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12 Ailments Humans And Animals Share

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Humans aren't as different from the rest of the mammal world as we’d sometimes like to think. We’re not the only animals that get acne as youngsters, or suffer from allergies during the spring. Humans can even pass along some of their illnesses to their pets. Here are 12 familiar ailments that you might not know your pets can suffer from, too.

1. Acne

It turns out dogs, cats, and horses have their own skin struggles. In horses, the issue is most often caused by friction from saddles and harnesses, but it tends to strike short-haired dogs when they’re young and going through their awkward-teen phase, just like in humans. Cat pimples are a lifelong issue. The pores around a cat’s chin can become clogged with sebum, an oily substance that keeps the skin from drying out, resulting in blackheads, pimples, and overall inflammation. To prevent feline acne, vets recommend a pretty simple change: stop using plastic bowls, which can irritate cats’ skin. 

2. Hay Fever 

Dog and cat dander may be responsible your own sniffles, but your furry friends can also fall prey to allergies. Pollen and seeds can cause respiratory issues or skin problems such as redness and irritation in dogs and cats. You aren’t the only one suffering in spring. 

3. Asthma

Image Credit: Claire via Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Vets estimate that as many 800,000 American cats suffer from asthma. Cat owners can use inhalers similar to those used with babies to help their cats breathe more comfortably. Horses, too, can have an asthma-like condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that causes their airways to narrow. Though anti-inflammatory medications can be delivered orally, equine asthma can also be treated with awesome giant inhalers like this.  

4. Addison’s Disease

President John F. Kennedy may be the most famous human to suffer from this disease, which affects the adrenal glands. It can also strike dogs, and in rare cases, cats. Addison’s prevents the adrenal glands from producing the hormones necessary for bodily function. This can upset the body’s natural balance of electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, and cause weakness and irregular heartbeats. Because it affects the production of cortisol, the hormone released in response to stress, these symptoms worsen when the dog (or human) is stressed out. 

5. HIV

Up to 3 percent of U.S. cats are infected with feline immunodeficiency virus, the cat equivalent of HIV. The virus is largely spread through cats biting each other, and it causes a disease similar to AIDS. Some cats can go for years without showing symptoms after the initial infection, and the lifespans of FIV-infected cats seem to be similar to uninfected cats. 

6. Diabetes

A cat at risk for diabetes. Image Credit: Tripp via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Dogs and cats can become diabetic, and much like in their owners, pet diabetes rates are on the rise. The disease is more common in female dogs and male cats, and typically occurs in overweight, middle-aged animals. A 2012 survey estimated that more than half of dogs and cats are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for type 2 diabetes. Monkeys, too, can get diabetes from eating too much sugar, including from bananas

But not all animal diabetes is problematic. In 2010, researchers found that bottlenose dolphins have a condition that’s not unlike type 2 diabetes in humans—but they can turn it on and off, a feature scientists are studying in hopes that it will lead to better treatment for diabetic humans. 

7. Arthritis 

Elderly pets often fall prey to chronic arthritis, the swelling of joints. To give them some relief, some pet owners are turning to acupuncture for dogs and cats. Small animal acupuncture programs even cover acupuncture for birds.

8. Cavities 

Up to 60 percent of cats are affected by tooth resorption (sometimes called “cat cavities”) which erodes the tissue inside the tooth. Cavities are more common in cats, but can occur in dogs as well. 

9. Influenza

Some of the biggest flu scares of the last few years have come from animals, like avian flu and swine flu, and birds and pigs aren’t the only animals who can get it. Bats can get it too, although so far it seems bat flu can’t infect humans. Other animals have more to worry about from us than we do from them. Pets can get the flu from their owners, and may get it more often than you’d think. One study of cat blood samples in Ohio found that 30 percent of cats had been infected with the seasonal flu. 

10. Urinary Tract Infections

One of humanity’s most common infectious diseases also plagues much of the mammalian population. UTIs can infect koalas, horses, and rabbits, causing them to pee more often, and painfully. Dogs are more likely to get UTIs than cats, who rarely get them before the age of 10. 

11. Tuberculosis 

Image Credit: Peter Trimming via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Badgers and cows can get TB, and potentially spread it to humans. The first reported case of a person infected with the agent that causes tuberculosis in cattle dates back to 1902. And bovine TB is on the rise, putting humans at risk for contracting the disease through contaminated milk. In 2012, English cow farmers tried to institute a badger cull to stop the furry little predators from infecting their herds. The controversial measure was piloted in several regions of England in 2013. 

12. African Sleeping Sickness 

Sleeping sickness is transmitted by tsetse flies, which live in sub-Saharan Africa. Cattle and other livestock can be infected. Nagana, as the animal version of the disease is called, reduces fertility and milk production in cattle (not to mention its impact on mortality rates), and the World Health Organization calls it a major obstacle to economic development in affected areas. 

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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