Understanding the health problems that affect dogs and cats is vital to keeping pets happy, healthy, and in tip-top condition. If your pet displays any symptoms of a problem, it is important to visit your vet.
The largest study to date, using primary veterinary clinical data reports on the most commonly recorded disorders in UK dogs. At a precise level of diagnostic precision, the most common disorders were periodontal disease, otitis externa, obesity, and overgrown nail(s).
Urinary Tract Infections
Anyone who has had a bladder infection knows how painful and uncomfortable it can be. The same can be said for our furry friends who get urinary tract infections (UTIs). These infections occur when bacteria enter the bladder via the urethra, evading the pet’s natural defenses. Bacteria can linger in the bladder for some time and may also enter into the kidneys.
Most dogs and cats get one or more UTIs in their lifetime. This is because bacteria ascend from the skin and digestive tract to irritate the urethra, thereby causing an infection.
Signs of a urinary tract infection include drinking water more often than usual, passing urine more frequently than normal, and only passing small volumes of urine. You might notice a strong smell to the urine, or your dog might strain or “squat” in an attempt to pass more urine. In some cases, urine might be cloudy or even bloody. A urinalysis is the first step to the diagnosis of a UTI. This test will help determine if the urine contains bacteria or white blood cells, as well as the type of bacteria present and what antibiotics it is resistant to.
Some breeds of dogs, including females, are more predisposed to getting UTIs because they have shorter urethras than males. Older dogs are also more prone to UTIs because of reduced immune function, which makes it easier for the bacteria to colonize the bladder.
In 50% of recurrent infections, the bacterium that caused the initial infection changes its biotype to become more resistant to antibiotic treatment. In this case, your pet needs a new course of treatment to prevent the bacteria from returning and re-infecting the urethra.
Recurrent urinary tract infections in pets usually indicate that the animal’s host defense systems are not functioning properly. Your primary veterinarian will review your pet’s medical history for possible predisposing factors, such as underlying disease processes that could cause the infections to recur. These might include diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and kidney disorders. In addition, some breeds of dogs have excess fat and skin covering their vulva, which can make it harder for the urethra to descend and allow bacteria to enter the bladder.
Allergies are one of the most common health problems seen in dogs and cats and can be due to food, environmental factors, or fleas. The most common allergy in pets is skin allergies, and these often manifest as intense itching that leads to patches of red, irritated, damaged, and sometimes bleeding skin – a condition called atopic dermatitis or atopy.
Some breeds of dog – such as the Maltese and the Scottish Terrier – are more predisposed to atopic dermatitis than others, but if you have an itchy pet of any breed, it could be an allergic reaction. A common cause of skin allergies is exposure to allergens such as dust, pollen, weeds, or grasses. These allergens can trigger itchy and scaly skin that may flare up at certain times of the year, such as during spring or autumn when the airborne pollen count is highest.
Itchy and scaly skin can cause your pet to scratch and lick themselves excessively, especially around their ears or paws. This can result in patches of symmetrical hair loss and areas with lots of little scabs. Cats tend to be more secretive about their itching and grooming, so you might not see them as being as irritated as a dog, but you might notice a lot of grooming around the ear or head area that results in scabs on their face.
The most effective way to treat itchy skin is to prevent your pet from being exposed to the allergens that cause their reaction. For example, avoid walking your dog through tall weeds or meadows and try to walk them at times of the day when pollen counts are lowest (usually between 5 am and 10 am). In most cases, oral antihistamines and steroids are also very effective at blocking the itching signals from the skin. Long-term treatment options such as oclacitinib (Apoquel) or lokivetmab (Cytopoint) are newer drugs that work to block the itching by blocking specific chemical receptors in your pet’s brain. These are much more expensive than antihistamines and steroids but can successfully treat itchy skin allergies.
A variety of tumors occur in cats and dogs. They can range from small bumps on the skin to large growths that affect the body’s structure. A veterinary expert will be needed to determine whether a particular growth is benign (harmless) or malignant (cancerous).
Fibrosarcomas are the most common soft tissue tumors in cats. These grow rapidly and can be very difficult to remove surgically. They often invade muscle tissues and can resemble lumpy or fleshy masses under the skin. They are most commonly seen in the limbs, chest, or abdomen but may be found on other parts of the body. They occur more frequently in older pets. It is not known why this occurs, but it is thought that a weakened immune system makes the mutated cells more likely to get past the natural defenses and cause cancer.
Trichoepitheliomas are uncommon tumors that develop in the hair follicles of the skin and are both benign and malignant. Benign forms look like cysts 0.4 to 2 inches (1 to 5 centimeters) in diameter and appear on the head, tail, or legs. They bleed easily and may have yellow “cheesy” ooze on the surface. Malignant forms are more common in Persians and are very painful. They may cause a variety of symptoms, such as changes in behavior, circling, and seizures. They are prone to return after surgical removal.
Non-epitheliotropic cutaneous lymphosarcoma is the most common form of this disease in dogs and is found on the trunk. It is a malignant tumor that grows from mesenchymal cells, which are the types of cells that develop into connective tissue, blood, lymph nodes, and organs. This type of cancer is usually easier to diagnose and treat than epitheliotropic cutaneous lymphosarcoma. When surgically removed, a margin of 2 to 3 centimeters of tissue must be removed as well to reduce the chances that cancer will recur.
A variety of medications can be used to control this cancer. Radiation treatment and chemotherapy can also be used alone or in combination.
Vomiting is one of the most common reasons pets visit the veterinarian and can be a symptom of many diseases and problems. Pet parents are often concerned if their pet throws up, especially if it is frequent or after certain activities and foods. Vomiting isn’t always an emergency, but it should be taken seriously and discussed with your vet to determine what may be causing it.
There are two main types of vomiting: regurgitation and vomiting. The two processes look very similar and can be difficult to distinguish, even for a vet. However, it is important to differentiate the two because they are medical signs for different things and can have very different outcomes.
Regurgitation is a passive process where food and water are ejected from the mouth after eating. No noise or heaves are usually associated with regurgitation, and the food typically looks soupy and dark (like coffee grounds), which is caused by stomach acid. If there is blood in the vomit, this can be a sign of a serious problem like gastric ulcers or an obstruction of the stomach or intestines, such as a bone, toy, or another foreign object that your pet tried to eat.
If your pet is vomiting and showing other signs, such as lack of appetite, diarrhea, a low heart rate, or a tummy that feels bloated, it is an emergency situation and requires immediate attention. If your pet’s vomit contains a lot of blood or the color of the vomit is reddish brown, this can indicate that the animal is suffering from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage and needs to be seen right away.
Sometimes, the cause of vomiting is not known, and it becomes a chronic problem, in which case your veterinarian will recommend feeding an exclusion diet, fluid therapy, and a short period of food withdrawal and may also prescribe anti-vomiting medication or a steroid. The veterinarian may refer your pet to a surgeon in severe cases. They are the best equipped to diagnose and treat these types of conditions and will help your pet feel better as soon as possible.