Pets are a beloved member of many Australian families. In fact, around 60 per cent of Australian households have a pet according to data collected by the RSPCA. Unfortunately, there are some diseases and ailments that are very common among cats and dogs, and it’s important that you know what to look out for so you know when a trip is needed to the vet.
Dr Charis Hii from My Vet Animal Hospital in Sydney outlines the five most common health issues for pets, and what you need to know about them.
1. Skin infections
“Skin infections make up roughly 20 per cent of the consults the average Australian veterinary clinic sees. There are a number of predisposing factors, but skin allergies are responsible for the bulk of skin infections we see in our clinic,” says Charis.
“Skin allergies are usually categorised broadly into the following groups: allergies to flea bites, contact allergies, food allergies, and atopy. If your pet has recurrent skin infections, it’s a very good idea to mention it to your vet, because these allergies can be very hard to pin down.”
2. Ear infections
“Ear infections are so sore and – unfortunately - they’re a lot more common than you might think. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to ear infections because their ears are so much floppier than ours, while for others, recurrent ear infections are tied to underlying skin disease,” says Charis.
“Some cases can be managed just by maintaining clean ears. Others are a bit trickier. You may need a bit of teamwork with your veterinarian to try and manage inflammation and find out how to prevent infections long-term.”
3. Digestive issues
“Vomiting and diarrhoea are so common in pets! This is especially true if you have a dog who loves to eat everything! Walk a Labrador and you’ll soon discover how much random food there is in Sydney, from that scrap of pizza crust tucked in the corner to the half-eaten fish and chips on the park bench.”
“That said, as we’ve gotten better at diagnosing digestive issues, we’ve helped many owners realise that vomiting and diarrhoea, while common, are not normal,” says Charis. “Some cases fall under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which can worsen with age. That’s why we always recommend speaking to your vet if you find yourself cleaning up vomit or diarrhoea a bit more than usual.”
4. Sore Knees, Back, Hips, Spine, etc.
“Pets of all ages can show up at the clinic feeling a little sore. Younger dogs and cats may have superhero ambitions and fly off the bed, only to land the wrong way. Other young ones may have certain developmental issues which make moving a chore. Older pets may feel a creak in their joints, which they won’t tell you about until the arthritis has really taken its toll,” says Charis.
“If you think your pet is walking a bit funny, it may be time to ask the vet. Some diseases are just much easier to manage if we catch it in time.”
5. Dental disease
“A whopping 70 per cent of cats and dogs have some form of dental disease by the time they’re three years old. And it doesn’t just mean bad breath; dental disease is correlated with higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disease,” says Charis.
“The best thing to do is brush your pet’s teeth. It’s the only way you can make sure you’re cleaning every surface and getting between crevices. That said, we also know how hard it is to brush your pet’s teeth. In these cases a combination of strategies need to be employed to keep dental disease at bay.”
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