A look at people, pets and their medical problems

November 12, 2003

A caller asked this past week if dogs ever have appendicitis. This is a brand new question for me; I have never considered it until now. In checking the textbooks, I found no mention of any domestic animal having appendicitis. Aren't we lucky?

Humans have residual appendages called vermiform appendixes on their colons that often get infected and have to be removed, but animals do not.

This brought up a discussion on other medical problems that bother both humans and pets. Merck Veterinary Manual lists several pages of medical problems pertaining only to the digestive system. Humans share many of these problems although most are not contagious and cannot be spread by contact.

Some of the problems shared are: clefts in lips or palates, abnormal teeth, problems with the esophagus, abdominal hernias. Animals have been diagnosed with gastrointestinal ulcers, liver disease, malabsorption syndromes and diseases of the pancreas.


Both humans and animals can have peritonitis which is a local or general, acute or chronic inflammation of the peritoneal cavity. Peritonitis may result from a variety of causes: from bites, or traumatic penetration of the abdominal cavity, or rupture of the uterus or biliary or urinary tracts or even following surgery.

In my experience, dogs can have tonsillitis just like humans; they can have gingivitis of the gums which in turn can cause a blood infection that can damage the heart. There is a possibility of pituitary shutdown although it is rare in both humans and dogs. The liver, kidneys and bladder can be diseased or damaged in both species. Cancer is well known in both dogs and humans and can affect any part of the body.

Young dogs can have acne characterized by purplish-red bumps which come to a head and drain pus like pimples or blackheads. Some dogs have problems with allergies, just like their owners. They may be allergic to medicines, foods, dust, grass and other environments.

Some of these dogs need allergy shots just like humans. In some cases dogs can become anemic which is lacking sufficient iron in the diet to create red blood cells. This condition can be caused by bleeding, poor diet, malabsorption of nutrients, all of which is similar to both pet and owner. Diabetes is common to both also and is treated similarly.

There are pages of other medical problems that both humans and dogs can have, but one test that humans get regularly that dogs are just beginning to receive is checking the blood pressure. It is relatively easy to check the blood pressure on either an adult or even a child, but "it takes finesse, experience and practice to measure a dog's blood pressure accurately," according to Christine Wilford, D.V.M. in her article "The Silent Killer: High blood pressure," published in the November issue of the AKC Gazette.

Wiford says that "Finding the pulse can be quite difficult, particularly if the dog isn't still, quiet, and cooperative." The cost in time and money may prohibit using this tool at this time.|11/12/03***

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