Trends in Veterinary Medicine

Just as human docs are seeing more patients with diabetes, so too are veterinarians.  A first-of-its-kind study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital (a corporation with more than 770 veterinary hospitals) documents rises in the incidence of diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations, ear infections, and intestinal parasites.  Banfield collected their data from a whopping 2.1 million dogs and 450,000 cats seen during 2010, and then released it as a document called “State of Pet Health 2011 Report.” The entirety of this report is available via the Banfield website.


Here are some highlights from this study:

-Dental disease was the most common medical condition reported. In fact, 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over three years of age had some form of dental disease.  The top five dog breeds most likely to develop periodontal disease included the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Shetland Sheepdog (it’s a given that small breed dogs have a higher incidence of dental disease than medium and large breed dogs).

-Otitis externa (infection or inflammation of the external ear canal) was the second most common disease, found in 15.8 percent of dogs and 7.4 percent of cats.

-There has been a 32 percent increase in canine diabetes and a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes compared to data collected in 2006.

-Obesity ranked in the top five diagnoses for dogs and in the top three diagnoses for cats.  This may, in part, explain why the prevalence of diabetes is increasing.

-The incidence of flea infestation has increased 16 percent in dogs and 12 percent in cats; rather surprising given the fact that flea control products have been steadily evolving.

-One of the top three diseases found in dogs examined in Banfield hospitals located within the Southern United States was heartworm disease (detected in 6.7 percent of dogs examined).

-Cats in 2010 more frequently test positive for roundworms, hookworms and whipworms (all intestinal parasites) compared to cats evaluated in 2006. Canine hookworms and whipworms have also increased during this same time period.

-Small breed dogs are gaining in popularity.  Chihuahuas represented a whopping 8 percent of Banfield’s patient population.  This represents a 116 percent increase when comparing data between 2000 and 2010.  Labrador Retrievers remained the most common dog breed among Banfield patients, but their numbers decreased by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.

-The number of feline vet clinic visits is declining.  In 2006 Banfield veterinarians examined 5.3 dogs for every feline visit.  The current ratio is 6.6 dogs for every one kitty.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner is the chief medical officer for Banfield.  He expresses concern about the rise in some of the preventable diseases mentioned above and he states, “I just can’t help but wonder if there is a correlation between the increase and prevalence of these diseases and the decreasing visits to veterinarians.”

The stated purpose of the Banfield study is to help the veterinary profession gain a better understanding of the state of pet health in the United States, especially in light of many recent reports indicating a decline in veterinary visits.  Dr. Klausner hopes that the Banfield analysis will help veterinarians develop strategies to improve patient care.  The decline in vet clinic visits may correlate with the relatively newer knowledge that core vaccinations (rabies, distemper, parvovirus) need not be given annually.  It appears that some folks view vaccines to be the primary reason for vet clinic visits and ignore the importance of an annual physical examination. Several studies are currently underway to try to understand why feline veterinary clinic visits have declined so dramatically.

Kudos to Banfield Pet Hospital for orchestrating this monumental study.  What a great way to give back to the profession.  The Banfield data underscores the importance of annual visits to the vet (whether or not vaccinations are due) and discussion of preventive health care.  When did you and your pet last visit your vet for an annual physical examination?  Did you discuss dental disease, flea control, or weight management for your pet?

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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14 Responses to “Trends in Veterinary Medicine”

  1. Amy Says:

    I was very embarrassed when I took two of my dogs to meet their new vet. I’d found flea poop but I just assumed that was before the fleas died. He found live fleas on them. I’d given them both Frontline Plus about two weeks earlier but it wasn’t working for them. He said he’s noticed that too, and that Frontline doesn’t survive bathtime. My dogs need regular grooming and bathing so he recommended Revolution.

  2. Jana Rade Says:

    We are at the vet’s quite often. And he always checks Jasmine head to toe. Her teeth are under control with brushing (as much as that works) since her last dental cleaning. Her weight is also closely monitored and under control.

    We never had problems with fleas, but it seems they might be on the rise up here too now, so we need to figure out what preventive measures to take. I hate the idea of introducing toxins in order to prevent fleas. Suggestions?

  3. Tracy B Ann Says:

    I don’t vaccinate my pets at all but they go for check ups twice a year. My dog goes more often.

    We have a lot of price gouging going on here at local vets. A dental cleaning has gone from $75 to $300 and up at many places. A lot of the clinics are buying high tech equipment and passing overhead costs on us so really shouldn’t complain when clients come for less visits.

    I wonder if the increase in diabetes and obesity is a result of less vet visits or reflects the human population where those statistics are on the rise as well?

  4. Erich Riesenberg Says:

    The 6.7% of dogs examined with heartworm surprises me. I almost stopped giving my dog heartgard based on some internet reading and fortunately my vet slapped me back to reality. Too bad Heartgard is so expensive.

    I don’t understand overweight pets. It so much easier to control my dogs’ weight than my own, and it saves money and prevents the habit of begging.

  5. Ellie Says:

    It should not come as a surprise that pet owners are not bringing their pets to the vets. With so many people struggling, pets are being abandoned, so not going regularly for petcare…of course. And, as someone noted, pet costs in general have risen, veterinarian visits are always costly, often outrageous–scary.

    Now to learn that Frontline Plus is not always effective–and at such high cost!–another reason for a pet going to the shelter. Bathing should have no relevance–the chemicals are absorbed into the skin and bloodstream. We are being deceived.

    What is the answer as we try to be responsible, loving pet companions.

  6. Lisa W. Says:

    I’d love to take each of my cats in for dental cleaning on a regular basis and I have two cats that desperately need attention now. For me, it’s a matter of costs. Vets continue to increase their charges and there’s no break for multiple pets. Dental disease is a precursor for renal failure in cats and yet it’s so expensive for cleaning – yet alone extracting any teeth. Then blood work is usually advisable to be on the safe side. It’s a small fortune when you leave the vet’s office for ONE pet. Next you’ve got the cost associated with monthly flea control. You have to draw the line somewhere and hope for the best. It’s so sad that as a result of this recession, people are dumping, abandoning their pets in massive numbers because they can’t even afford to feed their pets, let alone take them to a vet. I hope the study is an eye opener for vets, but I’m not surprised by the results.

  7. Stacy Braslau-Schneck Says:

    I totally thought that the conclusion of this article was going to be that most of these diseases and conditions were related to dogs eating a poor diet full of highly-processed and unnatural foods. I was surprised to find that the conclusion had more to do with fewer vet visits. I suppose that if a dog went to the vet every year they’d only spend a year being overweight or diabetic, assuming that the owner complied with the vet’s recommendations.

    In answer to your questions, I recently took my dog to a new vet just to meet her and get an idea about her practice, which was supposed to be “holistic”. We agreed that at my dog’s age – 12 – he could slim down a pound or two from his middle-age weight, and he had typical age-related tartar build-up (she said he was a good candidate for vet-supervised anesthesia-free cleaning). We’ve never once had fleas, though, so I’ve only used topical parasite protection during tick season, as needed.

  8. Taryn Says:

    IMO, most of the decline in veterinary visits is primarily due to the bad ecomony. If you are barely scraping by, you are certainly not going to the vet for a very pricey annual exam, esp. if your pet seems fine. I am sure the lessening frequency of vaccinations has contributed as well.

    That being said, I do make sure both of my dogs get their annual exams. Tick-born diseases are rampant where I live, and I want my dogs checked for them regularly. I despise having to use the tick/flea drops but keeping the tick bites to a minimum seems important as well as keeping ticks out of the house. I have never had an issue with fleas, even when I don’t use the drops.

    I am a dog-sport enthusiast so I keep my dogs very fit. I watch their weights like a hawk! As a result, obesity and it’s related issues are not a problem, at least not while the dogs are in their prime years. I do get them a chiropractic checkup several times a year to be sure everything is OK.

  9. Jackie Jurasek Says:

    Those were some startling statistics. I work at an animal shelter and see severe flea infestations all the time. We start an initial control with CapStar, which helps immensely.
    I personally am having a really hard time controlling fleas and ticks on my own pets. My shelties are really hard hit with my lab having less problems. I gave up on Frontline Plus and tried Vectra. That worked for a while, but does not seems as effective anymore. I hate having to put so much chemicls on my dogs, but I am super worried about tick paralysis with the large number that are attacking my dogs. I have sprayed enough chemicals on my yard that it probably glows in the dark!
    I understand that the tick can and will climb brick walls, tree trunks and any other vertical surfaces.
    We have parasites with super resistance to these chemicals, even the intestinal parasites have to be hit harder to get rid of them!
    Just my thoughts….

  10. Polly Says:

    My vet has increased her charges 1/3 in the last two years – she says her tests are more extensive & costly, etc. We try to avoid Invermicin for Bichons – I use Interceptor during mosquito times & avoid Frontline and other toxins. We use DE (Diatomacious Earth )often – it’s a struggle not to sicken dogs with pesticides!
    I also scale their teeth every other month.
    The danger of the “easy fixes” meds far outweighs their advantages to consiencious breeders and owners.

  11. Shadie Kaye's Mom Says:

    I think it’s great, given their numbers, that Banfield did the study … anything that aids in the study of caring for our pets is awesome. That said, I wouldn’t give you two cents for Banfield as a whole. They miss labeled a medicine for my elderly dog and had I not trusted her as opposed to some who would have forced the med, she very well could be dead as a result. Banfeilds response, first to ignore, then deny and ultimately dismiss, insisting I pay off the ten remaining months on their health ins. Yet, they’ve offered me no refund for the med I gave my dog that ended up on the floor. Needless to say, it will be a cold day …
    I think a lot of pets not getting regular treatment, after the economy, is distrust, this being my case even before the recent Banfeild incident. With the costs going up and up, medicine that doesn’t work and Vets that don’t show any concern it is no wonder more and more of us are trying to do it ourselves. For my part, it will take a darn serious situation to take me back to a Vet. It’s not fair to my furbabies but nor is it fair to be treated with nothing but a $$$ goal. I’m 63 so I remember when there were Vets who really cared about the pets, sadly, I don’t see that now.

  12. Mitch Labuda Says:

    What are feeding ourselves, first, then look at what we feed our pets.

    We have a diabetes and obesity problem, globally, because of the sugary foods we eat. I have type two diabetes, under control with diet and exercise.

    We are doing the same thing to our pets.

    Feeding them high simple carb diets, rich in corn, wheat, rice, etc. When’s the last time you saw a pack of wolves eating corn?

    If, we feed our pets a more natural diet, the teeth will be fine, the skin problems will subside, the ear infections will subside.

    The script foods have in them corn and glutens, yet they are prescribed to pets with food allergies or skin problems.

    Medicating to cover the problem is not treating the root cause.

  13. Carmen Says:

    Thanks for the Banfield study.

    Just some thoughts:

    Fewer veterinary visits, I believe are because the costs have increased and many people simply can’t afford to do what they should be doing for their pets. An animal’s health is as important as a person’s health, but often people have to choose one or the other. In my area here are just a few pricings: It’s easily over $50 for the exam, A heartworm blood test alone is $ 42.00+, to buy heartworm medicine is @ $100 from my vets ($77 at a discounted place, if your veterinarian is willing to write the prescription for – or price match). We also pay biohazard waste management fees (per animal that visits @ $5.00 each). It’s $42 for a fecal test for my cat, $72 for FELV/FIV test. Spaying and Neutering costs range $300-$800 depending on pet specifics, and often don’t include pain medications. Vaccines are @ $20+. Dental cleanings alone run $500+ with a healthy animal. My personal dental cleanings are 1/5 of that (I know the costs of anesthesia have to be within the price for an animal, but it isn’t for a specialized anesthesiologist monitoring my pet). My last vet bill for one of my cats in Feb 2011 (exam, biohazard fee, distemper vaccine, 1 year rabies vaccine, and a senior wellness blood profile (which included a urinalysis and thyroid value) came to $310.

    We have a mobile spay/neuter clinic that services qualifying low income families, in order to help them keep their pets and to help end the death of thousands of animals each year due to overpopulation. We know first hand from the people we serve that they even have troubles paying for these low-cost procedures/vaccines/etc. There is a disconnect from many veterinary clinics and their understanding of the needs in the communities. Many of the families served by the spay/neuter vehicle have more than one pet and they don’t have a vet they have ever seen. They will often bring in one pet with fleas, and another one left at home has them too, but doesn’t have meds to treat it.

    Every year I come in with my pet for an annual, dental cleaning is usually recommended on an annual basis (typically starting around when they are 3 years of age and older). When I was a foster parent for a local shelter, I overheard an incoming family dropping off their cat to the shelter, that the cat needed dental work, and they couldn’t afford that, so they were giving her up. That is a tragedy!!

    I am not saying veterinarians can’t charge a reasonable fare for their services, but most people can’t afford $300+ bills every time they step into a clinic, per pet, per year, and that is for the healthy ones who are coming in for regular yearly checkups and vaccinations, and not for other medical concerns that require medications, further diagnostics, overnight stays, dental cleaning, blood work etc.

    As far as disease related increases, the above I’m sure does figure in, but ALSO how our animals’ foods are processed in America and the contents of the food we are giving our pets, and because of the all the nasty ways they are preserved and dyed and stored, so that the nutrients break down and the body therefore lacks what it needs and begins to slowly revolt. I heard a report the other day about peanut allergies (for people) are rampant these days due to “how peanuts are now processed.” To me, why isn’t someone checking into how that is different from how they “used to be processed” and find and change the practice. It’s likely going to have to take several deaths to make someone notice and make a change.

    ALSO it angers me greatly that the food labels on every can or bag states that it meets the AAFCO guidelines and to CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN to guide you best on what specifically your pet will need. I have several pets and I am diligent about getting them into the vet regularly and as necessary and every year I ask for guidance on what each pet needs for their activity level, age, breed, physical state, etc. and all I get, from any of the vets I consult, is a general formula to go by. None of them “really understand nutrition” and mine, at least will admit their limited knowledge. I have been told to cut-cut-cut kcals to help one of my Maine Coone cats to lose weight, and in effect she actually gained more weight, and developed diabetes, and after a year of good insulin regulation and 2x/day shots, we lost what could have been a perfectly healthy cat (even getting her off her insulin possibly with proper guidance on food) to a surgical procedure suggested where they found an inflamed pancreas that was never identified with all of our testing, and where the veterinarians contradicted themselves within the same small clinic on the amount of kcals she should have been receiving daily, that had a difference of 100+ kcals.

    One time I did my own test and called several veterinarians (10+ clinics) in my area to advise me on the food they would suggest to help an overweight cat come down in weight. What was so disgusting to me, was that they ALL recommended SCIENCE DIET food, which is super prevalent in all veterinary clinics for purchase, and then of course the alternatives, which were PURINA BRAND, or EUKANUBA brands. SCIENCE DIET contains corn and gluten and by-products for their protein sources. Yes they are protein sources, but not the proteins that cats need. And if you ask about products that are available, that are grain-free, or about raw diets, etc. —they don’t know how to advise on their use, and don’t recommend them, and will tell you they can’t recommend their use because they don’t have data that supports their validity and value.

    For the average pet owner, a veterinarian’s advice is worth gold, and they will follow what their veterinarian recommends, and won’t research any further. The sad thing is, our pets are getting sicker and have more medical needs that need to be addressed (like rotting teeth) and diabetes (at younger ages), and thyroid problems (that didn’t exist before processed kibble came along) etc. AND also lose out if families can’t afford the medical costs or long-term care of the above and elect abandoning them, giving them up, or euthanasia instead.

    Thanks for listening. I apologize for the length – which wasn’t what I initially set out to do.

  14. Roberta Says:

    No fleas in MT, really! Now that I am in MO, year round, I am using Bug Off Garlic from online Springtime.Inc. Works wonderful esp. for ticks. I don’t have fleas on my dogs but do in the grass – and some eat poop (I have a dog sanctuary – many have come from less than desirable situations). I use Diatomaceous Earth, too. Frontline Plus every 3 months as a back up. My dogs have over an acre fenced in on which to run and play – and they do. I emphasize to adopters to watch their weight (mostly Beagles – need I say more?). Exercise and less food. Forget the Science Diet unless someone gives me a free bag; I do use Purina ONE shredded, Diamond Natural and mix in some high end food from my friend who owns a pet products store which focuses on holistic, natural and made in USA products as much as possible. Because I am a division of a 501c3 group, the rescue dogs are well discounted; my own only because I have stayed with the same vet for 16 years. I avoid vaccinations on my dogs; the rescues are different due to multiple public exposures. Very important post. Dr. Nancy – thank you.

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