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​Three Million Pets Can’t be Wrong


By Vet-Advantage
June, 2016


Banfield data shows diabetes and dental disease are increasing among dogs, while heartworm is decreasing

Banfield Pet Hospital® released what it called the most comprehensive pet health report ever compiled, comprising medical data from 2.5 million dogs and nearly 500,000 cats. The State of Pet Health® 2016 Report, created by Banfield’s research team, Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK), analyzed data from 3 million total pets cared for in 2015 in Banfield’s 925 hospitals spanning 43 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The report analyzes trends from the past 10 years and highlights the most common diagnoses affecting cats and dogs.


Diabetes mellitus

Just as in humans, diseases such as diabetes are rising in pets, the report suggests. Canine diabetes has increased by 79.9 percent since 2006, while the prevalence of diabetes in cats has increased by 18.1 percent over the same time frame.

Dogs are more likely to develop Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, which is similar to the form of diabetes seen in children; cats are more likely than dogs to develop Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, the form more often developed in human adults. Modifications to diet can play a major role in the treatment and management of this disease.

Similar to the human form of the disease, Type 2 diabetes in pets can often be traced back to obesity, one of the top five diagnoses impacting young adult, mature adult and geriatric pets. Unlike with humans, there is no clear regional pattern to the highest rates of diabetes. The greatest prevalence of diabetes in 2015 in dogs was found in Nevada, Montana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kentucky. In cats, the highest rates were found in Delaware, New Mexico, District of Columbia, Wisconsin and Arkansas.



Heartworm disease is one of the most serious, yet preventable, conditions affecting pets in the United States, reports Banfield. Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworms migrate to blood vessels of the lungs and heart and are capable of causing permanent damage to both before a pet ever shows symptoms. While there is no safe treatment for cats, the treatment for dogs can be costly and can result in dangerous side effects, including clots within the lungs, caused by a combination of a die-off of the worms, inflammation of the blood vessels, and reduced blood flow in the lungs.

Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in each of the 43 states in which Banfield practices, but the highest prevalence is in the Southeastern states. This includes Mississippi (with 4.1 percent of tested dogs), Louisiana (3.9 percent), Arkansas (3.6 percent), and Puerto Rico and Alabama (with 1.6 percent). While the infection can occur year-round, it peaks sharply during the summer months, when the weather is more favorable for mosquitoes, which transmit the disease.

Based on Banfield data, the odds of contracting heartworm disease in Mississippi are 171 times those of contracting the disease in Nevada, the state with the lowest prevalence of the disease. This is followed by Louisiana, where the odds are 165 times greater than those of contracting heartworm in Nevada.


Dental disease

Dental disease is the most common disorder among cats and dogs, affecting 68 percent of cats and 76 percent of dogs. The number increases in pets over the age of three, where 88 percent of cats and 93 percent of dogs are affected. Dental disease has increased by 8 percent in dogs and 9.7 percent of cats since Banfield’s initial report in 2011. Dental tartar, a precursor to periodontal disease, is one of the most common causes of dental disease.

The greatest prevalence of dental disease in 2015 in dogs was found in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Nevada. The greatest prevalence in cats was found in Nevada, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington.


Otitis externa

A bit of good news: Otitis externa (inflammation of the ear canal) is decreasing in dogs. Since 2011, otitis externa has decreased 6.4 percent in dogs, with the prevalence of cats remaining unchanged. It can be triggered by numerous factors such as skin allergies, ear mites or irritation from foreign bodies, such as parts of plants, shrubs or trees. Bacterial and yeast infections commonly occur secondary to inflammation in the ear.

As in humans, ear infections cause significant discomfort, but in pets, they can become chronic and impact a pet for the duration of its life, according to Banfield. While otitis externa has decreased in dogs, it remains very common in certain breeds; one in four Golden Retrievers and one in five Labrador Retrievers are diagnosed with this condition.


Flea and tick

Similar to heartworm disease, fleas and ticks can affect a pet year-round but are most prevalent during certain seasons, reports Banfield. Infestations begin increasing in the spring and summer and peak in early fall. Flea infestations can cause numerous health problems for pets. As fleas bite to eat, they inject saliva under the skin, causing an irritation that can lead to scratching, hair loss and infections. One of the greatest risks that ticks pose is the transmission of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to dogs, humans and other mammals.

Since 2011, flea infestations in dogs have decreased in prevalence by 8.3 percent and have remained unchanged in cats. The abundance of fleas is dependent upon, among other factors, the use of a flea preventive, geographic location within the United States and local weather patterns. The prevalence of fleas in cats (10.9 cases per 100) is almost twice that of dogs (5.9 cases per 100), indicating the need for greater education about flea control for the feline population. Ticks have decreased over the past 10 years for dogs (11.3 percent decrease).


Internal parasites

Banfield data reflects a reduction of roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms in dogs since 2011, though the prevalence of hookworms has remained relatively unchanged. In cats, there has been a reduction of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms (though, as with fleas, cats are more than twice as likely as dogs to have a tapeworm diagnosis). Increased use of flea preventive in dogs and cats, and increased use of heartworm prevention in dogs may explain some of these changes.


Puerto Rico

For the first time since Banfield expanded to Puerto Rico in 2013, the company has compiled adequate data from its hospitals on the island to include in the 2016 report. Puerto Rico is ranked among the top five states and territories for heartworm disease in dogs. While it is difficult to be certain, the high prevalence may be due to the tropical climate, which creates unique challenges for pets on the island. The climate favors sustained levels of disease transmission year-round, which may account for the above-average prevalence of other infectious diseases: Puerto Rico is also ranked among the top five states and territories for otitis externa, ticks, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms in dogs and cats. Conversely, for reasons unknown, Puerto Rico ranked the lowest for prevalence of diabetes and dental disease.  


For the full State of Pet Health 2016 Report, please visit

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