Obesity and other chronic conditions on the rise, Banfield says

Chronic conditions, especially obesity, are on the rise across the United States over the past five years, according to the newly released 2012 State of Pet Health Report from Banfield.

According to the Banfield report, overweight and obesity, arthritis, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and heart disease are all on the rise.

"Over the past five years, many chronic conditions have continued to increase, in some instances, at an alarming rate," Banfield Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Klausner, DVM, wrote in the report.

The research reflects a dramatic increase in reports of overweight and obese pets. According to the report, overweight and obese pets have increased by 37 percent (dogs) and 90 percent (cats) since 2007.

As a part of its report, Banfield surveyed both dog and cat owners about their perceptions of veterinary care and their pets’ health.

Of the pet owners surveyed, 76 percent of dog owners and 69 percent of cat owners said they believe their pet is just the right weight.

"When pets are diagnosed as overweight, their waistline is not the only concern; the condition is associated with other serious diseases such as arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease and hypothyroidism," Klausner wrote.

Looking back a year, the 2011 State of Pet Health Report, which looked at diseases between 2006 and 2011, showed a 32 percent increase of diabetes mellitus in dogs, and a 16 percent increase in cats.

According to Banfield, 42 percent of dogs and 40 percent of cats with diabetes are overweight; 40 percent of dogs and 37 percent of cats with arthritis are also overweight.

When asking pet owners about arthritis and weight gain, Banfield reported that 68 percent of dog owners and 73 percent of cat owners are unaware that weight gain and arthritis in pets are linked.

With regard to kidney disease, Banfield reports that the disease is almost seven times as common in cats as it is in dogs, and is one of the leading causes of death in cats. Many cats diagnosed in the early stages of chronic kidney disease can live two to three years, while most cats diagnosed in later stages live less than six months after diagnosis.

However, 55 percent of cat owners don’t realize that cats can often have kidney disease without appearing ill.

Chronic diseases also include dental disease, dermatitis (skin infection), diabetes mellitus and otitis externa (ear infection).

"Many of the most common diagnoses in both dogs and cats are also chronic conditions that can severely impact the overall quality of a pet’s life and potentially become costly to manage," Klausner wrote.

The Banfield report also examined breed and size trends for both cats and dogs.

Overall, Banfield reported seeing more small breed dogs and fewer large breed dogs. Between 2001 and 2011, Banfield hospitals saw 100 percent more Chihuahuas and 76 percent more shih tzus, while it saw 10 percent fewer Labrador retrievers and 39 percent fewer German shepherd dogs.

Cat breeds have remained consistent over the past 10 years, with domestic shorthairs topping the list.