Top 10 Pet Health Issues Seen by FACE and our Veterinary Partners

We are often asked about the kinds of pet health emergencies that are seen by our veterinary partners and referred to FACE, so that we may help qualified pet owners pay for life-saving veterinary treatments for their companion animals.  There are many common pet injuries and illnesses that we and our partners see on a monthly or even weekly basis.  Here’s a list of the top pet health issues helped by FACE grants.  Be sure to check out our website for more detailed information on each medical condition!

  1. Fractures

Broken bones are a very common pet injury that we see on an almost weekly basis.  Fractures of a dog or cat’s long bones are like human arm or leg fractures.  Some young or small pets can even sustain fractures from a jump off a couch or bed.  The most common signs of fractures are lameness, as well as pain and swelling at the injury site.  Be sure to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible.  Falls from high places (or being hit by a car) can cause serious, life-threatening internal injuries besides broken bones, like internal bleeding and ruptured organs, so quick diagnosis and treatment are critical.

  1. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Most commonly seen in dogs, especially Dachshunds and other breeds with similar body types, IVDD occurs when the cushions between your dog’s spinal bones swell or rupture.  This can damage the spinal cord and lead to lameness, loss of sensation, incontinence, and even paralysis.  Mild IVDD can be treated with non-invasive measures, but a serious case requires surgery to decompress the spine.  Sadly, vets may often recommend euthanasia if a ruptured disc is left untreated.

  1. Foreign Body Obstructions

Dogs, cats, and other pets will often get into mischief and eat things they shouldn’t.  A gastrointestinal obstruction occurs when the object is not vomited up or passed through the intestinal tract.  Many common household items can cause an obstruction:  toy pieces, strings, rubber bands, coins, pieces of bone, etc.  An object stuck in the upper GI tract can be removed via endoscopy, but many stomach and intestinal obstructions require surgery.  Untreated obstructions can be fatal.

  1. Urinary Obstructions

A very common veterinary emergency, often seen in male cats, urinary obstructions occur when crystals or mucus form in the kidneys and enter the bladder and urethra.  Mild obstructions can cause your cat discomfort and distress, but complete obstructions (and the inability to pass any urine) cause deadly toxins to build up in your cat’s body, leading to death if left untreated.  Your cat’s urinary system will need to be flushed.  Chronic obstructions often require surgery.  Your vet will talk to you about dietary changes to prevent the formation of crystals in the future.

  1. Pyometra

Besides leading to unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, leaving your female dog or cat unspayed can also lead to a life-threatening medical condition called pyometra.  It is a bacterial infection of the uterus, occurring in one quarter of unspayed female pets.  Signs include lethargy, vaginal discharge, and anorexia.  A seriously infected uterus can be fatal, and the recommended treatment for pyometra is removal of the uterus and ovaries.

  1. Rattlesnake Bites

Here in San Diego, rattlesnake bites are a fairly common pet emergency that can happen year-round because of the warm climate.  Dogs are 20 times more likely to be bitten by a snake than us humans, mostly due to their inquisitive nature when they are exploring the great outdoors.  A bite from a venomous snake can be fatal to your pet, and immediate treatment with antivenom is crucial.  Your pet will also require additional treatment for pain, infection, and inflammation.

  1. Emergency C-Sections

Emergency Caesarian sections are sometimes required if your pet is experiencing distress during the birthing process.  Certain dog breeds with large head/small body size (like some bulldogs and terriers) can be especially vulnerable to problems.  It is critical to bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible if she is experiencing intense contractions with no sign of puppies.

  1. Enucleations

Enucleation is the removal of an eye due to an injury or illness that causes your dog or cat discomfort.  In pets, enucleation is often the best solution to relieve pain.  Conditions that may require removal of the eye include glaucoma, cancer, severe infection, and trauma.   Your vet will perform the operation to remove the eye under anesthesia, stitching the skin closed when done.

  1. Laceration Repairs

A laceration is a cut or tear in the skin, with severe lacerations often involving blood loss and damage to underlying structures like muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves.  Surgery under general anesthesia is often required to repair significant lacerations.  Lacerations should be treated as soon as possible to avoid infection of the wound.

  1. Severe Dental Work

Rounding out the list of the most common pet health issues we assist with is a relatively new addition…severe dental work.  Serious periodontal disease in dogs, cats, and other pets can lead to life-threatening health conditions.  Left untreated, diseased teeth and gums can lead to loss of tissue and bone in the mouth and the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, leading to bone infection and organ damage.  Talk to your vet about prevention strategies like home tooth brushing.

 

Key Findings from 2017 Pet Population and Ownership Trends Report

Did you know that 55% of all American households have pets?  Are you interested in learning about the latest dog, cat, and other companion animal trends?  The website reseachandmarkets.com has recently announced the publication of the market research report Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S.: Dogs, Cats, and other Pets (2nd Edition).  The report is available for purchase, but we’ve taken a sneak peek at some of the more thought-provoking findings, sure to be of interest to all pet parents and animal lovers!

Dogs

  • Dog ownership has risen 29% in the past decade
  • Both millennials and baby boomers are driving the growth in dog ownership
  • Number of unmarried and childless dog owners is growing
  • Half of U.S. dog owners live in the 25 largest metropolitan areas of the country
  • Most pet owners favor smaller dogs but boomers tend to prefer larger dogs

Cats

  • 59 million Americans own cats
  • Cat owners are more likely to add other cats to the household than other kinds of animals
  • Cat ownership among seniors has risen 43% in the past decade
  • Number of Hispanic cat owners has been markedly increasing
  • Females tend to drive growth in cat ownership numbers

Other Pets

  • 15 million households have non-canine/non-feline pets (23% of all pet owners)
  • There are 86 million “other” pets in the U.S.
  • Latinos are most likely to have pet birds
  • The presence of children in the household is a deciding factor in “other” pet ownership
  • 73% of fish owners are under the age of 50
  • 47% of reptile owners are millennials

Check out the Research and Markets website for even more pet ownership facts and figures.

 

How to Tell if Your Pet’s Behavior Issue is a Sign of a Health Problem

Behavioral problems can be very common in dogs, cats, and other companion animals.  When pet owners look up behavioral issues, such as cats going outside of the litter box, or obsessive grooming in dogs, many websites will tell you to see your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems.  How can you tell if your pet’s problem behavior is the result of a medical issue, and if so, what kind of medical issue?

The website VetVine is a great resource for both veterinarians and pet owners.  They have created a helpful checklist which outlines common categories of pet behavior problems, and the medical and behavioral causes that could be behind each problem.

Problem behavior categories are: house soiling, excessive grooming, aggression, and excessive vocalization.  Possible medical and behavioral causes are listed for each problem.  For example, did you know that a cat that goes outside of the litter box could have diabetes?  Or a dog that shows signs of aggression could have thyroid disease or epilepsy?  Does your pet meow or bark a lot?  It could be an indicator of hearing loss.

Check out the VetVine website for the complete list of conditions and causes, and be sure to see your veterinarian for additional help.  Interested in exploring more pet wellness topics?  The VetVine Hub on YouTube contains dozens of videos for pet owners on all sorts of pet health and behavior issues.  You can watch informative videos on everything from pet cancer and obesity to flea and tick control to dealing with pet anxiety, fear, and stress.

 

4th of July Pet Safety Tips

The July 4th holiday is coming soon!  Are you prepared to keep your patriotic pets healthy and happy while you celebrate with backyard barbecues and fireworks displays?  Here’s a great infographic with some key reminders to help keep your dogs and cats safe during the 4th of July…and all summer long.  There’s still time to talk to your vet about microchipping and ways to relieve your pet’s anxiety before the fireworks start!

 

How the Cost of Veterinary Care Impacts Pets, Clients & Veterinarians

You’ve just adopted a new puppy or kitten and you take it to the vet’s office for a first appointment.  Would you expect your veterinarian to spend time talking to you about the financial burden of future veterinary care if your pet gets sick or injured over the course of its lifetime?  Many pet owners discuss routine care like vaccinations and spay/neuter when they take a new pet to the vet, but it might be surprising if their vet brings up potential future costs of treating a disease like cancer, or surgery for a broken leg.

Veterinarians often find themselves in the difficult position of taking a client’s ability to pay into account when deciding on the quality of care a sick or injured pet can receive.  A recent survey of over 1,000 small animal practice veterinarians, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, examines this very important issue.

Dr. Barry Kipperman, a veterinarian who conducted this study with several colleagues, outlines the key findings of the survey in an article on the website dvm360.com.

  • 57% of surveyed vets reported that a client’s financial limitations impact their ability to provide the level of care they would like to give to an animal.
  • 77% of the vets who reported some degree of professional burnout said that clients’ financial limitations were a contributing factor to at least some extent.
  • While a majority of the vets reported discussing vaccinations and spay/neuter with clients, only 32% talked about costs of veterinary care prior to a pet becoming sick or injured. Only 23% reported discussing pet health insurance with clients.
  • A majority of the vets said that pet welfare and client satisfaction (as well as their own satisfaction) improved when clients were aware of pet health insurance and the costs of veterinary care.

As Dr. Kipperman points out, few people entering vet school ever think about the sad reality of denying care to a pet because of a client’s inability to pay for services.  He suggests that it is in the best interests of pets, their owners, and their vets to have conversations about potential future costs of care.  It is possible for pet owners to prepare for future expenses…if they have a good understanding of what to expect.  This increased awareness can start with a concerted effort to educate veterinary students, practicing veterinarians, and pet owners about the importance of talking about the costs of veterinary care.