Dog Exercise: Keeping Your Pup in Good Shape

Article Featured on Vetstreet

Daily walks, jogs, or play sessions can pay huge dividends when it comes to your dog’s health. Not only will exercise help keep your dog fit and trim, regular activities can help channel your dog’s energy into a positive direction, like playing games or taking walks, rather than destructive ones like digging holes in the yard. Check out this guide to get tips on creating a safe and healthy canine workout plan.

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Original Article by PetMD

Your dog’s nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. Experts help Read more

laurelwood pet health, beaverton

By Paula Fitzsimmons | Found on PetMD

Think you know all there is to know about puppy and kitten nutrition? Are you aware that puppies and kittens are more sensitive to nutritional imbalances than adults, for example? Or that excess calcium intake can cause a puppy to develop orthopedic disease?

Go past Puppy and Kitten Nutrition 101 to learn lesser-known facts about their dietary needs. Then use this knowledge to provide your newest family member with the proper start in life she needs to thrive for years to come.

1. A Balanced Diet Is Even More Important for Growing Animals Than for Adults

All animals, regardless of age, need a balanced diet to thrive, but puppies and kittens are especially sensitive to nutritional imbalances, says Dr. Jonathan Stockman, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “The requirements and the sensitivities to excess in nutrients are generally highest.”

One example is calcium, an essential dietary mineral that plays a critical role in bone development. In excess, calcium can cause a puppy to develop severe bone changes and orthopedic disease, he says. “Large and giant breed puppies are particularly sensitive to this, whereas adult dogs are able to regulate calcium absorption when the diet is high in calcium.”

2. Puppies Should Not Be Fed Adult Formula Food

Because they are sensitive to nutritional imbalances and their energy needs are greater, puppies should only be fed a growth formula diet, vets say.

Growth places the highest energy and nutrient demands than any other life stage on a dog or cat, apart from lactation, says Dr. Jessica Harris, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at Carolina Ranch Animal Hospital in Garner, North Carolina. “The energy needs of a puppy are two-fold: 1) support the tissues already developed and 2) provide the energy required to form new tissues.”

Puppies use about 50 percent of their consumed energy for maintenance and 50 percent for new tissue development in the early growth phase, Harris says. “As the puppy gets older, the energy needed to support growth diminishes and proportionately shifts to support maintenance. Energy is provided by protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Thus, growth diets often provide a greater percentage of protein and fat to support growth than do adult maintenance diets.” Growth diets also provide optimal amounts of calcium, phosphorus, copper, and essential fatty acids, “which have an important role in bone formation and maturation, cartilage maturation, hair color, red blood cell development, and trainability.”

3. Unchecked Growth Can Be Harmful to a Dog’s Bones

Feeding a puppy to maintain her ideal body condition versus allowing maximum growth promotes the optimal rate of bone development, says Harris, who is also a clinical nutrition instructor at the Topeka, Kansas-based Mark Morris Institute.

“The adult weight and size of the animal is not impacted by whether the growth rate is rapid or slow, however, the risk of skeletal deformities increases with the rapidity of growth.”

Determining a puppy’s body condition score (BCS) is a reliable way to determine normal growth rate. Body scoring helps you gauge if your dog is maintaining a healthy muscle mass and body fat index. It’s something you can practice at home, using your hands and visual observation.

4. Young Animals Need Multiple Feeding Times to Thrive

Animals rely on reserves for energy in between meals, says Harris. “These energy reservoirs are stored glycogen in the liver or fat depots throughout the body. Ketones produced by the breakdown of lipid or amino acids can also provide energy.  As young animals often have limited reserves and are at risk for the development of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), multiple meals offered throughout the day best averts the onset of lethargy, trembling, weakness, lack of coordination, and seizures.”

Puppies should eat at least three meals per day, and kittens younger than 6 months should be fed more often, “For example, four to six times a day,” says Dr. Donna Raditic, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist with Nutrition and Integrative Medicine Consultants based in Athens, Georgia.

This should be accompanied by close monitoring—with your veterinarian—of body weight, muscle condition score (MCS), and BCS, Raditic adds. She encourages pet parents to use a food gram scale to weigh food and monitor daily caloric intake.

Just like human weight loss programs will use food gram scales to educate us about portion size and caloric intake, weighing your puppy/kitten’s diet right from the start will help you to be sure you are feeding the correct amount,” she says. “Adjusting intake in grams is much more accurate than going from one-eighth cup to one-fourth cup.”

5. Nutritional Needs Differ by Breed Size

There are a few key differences in the nutrient needs of large breed puppies as compared to small- to medium sized breeds, says Harris. Most of these focus on reducing the risk of developing orthopedic disease.

“Although the development of musculoskeletal disorders is multi-factorial and a complicated disease process, it has been correlated nutritionally with calcium, phosphorus, the calcium-phosphorus ratio, vitamin D, and energy intake,” she explains. “Large breed growth diets contain a little less than 1 percent calcium and more than adequately meet the growing large breed puppies’ calcium requirement. Small- to medium-sized breeds are less sensitive to slightly overfeeding or underfeeding calcium, and as a result, the level of calcium in foods for these puppies have a broader margin of safety.”

6. A Gruel Formula Can Help Ease the Weaning Process

Providing your companion with porridge-like formula during weaning—which starts when an animal is about 3 to 4 weeks old and is marked by the eruption of baby teeth and an interest in solid food—can help ease the process, Harris says.

“It has been largely successful to introduce a gruel made by blending a canned growth food with a canine/feline liquid milk replacer in a 1:1 ratio,” she says. “Alternatively, one part dry commercial food can be ground in a food processor and mixed with three parts of canine/feline liquid milk replacer.”

She says the young animal should always have access to the formula, and that it should be replaced three to four times a day. It will spoil and promote bacterial growth if left out at room temperature for prolonged periods.

It’s during playtime that a young animal typically encounters the gruel, then will progressively consume small amounts. “As the young animal’s interest increases, the liquid portion of the mixture can be gradually reduced until they are consuming only the canned or dry commercial growth diet, usually between 6 and 9 weeks of age,” Harris says. “This transition is a delicate balance between the mother, the young, and the owners and requires close monitoring and patience.”

Not all brands of milk replacer are equal, however. “Care should be taken when selecting the milk replacer, as not all brands meet the minimum nutrient requirements for growth per American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for all labeled species.”

7. Feeding Methods are Not One-Size-Fits-All

Pet parents have three options for feeding growing puppies and kittens: Free choice, which makes the food available 24/7 (like an all-day buffet); time-limited, where food is out for a set period of time; and amount-limited, where portions are pre-determined.

“Each have their own benefits and drawbacks and what is right for one animal may not be the best option for another,” Harris says. “Therefore, it is strongly recommended that the [owner] have a discussion with their veterinarian about the best feeding option for their growing pet.”

Size and breed are factors that can impact that decision. For example, “free-feeding puppies can be problematic for the large, giant breeds,” says Raditic, who also co-founded the Companion Animal Nutrition & Wellness Institute.

“If rapid growth is induced, this may drive the genetics of these breeds at risk for developmental orthopedic disease (for example, hip or elbow dysplasia),”she says. “For small and medium breeds, it can be problematic increasing body fat—for these breeds are at risk for obesity and to be overweight.”

8. Working with Your Companion’s Natural Behavior Can Provide Additional Health Benefits

Working with an animal’s instincts can promote health and well-being. “Simulating normal feeding behavior will increase activity, reduce boredom, help with weight management and prevent obesity, and strengthen the bond between cat and owner,” says Dr. Amy Learn, a veterinarian at Cary Street Veterinary Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

Cats are innate hunters, so work to add enrichment to their feeding regimen. “For example, using feeding toys or embracing a cat’s three-dimensional world,” Raditic says.

Dogs evolved as hunters, as well as scavengers. “These activities were a substantial part of their daily time budget and are not currently utilized when we hand them a bowl of food,” Raditic says. You can still honor a dog’s natural behavior, however, by allowing her to work for her food “with puzzle toys or programs like ‘learn to earn,’ which have been shown to provide mental stimulation,” explains Learn.

The more we understand about a young puppy or kitten’s dietary needs, the better care we’re able to provide. Early nutrition deeply impacts puppies and kittens and sets the stage for longevity and quality of life, Raditic says. “Every pet parent needs to understand and own this preventative care for their furry companion.”

Laurelwood Animal Hospital,located near Jesuit High School on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway offers a full range of companion animal services, including surgery, nutrition and behavior counseling, parasite control and preventative medicine. The hospital also offers advanced imaging through an all-digital spiral CT scanner, a comprehensive dental program and laser treatment.

If you’re looking for quality, compassionate veterinary care in Beaverton, Oregon, come visit us at Laurelwood Animal Hospital.

Laurelwood Animal Hospital

9315 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
Beaverton, Oregon 97005

Phone: (971) 244-4230
Fax: (503) 292-6808

E-mail: [email protected]

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Having a dog in the family brings many joys, lots of fun, and some work. Luckily, much of the time, the fun parts and the work parts overlap. This is the case when it comes to walking your dog. However, it’s easy to get into a rut and start feeling like the daily dog walk is more chore than cheer. These are the times when it’s good to remember all the many benefits of walking your dog. Read more

Rise in Overweight Pets

Article by Dr. Ken Tudor | Featured on PetMD

A recent article in the New York Times reported that adult obesity had risen to 38% of Americans in 2013 and 2014, compared to 35% in 2011 and 2012. Quoted in the article is Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University:

“The trend is very unfortunate and disappointing. Everybody was hoping that with the decline in sugar and soda consumption, that we’d start seeing a leveling off of adult obesity.”

Full-calorie soda consumption is down 25% nationwide since the late 1990s. Trans fat consumption is also down. A 2013 study2 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also shows that total calorie intake in adults has decreased since that same period when adult obesity was at 32%. Obviously the targets—soda, trans fats, etc.—for the cause of adult obesity have misidentified the problem. The Times article offers no opinions on solutions.

Well guess what? Our pets are experiencing the same trends in over-nourishment. A 2014 survey of veterinarians by the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reported that 58% of American cats were overweight, followed by 53% of dogs.

The research gathered by those of us on the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) task force to develop the guidelines for weight management in dogs and cats in 2014 estimated that almost 60% of pets were overweight.

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The Nutritional Needs of Dogs With Back Problems

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is the scourge of our “low rider” canine friends, especially Dachshunds. Those long backs and short legs are caused by chondrodystrophy (atypical cartilage development), a condition that also affects the discs of cartilage that lie between the spine’s vertebrae. Stress causes these abnormal discs to bulge or rupture, which puts pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in pain, weakness, and/or paralysis.

The best way to treat IVDD depends on how severely affected a dog is. Mild to moderate cases (e.g., those with pain and weakness only) will often recover with pain relievers and cage rest followed by a slow return to normal activity.

On the other hand, when a dog’s neurologic function is severely compromised, surgery to relieve pressure on the damaged spinal cord is often necessary. Some dogs fully recover after surgery while others may still have difficulty walking or even remain paralyzed. Unfortunately, chondrodystrophic dogs often have more than one episode of IVDD throughout their lives.

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Is your pet overweight?Has your pet put on a few extra pounds recently? Winter weight gain is not uncommon, especially in parts of the country where colder temperatures and inclement weather cut down on outdoor exercise and play time.

An estimated 25 percent of all pets are obese and being overweight is more than just a matter of aesthetics. Extra pounds on both dogs and cats is associated with heart and respiratory problems. Obese dogs and cats are more prone to diabetes, face greater risks from surgery, and may have increased risk of skin disease and cancer. Obese dogs are also prone to arthritis and other orthopedic problems. A poor diet in your cat can result in urinary tract infections.

How much weight is too much?

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November is National Pet Diabetes Month and we encourage pet owners to learn about diabetes and become aware of the signs and symptoms.

BluePearl Veterinary Partners

Diabetes mellitus, the medical name for diabetes, is a disease caused by a lack of insulin that affects the level of glucose, or sugar, in your dog or cat’s blood. The glucose comes from the food that your pet eats. The food is broken down into very small components by the digestive system so that the body can use it for energy. Glucose is one of these components, and an important source of energy.

Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream where it travels to cells throughout the body. Insulin is required for the cells to absorb glucose. Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Healthy pets produce insulin easily, but pets with diabetes don’t. In canine and feline diabetes, unused glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

Is diabetes in my pet the same as diabetes in people?

The two conditions are very similar. In fact, your veterinarian will be using medication, equipment, and monitoring systems that are similar to those used for diabetic people.

How common is diabetes in dogs and cats? Diabetes is reported to affect anywhere between 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 dogs and cats. But experts believe that this disease is on the rise.

Can diabetes lead to other health problems? Yes. Dogs and cats with diabetes can develop other health problems, usually after living with diabetes for a year or more.  For dogs, the most common complication of diabetes is cataract formation. Persistently high blood glucose levels make the lens of the eye become opaque, causing blindness.  For cats, weakness of the hind legs is a common complication. Persistently high blood glucose levels may damage nerves, causing weakness and muscle wasting. For both dogs and cats, avoiding high blood glucose levels should help prevent or delay these complications. For this reason, early diagnosis of diabetes in your dog or cat is especially important.

Will diabetes affect my dog or cat’s life expectancy?  Today, with effective treatment and monitoring, a diabetic dog or cat should have the same life expectancy
as a non-diabetic dog or cat. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment help diabetic pets maintain a good quality of life.

Is my dog or cat at risk of diabetes? While diabetes has been diagnosed in dogs and cats of all ages, genders, and breeds, certain pets are at greater risk of the disease.

Risk factors in dogs

• Age (middle-aged to older dogs are more affected)
• Unspayed females
• Genetics
• Obesity
• Breed—these breeds have a higher risk of developing diabetes:

  • – Cocker Spaniels
  • – Dachshunds
  • – Dobermann Pinschers
  • – German Shepherds
  • – Golden Retrievers
  • – Labrador Retrievers
  • – Pomeranians
  • – Terriers
  • – Toy Poodles

Risk factors in cats

• Age (older cats are more susceptible)
• Neutered males
• Genetics
• Other disorders or diseases, which can cause insulin reduction or resistance such as chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones)
• Obesity
• Physical inactivity

Are there warning signs I should be aware of? Some common signs of diabetes in dogs and cats include:
• Excessive thirst
• Excessive urination—your pet produces more urine per day and may have “accidents” in the house (dogs) or outside the litterbox (cats)
• Excessive hunger while losing weight
• Lethargy (less active/sleeps more)
• Cloudy eyes (dogs)
• Doesn’t groom (cats)
• Thinning, dry, and dull hair

How will my veterinarian test my pet for diabetes? Your veterinarian may begin by performing a general health examination and asking questions about any signs your pet may be displaying. Then, a sample of your pet’s urine will be tested for the presence of glucose or ketones acids produced by the body as it breaks down fat instead of glucose for energy). If glucose is present in your pet’s urine, your veterinarian will then test your pet’s blood to determine the blood glucose level. A diabetes diagnosis is considered definite when persistently high glucose levels are found in both the blood and urine.

How do I take care of a pet with diabetes? Although there is no cure for diabetes, the disease can be successfully managed with the help of your veterinarian. Daily insulin injections are usually required to restore your pet’s insulin level and control their blood glucose levels. Many owners are anxious about giving injections, but it’s easier than you think, and you’ll quickly learn how to handle the dosing routine with little stress for you or your pet. Diet plays a vital role in helping to keep your pet’s diabetes regulated.

Your veterinarian can recommend a diet that’s best suited to the needs of your pet. A high-quality, consistent source of protein is an essential part of any diabetic diet. High-protein, low-carbohydrate foods are currently recommended for diabetic cats because they provide the extra energy cats need to get them through their active days, without the extra carbs that can turn into excess sugar. It is important to feed your pet based on its ideal body weight.

Consistent timing and size of meals is also very important. Exercise can help dogs with diabetes, but it needs to be regulated because activity affects blood glucose levels. It’s best to create a consistent exercise routine for your diabetic dog and stick to it. (There is no clear recommendation for exercise in diabetic cats because their activity is difficult to regulate.) Frequent veterinary checkups can help identify changes in your pet’s condition and help you to manage this disease successfully over time.

Managing your dog or cat’s diabetes will require some effort, but the rewards are well worth it. Pets whose diabetes is under control have normal thirst, appetite, urination, and activity levels. Their weight is generally stable and they are less likely to develop complications.

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Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and, as with humans, can be detrimental to the health of a dog. The overweight pet has many added stresses upon his body and is at an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.

  1. a chubby pupObesity develops when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. The excess energy is then stored as fat. Once a pet is obese, he may remain obese even after excessive caloric intake stops. The majority of cases of obesity are related to simple overfeeding coupled with lack of exercise.
  2. Certain groups of dogs appear more prone to obesity than others. Specific breeds (Labrador retrievers and pugs, for example) and older dogs are particularly prone.
  3. Is your dog a hog? As a subjective assessment of body condition, you should be able to feel the backbone and palpate the ribs in an animal of healthy weight. If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is too much fat.
  4. Also, you should see a noticeable “waist” between the back of the rib cage and the hips when looking at your pet from above. Viewed from the side, there should be a “tuck” in the tummy—the abdomen should go up from the bottom of the rib cage to inside the thighs. Dogs who fail these simple tests may be overweight.

    5, 6, & 7. We recommend that you consult your pet’s vet before starting on a weight loss program, which should include these major areas:

  5. Correct Diet
    Overweight animals consume more calories than they require. Work with your veterinarian to determine your pet’s caloric requirements, select a suitable food and calculate how much to feed. The diet should contain a normal level of a moderately fermentable fiber and the type of fat that prevents the skin and coat from deteriorating during weight loss. Diets that dilute calories with high fiber lead to increased stool volumes, frequent urges to defecate and variable decreases in nutrient digestibility.
  6. Exercise
    Increasing physical activity can be a valuable contributor to both weight loss and maintenance. Regular exercise burns more calories, reduces appetite, changes body composition and will increase your pet’s resting metabolic rate.
  7. Owner Behavior Modification
    A successful weight management program requires permanent changes in the behaviors that have allowed the pet to become overweight. Perhaps you are giving your pet too many treats, for example, or not giving him enough opportunities to exercise.
  8. Are you committed to your pet’s weight loss? Here are some important things you can do:
    – Remove the pet from the room when the family eats.
    – Feed your pet several small meals throughout the day.
    – Feed all meals and treats in the pet’s bowl only.
    – Reduce snacks or treats.
    – Provide non-food related attention.

We came across this article regarding American’s skipping out on preventive health care for their beloved pets. Routine preventive visits are very important in keeping your pets healthy. Please make sure you are not missing out on these important visits.

While smothering pets with love, many neglect to take them to the vet

There’s an American health crisis that doesn’t have anything to do with federal health care websites, rising deductibles or doctor shortages.

Our pets are getting sicker, and many pet owners don’t even have a clue.

XXX 130516-Pets-Health-01In the past six or seven years, the percentage of U.S. pets that are obese or overweight has increased 37% for dogs and a whopping 90% for cats — leading to increases in other serious conditions, as with people, from diabetes to arthritis and other problems. Diabetes is up 32% in dogs since 2006, says an annual report from Banfield Pet Hospital. Arthritis is up 38% in dogs and 67% in cats since 2007. Thyroid and kidney disease are up. Even flea infestation are increasing.

Americans love their pets. We have 69.9 million dogs and 74.1 million cats, and many of us consider them our “fur babies” — 42% of dogs even share a bed with a human family member, according to the American Pet Products Association.

But many owners don’t know their pets are suffering from these serious chronic illnesses. One reason: They’re not going to the vet. Dog vet visits have slipped 21% since 2001 and cat visits have dropped 30%, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Meanwhile, emergency visits have increased, indicating people are waiting until their pets are really sick to do anything about it.

“Our pets don’t look into mirrors or inspect their own bodies,” says Peggy Lykens-Ruh of Yorkville, Ill., who has five dogs and produces pet rescue events around the Chicago area. “I believe checkups are important at least once a year — more often for older pets because they age so much faster than we do.”

“It’s really very simple — if we can get people to see veterinarians once or twice a year, pets would be healthier, and living longer, and overall pet owners could actually save money,” says Michael Cavanaugh, CEO of the American Animal Hospital Association.

This crisis in pet health has spurred a new $5.5 million public awareness campaign urging annual checkups. The campaign is sponsored by a consortium called Partners for Healthy Pets, made up of the AVMA, the American Animal Hospital Association and more than 90 other veterinary organizations.

Veterinarian Ron DeHaven, CEO of the AVMA, says the 2008 economic downturn contributed to the crisis, but the decline in veterinary visits began years before that.

In the past, he notes, veterinarians sent annual vaccine reminder postcards in the mail. The physical exam was downplayed, often not even mentioned. But now research has shown pet vaccines last for several years, so many pet owners see no need for annual visits.

XXX 130516-Pets-Health-03

Lynn and Craig Peterson play with their 13-year-old cat, Doc, at their home in Fitchburg, Wis. Doc is being treated for his second bout of cancer, which was caught early at a vet visit. Doc’s right eye was removed earlier because of melanoma.(Photo: Andy Manis for USA TODAY)

Vets “may not be describing the value of what goes on in an exam,” says veterinarian Karen Felsted of Felsted Veterinary Consulting in Dallas.

Even as a dog walks into the exam room, most vets are observing gait, looking for undiagnosed arthritis or neurological issues. When they pet the pup or kitty, they are feeling for lumps and bumps, which may suggest thyroid disease or other conditions.

But about 30% of pet owners don’t understand their pet is more likely to get sick without an annual exam, according to the 2011 Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study.

Cost is an issue

But cost is an issue for many. Just over half of all clients say the price of a visit to the vet is often higher than expected. Some feel veterinarians push unnecessary vaccines or procedures just to make money.

“People don’t know how much medical care really costs,” says veterinarian Sheldon Rubin of Chicago, who has been practicing 43 years. He cites the equipment, which is often the same as in human medicine, as well as employee costs and the cost of owning or renting a facility. “Today, veterinary school graduates are typically over $150,000 in debt (from student loans). Compared to human medicine, veterinary medicine is quite a value,” he says.

To save time and money, many pet owners seek advice from “Dr. Google.” Internet pet sites have proliferated in recent years, and get tons of traffic; 39% of pet owners say they will go there before calling their vet, according to the Bayer study.

But vets say websites can only go so far. If a happy family dog suddenly begins to growl when petted, the response online may be all sorts of behavioral guidance — when the dog may be growling because of pain caused by an ear infection, or some other physical ailment.

Rubin cites one website that even suggested chicken soup as a remedy for a feline disease, which he calls “complete nonsense.”

“Perhaps veterinarians have simply failed to demonstrate the importance of a routine checkup, and the value that goes along with it,” he says.

Lynn Peterson of Fitchburg, Wis., says she never thought much about preventive care for her cat, Doc, until one routine vet visit six years ago, when the vet observed that one eye was slightly discolored, and just “didn’t look right.”

A veterinary ophthalmologist later diagnosed melanoma. Doc’s eye and ocular nerve were removed. He quickly rebounded without any further treatment.

“Without that exam to catch it early, they tell me there’s no way Doc would be here today,” Peterson says.

Two years ago at age 11, Doc injured a claw, and when she took him in, the vet noted weight loss. It was a red flag, and the vet suggested a blood test. Doc was diagnosed with liver cancer.

The early diagnosis made it possible to give the cat a chemotherapy drug. Peterson, an office clerk, says that Doc is outliving his latest prognosis.

“I believe that cats like to keep secrets; they don’t want us to know if they’re not feeling well,” she adds.

But many of the ills the USA’s pets are now suffering are easier to address than cancer.

According to the American Heartworm Society, despite perfectly safe and effective heartworm preventives, only 55% of dogs are currently on them — which leaves millions of dogs at risk for the potentially fatal condition, caused by parasitic worms.

Banfield’s 2011 State of Pet Health Report also found 60% of dogs and 49% of cats have dental disease, a 12% increase in dogs and a 21% jump in cats since 2006. The annual report is based on records of more than 465,000 cats and 2.3 million dogs that have visited Banfield’s 830 pet hospitals in 43 states.

Often dental disease is painful, but when pets don’t eat, owners think they’re just being finicky, says Felsted. The bacteria caused by lingering dental disease can cause or contribute to damage to the liver or kidneys.

Obesity is another chronic problem — it’s as much an epidemic in dogs and cats as in people, vets say: 52% of dogs are overweight or obese, and 58% cats fall into the same category, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

While there are many explanations — ranging from not enough exercise to leaving food out all day for cats to dispensing table treats — people often have no clue that their tabby is tubby or their canine is corpulent because our perceptions of what is “normal” for pets has changed over the years.

According to Banfield’s 2012 report, about 70% of people with overweight or obese dogs or cats had no idea their pet’s weight wasn’t ideal until the vet said so. And the impact on health is significant — overweight or obese pets may suffer quality-of-life issues, increases in arthritis and skin problems and diabetes.

Cats have their own set of problems. About 80% of cat owners think their kitties are so self-sufficient that regular exams aren’t necessary, according to Bayer Health Care Feline Findings 2013. As more cats stay indoors only, somehow owners believe they don’t get sick. While they may be safer inside — getting hit by a car or chased by a coyote is unlikely — they can still get heart disease, cancers, kidney or hyperthyroid disease.

But nearly 40% of cat owners say they get stressed just thinking about going to the veterinarian with a cat. And no wonder, because when the cat carrier appears most cats disappear.

“It’s such a struggle to get the cat in to see us — I understand,” says veterinarian Elizabeth Colleran of Chico, Calif., past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

“I’m not sure that we’ve done our jobs to make our offices as cat-friendly as possible,” she says. That’s why the group began to certify Cat Friendly Practices in 2011, taking definitive steps to be “cat friendlier.”

The idea has caught on; 500 veterinary clinics have been certified as Cat Friendly and another 600 are in the pipeline. “If the cat is totally freaking out, do you think that cat owner is going to come back, or even should come back?” Colleran asks. “We’re determined to make a veterinary visit at least tolerable experience for cats, and maybe even a pleasant experience.”

The cost of prevention

Still, veterinary costs are a significant issue for many pet owners. Pets often get the same cancers as people and in many cases undergo similar treatment. Surgery, medications and a 10-day hospital stay for a person will likely exceed hundreds of thousands; for a pet, it’s somewhere around $5,000.

But some people just don’t have $5,000. And even annual checkups cost something — maybe more than some can afford.

“True,” concedes Felsted. “After all, the government doesn’t offer a financial safety net to pet owners. But pet insurance can be a lifesaving (investment), preventing economic euthanasia” — euthanizing a pet when the owner can’t or won’t pay for treatment.

“I know preventive care makes a difference,” says Bobbi Ann Fulk, a stay-at-home mom in Des Plaines, Ill., whose household includes five cats. “Not only can we catch problems early, potentially we can save money. People must understand that — for me, it’s common sense. I think the biggest hang-up is that some people don’t trust their veterinarian. I say, then it’s on you to find someone else who suits you better.”