For a while I haven't been feeling too well. I've been losing weight. I'm always tired and thirsty. I drink a lot of water and constantly need to pee. My friend took me to the doctor.
It's always a bit intimidating. The smells are different and I feel nervous in the waiting room. A bit trapped. When the doctor arrived, I didn't really understand what she was saying. I'm not too keen on being poked and prodded (especially in the privates), but the doc is nice enough. When the results of my tests came back, it turned out I have diabetes! Seriously? But I'm a dog.
Here's a fact, humans are animals too. So it shouldn't surprise us that humans and animals suffer from many of the same ailments. Even so, it seems strange to think that a dog could have diabetes. Clients are often surprised when vets find kidney or bladder stones in cats that require emergency surgery or dental abscess that need treating in a dog (dogs and cats need dentists too).
As surprising as it is, if we step back and think, just looking at our companion animals (dogs and cats) we can see that their bodies are made much like ours. They have major organs such as a heart, lungs, kidneys and a liver. They have teeth, bones and intestines. Blood moves through their veins and arteries. They inherit traits from their parents. And as with us humans, these organs and bodily functions can go wrong.
There are some diseases that we can actually acquire from our animals. These are called zoonoses, and we will tackle them in detail some other time. Today we're focusing on diseases we associate mostly with humans. We've already mentioned diabetes. Here are a few other 'human' conditions that animals can suffer from.
Cancer is seen in many species, including wild ones. Sea turtles, for example, already have a hard life. Most of them are on the endangered species list and some show up on other lists, like menus. In addition to an ocean filled with nets, hooks and plastic that some turtles mistake for tasty-looking jellyfish, they can also contract cancer. Sea turtles, particularly the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), are susceptible to a type of cancer associated with viruses that cause tumours called fibropapillomas in their vital organs and throughout their bodies. Ecologists and veterinarians have shown that this disease is associated with heavily polluted coastal areas, places where there is high human density, agricultural runoff, and biotoxin-producing algae.
All too frequently, vets see many different types of cancers in dogs and cats. Like humans, the causes of cancer are quite complex. Causative agents can include exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, oncogenic viruses, hormones, and trauma, amongst many others. Reproductive cancers appear most frequently in unneutered and unspayed animals.
There is even a transmissible venereal tumour (TVT) spread through coitus in dogs. Mammary (breast) and testicular cancer are also often seen. Aggressive bone and skin cancers are also observed. The good news is that some types of cancer are frequently treatable. Common types such as mammary (breast), testicular, transmissible venereal tumours can be greatly reduced by spaying females and neutering males. Early detection and treatment are the best defence against cancer. This however, is dependent upon the type and extent of the cancer, as well as the aggressiveness of therapy. Consult your friendly neighbourhood vet for advice.
Obesity is a serious issue in T&T. As recently as May this year, a report from the Ministry of Health indicated that obesity is on the rise. Unfortunately, it's not just humans who have unhealthy lifestyles. We see many clients killing their animals with kindness. Obesity in pets is becoming too common, as many owners don't give their pets a proper diet, a healthy eating regime or adequate exercise.
"I can't bear to have Bubba begging at the table so when I eat, he eats."
"I love ice cream and so does my Princess."
And a personal favourite "My cat, Fatso, can't walk too well, but he's so cute!"
Just as it is for people, obesity is a serious problem for pets and has been linked to diabetes, breathing difficulties, delayed wound healing, damage to bones and ligaments, heart disease, decreased liver function, an increased risk of cancer and a generally decreased quality and duration of life. A word of advice, excessively fat cats may be cute, but they are also very unhealthy.
Humans are emotional beings. Emotions such as fear, anger and excitement are part of our lives. Animals express emotions and, often due to our inability to interpret and respond to behavioural signs, they can suffer from a wide range of behaviour-related problems. These include separation anxiety, phobias, excessive vocalisation and depression.
People usually have longer life-spans than their cats and dogs, though some parrots are known to outlive us. Some of us have seen our playful young kitten change over time into a loving but slow-moving old cat. Older animals, like their older human counterparts can suffer from arthritis, loss of hearing, cataracts, kidney, heart and liver problems and a host of others age-related conditions.
Tick-fever, worms, parvo-virus, canine distemper, third eyelid prolapse: it's a risky world full of ailments for pets. The good news is that even when you add in all the diseases you thought only we humans can get, your helpful neighbourhood veterinarian can give you useful and practical advice to make your pets life a healthier and happier one.
To the One World, One Medicine, One Health practitioners, Dr Deyanta Dipchan, Dr Kevern Sawh and Dr Nisshi Seepersad, thanks for sharing.