Top five health problems for dogs, cats, rabbits and horses

Responsible pet owners will do everything they can to ensure their four legged friends are healthy and happy. But illness and injury can develop in even the fittest and brightest of

Petplan logo on white

animals - and often it can't be prevented or foreseen. That’s when having a good pet insurance policy allows you to concentrate on what’s best for your pet, knowing help is there to cover the cost of any unexpected treatment. And when you take out a full policy with our friends at Petplan, the UK's favourite pet insurer, you'll be giving back to pets in need too.

To show just how important pet insurance is, Petplan has shared the five most common health problems in dogs, cats, rabbits and horses* among its 1.2 million customers in 2016.

Petplan dog


  1. Gastroenteritis – this is an irritation of the stomach and intestines that has several causes including inflammatory bowel disease, parasites, bacteria, viruses, allergies and eating inappropriate food such as table scraps.

  2. Skin allergies – typical allergens include food, dust mites, fleas, pollens, trees and grass, and this can develop into inflammatory, chronic skin disease. It is more common in dogs under the age of three, especially in Labradors, westies and beagles.

  3. Arthritis – a common ailment afflicting dogs, particularly those in old age. But early detection can limit the damage caused to joints, so know the signs

  4. Lumps and bumps – all dogs can develop lumps and bumps in layers of fat, skin and muscle and there are many causes, which will need to be determined by your vet. But often, lumps are generally harmless fatty tumours or lipomas.

  5. Cruciate ligament damage – the ligament is a tough band of tissue attaching the thigh bone and shin bone, and it’s common for it to slowly start to weaken in dogs.


Petplan cat


  1. Gastroenteritis – inflammatory bowel disease, parasites, bacteria, hairballs and eating inappropriate food or things like meat string can all cause stomach irritation.

  2. Hyperthyroidism – this disorder happens when the thyroid glands in the neck produce too much thyroid hormone, and can often be caused by non-cancerous tumours, although cancerous growths can also be to blame.

  3. Kidney disease - Cats are particularly prone to kidney damage and it has a variety of causes. Infections, cancers, exposure to toxins, and malfunction of the immune system may all be responsible for starting a slow process of damage, leading eventually to loss of function and kidney failure. 

  4. Cystitis – conditions that affect a cat’s bladder and urethra are collectively known as feline lower urinary tract disease, more commonly referred to as cystitis. Causes include stress, not urinating enough, infections and bladder stones or crystals.

  5. Diabetes – this is a complex disease in which the cat’s body doesn’t produce, or properly use insulin. The exact cause is not known and it can affect any cat, but older, male and obese cats are more prone to the condition.

Petplan rabbit


  1. Gut statis – also known as ileus, is a potentially fatal condition in which the normal contractions of the intestines either slow down or stop altogether, causing bacteria to build up, distension and pain. A lack of appetite, often caused by dental disease, can cause it.

  2. Eye disorders – a healthy rabbit has bright, shiny, moist eyes that glimmer in the light. Signs of eye disorders such as conjunctivitis and the pasteurella bacteria can include discharge, bulging around the eyeball and pupils of different sizes. Cataracts and ulcers are also a common eye complaint in rabbits.

  3. Lumps and bumps – abscesses are the most common cause of lumps and bumps in rabbits and are caused by pockets of infection. They can occur anywhere on a rabbit’s body but are most common around the jaws due to dental disease.

  4. Respiratory disease – there are many causes of respiratory problems, commonly called ‘snuffles’, which is characterised by runny eyes and noses, and sneezing. The two most common respiratory infections include bordetellosis and pasteurellosis.

  5. Ear disease – inflammation of the ear canal, known as otitis, is caused by a bacterial infection and can cause nausea and lack of appetite. It can also affect the rabbit’s nose and throat if the infection spreads. The most common cause is foreign bodies in the ear, mites, trauma or in rarer cases, a tumour.

Petplan horse


  1. Arthritis – osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a slowly developing disease causing the joint tissues to be inflamed and its cartilage to be worn down. Symptoms in horses include stiffness, swelling and heat on joints and lameness.

  2. Colic – this is the name given to abdominal pain in horses. It can range from a mild tummy ache to displacement or a twist in the intestine, which needs life-saving surgery.

  3. Gastric ulcers – these are small but often painful erosions in the stomach lining which can affect the appetite, coat, mood and experience in riding your horse.

  4. Laminitis – this is a painful and potentially crippling disease affecting the soft tissue in the hoof. It can be so severe and debilitating that it can stop a horse from standing altogether.

  5. Desmitis – this is inflammation of a ligament, usually in the limbs – commonly the suspensory ligament, the check ligament and the collateral ligament of the coffin joint.

In 2016 Petplan Equine paid more than £2.5 million in claims for the top five most common health problems in horses. Click here to get a quote from Petplan Equine.

At Blue Cross, we believe that pet insurance is an important part of being a responsible pet owner.

Many of the conditions in Petplan's research require ongoing vet treatment that can really add up over time. Petplan Covered For Life policies provide continuous cover for the rest of your pet's life, when you renew your policy each year with no break in cover. Click here to find out more. 

You'll get 10 per cent off when you buy Petplan pet insurance online. Plus, when you take out a Petplan policy through Blue Cross, Petplan give 10 per cent of your premium back to us and every year that you renew. 

Get a Petplan quote today!

*Research is based on Petplan's 2016 claims data.

Petplan is the trading name of Pet Plan Limited, which administers the cover, and Allianz Insurance plc, which provides and underwrites the cover. Blue Cross is an Appointed Representative of Pet Plan Limited and is not part of the Allianz (UK) Group. 


— Page last updated 21/08/2019

Did you find this helpful?

We provide free pet advice as every pet deserves to be well looked after. We treated around 35,000 sick injured and homeless pets last year. We're so glad we've been able to help these pets who are unable to help themselves, but there are thousands of sick and lonely pets still in need, so we need to ask for a small favour.

All of our work is funded entirely through donations. People like you are essential to our work. If everyone who benefits from our articles is able to give a little back, we can reach thousands more pets. For as little as £1 you can make a difference - do you have one minute? Thank you.