Many people forget that we share more than our homes with our furry friends. Most of the medical conditions humans suffer from also affect our pets. Here are some of the more common diseases pets and people share.
Diabetes / Insulin Resistance
Humans- According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million children and adults, 8.0% of the population, have diabetes.
- Diagnosed: 17.9 million people
- Undiagnosed: 5.7 million people
- Pre-diabetes: 57 million people
- 1.6 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older in 2007
- Prevalence in the USA has been increasing
- Reported prevalence in 1970: 1 in 1250 cats
- Reported prevalence in 1999: 1 in 81 cats
- Reported prevalence in 1970: 1 case per 500 dogs
- Reported prevalence in 1999: 1 case per 166 dogs
- Overall incidence is probably about 1 in 150 to 200 dogs and cats
Clinical signs: increased thirst, urination and hunger, unexplained weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, blurry vision
Diagnosis: blood and urine tests: elevated fasting blood glucose, presence of glucose in urine; other tests include fructosamine, glycosylated hemoglobin, glucose tolerance test
Treatment: change in diet (low carbohydrate, high-fiber, high-protein), weight loss and aerobic exercise, insulin injections (especially in dogs and cats, insulin pumps in humans), oral medications (Glucotrol, Glucophage, Precose, Prandin, Januvia, Avandamet, etc.)
High Blood Pressure
Humans – prevalence rate of 28.9% according to 2008 journal of Hypertension and American Heart Association
Dogs and Cats – exact prevalence is unknown, largely because veterinarians and pet owners lack awareness; hypertension is growing secondary to obesity
Clinical signs: most people and pets experience no clinical signs, hence the moniker “the silent killer.” Strokes, loss of vision (especially in dogs and cats), kidney and heart disease, headaches, fatigue, etc.
Diagnosis: blood pressure – same in humans, dogs and cats; we’re one of the few clinics in the US using high-definition oscillometric (HDO) blood pressure device
Treatment: increased aerobic exercise, weight loss, low-sodium diet, medication to lower pressure by relaxing arteries, lowering heart rate, reducing sodium or fluid, etc.
Humans – two-thirds (67%) of American adults are now obese or overweight (2009 CDC), medical costs may be as high as $147 billion (2009 CDC)
Dogs- an estimated 44% of us dogs are overweight or obese (2009 APOP)
Cats – an estimated 57% of us cats are overweight or obese (2009 APOP)
Veterinary Pet Insurance reported it paid $14 million in obesity-related claims in 2006
Treatment: increase aerobic exercise, low-calorie diet (high-protein, low-carbohydrate versus high-fiber diet strategies)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Humans – almost 2% of Americans have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Dogs and Cats – exact incidence unknown but number of affected pets seems to be increasing; may be related to high-carbohydrate diet, especially in cats
Clinical signs: diarrhea, abdominal pain and tenderness, bloating, gas, vomiting (in severe cases), weight loss
Diagnosis: medical history and clinical signs, intestinal biopsies
Treatment: dietary change, immunosuppressive medications
Heart Disease and High Cholesterol
Humans – heart disease most common cause of death in US
Dogs – high cholesterol is being diagnosed in obese dogs, heart disease affects approximately 1 in 10 dogs
Cats – exact incidence is unknown, most are genetically linked
Clinical signs: fatigue, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath, coughing, distended abdomen, weight loss, etc.
Diagnosis: physical examination, presence of a heart murmur, chest x-rays, echocardiography, ECG, MRI/CT, etc.
Treatment: based on specific type of heart disease, weight loss, aerobic exercise, etc.
Arthritis – Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Humans: incidence rate of osteoarthritis is about 7% (likely higher with increasing obesity rates), incidence rate of rheumatoid arthritis is about 1%
Dogs: up to 20% of all dogs may develop osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis is rare but occurs
Cats – rarely are affected except in obese cats
Clinical signs: lameness, joint pain or swelling, decreased ability to walk, decreased range of motion
Diagnosis: medical history and clinical signs, x-rays
Treatment: weight loss and exercise, pain relief medications such as NSAIDs, supplements including glucosamine/chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils), etc.
Glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye)
Humans – approximately 1 in 136 or 0.74% or 2 million people in US are affected
Dogs and Cats – incidence unknown; more common in pure breeds:
Clinical signs: swollen, protruding eyeball, red, inflamed eye, sudden blindness, pain, head-pressing, etc.
Diagnosis: tonometry (measuring the pressure within the eyeball using a pen-like digital instrument)
Treatment: same in humans and pets, topical and/or oral medications to decrease pressure in the eye
Epilepsy (seizure disorders)
- Epilepsy and seizures affect almost 3 million Americans
- Epilepsy costs an estimated $15.5 billion per year in direct and indirect costs
- Approximately 200,000 new cases of seizures and epilepsy occur each year
- Ten percent of the American population will experience a seizure in their lifetime
- Three percent will develop epilepsy by age 75
Dogs and Cats – There are no epidemiologic studies of the general dog population to establish the true incidence of idiopathic epilepsy in dogs, but estimates range from 0.5% up to 5.7%. Pure-breed dogs more affected than mixed-breed dogs. Epilepsy is rare in cats.
Clinical signs: seizures, tremors, loss of consciousness
Diagnosis: clinical signs, MRI/CT scans
Treatment: anticonvulsant therapies – same in human and dogs
Humans, dogs and cats are all susceptible to excessive gas. The most common cause is diet. Treatments include change in diet (highly-digestible protein, lower fat, lower carbohydrate, change fiber source) to Yucca schidigera extract and more.
Cruciate Ligament Injury – Joint Injuries
Humans – knee injuries one of the most common sports-related injuries; incidence rate of 300 cases per 100,000 population and 2.1 per 1000 NCAA athletes
Dogs – Americans spent an estimated $1.32 billion dollars on treatment for ruptured cranial cruciate ligaments in dogs (2003); incidence is unknown but increasing with excess weight
Cats – rare but increasing due to obesity
Clinical signs: sudden lameness, pain in knee
Treatment: most cases in humans and dogs require some form of reconstructive knee surgery
Allergies – Hay Fever
Humans – incidence rate estimated to be 15 to 30% – “Hay fever”
Dogs and cats – incidence rate estimated to be 3 to 15% (Dogs and cats commonly have seasonal allergies, too!)
Clinical signs: itching (dogs and cats), red, runny eyes, sneezing, dermatitis
Diagnosis: intradermal skin testing, hypoallergenic food trials, IgE blood tests
Treatment: antihistamines, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, etc.
Dementia – Alzheimer’s disease
Humans – Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly 5% of older Americans
Dogs – Dementia is called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) in dogs and cats – 45% of dogs aged 11-12 years of age showed at least one positive category of CDS compared to 86% of dogs aged 15-16 years. Another analysis on the same data was performed examining the number of dogs that exhibited disorientation plus at least one other category. In this analysis 13% of 11 year-old dogs and 50% of 16 year-old dogs met the criteria.
Cats – exact incidence unknown – appears to be somewhat less common than in dogs
Clinical signs: disorientation, loss of housetraining, vocalizations, lack of responsiveness, lack of recognition, loss of greeting behaviors, walking to wrong side of door, etc.
Diagnosis: medical history and clinical signs, MRI/CT scans
Treatment: medications such as selegiline, supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, gingko, vitamin E, etc.
Bladder and Kidney Stones
Humans – most commonly get kidney stones
Dogs and Cats – most commonly get bladder stones with or without kidney stones
Clinical signs: painful urination, inability to urinate, blood in urine, frequent urinary tract infections, etc.
Diagnosis: medical history and clinical signs, bladder and kidney x-rays, abdominal ultrasound
Treatment: dietary change may succeed in dissolving stones until they can be passed, urethral hydropropulsion (a technique in which small stones are flushed from the bladder), lithotripsy (humans), surgical removal (most common in dogs and cats)
Older humans, dogs and cats may all experience hearing loss. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 6 adult Americans will have some form of communication disorder. Government estimates state 28.6 million Americans had hearing loss in 2000. The exact incidence is unknown in dogs and cats.
Most people are surprised to learn that dogs and cats have a higher incidence of many tumors than humans.
Dogs have (all citations Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine)
- 35 times as much skin cancer as do humans
- 4 times as many breast tumors
- 8 times as much bone cancer
- Twice as high an incidence of leukemia.
The only types of cancer that are more frequently seen in humans than in small animals are:
- lung cancer is 7 times higher in humans
- stomach/intestinal malignancies are 13 times more frequent in man than in dogs and cats
Depression and Anxiety
Humans – The prevalence rate of depression in Americans is 5.30% according to various researches and studies by NIMH.
Cats – less incidence of depression or anxiety than dogs and humans, likely due to their solitary nature
Diagnosis: based on clinical signs and medical history
Treatment: same for dogs and humans: anxiolytic drugs such as Prozac are commonly used; behavioral therapies including counter conditioning/desensitization, redirection, etc. are used in conjunction with medication in many cases.