Top 10 Reasons Pets Visit Vets

Insurance Claims Reveal Most Common Aches and Pains

Veterinarian and patient

As a pet owner, you hope the only visits you’ll take to your veterinarian are for routine care.

While sitting in the lobby with your anxious pet, waiting to be seen, do you ever wonder why everyone else and their pets are there?

Skin Allergies and Urinary Tract Problems Top the List

According to VPI Pet Insurance, skin allergies topped the list for reasons policyholders took their dogs to the veterinarian in 2013, while lower urinary tract problems were the primary reason for cat visits. The average cost to treat a dog for skin allergies was $187, while cat owners spent an average $422 to treat a urinary tract problem.

According to Dr. Tony Buffington, an expert in urinary tract problems in cats, stress can lead to urinary tract problems in cats, as can stones in the urinary bladder, whereas urinary tract infections are not as common in cats as they are in dogs. Urinary tract blockage is more common in male cats because of the position and size of their urethra, and is a medical emergency.

Be aware of your cat's litter box behavior, advises Buffington. Watch for frequent trips to the box, blood in the urine and urinating outside the box. If you see your male cat doing any of these things, and then become depressed and stop eating, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Enriching your cat's environment can help prevent this condition, according to Buffington.


Ear infections, skin allergies, upset stomachs and intestinal inflammation are commonly reported for both dogs and cats.

German shepherd with bandaid

Ear Infections Irritate Dogs

The second most common condition for dogs was ear infections. Ear infections and skin allergies can be closely, but not always, related.

Some pets who have a lot of hair in their ears are often prone to ear infections when yeast builds up in the warm and moist area. Cleaning the ears regularly and grooming excess hair can be a successful preventive measure.

Skin allergies can also lead to repetitive ear scratching. This can introduce bacteria into your pet’s ear or disturb the natural balance of his skin. Both can lead to infection.

Hyperthyroidism Threatens Cats

One potentially life-threatening condition that that Dr. Cori Gross, a field serivce veterninarian for VPI, says she is relieved to see treated is hyperthyroidism (excessive thyroid hormone), which can be common in older cats and is covered by VPI health insurance policies.

“The cats will eat a ton of food but will be losing weight,” Gross says. “If it’s left untreated, they can die. It can cause high blood pressure and heart problems.

“You can treat hyperthyroidism with medication, but the ideal is to blast the thyroid with an injection of radioactive iodine. Clients are becoming more aware of it, which is a good thing.”

Dental and Arthritis Concerns

Gross said she wasn't surprised to see dental claims for both dogs and cats. Bacteria from teeth can enter into the bloodstream and cause major issues.

“We go to the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings, but people don’t think about doing it for their dogs and cats,” saysGross.

For dogs, Gross expected to see arthritis in the Top 10. This year, it landed at No. 5, up from last year.

“It is also common in cats, but most owners aren’t going to notice,” Gross explains. “With dogs, you’re going to know it. You take them out for a walk and they’re limping around. Cats have evolved to hide discomfort and pain, so they’ll just lay around if they’re stiff or in pain.”

Top 10 Conditions for Dogs and Cats

The following data is based on claims submitted by VPI policyholders:                                                                                  


Top 10 Canine Claims

Top 10 Feline Claims

1. Skin allergies

1. Bladder/urinary tract problems

2. Ear infections

2. Periodontitis/Dental disease

3. Non-cancerous skin mass

3. Chronic kidney disease

4. Skin infection

4. Excessive thyroid hormone

5. Arthritis

5. Upset stomach/Vomiting

6. Vomiting, Upset stomach 

6. Diabetes

7. Intestinal inflammation/diarrhea

7. Diarrhea/Intestinal upset

8. Periodontitis/Dental disease

8. Lymphoma

9. Bladder/urinary tract problems

9. Upper respiratory virus

10. Soft tissue trauma (bruise or contusion)

10. Skin allergies

Interested in getting reimbursed for your eligable veterinary expenses? Get a free quote now for your pet companion.


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