Author Archives: Hadley Rush

Top 10 resolutions for a healthier cat

A cat with pet health insurance is held by her owner.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Now that we’re a few weeks into the new year, in addition to making some healthy resolutions for yourself, you should consider making some for your cats! Aside from investing in pet health insurance for your kitty, here are some other ways you can help keep your cats happy and healthy through 2012 and beyond.

1. Examination/Wellness Visit
The importance of a yearly physical examination and preventative care for your cat cannot be overemphasized. Semiannual exams, especially for older cats, are even better. This is analogous to recommending an examination every two to three years for an adult human. Sensible, right? Cats age much more quickly than people do, and changes in pet health status may occur rapidly. Cats are also very good at hiding signs of their illness until it has greatly progressed. More frequent evaluation allows earlier identification of illness, improved quality of life, and reduces long-term costs related to your cat’s healthcare.

2. Dental Care
Dental disease is very common in cats, although owners are often not aware of it until their cat’s breath smells so bad that they can’t ignore it any longer. Dental disease can be very painful, and can threaten your cat’s health and welfare. Tooth brushing is extremely valuable in cats, and is best started during kittenhood when cats are most receptive. Tooth brushing can be encouraged with older cats, too, using positive interactions, rewards and patience! In addition to tooth brushing, a variety of dental products for homecare are available, including diets, treats, and chews.

3. Nutrition and Weight Management
Obesity is on the rise in our pet cats along with diabetes. It is far better and easier to prevent weight gain than it is to get an overweight cat to lose weight. Each cat’s food intake and feeding regimen needs to be individualized to sustain proper body and muscle condition scores. Your veterinarian can give you guidelines to help your flabby tabby drops pounds.

4. Behavior and Environmental Enrichment
Appropriate resources should be available throughout your home: food, water, litterboxes, scratching posts, hiding places, and elevated resting spots. The more cats in the household, the more resources that are needed. This will help eliminate undesirable behaviors like urine marking. Environmental enrichment is especially important for indoor cats. Physical and mental stimulation is necessary to prevent stress and illness associated with boredom and inactivity. See The Indoor Pet Initiative at for additional information.

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5. Retrovirus Testing
Retroviruses include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). It is important to know the status of these two fatal immunosuppressive diseases in your cats. FIV is primarily spread through cat bites, so it is especially important to have your cat tested about 2 months after receiving a bite in a cat fight.

6. Parasite Control
All cats, including indoor cats, are at risk for both internal parasites(roundworms, hookworms, heartworm) and external parasites (fleas) and should receive preventatives against these. Check with your veterinarian as to which parasites are prevalent in your area.

7. Vaccination
Keep your cats updated on their vaccinations to prevent illness. Vaccinations are no longer given as frequently as they were in the past due to increased knowledge about their duration of immunity. However, even if your cat is not due for vaccinations in a particular year, it is still necessary that he/she receives a physical examination. The exam is the most important part of the veterinary visit! Some pet insurance companies even offer an additional wellness plan to help with the cost of routine care, like vaccinations.

8. Identification/Microchip
It is a sad fact that many of the pet cats that get lost each year never make it back home because they are not wearing any form of identification. A microchip is a permanent identification that is easily placed under your cat’s skin near the shoulder blades. In addition, have your cat wear a collar and tags with current identification and contact information.

9. Recognize Signs of Illness
Cats are masters at hiding their illnesses, and early signs of sickness, stress and pain can be subtle and difficult to detect. Watch for vomiting, bad breath, lethargic behavior, difficulty urinating, changes in grooming habits, or changes in food consumption.

10. Pet Insurance and Financial Planning
Pet ownership requires responsibility! Budget in the cost of your cat’s daily care, and consider purchasing cat insurance for even greater peace of mind. Companies like Pets Best Insurance reimburse a flat percentage of the actual vet bill!

For more information about cat health and cat insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Indoor games to play with your pet

A dog with pet health insurance plays indoors with his owner.

By: Liam Crowe
Bark Busters CEO
Guest Blogger
For Pets Best Insurance

If the weather outside is still frightful and chilly where you are, you might be looking for ways to keep your dog or cat entertained inside. For those days that you miss your morning walk or just don’t feel like going outside, the following indoor games will help work out your pet both mentally and physically, which is good for overall pet health. And just like training him, playing games with your dog enhances your bond and helps keep him focused on you.

Change these games to reward your dog in the way he is best motivated: praise, belly rubs, favorite toys, balls to fetch, or treats. To keep your dog from gaining weight from too many snacks, use some of his mealtime kibble for the games. Make sure each session is short and fun! It’s better to stop any game before your dog gets overly excited or bored.

Name that Toy
Get a group of your dog’s toys that are noticeably different (for example, a stuffed goose, rabbit and bear). Hold a toy up for your dog to sniff and see, get him excited, and toss it, saying “Where’s your bear?” When he comes back with it, give him lots of praise, then do the same with the rabbit, then with the goose, etc. Repeat over and over, and be consistent with the names you choose. Once he has mastered a few, spread out multiple toys and tell him which to get.

Find it!
Put your dog in a sit/stay position and show him a toy or treat. Put it on the floor where he can see it, and say “Find it!” Make the next prize a bit more difficult to find by placing it under a table or behind a chair. For a bigger challenge, set up a whole room of hidden rewards. Watch as your dog searches, and tap your foot and give an “Oh” or gasp to help him find the ones he’s missed.

Where’s the Treat?
Start with 3 or 4 plastic cups or old, cleaned out butter tubs. Show your dog a treat or a favorite small toy. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay position about 10 feet away, and make sure he can see you as you place his reward under one of the makeshift buckets. Then say “Where’s the treat?” and encourage him to come smell the buckets. Praise him when he paws, sits beside, or barks next to the right bucket, and then lift it up so he can get to his prize! Make it harder for him by changing the order of the buckets after you place the reward, or pretending to put them under multiple buckets.

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Clean Up!
Teach your dog to clean up his toys after playtime. First, have your dog pick up a toy while you hold a box for the toys up to him. Tell him “drop it.” When he does, give him lots of praise. Repeat with the next toy. Once he starts to figure it out, put the toy box on the floor, guide your dog over to it, and repeat “drop it.” Be sure to use the same words each time for every command.

Work for your Dinner
Dogs use about the same amount of energy when they are challenged mentally as physically! Treat-rewarding puzzles, such as the Buster® Food Cube or the Wobbler by KONG®, make your dog work for his treats— you can even use kibble (instead of treats) and feed your dog his entire meal this way.

Remember that basic obedience is the foundation for having fun with your dog—games should be a fun and rewarding bonding experience, not a stressful time, for you and your dog.

For more information about pet health, behavior or pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Why everyone should microchip their pets

A dog with pet health insurance sits.
By: McKensee Shakespeare-Thomas
For Pets Best Insurance

Before I began working for a pet health insurance company, just over a year ago, my sister became one of the many unfortunate victims of the economy. Her husband lost his job and her child ended up with some very expensive medical issues; subsequently, they lost their home.

Although they were fortunate to find a family member to move in with, my sister was unable to take her two Shih Tzus to their new living situation.

Heartbroken, she posted them on Craigslist, hoping to find a new loving home. Shortly after, a “very nice” family came to visit the dogs and it seemed like a perfect fit. Feeling reassured by this familiy’s expressed commitment to the two dogs, my sister gave them away at no cost to the new owners.

Two weeks later as I was perusing Craigslist, I found a listing for two Shih Tzus with an asking price of $500. Upon further investigation, I realized the dogs were actually my sister’s and the “nice family” was actually making a profit by selling dogs they got for free. When I told her, my sister contacted the family and requested her dogs back so she could re-home them. They told her if she wanted them back, it would cost her $500.

Because the Nampa authorities wouldn’t intervene, my sister was unable to get them back and had no way of knowing what happened to her former dogs. Additionally, through outreach on Craigslist, we found out this was a habitual scam operated by the “nice family.” Eight other people contacted my sister indicating this very same family had done this to their pets as well– they were basically flipping the animals for cash.

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About two months later a stranger found the male Shih Tzu, Chester, in field emaciated and with multiple leg fractures. Thankfully they called the Humane Society. Because Chester had a microchip, my sister was contacted and ended up paying for the fracture repair and was able to re-homed him to an awesome family. But unfortunately, Bailey – the female was nowhere to be found, that is, until just recently (almost 12 months later!) Both animals were returned to my sister only because they had microchips.

Bailey is doing great, although sadly, my sister is still not in a position where she can keep her. But we’re just happy she’s safe and with a new family who loves her. I cannot reiterate the importance of having identification on your pets– whether it’s in the form of an ID tag or a microchip.

For more information of pet health and safety, or to learn more about pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

*Pets Best Insurance does not cover the cost of microchips.

January is National Train your Dog Month

A dog with pet health insurance learns how to do a trick.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has named January “National Train Your Dog” month. This is not only a great time to look into pet insurance for your best friend, but also to learn more about dog behavior and get started on a good positive training program for your pet. Trained pets are more enjoyable to live with and are a true asset to any family.

Training is a very important aspect of living with your dog. Like humans, dogs continually learn throughout their lives. Yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks, and need to have their minds challenged with learning new things. Older dogs love to learn new behaviors and learning keeps them healthy, by challenging them mentally and physically.

When you first bring home a puppy, even before you start researching pet health insurance, you will need to consider training. House training is one of the first things most people teach their dogs, but do you know a puppy can even learn basic behaviors such as, “come,” “sit” and “down” at a very young age? Puppies are little knowledge sponges that soak up information quickly– which is why you should start training as soon as possible. I have personally consulted with several breeders regarding how they train their puppies before they go to live with their new families. Breeders should get puppies started on crate training, house training and even behaviors like sit, down, come and learning their names as soon as possible.

The key to any good training program is to keep it fun and reinforcing for the dog. Make training a game and your dog so they will enjoy the training and learn faster. Don’t make training a chore, but rather a fun-filled, happy activity for you and your dog. Remember, through positive training programs, you will build a great relationship and a strong bond with your dog.

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The APDT has set up a special website to help pet owners gain a better understanding of how to train their pets using training methods that are kind, gentle and force free. Throughout the month there are free webinars, and training discussions, to help with your training questions. In addition, many trainers offer specials during the month of January to celebrate National Train Your Dog Month.

So whether you decide to take a class, hire a trainer for private training instruction or just train your dog independently, National Train Your Dog Month, is a great time to get started.

For more information about dog health and behavior, or pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Five ways to find a dog name you love

A puppy with pet insurance chews on a shoe.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Congratulations, you’ve just come home with a brand new dog! Before you even look into a pet insurance plan for him, you’ll have to find the perfect name.

For some reason, people seem to have more trouble coming up with boy dog names than they do girl names. In fact, the top five male dog names on almost any list are cute but pretty ordinary. Chances are you want something more original than “Max”. (No offense to those who love classic names!) Here’s how to get some inspiration.

1. Remember the moment you adopted him
Think about when and where you found your dog. Was the street name interesting? Whether he was from a breeder, a shelter or running loose– would any of the associated names be a good fit? How was the weather that day? Was it on a holiday? Questions like these can lead you to unique or funny names with personal meaning, like Cole, Sunny or Turkey.

2. Think of your favorite cities
If you’ve traveled and found places you really love, consider using one of those names for your dog. Some of our Facebook friends have named their dogs Holbrook, Cutler, Brooklyn, Aspen and Dallas, after cities they love. One friend named her dogs after rivers in Ireland. London, Phoenix and Hamilton would also make proud dog names.

3. Name him after another animal
Does your new pup behave like another type of animal? Maybe he hops, hides, or makes funny squeaky noises. If so, consider names like Bunny, Turtle, Bear, Birdie or even Kitty.

4. Go through your Facebook lists
If you like giving pets people names, Facebook can be a great resource. Where else can you find thousands of names in just a couple of clicks? You may not want to name your dog after someone you already know, so poke around friends-of-friend’s lists and see if you find anything you really like. I’ll admit I found my dog’s name that way. I asked a friend to read through her friends list and when I heard “Jayda”, it immediately made my short list.

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5. Honor your favorite famous person …or beverage
Think about your favorite movies, TV shows, sporting events or historical figures. You could name your dog after a funny character (stage name or real name), or after an athlete you find impressive. One Facebook friend named her cats Monet and Picasso, and another named her dog Stoli Vanilla. There’s even an adorable Aldo Ray, named after the American actor of the ‘50s – ‘80s.

Once you’ve chosen a name, think through your family members’ names and make sure none are too similar sounding – that could cause problems when training your new dog. And if the day comes when you’re having second thoughts, check out our blog with great tips on how to change your pet’s name.

After you’ve decided on something that fits your pet perfectly, be sure to sign him up for dog insurance.

For more information about pet health and behavior, or for more information about pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

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