestinal upset can quickly cause serious dehydration in cats. If your cat has been vomiting or has diarrhea, give them plenty of fresh water and take them to your veterinarian as quickly as possible for diagnosis and treatment.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
FLUTD is a group of diseases affecting the bladder and urethra. Cats who are middle-aged, are overweight, eat primarily dry food and are stressed are especially susceptible to FLUTD. Symptoms include straining to urinate, urinating outside of the cat litter box and bloody urine. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and often includes behavioral changes like feeding small, frequent meals and reducing stress.
Hyperthyroidism is overactivity of the thyroid gland and is most commonly caused by a benign thyroid tumor. Common symptoms include hyperexcitability, weight loss, increased appetite, and vomiting and diarrhea. A blood test that measures thyroid hormone levels helps diagnose this condition. Treatment options include surgical removal of the affected thyroid gland, radioactive iodine treatment and antithyroid medications.
Of course, there are many other common cat and dog health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Although not all pet health issues are preventable or have an easy cure, taking your pets for regular veterinary checkups will help you ensure that they live as full and healthy a life as they can.
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