10 common conditions in cats and dogs

There are lots of reasons why your pet might need a trip to the vet, along with their regular check-ups. Our vets have put together a list of the 10 most common conditions in cats and dogs:


1. Skin problems in cats and dogs

Skin problems are the most common reason dogs and cats need to see a vet.

Lots of conditions can affect your pet’s skin, like:

  • allergies
  • parasites
  • underlying diseases
  • infections.

Your pet should have a shiny, healthy coat with no dandruff, scabs, parasites or dryness. If you see any change in their skin or coat, or they show signs of discomfort or itchiness, you should see your vet.

Skin problems in dogs and cats can be difficult to diagnose and sometimes it can take lots of different tests to find the cause.

Signs your pet has a skin condition might include:

  • rashes
  • scabs
  • hair loss
  • scratching
  • rubbing themselves against furniture
  • pawing at their face
  • shaking their head.

Skin problems can be incredibly uncomfortable so it’s important to see a vet who can identify the problem and give your pet the right treatment.

Which pets are at risk of skin disease?

Any pet can develop a skin problem.

  • Pets that don’t get enough vitamins could be at risk of developing skin issues so make sure you give them a varied and balanced diet.
  • Pets with weakened immune systems may be more at risk of getting parasites, like fleas, and other skin disease.
  • Pets with other underlying disease, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, are prone to skin problems.

Is your dog feeling itchy and uncomfortable? Try our PDSA Vet Care range:

2. Diabetes in cats and dogs

Diabetic dogs and cats have difficulties controlling blood sugar levels. They’ll need daily or twice daily injections of insulin to control their blood sugar levels. Diabetes requires lifelong treatment and lots of trips to the vet to keep a close eye on your pet’s health.

Common symptoms of diabetes in dogs and cats include:

  • drinking and urinating more often
  • weight loss
  • lethargy or tiredness
  • vomiting.

Diabetes is life threatening for pets if left untreated. Luckily, it can be easily controlled and managed with help from your vet. If you spot any of these symptoms take your pet to their vet for a check-up.

Which pets are at risk of developing diabetes?

Any pet can develop diabetes but some things can increase their risk of getting the disease:It’s more common in dogs 7-9 years old, and middle aged to older cats.

Females dogs are more likely to develop diabetes than males.

Diabetes can develop in any breed but is seen more commonly in some dog breeds, such as:

  • Poodles
  • Retrievers
  • Collies
  • Cairn Terriers

Any breed of cat can develop diabetes.

Some diseases can make diabetes more likely, e.g. Pancreatic or Cushings disease.

Obesity increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, especially in cats. Find out more about keeping your pet’s weight in check.

3. Arthritis in cats and dogs

Arthritis is the inflammation of joints and causes pain, stiffness and discomfort. There are several types of Arthritis but Osteoarthritis in older cats and dogs is most common.

Symptoms of Arthritis include:

  • stiffness
  • lameness
  • reluctance to exercise
  • changes in character and mood including irritability
  • muscle wastage
  • licking at joints
  • reluctance to jump on or off surfaces (cats)
  • sleeping more.

There are many treatments for arthritis, which can help keep elderly pets comfortable and pain free. Don’t put the symptoms down to old age and speak to your vet about finding the treatment your much-loved pet deserves!

Which pets are at risk from arthritis?

Older pets are more likely to develop arthritis due to the normal wear and tear of the joints.

Arthritis can also develop after an injury or joint surgery.

Certain breeds of large dog are more likely to develop Arthritis, such as:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds

Scottish Fold cats are more likely to develop Arthritis.

Obesity places a huge strain on joints and increases the risk of Arthritis. Find out more about keeping your pet’s weight in check.


4. Epilepsy and seizures in cats and dogs

Seizures, or fits, in dogs and cats can vary in frequency, severity and length. They’re often really distressing for owners and exhausting for your pet.

Symptoms of seizures in pets include:

  • A change in consciousness
  • A change in normal movement

Without treatment, your pet might experience more fits and these could become life-threatening.

Epilepsy, which is an illness characterised by fits, can be managed with regular medication and monitoring from your vet. Mild cases of epilepsy might not need medical treatment but your pet will need to be monitored carefully by your vet.

There are many possible causes of seizures in dogs such as liver problems, poisoning, trauma and electrolyte imbalances but the cause of epilepsy remains unclear.

The good news is that, given the right treatment, epileptic pets can lead normal, happy lives.

Which pets are at risk of developing epilepsy?

All cats and dogs can develop epilepsy but:

It is more common in dogs than cats.

Epilepsy usually develops in young adults, under about 2-3 years of age.

Certain breeds of dog are commonly affected by epilepsy, including:

  • Irish Setters
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • German Shepherds.


5. Vomiting in cats and dogs

All dogs and cats are sick occasionally and it’s usually just because of an stomach upset. However, if the vomiting is severe or persistent then it could be a sign of a more serious problem.

In serious cases, a vet will need to investigate the cause of the vomiting and give your pet the right treatment. Really ill cats and dogs might even need to be hospitalised to receive treatment for dehydration.

If your cat or dog is vomiting regularly, see a vet before your pet becomes more unwell.

Which pets are at risk of vomiting?

Every pet of any age can suffer from vomiting.


6. Cushing’s disease in cats and dogs

Cushing’s disease - also known as hyperadrenocorticism – develops when a tumour causes your pet’s pituitary gland to produce too much of a hormone called ACTH. This causes their adrenal glands to produce too much Cortisol, a kind of steroid. Tumours in the adrenal glands can also cause Cushing’s disease.

Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • panting
  • pot-bellied abdomen
  • obesity
  • muscle weakness
  • dark patches and thin skin
  • hair loss.

Cushing’s can be diagnosed with blood tests and your vet can treat the hormonal imbalances. However, your pet will need lifelong treatment and to be regularly monitored by your vet.

Which pets are at risk of developing Cushing’s disease?

Cushing’s is relatively common in dogs but rare in cats.

Middle aged and older animals are more likely to develop Cushing’s.

Certain dog breeds seem to have a genetic predisposition to developing Cushing’s disease, such as:

  • Poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • German Shepherds
  • Boxers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Boston Terriers.


7. Wounds and traumatic injury in cats and dogs

Minor wounds may not need vet treatment and, if they’re kept clean, will heal by themselves.

More serious, dirty, or infected wounds will need veterinary treatment. The treatment depends on where the wound is, the damage caused and the level of bleeding. Serious wounds or injuries need emergency treatment and may require surgery.

Which pets are at risk of wounds or traumatic injuries?

Pets of all ages and breeds are at risk of wounds from things like:

  • bites
  • getting trapped in something
  • broken bones
  • scrapes
  • torn nails
  • punctures.


8. Thyroid conditions: Hypothyroidism in pets

The thyroid is responsible for the production of certain hormones. Hypothyroidism, also called under-active thyroid, is where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone. This is most common in dogs.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • lethargy
  • weakness
  • unexplained weight gain
  • hair loss and poor hair quality
  • scaly skin.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed with blood tests and can be managed with lifelong treatment and monitoring by your vet.

Which pets are at risk of developing Hypothyroidism?

It is more commonly diagnosed in middle-aged and older dogs.

It is more common in neutered dogs.

Hypothyroidism is very rare in cats but more common in dogs.

Hypothyroidism is more common in some medium/large breeds of dog, such as:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Irish Setters.


9. Thyroid conditions: Hyperthyroidism in pets

Hyperthyroidism, also called over-active thyroid, occurs when the thyroid produces too much of certain hormones. This is more common in cats.

Symptoms of the Hyperthyroidism include:

  • weight loss
  • changes in behaviour
  • increased vocalisation
  • hyperactivity
  • greasy coat
  • increased appetite
  • increased thirst
  • fast heart rate.

The disease is diagnosed with blood tests and sometimes your vet will be able to feel the enlarged thyroid gland at the front of your pet’s throat.

Which pets are at risk of developing Hypothyroidism?

Middle-aged and older cats and more likely to develop Hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is common in cats but very rare in dogs.

All cat breeds can be affected by the disease.


10. Hip Dysplasia in cats and dogs

Some pet’s hip joints become malformed, meaning the joint that isn’t able to move freely or smoothly. Hip Dysplasia causes pain and discomfort for your pet and it’s likely they’ll develop arthritis.

Common symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

  • reduced activity
  • difficulty getting up
  • reluctance to exercise
  • hind limb lameness
  • ‘bunny hopping’ instead of using hind legs properly
  • decreased range of movement in hip joints.

A full vet assessment and x-rays may be needed to diagnose Hip Dysplasia. The good news is, there are many treatments available for Hip Dysplasia, from medications to hip replacement surgery. These will ease the pain and discomfort for your cat or dog.

If your pet is struggling with signs of hip dysplasia, visit your vet.

Which pets are at risk from developing hip dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia is usually genetic so diagnosis at an early age is common.

In less severe cases, you might not notice any lameness or discomfort until your pet is older and they’ve developed arthritis.

While Hip Dysplasia can happen in any pet, certain breeds of dog are more likely to develop it, including:

  • Golden retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Saint Bernards
  • Newfoundlands.

Overweight pets have to put more stress on their joints and obesity in puppies and kittens increases the risk of developing Hip Dysplasia. Find out more about keeping your pet’s weight in check.

Nutrition, especially in large dogs, is a factor as a poor diet lacking in vitamins means joints can’t form properly.

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