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The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out – How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes

By: Irreverent Vet

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I have to admit – this is a peculiar question. The editors of PetPlace.com asked me to put some thoughts down about..."How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes?"

At first I thought – sure – no problem, this is an easy topic to write about.

Then I really thought about it. The more I thought about it – the more I realized that I was not certain of the answer. And...I wasn't sure of the definition of "natural causes". So I looked it up.

It appears that I'm not alone in being uncertain of the definition of "natural causes" as there is quite a lot written about the topic and not all of it is in agreement.

According to wickipedia.com, "In medicine, death by natural causes is a loosely-defined term used by coroners describing death when the cause of death was a naturally occurring disease process, or is not apparent given medical history or circumstances."

Based on this – if they cannot determine the cause of death they call it natural causes. Hummm....

This is what I believe "a pet dies of natural causes" means. Death by natural causes is the death of a pet that has lived a full life and dies of causes associated with a natural occurring disease. The majority (but not all) of deaths by natural causes occur in old age. However, a pet can have a genetic or congenital problems that also causes a "natural" death.

What is Not a Natural Cause

So...a pet killed by a gunshot is not a natural cause. A pet killed by being hit by a car is not a natural cause. Nor is a pet that dies from bite wounds.

What is a Natural Cause

A pet that dies of cancer is a natural cause. A 15-year-old cat that dies of kidney failure is a natural cause. A 10-year-old Great Dane that dies of heart disease – dies of natural cause.

The Confusion

How about a 2-year-old cat that acquires a preventable infectious disease and dies before its time? Is that natural? I'm not sure. Now I'm confused again. By definition – it is a natural cause. Even though the cat has not lived a full life, it is an infection –that is a natural disease that occurs.

How about euthanasia? That is not a natural cause of death. However it is often used to minimize the suffering time to a pet that is already dying of natural causes. In other cases – healthy dogs are put to sleep and euthanasia is speeding up a totally unnatural cause.

Is a young dog hit by a car a natural death? He didn't get to live a full life.

My Final Thoughts – How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes?

It appears that I'm doing everything except answering the question – "How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes"? First – I've been spending all my time trying to figure out WHAT natural causes mean.
I needed to figure out what "Natural Causes" are to come close to even giving you the answer.

Another factor that affects this answer is how the pet is cared for. Pets that are well cared for, vaccinated, fed a good diet will more likely die of natural causes over a pet that is allowed to run free and exposed to many unnatural dangers.

This care (or lack of) also affects a pet's life span. For example, outdoor only cats may have a life expectancy of less than 7 months. Indoor-outdoor cats have an average lifespan of approximately 3 to 7 years. Indoor only cats live longer, closer to 14 years.

A good owner that provides good pet care that includes nutrition, shelter and medical care help to prevent many unnatural causes of death. Many unnatural causes of death causing dogs and cats to die at a young age has to do with exposure to unnatural dangers such as toxins, gunshot wounds, being hit by a car, etc.

One consideration is what percentage of pets are "owned" or cared for in the United States? Based on the numbers of pets at the shelter and the percentage of owned pets, I would estimate that out of all pets – approximately less than 30% are given the opportunity to die from natural causes (the rest are euthanized in shelters or die traumatic deaths in the outdoors). Even pets owned by have owners that are not able or willing to treat treatable problems and elect euthanasia. An example of this would be a dog with a fractured leg that the owners are unwilling to treat and euthanize. There are also many pets given up to shelters for behavioral problems such as aggression or inappropriate urination and are then euthanized an unnatural death.
What are your thoughts? Email me.

Disclaimer

The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.


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