Portland, Ore. - A first-of-its kind study of 2.1 million dogs and 450,000 cats by Banfield Pet Hospital show increases in diabetes dental disease, flea infestations and other common and preventable health problems.
Portland, Ore. — A first-of-its-kind study of 2.1 million dogs and 450,000 cats by Banfield Pet Hospital shows increases in diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations and other common and preventable health problems.
In the first "State of Pet Health 2011 Report," released by Banfield, data show a 32 percent spike in diabetes in dogs in an analysis of veterinary patient data from 2006 to 2010. The study also denotes a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes. While these data were collected at Banfield Pet Hospitals, the analysis from more than 2.5 million health records indicates some of these preventable problems are on the rise, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, chief medical officer for Banfield, tells DVM Newsmagazine.
"I just can't help but wonder if there is a correlation between the increase and prevalance of these diseases and the decreasing visits to veterinarians," Klausner adds.
The project's goal, Klausner explains, is to help the veterinary profession gain a better understanding of the state of pet health in the United States, especially in light of recent reports signaling a decline in veterinary visits.
"We want to use our position in the industry where we can collect this data and give back to the veterinary profession. We want to share because no one has been able to get this kind of information before. We hope that researchers, investigators and clinicians will find something in this data that will help them improve their practices or help research in the future."
Klausner adds that the analysis will likely help veterinarians develop strategies to improve patient care. Case in point? The study denotes a rise in popularity of small-breed dogs. In fact, small-breed dogs are more prone to diseases like diabetes mellitus, periodontal disease and knee injuries, while large-breed dogs are more predisposed to arthritis, bloat and hip dysplasia.
Ultimately, data analysis of dog and cat health records focuses on key areas including dental disease, heartworm disease, flea and tick infestations, internal parasites, otitis, diabetes mellitus and even breed popularity.
Here are some of the highlights:
Dental disease topped the list of the most common medical conditions for dogs and cats, Banfield reports.
In fact, 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over age 3 presented with some form of dental disease. And it's not just gingivitis.
Periodontal disease, grades 1 and 2, ranked in the top 10 diagnoses for small dogs. The top five breeds most likely to develop periodontal disease included the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian and Shetland Sheepdog.
One thing is clear, smaller-breed dogs are becoming more popular. Chihuahuas now represent 8 percent of Banfield's patient population. Over a 10-year period, from 2000 to 2010, their numbers have grown 116 percent. Shih Tzus are up 87 percent during that period as well. Labrador Retrievers dropped nearly 20 percent in the rankings over the 10-year period; German Shepherds, on the other hand, are down some 40 percent in the same time period.
Here are the top 10 breeds:
Why these trends are occurring is another story, the report suggests. Increased apartment/condo ownership with little or no yardspace, or desire for pets that require less space may be driving the change among younger dog owners. An older population of suburban dog owners may be focused more on travel or downsizing and therefore smaller dogs may be more desirable, Klausner says.
Losing ground in the flea war?
"There are some things that really surprised me. As much access as people have to flea medications, I'm surprised that flea infestations are one the rise." Up by 16 percent, the data reports.
"It gives me pause again to wonder about how people are getting their flea-and-tick medications. There is something lost when they just go to Costco and pick up the box of flea-and-tick medication, and they don't talk to their veterinarian. I don't know if that is the reason for this increase, but it is one of those diseases that should be decreasing rather than increasing. I wonder in this example if the veterinarian is not in the loop that it is really making a difference."
The prevalence of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats is also going up. While it did not rank in the top 10 diagnoses of pets in 2010, obesity did. Obesity ranked in the top five diagnoses for young adult, mature adult and geriatric dogs. It leaped to the top three diagnoses for cats in the same age ranges.
"I wonder about the diabetes increase," Klausner says. "There is a certain percentage of those patients that could be better managed as far as weight."
Interestingly enough, states with the greatest prevalence for a diagnoses of diabetes mellitus in dogs included Iowa, Rhode Island, Idaho, Nevada and Delaware. For cats, the top states included Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Nevada and New Hampshire.
As might be expected, heartworm disease was most prevalent in the Southeast. In fact, 6.7 percent of dogs in Mississippi tested positive, and other states like Arkansas (6.3 percent) and Louisiana (5 percent) were not far behind. Alabama (3 percent), Texas (2.6 percent) and South Carolina (2 percent) also ranked high in terms of heartworm-positive patients.
The data also shows that the disease was diagnosed every month of the year. Peak months for heartworm disease diagnoses occurred in June and in February.
Inflammation of the outer ear canal ranked as the second most common disease affecting dogs and cats. Since 2006, otitis externa increased 34 percent in cats and 9.4 percent in dogs. Last year, 15.8 percent of dogs and 7.4 percent of cats were diagnosed with otitis externa. Some of the purebred dogs predisposed to the disease include: Basset Hound, Beagle, Bulldog (American and English), Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Lhasa Apso, Poodle (all sizes), Pug, Shar-Pei and English Springer Spaniel.
Increases were noted with hookworms too. In fact, the data suggests a 30 percent increase in hookworm prevalence in dogs and a 3.5 percent increase in cats. Roundworm prevalence, on the other hand, is showing some declines in dogs (4.6 percent), yet increases (12.6 percent) in cats. Alabama had the highest prevalence of roundworm and ranked high in prevalence of whipworm and tapeworm in dogs.
Other states like Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina ranked high in prevalence of these parasites for dogs and cats. Tapeworm remains the most common parasite for cats despite a 15.5 percent decrease in prevalence over the past five years, the report states.