Largest Pet Insurer Releases Top 10 Reasons Pets Taken to the Veterinarian

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For the second year in a row, urinary tract infection was the top medical condition that cat owners filed medical claims for in 2005 to Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), according to a recent review of policyholder claims.

Veterinary visits for skin allergies resulted in the most claims for canines in 2005, which in 2004 ranked second for dogs.

Several of the top 10 conditions for both dogs and cats remained the same over the past year, but there were a few new additions. Osteoarthritis, enteritis (diarrhea) and hypothyroidism were more common in dogs than they were the previous year, and diabetes in felines made the 2005 list. Kidney disease, which was the tenth most popular claim for felines in 2004, jumped to number three in 2005.

2005 Top 10 Claims by Incident

-- Dogs (ranking in 2004)

1. Skin allergies (2)
2. Ear infections (1)
3. Stomach upsets (3)
4. Bladder infections (5)
5. Benign tumors (4)
6. Osteoarthritis
7. Sprains (7)
8. Eye infections (8)
9. Enteritis
10. Hypothyroidism

2005 Top 10 Claims by Incident

--Cats (ranking in 2004)

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1. Urinary tract infections (1)
2. Stomach upsets (2)
3. Kidney disease (10)
4. Skin allergies (5)
5. Respiratory infections (3)
6. Diabetes
7. Ear infections (4)
8. Colitis (8)
9. Eye infections (6)
10. Wound infections (7)

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The spike in certain conditions in both dogs and cats can be explained by a host of reasons - from a pet's age or genetics to its nutrition or environment - explains Dr. Carol McConnell, director of veterinary education and services for VPI. "For many of these conditions, the main risk factor is age," she says. "For example, osteoarthritis and hypothyroidism have age- and genetic-related risk factors. Large breed dogs tend to develop arthritis at a younger age, as compared to smaller breeds." Additionally, McConnell says, hypothyroidism, or failure of the thyroid gland to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone in the body, is a relatively common age-related disease in canines.

The increase in kidney disease in felines is also correlated with our aging companion cat population, McConnell says. "When it comes to cats and their kidneys, it's a design-life problem. Cats have evolved over the centuries from being solitary desert creatures with an anticipated life expectancy much shorter than the 10, 12 or even 14 years that cats now enjoy in the comfort of American homes. Cats are simply living much longer than their kidneys were designed to support them."

In order to help prevent such serious diseases from afflicting pets, McConnell recommends that all pets receive a comprehensive physical examination every year. "If a disease is detected during that annual wellness visit, it may be early enough to initiate treatment and possibly prevent the condition from worsening."

In particular, McConnell encourages pet owners to take their geriatric cats to the veterinarian regularly - even twice a year - for the pet to receive a preventative exam. "Kidney disease can silently progress in an older cat," she explains. "However, the cat's owner may not see any outward signs."

To help defray some of the costs for both annual wellness visits and disease treatments in their four-legged companions, McConnell recommends that pet owners purchase a pet insurance policy for their pet, especially while the pet is still young and in good health before any pre-existing conditions set in.

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency is the nation's oldest and largest pet health insurer. Providing pet owners with peace of mind since 1982, the company is committed to being the trusted choice of America's pet lovers. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for thousands of medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Optional Vaccination & Routine Care Coverage is also available.

Reported by Veterinary Pet Insurance