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Vet visits add up

By Heidi Jeter

Many of us are going to great lengths, and expense, to keep our four-legged family members healthy—and each year, we’re willing to spend more. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that pet owners in the United States spent $47.7 billion in pet care in 2010 compared to $28.5 billion in 2001 and $17 billion in 1994. Clearly, we love our pets and want the best for them.

While most of our spending goes toward food and supplies, a hefty chunk goes toward veterinary bills. The APPA estimates that U.S. pet owners spent nearly $12.8 billion on veterinary care last year. That’s not surprising when you consider that the average annual amount spent for routine visits is $225 for dogs and $203 for cats. Surgical vet visits add up, too: dog owners average $532 per year and cat owners average $278.

So what health issues are pet owners contending with? The Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge Team analyzed health data from more than 1.7 million dogs and 375,000 cats in 2009 to identify the most common veterinary diagnoses. Topping the list for dogs of any age were ear inflammation, skin diseases, dental problems, parasites and gastrointestinal problems. As dogs age, obesity, arthritis and skin tumors entered the list. For cats, dental problems topped the list, but other common diagnoses included conjunctivitis, parasites and upper respiratory infections. Geriatric cats showed significant increases in chronic renal failure, heart murmurs and hyperthyroidism.

Interestingly, the top reasons for veterinary visits don’t necessarily match up with pet owners’ top health concerns. When Morris Animal Foundation surveyed supporters in 1998 and again in 2004, cancer by far topped the list for dogs, and urinary and kidney diseases most worried cat owners. For horses, the top concern was colic, followed closely by laminitis.

The good news is that the Foundation is funding studies to address the health concerns that keep pet owners up at night and the ones that send us running to our veterinarian.

Posted by on March 1, 2011.

Categories: Animal health, Cat health, Dog health


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