Analysis: First-of-its-kind study by Banfield reveals companion-animal health trends

Analysis: First-of-its-kind study by Banfield reveals companion-animal health trends

Banfield study reveals spike in canine, feline diabetes, otitis externa
Jun 01, 2011

Portland, Ore. — A first-of-its-kind study of 2.1 million dogs and 450,000 cats by Banfield Pet Hospital shows increases in diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations and other common and preventable health problems.

In the first "State of Pet Health 2011 Report," released by Banfield, data show a 32 percent spike in diabetes in dogs in an analysis of veterinary patient data from 2006 to 2010. The study also denotes a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes. While these data were collected at Banfield Pet Hospitals, the analysis from more than 2.5 million health records indicates some of these preventable problems are on the rise, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, chief medical officer for Banfield, tells DVM Newsmagazine.

"I just can't help but wonder if there is a correlation between the increase and prevalance of these diseases and the decreasing visits to veterinarians," Klausner adds.

The project's goal, Klausner explains, is to help the veterinary profession gain a better understanding of the state of pet health in the United States, especially in light of recent reports signaling a decline in veterinary visits.

"We want to use our position in the industry where we can collect this data and give back to the veterinary profession. We want to share because no one has been able to get this kind of information before. We hope that researchers, investigators and clinicians will find something in this data that will help them improve their practices or help research in the future."

Klausner adds that the analysis will likely help veterinarians develop strategies to improve patient care. Case in point? The study denotes a rise in popularity of small-breed dogs. In fact, small-breed dogs are more prone to diseases like diabetes mellitus, periodontal disease and knee injuries, while large-breed dogs are more predisposed to arthritis, bloat and hip dysplasia.

Ultimately, data analysis of dog and cat health records focuses on key areas including dental disease, heartworm disease, flea and tick infestations, internal parasites, otitis, diabetes mellitus and even breed popularity.

Here are some of the highlights:

Probing dental disease

Dental disease topped the list of the most common medical conditions for dogs and cats, Banfield reports.

In fact, 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over age 3 presented with some form of dental disease. And it's not just gingivitis.

Periodontal disease, grades 1 and 2, ranked in the top 10 diagnoses for small dogs. The top five breeds most likely to develop periodontal disease included the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian and Shetland Sheepdog.

Small breeds make big gains in popularity

One thing is clear, smaller-breed dogs are becoming more popular. Chihuahuas now represent 8 percent of Banfield's patient population. Over a 10-year period, from 2000 to 2010, their numbers have grown 116 percent. Shih Tzus are up 87 percent during that period as well. Labrador Retrievers dropped nearly 20 percent in the rankings over the 10-year period; German Shepherds, on the other hand, are down some 40 percent in the same time period.

Here are the top 10 breeds:

  • Labrador Retriever: 10.1 percent
  • Chihuahua: 8 percent
  • Shih Tzu: 5.8 percent
  • Yorkshire Terrier: 5.4 percent
  • Pit Bull: 4.7 percent
  • German Shepherd: 3.5 percent
  • Mixed breed: 3.4 percent
  • Dachshund: 3.3 percent
  • Maltese: 3.1 percent
  • Standard Poodle: 3.1 percent

Why these trends are occurring is another story, the report suggests. Increased apartment/condo ownership with little or no yardspace, or desire for pets that require less space may be driving the change among younger dog owners. An older population of suburban dog owners may be focused more on travel or downsizing and therefore smaller dogs may be more desirable, Klausner says.

Losing ground in the flea war?

"There are some things that really surprised me. As much access as people have to flea medications, I'm surprised that flea infestations are one the rise." Up by 16 percent, the data reports.

"It gives me pause again to wonder about how people are getting their flea-and-tick medications. There is something lost when they just go to Costco and pick up the box of flea-and-tick medication, and they don't talk to their veterinarian. I don't know if that is the reason for this increase, but it is one of those diseases that should be decreasing rather than increasing. I wonder in this example if the veterinarian is not in the loop that it is really making a difference."