Insurer reveals top pet ailments that result in pricey veterinary visits

Dog

In 2015, dog owners who have pet insurance through Nationwide filed 80,000 claims for skin allergies, with each claim costing an average of $210. It was the top medical condition that drove dog owners to their veterinarians last year, according to the latest tally from the insurer. And it was a major proportion of the $77 million that Nationwide’s members spent to keep their dogs and cats healthy last year.

Ear infections, skin infections and arthritis also topped the list of the most common health issues in dogs. Non-cancerous skin masses--No. 3 on the list--were the most costly canine condition, averaging $347 per dog, according to a press release from Nationwide, which was the first pet insurer in the U.S. and formerly operated under the name Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI). The company covers 550,000 pets in all 50 states.

The three most common conditions in cats in 2015 were bladder or urinary tract disease, dental conditions and chronic kidney disease. But the most expensive of the top 10 conditions in cats was No. 7 diabetes, which averaged $862 per animal, according to Nationwide.

Carol McConnell, a veterinarian and vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide, notes that the majority of the top 10 conditions in dogs and cats can be spotted in their earliest stages because they cause pets to noticeably change their behaviors and daily habits. In addition, “early detection can prevent many of these issues from becoming severe, limiting the cost of treatment,” she said in the press release.

The prevalence of skin allergies in dogs--hence the potential for a giant market opportunity--has not been lost on the animal health industry. Zoetis ($ZTS) introduced its drug to treat the allergic condition atopic dermatitis, Apoquel, in 2013 and experienced such high demand that, at first, the company struggled to manufacture enough of it. Noting that success and an overall dearth of treatment choices for dermatitis, Aratana ($PETX) formed a licensing agreement with U.K.-based Atopix Therapeutics in late 2014 to develop a drug for the itchy condition in dogs.

- here’s Nationwide’s press release