Banfield Pet Hospital, the world’s largest veterinary practice, released the most comprehensive pet health report ever compiled, comprised of medical data from 2.5 million dogs and nearly 500,000 cats. The State of Pet Health 2016 Report, created by Banfield’s research team, Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK), analysed data from 3 million total pets cared for in 2015 in Banfield’s 925 hospitals spanning 43 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The report analyses trends from the past 10 years and highlights the most common diagnoses affecting cats and dogs. The data are broken down into distinct health sections, covering: diabetes mellitus, heartworm disease, dental disease, otitis externa (ear infection), fleas and ticks and internal parasites.
“Now in its sixth year, this report was created because we wanted to use our knowledge and research to help educate pet owners and raise profession-wide awareness for some of the most common and important diagnoses affecting the health of pets in the United States,” said Daniel Aja, DVM, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Banfield Pet Hospital. “It is our hope that the information in this report continues to serve as a catalyst for pet owners to partner with veterinary teams to help pets live better lives through preventive care.”
Diabetes mellitus findings
The report suggests that just as in humans, diseases such as diabetes are rising in pets. Canine diabetes has increased by 79.9 percent since 2006, while the prevalence of diabetes in cats has increased by 18.1 percent over the same time frame.
Dogs and cats can suffer from Type 1 (insulin-dependent) or Type 2 (non-insulin- dependent) diabetes. However, dogs are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes, which is similar to the form of diabetes seen in children; cats are more likely than dogs to develop Type 2 diabetes, the form more often developed in human adults. Modifications to the diet can play a major role in the treatment and management of this disease. Similar to the human form of the disease, Type 2 diabetes in pets can often be traced back to obesity, one of the top five diagnoses impacting young adult, mature adult and geriatric pets. Unlike with humans, there is no clear regional pattern to the highest rates of diabetes. The greatest prevalence of diabetes in 2015 in dogs was found in Nevada, Montana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kentucky. In cats, the highest rates were found in Delaware, New Mexico, District of Columbia, Wisconsin and Arkansas.
Heartworm disease findings
Heartworm disease is one of the most serious, yet preventable, conditions affecting pets in the United States and can be fatal. Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworms migrate to blood vessels of the lungs and heart and are capable of causing permanent damage to both before a pet ever shows symptoms. While there is no safe treatment for cats, the treatment for dogs can be costly and can result in dangerous side effects, including clots within the lungs, caused by a combination of a die-off of the worms, inflammation of the blood vessels, and reduced blood flow in the lungs.
Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in each of the 43 states Banfield practices in, but there is a distinct geographical trend with the highest prevalence of heartworm infection in the Southeastern states. This includes Mississippi (with 4.1 percent of tested dogs), Louisiana (3.9 percent), Arkansas (3.6 percent), and Puerto Rico and Alabama (with 1.6 percent). While the infection can occur year-round, it peaks sharply during the summer months due to the weather being more favorable for mosquitoes, which transmit the disease.
Based on Banfield data, the odds of contracting heartworm disease in Mississippi are 171 times those of contracting the disease in Nevada, the state with the lowest prevalence of the disease. This is followed by Louisiana, where the odds are 165 times greater than those of contracting heartworm in Nevada.
Dental disease findings
Dental tartar, a precursor to periodontal disease, is one of the most common causes of dental disease. Dental disease is the most common disorder among cats and dogs, affecting 68 percent of cats and 76 percent of dogs (however, the number increases in pets over the age of 3 where 88 percent of cats and 93 percent of dogs are affected). Dental disease has increased by 8 percent in dogs and 9.7 percent of cats since our initial report in 2011.
The greatest prevalence of dental disease in 2015 in dogs was found in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Nevada. The greatest prevalence in cats was found in Nevada, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington.
Otitis externa findings
One condition that is decreasing in dogs is otitis externa (inflammation of the ear canal). Since 2011, otitis externa has decreased 6.4 percent in dogs, with the prevalence of cats remaining unchanged. It can be triggered by numerous factors such as skin allergies, ear mites or irritation from foreign bodies such as parts of plants, shrubs or trees. Bacterial and yeast infections commonly occur secondary to inflammation in the ear. As in humans, ear infections cause significant discomfort, but in pets, they can become chronic and impact a pet for the duration of its life. While otitis externa has decreased in dogs, it remains very common in certain breeds; 1 in 4 Golden Retrievers and 1 in 5 Labrador Retrievers are diagnosed with this condition.
Flea and Tick findings
Similar to heartworm disease, fleas and ticks can affect a pet year-round but are most prevalent during certain seasons. Infestations begin increasing in the spring and summer and peak in early fall. Flea infestations can cause numerous health problems for pets. As fleas bite to eat, they inject saliva under the skin, causing an irritation that can lead to scratching, hair loss and infections. One of the greatest risks that ticks pose is the transmission of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to dogs, humans and other mammals. These diseases can potentially be life-threatening.
Since 2011, flea infestations in dogs have decreased in prevalence by 8.3 percent and have remained unchanged in cats. The abundance of fleas is dependent upon, among other factors, the use of a flea preventive, geographic location within the United States and local weather patterns. The prevalence of fleas in cats (10.9 cases per 100) is almost twice that of dogs (5.9 cases per 100), indicating the need for greater education about flea control for the feline population. Ticks have decreased over the past 10 years for dogs (11.3 percent decrease).
Internal parasites findings
Since 2011, we have seen a reduction of roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms in dogs, though the prevalence of hookworms has remained relatively unchanged. In cats, there has been a reduction of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms (though, as with fleas, cats are more than twice as likely to have a tapeworm diagnosis compared to dogs). Increased use of flea preventive in dogs and cats, and increased use of heartworm prevention in dogs may explain some of these changes.
Puerto Rico findings
For the first time since Banfield expanded to Puerto Rico in 2013, we have adequate data from our hospitals on the island to include in the 2016 report. Puerto Rico is ranked among the top five states and territories for heartworm disease in dogs. While it is difficult to be certain, the high prevalence may be due to the tropical climate, which creates unique challenges for pets on the island. The climate favors sustained levels of disease transmission year-round, which may account for the above-average prevalence of other infectious diseases: Puerto Rico is also ranked among the top five states and territories for otitis externa, ticks, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms in dogs and cats. Conversely, for reasons unknown, Puerto Rico ranked the lowest for prevalence of diabetes and dental disease.
State of Pet Health: Infographic
As a practice, Banfield’s focus is making a better world for pets through preventive care. To help reduce the risk of diseases, such as those outlined in the State of Pet Health 2016 Report, Banfield is committed to working in partnership with pet owners to focus on proactive disease management.
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