Cats & Disease: What We Can Prevent, and How

Would you pay an extra dollar at the vet's office to fund cat research? Hear why solutions like this are needed.

According to the Banfield Pet Hospital State of Pet Health 2012 Report, chronic disease in dogs and cats is on the rise. Consequently, or coincidentally, cats came into focus of the prestigious Banfield Pet Industry Summit, held August 14-15 in Portland.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, director of medicine at Banfield started the conference by noting that cats and also dogs suffer from illnesses that can be prevented. “It’s tragic,” he said. Klausner expressed a concern about a real lack of new knowledge, because relatively few studies are being funded. “This clearly doesn’t bode well for our pets’ future.”

Cats are especially hard hit on all ends; for starters, cat veterinary visits continue to decline. Veterinarians can’t treat cats they don’t see, or find disease early, and early detection often yields better results for cats, and less dollars spent by pet owners.

On the other side of the paw, research for cats continues to lag far behind dollars spent on studying dog diseases.

Dog and Cat Health Studies
The Morris Animal Foundation funds studies on dogs, cats, horses and wild animals. Currently, they have about 300 active studies which they’ve put about $10 million a year behind.

Still, it’s no secret that more dollars are spent on dog health studies. Relative to the Winn Feline Foundation (the one organization with a mission to support cat-only studies), the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has little trouble raising dollars. For whatever reason, it’s far more challenging to raise dollars to support cats.  

Being on the Board of Directors of the Winn Feline Foundation, I’ve known that this true. And when dollars begin to dry up, investigators simply look elsewhere for funding – and if that means foregoing research on kidney disease or heart disease, or anything else in cats – then so be it.

Overall, veterinary schools and colleges have little additional funding these days, as they are starved for dollars. So, professors, veterinarians and PhD types who do this work increasingly don’t get any financial support from the institution for which they work. And, of course, research is increasingly more expensive than ever.

How Do We Solve the Problem?
Bob Rohde, president/CEO of Denver Dumb Friends League suggested that what must come first is to continue to elevate the status of pets. I suggested “awareness” — for the most part, the public is unaware of this problem. Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary advisor for the American Humane Association and past president/CEO Morris Animal Foundation, and several others said if pet owners could check a box as they pay their veterinarian and offer an extra dollar per transaction, millions of dollars would be raised for cat health.

Ultimately, millions are needed – particularly for cats.

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