The difference between cats and dogs: A veterinary medicine perspective

difference between cats and dogsWhether you are a cat or a dog lover, you probably know of the stereotypes associated with both species. Some consider cats to be extremely independent but not as affectionate when compared to their canine counterpart. While dogs are considered loyal but not as intelligent as their feline friends. While these characteristics can be easily debated, there are definite medical differences between the two species that cannot. Cats are definitely not small dogs and dogs are not large cats.

Difference between cats and dogs: Viruses

Both puppies and kittens can potentially be exposed to their share of deadly viruses when they are younger. Puppies have to deal with distemper, and parvovirus which can be deadly. Kittens can be affected by panleukopenia which is equivalent to the parvovirus in puppies. But in older animals, it seems like cats have the worst out of the species when it comes to infectious viruses. Cats have to deal with common viruses that cause upper respiratory infections such as calicivirus and herpes virus. There are also the three major viruses that can cause significant illnesses in cats. These viruses are the feline leukemia virus (Felv), Feline infectious Peritonitis (FIP), and Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Cats infected with Felv and FIP have a poor prognosis which often results in death. Cats with FIV however can still have long lives though they get sick more often when compared to normal cats. Regarding dogs, they don’t have too many common viruses to worry about when they get older. The only virus that seemed to have hit dogs hard has been the recent canine flu outbreak. So regarding viruses, cats seem to have it the worst.

Difference between cats and dogs: Orthopedic disease

Even though both dogs and cats can have orthopedic issues, dogs  can get the brunt of orthopedic diseases. This probably is because dogs are larger in size which can contribute to these problems. I discuss orthopedic conditions in my previous post “Why is my dog limping?”. Even at a very young age, dogs can be affected  by orthopedic issues, especially large breed dogs. Common issues that can affect dogs include hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament tears associated with the knee, and dislocation of the knee caps or luxating patella. As I mentioned before, cats are not immune to these conditions, they just occur in a much less frequency.  So regarding orthopedic conditions, dogs seem to have it worse.

Difference between cats and dogs: Allergies

Both cats and dogs can experience allergies for the same reasons. Most pets are either allergic to food, things in the environment or a combination of both. Since cats are finicky eaters, I see food allergies more commonly in dogs. Where cats and dogs can differ is the presentation of allergy signs. Both can experience hair loss with severe itching. But one unique presentation to cats is called eosinophilic granuloma complex. This may cause red mass like structures to form in the skin, paws and mouth. In severe causes they can cause deformation of the lips and the feet. They are usually very painful. So regarding allergies it seems like cats have it the worse.

Difference between cats and dogs: Thyroid disease

Both species can experience thyroid disease. However with dogs it is more common that the disease is associated with a low thyroid compared to cats who often suffer from an overactive thyroid. Because of this, the presentation of thyroid disease is different in both species. With dogs the symptoms are weight gain, and slower activity. Dogs can also experience hair loss. Cats often experience rapid weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, hair loss and can become very sick compared to their canine counter parts. So overall it seems like cats have it the worse when it comes to thyroid disease.

Difference between cats and dogs: Heart Disease

Heart disease can occur in both species but they can occur for different reasons. Dogs probably suffer from more variables of heart disease. Dogs can experience problems with valves breaking down, they can develop fluid around the heart (called pericardial effusion), loose contractility in the muscles of their heart, and develop heart disease from heartworms.  Cats can also experience valve disease as well. But one common cause of heart disease in cats is a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is caused by the extreme thickening of the cats heart muscle which disrupts blood flow.

Common signs in dogs with heart failure include coughing, trouble breathing, and fluid in the abdomen. Cats can also experience coughing as well, but a common issue in cats with heart disease is blood clots. Since the blood flow is disrupted, cats are prone to blood clots when they have heart disease. This can cause an issue called saddle thrombus which leads paralysis of the hind-limbs. In most cats this lead to a poor prognosis. In general both species can have it bad when it come to heart disease.

Final thoughts

Cats and dogs have differences whether it is regarding personality or medical issues. Their differences doesn’t’ make one species better than the other. They just makes each species special in their own way.

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