Trends in Veterinary Medicine
Just as human docs are seeing more patients with diabetes, so too are veterinarians. A first-of-its-kind study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital (a corporation with more than 770 veterinary hospitals) documents rises in the incidence of diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations, ear infections, and intestinal parasites. Banfield collected their data from a whopping 2.1 million dogs and 450,000 cats seen during 2010, and then released it as a document called “State of Pet Health 2011 Report.” The entirety of this report is available via the Banfield website.
Here are some highlights from this study:
Dental disease was the most common medical condition reported. In fact, 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over three years of age had some form of dental disease. The top five dog breeds most likely to develop periodontal disease included the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Shetland Sheepdog (it’s a given that small breed dogs have a higher incidence of dental disease than medium and large breed dogs).
Otitis externa (infection or inflammation of the external ear canal) was the second most common disease, found in 15.8 percent of dogs and 7.4 percent of cats.
There has been a 32 percent increase in canine diabetes and a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes compared to data collected in 2006.
Obesity ranked in the top five diagnoses for dogs and in the top three diagnoses for cats. This may, in part, explain why the prevalence of diabetes is increasing.
The incidence of flea infestation has increased 16 percent in dogs and 12 percent in cats; rather surprising given the fact that flea control products have been steadily evolving.
One of the top three diseases found in dogs examined in Banfield hospitals located within the Southern United States was heartworm disease (detected in 6.7 percent of dogs examined).
Cats in 2010 more frequently test positive for roundworms, hookworms and whipworms (all intestinal parasites) compared to cats evaluated in 2006. Canine hookworms and whipworms have also increased during this same time period.
Small breed dogs are gaining in popularity. Chihuahuas represented a whopping 8 percent of Banfield’s patient population. This represents a 116 percent increase when comparing data between 2000 and 2010. Labrador Retrievers remained the most common dog breed among Banfield patients, but their numbers decreased by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The number of feline vet clinic visits is declining. In 2006 Banfield veterinarians examined 5.3 dogs for every feline visit. The current ratio is 6.6 dogs for every one kitty.
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner is the chief medical officer for Banfield. He expresses concern about the rise in some of the preventable diseases mentioned above and he states, “I just can’t help but wonder if there is a correlation between the increase and prevalence of these diseases and the decreasing visits to veterinarians.”
The stated purpose of the Banfield study is to help the veterinary profession gain a better understanding of the state of pet health in the United States, especially in light of many recent reports indicating a decline in veterinary visits. Dr. Klausner hopes that the Banfield analysis will help veterinarians develop strategies to improve patient care. The decline in vet clinic visits may correlate with the relatively newer knowledge that core vaccinations (rabies, distemper, parvovirus) need not be given annually. It appears that some folks view vaccines to be the primary reason for vet clinic visits and ignore the importance of an annual physical examination. Several studies are currently underway to try to understand why feline veterinary clinic visits have declined so dramatically.
Kudos to Banfield Pet Hospital for orchestrating this monumental study. What a great way to give back to the profession. The Banfield data underscores the importance of annual visits to the vet (whether or not vaccinations are due) and discussion of preventive health care. When did you and your pet last visit your vet for an annual physical examination? Did you discuss dental disease, flea control, or weight management for your pet?
This article is shared with permission from Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.
Comments and feedback are welcomed on Dr. Kay's original blog post.
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