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My Pet World: Don't choose 'Dr. Google' over a real vet

August 09, 2011|By Steve Dale

ST. LOUIS — Sad news for our pets was announced at a press conference titled, "Houston, We Have a Problem," during the 2011 American Veterinary Medical Assn. Convention July 18. The problem has been a steady decline in our pets' health.

"This decline has been going on for over a decade, despite an increased pet population," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, executive vice president and chief executive of the AVMA.

For example, more flea infestations are being reported, even though such problems are preventable. Internal parasites are up 13% percent in cats and 30% percent in dogs since 2006, according to the Banfield Pet Hospital State of Pet Health 2011 report. Potentially, this is a public health issue because some of these parasites can also affect people.

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Diabetes is up 16% in cats and 32% in dogs, according to the Banfield report. Ear infections are up 34% in cats and 9% in dogs. Dental disease has risen 10% in cats and 12% in dogs.

This is confusing because, no doubt, veterinary medicine is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was even a decade ago. If a heart murmur is a concern, veterinary cardiologists can perform an ultrasound with equipment and technology identical to that used for people. Veterinary neurologists can do brain surgery; cancer treatments can extend lives. In fact, using dogs as models, human medicine has in recent years benefited from what veterinarians have learned.

So what's gone wrong?

"People simply aren't seeing their veterinarians as often, particularly for wellness exams," said Dr. Michael Moyer, president of the American Animal Hospital Assn. (AAHA). According to the AVMA, cat visits to a veterinarian have dropped a whopping 30% since 2006; dog visits are down 21%.

Some of the data offered during the press conference was astounding. It turns out that the overwhelming majority of pet owners don't value preventative care. Before seeking advice from a vet, many now go onto the Internet and may never contact a vet at all, simply accepting the advice of "Dr. Google."

In fact, according to the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study (surveying pet owners and veterinary professionals about their views on veterinary medicine and pet health) 15% of owners said that by using the Internet, they believe they have less need to rely on a vet.

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