As a pet owner, it’s crucial to be aware and well informed of potential illnesses that could affect your dog or cat. Just like humans, the family pet is at risk for several illnesses ranging from gastritis and bladder infections, to allergies and eye infections. Some pet illnesses are obvious while others may not be as noticeable. Review the following ten surprising dog and cat illnesses to keep your pet on the track to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
10. Patellar Luxation in Dogs and Cats
Patellar Luxation is a hereditary condition affecting the “patella” (or kneecap) of some dogs and cats. It is especially common in small and toy breeds of dogs. Normally, the patella slides up and down easily along a “track” on the front of the leg. In animals affected with this condition, the patella slips off its track, usually toward the inside of the leg; this is known as luxation. Typical signs of patellar luxation are skipping or hopping when the animal walks or runs. In mild cases, the only treatment required is pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
9. Bladder infections and stones in Dogs
Although urine is normally sterile, bacteria may sometimes travel up the urethra to the bladder, causing a bladder infection. The condition is more common in female animals. Affected animals will feel the urge to urinate more frequently and may strain to urinate, often passing only a small amount of bloody or cloudy urine. In some affected animals, minerals in the urine may crystallize into bladder stones, which may be as small as grains of sand or larger than marbles. Infections can be treated with antibiotics. Stones are treated with either change of diet, surgery, or a sonic vibration procedure that crushes them with sound waves.
8. Foreign Body Obstruction
If an animal ingests a foreign body, such as a bone, stick, toy, or piece of garbage, it may become lodged in the digestive tract. This may cause symptoms ranging from vomiting and pain—which may be severe—to abdominal obstruction. Intestinal obstruction is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. Treatment consists of surgery to remove the obstruction and to repair any damage that the obstruction may have caused.
Gastritis in dogs is an inflammation or irritation of the lining of the stomach. Vomiting is the most common sign of gastritis. Various conditions that may result in gastritis include infection, intestinal worms, cancer, kidney and liver disease, ingestion of toxic chemicals or spoiled food, and intestinal obstruction. The contents and appearance of the vomit may give the veterinarian an indication of the likely cause. Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause as well as providing supportive care, such as intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, medications, and dietary restriction.
Like people, dogs and cats can develop allergies. Allergies are especially common in certain breeds of dogs, including several types of terriers and retrievers. Among the common pet allergens—causes of allergies—are pollens, molds, certain food proteins, and flea saliva. Unlike people, pets do not react to allergens by developing hay fever symptoms such as watery eyes or stuffy nose. Instead, they typically develop skin irritation and itching. In some pets, this may be a seasonal problem; in others, it may occur year-round. The location of the irritation varies depending on the cause: inhaled allergens usually cause problems around the face, feet, and “arm pits,” food allergies around the head and neck, and flea allergies in the rump, tail, and groin areas.
5. Conjunctivitis and Other Eye Conditions
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a delicate membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelid and the white of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis causes the blood vessels in the whites of the eyes to become congested with blood, giving the typical bloodshot appearance. The condition has many causes, which include infection, insufficient tear production, foreign bodies in the eye, and damage to the cornea—the clear part of the eye. There may also be a watery discharge or a collection of pus in the corner of the eye. Other common eye conditions include 1) glaucoma, a condition in which the fluid pressure in the eye increases, causing damage to the retina and optic nerve, which may lead to impairment of vision or even permanent blindness; and 2) genetic diseases of the retina. (Breeds at greatest risk for these conditions include collies and sheep dogs, as well as certain spaniels, terriers, and retrievers.)
4. Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs
The cruciate ligaments are two bands of tissue found in each knee joint, which join the femur and tibia—the bones above and below the knee joint—and keep the knee joint stable. If either of the cruciate ligaments is torn, the stability of the joint is compromised and lameness results, accompanied by pain. The injury usually results from a sudden twisting of the knee joint when a dog is running and suddenly changes direction. Left untreated, the condition can cause irreversible arthritis, which will eventually result in permanent damage to the joint, worsening pain, and lameness. Surgery is usually required to repair the injury, followed by a 3 to 6 month period of gradual recovery.
3. Dermatitis in Dogs and Cats
Both dogs and cats can develop dermatitis—inflamed skin and skin rashes—from a number of causes, including allergies, fleas, mange mites, and bacterial or fungal infections. Seasonal inhaled allergies (atopy) usually appear as red, itchy areas on the paws, face, armpits, and groin. Food allergies can also cause dermatitis, typically on the head and neck. Dermatitis is also sometimes caused by moisture buildup under the skin, often in folds of skin around the face, lips, armpits, groin, and mammary glands. Fungal infections can affect hair, nails, and dead skin, leading to bald, scaly areas which show up as patches or rings—more commonly in cats—known informally as ringworm. Treatment for dermatitis varies depending on the underlying cause.
2. Otitis (Ear infections)
Otitis—the clinical term for ear infections—is a common problem in pets. The deep ear canals of dogs and cats create a good environment for the growth of bacteria and yeast. Ear mites can also live in the ear canal and cause irritation and itching. Pets with ear infections usually rub or scratch their ears and shake their heads often, and infected ears often have a bad odor. If the infection spreads to the middle ear, the pet may develop a loss of balance. In more serious cases, the infection may spread further to the bone, requiring long-term therapy. Ear drops are usually required to treat the infection and remove any mites.
1. Vomiting and Diarrhea
Vomiting and diarrhea are very common in dogs and cats and can range in severity from mild discomfort to a sign of serious or life-threatening illness. Vomiting is the body’s way of expelling the contents of the stomach or upper intestinal tract in order to purge it of a source of irritation. The most common cause of vomiting in pets is the ingestion of such irritants as sticks, leaves, bones, trash, or greasy table foods. Sometimes, vomiting may be the result of viral or—more rarely—bacterial infection of the digestive tract. Other common causes of vomiting are parasites—such as roundworm—as well as various systemic diseases such as liver and kidney disease, and cancer. Diarrhea results from irritation further down the digestive tract in the small or large intestine. Some of the same conditions that cause vomiting can also cause diarrhea.
Reviewed by Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS, and John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD
By Peter Lopatin of WebVet