Health Beat: Prescription Pet: Pet illnesses

Prescription Pet: Pet illnesses

WINTER PARK, Fla. - We are a pet-loving nation, with one third of Americans owning at least one dog or cat, and while we open our homes and our hearts to our furry friends, we're also increasingly sharing some of the same diseases, many that can be prevented.

Every day, Gerry Eckstein takes her dog Hank to her vet for treatment.

"He's lost over 20 pounds. He was 49 pounds when he was diagnosed," said Gerry Eckstein, Hank's owner.

One of Hank's kidneys has failed and a giant mass entangled in his adrenal gland is believed to be cancer.

Eckstein's vet gave Hank two weeks to a month to live. That was nine months ago, but Eckstein's dedication to her 13-year-old companion hasn't come cheap.

"Since he got sick, I've spent almost $12,000. My children's inheritance, but he's worth it," Eckstein said.

Fifty percent of dogs and 30 percent of cats over age 10 will die from cancer. Other common diseases in pets include arthritis, diabetes, and heart, kidney and dental disease.

One of the biggest reasons for health problems, just like in humans, is obesity, said Dr. Robert Hess, Winter Park Veterinary Hospital.

"Obesity is a big issue in dogs and cats," said Hess.

"A 50 pound dog that weighs 60 pounds will develop arthritis twice as fast. He'll live two and half years less and develop cancer twice as readily," explained Hess.

Mandy Welsheimer was shocked when her dog "Puppy" was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year. "Puppy" must take insulin twice a day for the rest of his life and follow a strict diet, but it beats the alternative.

"Luckily, it's a manageable disease, so it's not like he had something that we had to put him down for," said Welsheimer.

When considering treatment for your pet with cancer, cost is an important factor. While it ranges widely, the average for surgery is $2,000 to $3,000. Chemotherapy and radiation can also be up to $3,000.

One alternative for pet owners is to contact their local veterinarian hospitals and ask about clinical trials. Many offer free treatment and help with future research.

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