THREE OF THE top 10 reasons that dog owners took their pets in for medical care in 2012 involved skin issues, according to the pet-health insurance company VPI. While itching was the top reason why dogs saw the veterinarian, urinary-tract problems led the list for cats, followed by dental disease and hyperthyroidism. VPI's data are based on an analysis of almost a half-million cats and dogs covered by the insurance.

* Xylitol is a replacement for sugar in many gums, candies and other products meant for human consumption, but the substance can be lethal to pets. The Veterinary Information Network News Service reports that the makers of Stride gum required veterinarians inquiring about xylitol levels to sign a nondisclosure agreement before it released information, causing a delay in treatment. The change in policy brought the company in line with the rest of the industry. The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center has tracked xylitol poisoning in pets since 2007; in 2012 it logged more than 3,000 calls on products containing the sweetener.

- Dr. Marty Becker

and Gina Spadafori