2011-04-13 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducts a National Pet Owners Survey every two years. The demographics and statistics gathered predict consumer trends, but the data also helps direct veterinary research regarding problems that plague our furry friends and deeply concern us. Owner-related figures below about dogs and cats come from the APPA 2011/2012 survey.

Since the inception of the APPA National Pet Owners Survey in 1988, dogs and cats have accounted for nearly three-quarters of all households that own a pet. While the actual number of households owning any type of pet has increased in the past 20 years, the proportion of ownership has remained relatively stable. Both the number of pet owning households and those with multiple pets have contributed to the overall rise in total pet ownership. According to the Survey, there are more than 78.2 million owned dogs and 86.4 million owned cats. Approximately four-out-of-ten pet owning households in the U.S. are multiple pet owners.


“Mona Lisa” ~ has enigmatic half smile painted on “Mona Lisa” ~ has enigmatic half smile painted on Many owners want to prolong good health for their pets, and are willing to invest what it takes to do so. Pet owners in the US spent $47.7 billion in pet care in 2010 as compared to $28.5 billion in 2001 and $17 billion in 1994.

While most of spending goes toward food and supplies, a huge portion goes toward veterinary bills. U.S. pet owners spent nearly $12.8 billion on veterinary care last year. This total is plausible considering 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.

Owners also took their cats to the veterinarian more often in 2010 (2.4) than in 2008 (2.1). The average number of times a dog has been taken to the veterinarian in the past 12 months is almost three (2.7), which is nearly identical to the number of visits in 2008 (2.8). Interestingly, only 5% of dogs have been given a homeopathic remedy.


“Otis” ~ V.I.P. (Very Important Pit) “Otis” ~ V.I.P. (Very Important Pit) So what routine 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 headed 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.

The mission of the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) based in Denver is to improve the health and well-being of companion animals and wildlife by funding humane health studies and disseminating information about the studies. Since 1948 MAF has done so much to fight deadly ailments that attack our pets, yet the Foundation also supports studies that delve into chronic, bothersome conditions that keep owners running to the vet. Certain findings suggest recommendations that will help owners save money.

For example, cats are prone to eye infections which can lead to blindness in severe cases. Feline herpevirus- 1(FHV-1) is thought to be the most common cause of conjunctivitis. Treating this type of conjunctivitis with antiviral drugs causes irritation and requires frequent administration. With Morris Animal Foundation funding, scientists from Colorado State University demonstrated that cidofovir, an antiviral drug, is nonirritating and effective against FHV-1. In addition, these researchers found that both FHV-1 and Mycoplasma bacteria were common causes of conjunctivitis. Therefore, treatment for Mycoplasma with less expensive topical antibiotics should be attempted prior to treatment with the more expensive cidofovir. The results of this study will also lead to a more accurate diagnosis of the cause of conjunctivitis so that the optimal drug can be administered and relieve the discomfort more quickly.

Another frequent cause for a veterinary visit is the dog with the never-ending itch. Over the years, Morris Animal Foundation has funded a number of studies to address common skin allergies and issues, including a study at North Carolina State University that looked at whether hydroxyzine, one of the drugs most commonly used to treat atopic dermatitis in dogs, provides an antihistamine effect, and, if so, what the appropriate dose is for dogs. Atopic dermatitis is the second most common allergic skin disease in dogs, and antihistamines are among the most commonly prescribed treatments, but their effects haven’t been validated in dogs. Researchers successfully determined that hydroxyzine produces an antihistamine effect and that dogs should receive a twice-daily dose, rather than the previously standard prescription of three times a day. Both of these MAF funded studies offer hope. Suffering cats and dogs will be more comfortable, as their owners and vets team up to provide lasting relief in the most cost effective way.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Otis” #93997 is a V. I. P. which stands for “Very Important Pit”. This young brindle guy is a favorite of the staff and displayed exemplary manners when invited into the shelter office. The stray “Mona Lisa” #93957 was rescued by an Almost Home volunteer during an outreach visit in Wyandanch. She is a petite mix about 35 pounds with an enigmatic, painted half smile, just like DaVinci’s gal.

Male: “Santo” #93974- purebred German Shepherd Dog; “Mikey” #20656- adorable kitten in C-1.

Female: “Lexie” #93976- super lovable Husky mix; “Lydia” #93376- another V.I.P.; “Zena” #20665- lovely 16 month gray cat with white feet…see her in the lobby.

** Big Moving Day: The Last Hope Animal Rescue dogs are packed and will be moving into their new “digs”- Last Hope Wantagh (the former Bideawee Home) next Sat. April 16. Last Hope cats will be following shortly. Official Wantagh Grand Opening (with everyone invited) is scheduled for weekend of June 4-5th. More info soon. Additional Last Hope cats will remain at Last Hope Huntington, 581 W. JerichoTpke. and at the seven satellite adoption centers. See www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org for specific cats at these locations.

** Mark Your Calendar: Last Hope will be hosting a FREE rabies vaccine clinic for dogs and cats open to the public at Babylon Town Shelter on Sat. May 21. This service is thanks to a community outreach grant Last Hope received from Pet Peeves, Inc. More details soon.

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