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Better Medicine for Pets, the Economy and Cancers Getting in the Way


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Heidi Jeter of the Morris Animal Foundation offers this interesting blog, which I comment on.

Many of us are going to great lengths, and expense, to keep our
four-legged family members healthy–and each year, we’re willing to spend
more. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that pet
owners in the United States spent $47.7 billion in pet care in 2010
compared to $28.5 billion in 2001 and $17 billion in 1994. Clearly, we
love our pets and want the best for them.

Indeed this is true…but the economy – and even the Internet has had an impact on pet care. The Internet because people receive free info. Unfortunately, the Internet replaces veterinary visits for some. A decision which I feel is ignorant. It’s complex….the good news is that veterinary medicine can offer more than even 10 years ago as far as cutting edge treatments. However, those treatments aren’t free.

Still, I contend veterinary medicine is a wonderful bargain – an ultrasound uses the same equipment and requires the same training for a dog or cat or person. Yet it is maybe 20 percent the cost, or less. Still, it’s out of your pocket. It’s one argument I have for pet insurance. Some veterinarians have over-charged, I concede, and nickel and dimed clients….Many veterinarians haven’t valued wellness exams – twice a year exams catch disease early, which may save money.  

While most of our spending goes toward food and supplies, a hefty
chunk goes toward veterinary bills. The APPA estimates that U.S. pet
owners spent nearly $12.8 billion on veterinary care last year.

Cat veterinary visits have been under even less than half as often as dogs, and now both dog and cat visits are declining further. This is not in our pets’ best interest

That’s
not surprising when you consider that the average annual amount spent
for routine visits is $225 for dogs and $203 for cats. Surgical vet
visits add up, too: dog owners average $532 per year and cat owners
average $278.

What bothers me about this, sadly, cats in no way receive the same care as dogs. As Heidi points out, we spend less on cat care than dog care. Cats actually visit the vet less than half as often as dogs. By the way, cats are more often given up to shelters than dogs.

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So what health issues are pet owners contending with? The Banfield
Applied Research and Knowledge Team analyzed health data from more than
1.7 million dogs and 375,000 cats in 2009 to identify the most common
veterinary diagnoses.

Lots of possible causes for itchy skin in dogs

Topping the list for dogs of any age were ear
inflammation, skin diseases, dental problems, parasites and
gastrointestinal problems. As dogs age, obesity, arthritis and skin
tumors entered the list. For cats, dental problems topped the list, but
other common diagnoses included conjunctivitis, parasites and upper
respiratory infections. Geriatric cats showed significant increases in
chronic renal failure, heart murmurs and hyperthyroidism.

Interestingly, the top reasons for veterinary visits don’t
necessarily match up with pet owners’ top health concerns. When Morris
Animal Foundation surveyed supporters in 1998 and again in 2004, cancer
by far topped the list for dogs, and urinary and kidney diseases most
worried cat owners. For horses, the top concern was colic, followed
closely by laminitis.

  

Overall, our pets are living longer than ever, but not for all pets. The culprit is often cancer. Today, most Golden Retrievers die of cancer, and many don’t make it past age 9 or 10.

Still, cancers are right up there
for both dogs and cats – it’s a reality. We know this. Sadly, many pets – maybe more than ever are
getting cancer. No one knows why, and the Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Cancer Campaign and American College of Veterinary Medicine Foundation Chase Away K9 Cancer Campaign

are working at understanding more.

Certainly, cancers are often a
disease of the aged, and our pets are generally living longer…but
actually some are living shortened lives – that’s how prominent cancer
has gotten. Genetics (and perhaps environment) no doubt play a
significant role. Can you believe that one in four dogs dies of cancer
—- awful !

The good news is that the Morris Animal Foundation is funding studies to address
the health concerns that keep pet owners up at night and the ones that
send us running to our veterinarian.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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