Author Archives: Dr. Jack Stephens

5 Tips to Keep Your Dog from Digging

A dog digging in a yard By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency.

Far too many dogs put the “d” in dig. Understanding this canine motivation is the first step in protecting your prized roses, your herb garden and your lawn.  Here is the prime reason why behind this gotta-dig mentality: Thousands of years ago, dogs in the wild did not know where their next meal would come from, so after a kill, they would bury any uneaten food to hide it from scavengers. They returned to this “canine pantry” when they were hungry again. The dirt also helped to keep their food fresher longer by protecting it from sunlight.

Your 21st Century canine is just following that ancestral urge – doesn’t matter that you feed your dog every day. It’s hard to take that “must stash food for a hungry day” mentality out of your dog.

Another reason dogs dig is to burn off energy and relieve boredom. These are signs that your dog needs to be exercised more often – and more vigorously. Take long walks in the morning and evening and vary the routes.

You can’t take the “dig” out of the dog, but you can re-direct this innate desire and save a few petunias in the process. Here are five creative, compromising ways to tame your dig-minded dog and maintain a beautiful backyard:

1. Create a mini “doggyland” by devoting a portion of your backyard to your dog. Buy an inexpensive plastic kiddy pool, fill it with dirt and hide a few dog treats and toys for your dog to discover. Or put about one foot of water and create an instant doggy pool. Encourage your dog to bob for balls and replace the water each day to keep it fresh.

2. Treat your dog to his own made-in-the-shade spot in the backyard by taking an old picnic table, sawing the legs in half to make it lower in height. This gives your dog the option of lounging under the picnic table for shade or sitting on top for sun.

3. Stash your delicate flowers and herbs in hanging pots out of paw’s reach. Designate a small section in your backyard to grow greens like alfalfa, barley or wheatgrass if your dog likes to nibble on grass.

4. Spritz your garden with what seasoned gardeners refer to as “pepper pooch.” Mix two tablespoons of cayenne pepper and 6 drops of dishwashing soap in a gallon of water. Place this solution in a spray bottle and apply it to your plants. Schedule this spraying when your dog is not around. Wait at least 10 minutes for it to dry before you allow your dog in the backyard.

5. Fill in the holes where you dog has dug and place heavy rocks on top of these spots. Dogs usually prefer soft dirt to carry out their excavations.


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3 Tips to Select Safe Halloween Costumes for Your Dog

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency.A bullgog wearing a fairy costume

With Halloween approaching, more people are pairing up with their dogs to go trick-or-treating or attending costume parties.  According to a 2012 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, Americans spent a record $370 million on pet costumes in 2011.  Among the most popular costumes are dogs dressed up as ghosts, action or super heroes, witches, pumpkins, devils and bumblebees.

Some outgoing, confident dogs happily and effortlessly turn into clothes hounds for Halloween. They seem to love the attention they garner by sporting a Halloween costume. Other dogs who are more apprehensive and unsure do their best to communicate that they want no part of donning any clothing.

It is important to take the time to heed your dog’s body cues on wearing outfits. Nix the notion if you put a costume on your dog and he displays any of these signs:

  • Panting excessively
  • Pacing
  • Pawing at the costume
  • Sitting or lying down and refusing to move

If your dog does enjoy wearing hats, coats and other costume clothing on occasion, size up the costume properly. And heed these safety tips:Read More…

Breed Guide: Bengal

Bengal CatDr. Fiona is a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a dog insurance and cat insurance agency.

About the Bengal

Weight:  female 10-15 lb, male 10-22 lb

Points of conformation: Large cat with small head and short ears. Broad muzzle with pronounced whisker pads. Long limbs and thick tail.

Coat: Short, dense and soft coat.

Color: Usually tabby with marbled or spotted patterns.

Grooming needs: Low

Origin: USA

Behavior Traits: Athletic and outgoing and highly energetic.

Is a Bengal cat right for You?

The Bengal is a cross between the Asian Leopard cat and the Domestic Shorthair, originally bred by researchers to explore natural resistances to Feline Leukemia Virus.  The early breeds were not easy to tame, but have been selected progressively for their temperament.  They tend to be dog-like and will fetch and tolerate being walked on a leash.  They are considered a very vocal cat and can have an unusual meow.

Common Illnesses, Medical Conditions and Accidents for the Bengal

According to the number of cat insurance claims Pets Best receives

Medical Issue  Average Claim Amount  Most Expensive Claim 
Oral Resorptive Lesion $528 $923
Ear Infection $145 $232
Diarrhea $223 $571
Enteritis $338 $1,066
Gastritis $520 $1,567


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5 Ways to Deal with a Demanding Cat

a kitten lays  on a laptopBy Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency. 

Does your cat nearly trip you with figure-eight maneuvers between your legs when you head for the kitchen? Does he sneak up on your desk and hover so closely that your elbow bumps him when you try to type on the computer keyboard? Or, worse, does he serenade you with loud meows at the foot of your bed an hour before your alarm clock is set to chime?

These irritating scenarios are just a few linked to demanding cats, felines who have clearly crossed the line of good manners. Animal behaviorists report that in the ranking of owner complaints about cats, demanding attention ranks third behind inappropriate urination and aggression toward another cat in the home.

Other examples of demanding behaviors include sitting on work papers or a book you are trying to read. And, leaping up on our lap the instant you sit down. Or pacing back and forth and vocalizing at you.

Why so demanding? Keep in mind that cats crave daily routines and some may vocalize when you’re an hour late to serve their meal or become irritated that you forgot to scoop their litter box.

And genetics also play a factor in the degree of demandingness displayed. In general, Siamese have reputations for being vocal and bossy. While breeds such as the Sphynx are noted for being clingy and wanting to spend every minute with their chosen person. It may be because they lack hair on their coats and need to be kept warm.

Medical conditions can also cause sudden insistent demands in a cat. If your mellow middle-aged cat suddenly starts conducting loud meow marathon sessions, he needs to be examined by a veterinarian. He could have hyperthyroidism, a glandular disease that causes the thyroid gland to produce excessive amounts of the hormone thryoxine, resulting in increased appetite, sudden weight loss and hyperactivity.  Or, your cat may yowl do to a painful injury or abscess.

Here are ways to tone down demanding behavior in your cat:

1. Don’t treat your cat as a small dog. Dogs usually respond appropriately when ushered into a closed bedroom or bathroom when annoying you or houseguests. Time outs do not work so well on cats. It doesn’t take much energy to meow for a long time. So, when you do usher your cat into a safe room, make it pleasant and engaging for your cat by providing a soft place to nap, food and water and a keep-busy toy. Also clip his claws so he won’t damage the doorframe by scratching.

2. Schedule daily play sessions with your cat – ideally 5- to 10-minute sessions in the morning and at night. Have him stalk and pursue a feather wand toy down the hall. Crinkle paper wads and toss them for him to chase and hunt.

3. Dine together. Some cats feel vulnerable when they lower their heads into food bowls to eat. They feel safer when they can eat their meals close to you while you eat your meal.

4. Practice the art of compromise. Position a cozy cat bed on your desk to stop your cat from standing between you and the computer monitor. For cats who dash into the kitchen each time you do, consider locating a towering cat tree near the kitchen to enable your cat to view your moves from a high secure perch. Be happy that your cat enjoys your company and wants to be with you.

5. Avoid engaging your cat in chatty conversations. The secret is to never answer a talkative cat when he meows. You unintentionally are encouraging him to continue the conversation louder and longer.

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3 Causes of Bloody Urine in Cats

A cat being examined by a vet.

By Dr. Tracy McFarland, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats. 

A frequent reason why a cat is brought to see me is blood-tinged urine. Often bloody urine is accompanied by my patient urinating outside the litter box, making the problem easier for the owner/guardian to identify. There are three common reasons for bloody urine, also known as hematuria.

1. Urinary Tract Infections

In older cats with decreased kidney function, blood-tinged urine can be a sign of a bacterial urinary tract infection. Young cats with healthy kidneys almost never have urinary tract infections because their urine is so concentrated that bacterial growth can’t occur. In older cats with more dilute urine, urinary tract infection can be limited to the bladder, or, in more serious cases may involve one or both kidneys. When a kidney infection is present, a cat will often demonstrate weight loss and a poor appetite. Visible blood in the urine is a sign that infection may have been present for a longer time, as an early, mild infection demonstrates the presence of red blood cells only when urine is looked at microscopically. Other signs of urinary tract infection include increased thirst, increased frequency of urination and straining to urinate.

In advanced cases of kidney infection, the owner/guardian may tell me, “My cat hangs his head over the water dish, but won’t drink very much.” Fortunately, bacterial urinary tract infections can usually be cleared with appropriate antibiotic therapy. In cases of kidney infection, antibiotics will need to be administered for at least four to six weeks.

2. Crystals in Urine

In younger cats, a reasonably common cause of bloody urine is the presence of crystals in urine (crystalluria), which when left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to blockage of the urethra in some male cats. Because they can’t urinate through a blocked urethra, this creates a medical emergency, rapidly leading to kidney failure, and even death within 48 to 72 hours. In female cats and some male cats, mineral crystals in the urine (normally, either calcium oxalate or struvite) can lead to the formation of stones, but not urethral blockage. These stones can be found in the kidneys,ureters (the connecting tubes between the kidneys and the bladder) or in the bladder. Not only do stones cause blood in urine, they can also cause chronic or recurrent urinary tract infection. If a stone blocks a ureter, loss of the kidney “upstream” can result. Fortunately, ureteral stones are relatively rare. Crystalluria and stones are managed by special diets and in the case of calcium oxalate stones, surgery to remove the stones, as they cannot be dissolved by struvite dissolving diets.

3. Interstitial Cystitis

The third and most common reason for bloody urine is interstitial cystitis. We are just starting to understand this complex and often frustrating disease, which appears to be the most common cause of recurrent blood in a cat’s urine. In addition to blood tinged urine, increased frequency of urination and straining to urinate may also be seen. This disease is diagnosed by excluding crystalluria, urinary tract stones, and urinary tract infection via analysis of urine, urine culture and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) or ultrasound. It is managed by diet modification, increasing canned food to increase the cat’s hydration and thereby decrease the concentration of his urine.

When clinical signs arise, pain medication is important and more recently, it has been demonstrated that environmental enrichment (more toys, cat perches, less stress) can help reduce the frequency of episodes of painful and bloody urination caused by interstitial cystitis.

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