Spotlight

Arthritis

Arthritis in dogs and cats is on the rise, with a 30% increase in dogs and a 31% increase in cats since 2010. This coincides with increases in diagnoses of overweight and obesity, which are risk factors for arthritis. The condition is most common in older animals and can lead to lowered mobility and quality of life as pets age.

Spotlight

Arthritis

Arthritis in dogs and cats is on the rise, with a 30% increase in dogs and a 31% increase in cats since 2010. This coincides with increases in diagnoses of overweight and obesity, which are risk factors for arthritis. The condition is most common in older animals and can lead to lowered mobility and quality of life as pets age.

Overweight/Obesity

Overweight/Obesity

The rate of overweight and obese pets – about 1 in 4 dogs and 1 in 3 cats – has reached epidemic levels in the USA. That extra weight is linked to serious conditions such as arthritis, heart, respiratory problems and diabetes.

Signs of Overweight and Obesity

It’s crucial that every pet owner regularly weighs and assesses their pet’s body for excessive weight:

  • Pet’s ribs, spine and hip bones are barely detectable when touched
  • A defined waist cannot be seen
  • Belly fat is readily noticeable
  • Lowered ability to engage in normal activity
  • Difficulty breathing, particularly when active

Location Risks

Obesity and overweight is especially prevalent in these areas:


Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease

Acute kidney disease usually occurs because of an infection or ingestion of a toxin. In chronic disease, kidney function slowly decreases over time, so pets might not seem sick until kidney damage is severe. The cause is largely unknown, but it is seven times more common in cats than dogs and occurs in 1 out of 10 cats over age 10.

Signs

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath

How to Prevent and Manage It

Because it is progressive and permanent, early diagnosis is critical. With early diagnosis, veterinarian-prescribed treatments and special diets can help improve length and quality of life.

  • Semiannual physical exams
  • Regular blood and urine testing
  • At-home monitoring
  • At home fluid and medication administration

Prevent your pet from ingesting items that can cause kidney damage, including:

  • Many types of lilies
  • Grapes
  • Antifreeze

Location Risks

Kidney disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Thyroid Disease

Thyroid Disease

This hormonal disorder affects cats and dogs in different ways. In many dogs, hypothyroidism slows down metabolism. In many cats, hyperthyroidism speeds up metabolism.

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

  • Thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones
  • Slows down metabolism

Left untreated, hypothyroidism can contribute to serious conditions, including heart failure, kidney disease and high blood pressure.


Signs of Hypothyroidism in Dogs

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Tiredness
  • Weight gain, often rapid
  • Seeking out warmth; sitting by a heat vent
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Discoloration or thickening of skin where hair loss has occurred

How to Prevent and Manage It

Successful management of thyroid disease depends on early diagnosis and treatment. While it’s relatively easy to diagnose and manage in dogs, diagnosis in cats can be harder as they tend to mask symptoms of disease when they are sick.


Managing Hypothyroidism in Dogs

  • Regular veterinary exams to measure hormone levels
  • Oral medication

Location Risks

Thyroid disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Heart disease compromises a pet’s heart muscle or valves, making it difficult to pump blood. Signs are subtle, but left undetected it can lead to heart failure. Most diagnoses are made with help from stethoscopes during regular exams, chest X-rays, electrocardiographs, or ultrasound tests.

Signs

Physical signs are not always visible, especially in early stages. Signs are especially tough to read in cats, known for hiding discomfort. In between your pet's regular veterinary exams, look for:

  • Signs of fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing, especially during play or exercise
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • Preference for sleeping with the head elevated

How to Prevent and Manage It

Some types of heart disease may be avoided by ensuring your pets get proper nutrition. If you choose to feed a homemade diet, consult with your veterinarian to ensure your pets’ dietary needs are being met as deficiencies in certain nutrients can lead to heart disease.


Location Risks

Heart disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Arthritis

Arthritis

This inflammation of the joints affects pets the same way that it does humans. Undiagnosed or untreated, it can cause irreversible joint damage, leading to pain and restrictions on mobility. The onset of arthritis can be caused by abnormal conformation, injury to a joint, or age and chronic use.

Signs

Arthritis is likely more common than currently reported. Signs can be hard to distinguish from those of other diseases. Pets are good at hiding discomfort, especially cats, and often the signs of arthritis are mistakenly dismissed as normal signs of aging.


Signs in Dogs

  • Mild decrease in activity level
  • Stiffness when standing up
  • Limping
  • Muscle loss
  • Abnormal gait and sitting positions
  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs

How to Prevent and Manage It

For mild arthritis:

  • Weight loss
  • Moderate exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications for pain and inflammation
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Nutritional supplementation or diets specifically formulated to help manage arthritis

For moderate to severe arthritis:

  • Regular checkups and nutritional counseling
  • Medications for pain and inflammation; often a combination
  • Surgery

Location Risks

Arthritis is especially prevalent in these areas:

Overweight/Obesity

Overweight/Obesity

The rate of overweight and obese pets – about 1 in 4 dogs and 1 in 3 cats – has reached epidemic levels in the USA. That extra weight is linked to serious conditions such as arthritis, heart, respiratory problems and diabetes.

Signs of Overweight and Obesity

It’s crucial that every pet owner regularly weighs and assesses their pet’s body for excessive weight:

  • Pet’s ribs, spine and hip bones are barely detectable when touched
  • A defined waist cannot be seen
  • Belly fat is readily noticeable
  • Lowered ability to engage in normal activity
  • Difficulty breathing, particularly when active

How to Prevent and Manage It

  • Get regular checkups and nutritional counseling with a veterinarian
  • Use a diet specially formulated for weight loss
  • Decrease calories and increase activity

Work with your veterinarian who can:

  • Evaluate and track your pet’s body condition and weight over time
  • Determine if excess weight is due to – or a sign of – underlying disease
  • Recommend a healthy plan for weight loss

Location Risks

Obesity and overweight is especially prevalent in these areas:


Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease

Acute kidney disease usually occurs because of an infection or ingestion of a toxin. In chronic disease, kidney function slowly decreases over time, so pets might not seem sick until kidney damage is severe. The cause is largely unknown, but it is seven times more common in cats than dogs and occurs in 1 out of 10 cats over age 10.

Signs

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath

How to Prevent and Manage It

Because it is progressive and permanent, early diagnosis is critical. With early diagnosis, veterinarian-prescribed treatments and special diets can help improve length and quality of life.

  • Semiannual physical exams
  • Regular blood and urine testing
  • At-home monitoring
  • At home fluid and medication administration

Prevent your pet from ingesting items that can cause kidney damage, including:

  • Many types of lilies
  • Grapes
  • Antifreeze

Location Risks

Kidney disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Thyroid Disease

Thyroid Disease

This hormonal disorder affects cats and dogs in different ways. In many dogs, hypothyroidism slows down metabolism. In many cats, hyperthyroidism speeds up metabolism.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

  • Thyroid gland produces more hormones than a cat needs
  • Speeds up metabolism
  • Most commonly seen in senior cats

Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can contribute to serious conditions, including heart failure, kidney disease and high blood pressure.


Signs of Hyperthyroidism in Cats

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Restlessness
  • Matted or greasy coat
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Change in voice

How to Prevent and Manage It

Successful management of thyroid disease depends on early diagnosis and treatment. While it’s relatively easy to diagnose and manage in dogs, diagnosis in cats can be harder as they tend to mask symptoms of disease when they are sick.


Managing Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Because thyroid disease in cats is linked to other serious conditions, early diagnosis and treatment are important. Options include:

  • Surgery to remove thyroid gland
  • Radiation treatment to destroy abnormal thyroid tissue
  • Oral and transdermal medications
  • Nutritional management

Location Risks

Thyroid disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Heart disease compromises a pet’s heart muscle or valves, making it difficult to pump blood. Signs are subtle, but left undetected it can lead to heart failure. Most diagnoses are made with help from stethoscopes during regular exams, chest X-rays, electrocardiographs, or ultrasound tests.

Signs

Physical signs are not always visible, especially in early stages. Signs are especially tough to read in cats, known for hiding discomfort. In between your pet's regular veterinary exams, look for:

  • Signs of fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing, especially during play or exercise
  • Coughing
  • Fainting
  • Preference for sleeping with the head elevated

How to Prevent and Manage It

Some types of heart disease may be avoided by ensuring your pets get proper nutrition. If you choose to feed a homemade diet, consult with your veterinarian to ensure your pets’ dietary needs are being met as deficiencies in certain nutrients can lead to heart disease.


Location Risks

Heart disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Arthritis

Arthritis

This inflammation of the joints affects pets the same way that it does humans. Undiagnosed or untreated, it can cause irreversible joint damage, leading to pain and restrictions on mobility. The onset of arthritis can be caused by abnormal conformation, injury to a joint, or age and chronic use.

Signs

Arthritis is likely more common than currently reported. Signs can be hard to distinguish from those of other diseases. Pets are good at hiding discomfort, especially cats, and often the signs of arthritis are mistakenly dismissed as normal signs of aging.


Signs in Cats

  • Very subtle, even in severe cases
  • Decreased activity
  • Changes in normal behavior
  • Reluctance to jump up to high places
  • Inappropriate littering

How to Prevent and Manage It

For mild arthritis:

  • Weight loss
  • Moderate exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications for pain and inflammation
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Nutritional supplementation or diets specifically formulated to help manage arthritis

For moderate to severe arthritis:

  • Regular checkups and nutritional counseling
  • Medications for pain and inflammation; often a combination
  • Surgery

Location Risks

Arthritis is especially prevalent in these areas: