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Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) recently examined its 2008 medical claims data to determine the top 10 "human" conditions that also affect pets (specifically dogs and cats).  Topping the list are allergies.  Here they are in order based on the number of claims the company received. 

1. Allergies.  Pets can suffer allergic reactions from flea bite saliva, pollen and other airborne allergens, and foods.  Treatment is basically the same as for people: control the pet's exposure to the allergens and treat with antihistamines and, in severe cases, antiinflammatory medications.

2. Bladder Infection.  Never assume "accidents" indoors or a pet's frequent urination is just a behavioral issue.  Such incidents could indicate a serious medical issue such as a bladder infection or bacterial cystitis.  Be aware if your pet is experiencing painful or difficult urination.

3. Arthritis.  Unfortunately, our pets age faster than we do and degenerative diseases like arthritis can affect them resulting in decreased joint movement and severe pain. Pets suffering from arthritis may need anti-inflamatory medications and/or pain relievers.  Please note - you should never give your pet a human drug or pain reliever as these can be toxic to pets. Always consult your veterinarian.

4. Diabetes.  This disease is as serious for pets as it is for people.  And as with people, it requires daily management with a combination of treatments including weight control, specially timed meals, insulin injections, and/or oral medications.

5. Skin Cancer.  Many pet owners mistakenly believe that with fur covering most of their bodies, pets are not susceptible to skin cancer.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  In fact, the three most common skin cancers in humans also occur in pets.  Prolonged sun exposure can lead to skin cancer in animals just as in people.  Areas that are particularly vulnerable are white ear tips, pink noses, and all other light-colored areas.

6. Gum Disease.  Pets are at a disadvantage when it comes to oral hygiene in that food particles gather in the corners of their mouths and can cause harmful plaque buildup on the tooth's surface.  Plaque harbors bacteria which can lead to gum recession and gum disease.  It is highly advisable to brush your pet's teeth regularly and follow up with regular vet check-ups.

7. Acne.  Acne in dogs and cats affects the chin and lips.  While dogs often outgrow the condition, cats are more prone to suffer lifelong breakouts.  While most pets are not bothered by the condition, in severe cases the affected areas may be painful or itchy.  Topical medications may be prescribed by a veterinarian.

8. Stomach Ulcers.  If your pet vomits or shows signs of abdominal discomfort, it could be indicative of stomach ulcers.  Ulcers in pets can be the result of drugs, cancer, kidney or liver disease, pancreatitis, inflamatory bowel disease, or chronic stomach inflammation. 

9. Cataracts.  A cataract is a change in the transparency of the lens in the eye.  An opaque lens blocks light from reaching the retina and may result in partial or complete vision loss.  Catarats in pets may be caused by diabetes, malnutrition, radiation, inflammation, or trauma.  Surgery may be required to remove the affected lens or lenses.

10. Laryngitis.  Persistent barking or meowing for hours can sometimes lead to the loss of of your pet's voice.  However, the cause could be an upper respiratory tract infection, irritation from an inhalant, or just excessive vocalization.  An inflammed larynx will cause vocal difficulty.   

If your pet exhibits any of the symptoms described in the conditions above, it is advised that you consult your veterinarian.

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