Author Archives: Hadley Rush

Exercising with your pet

Posted by Pets Best on 2/16/2006 in General Articles

Pet ownership offers many rewards, one of which is participating in healthy physical fitness activities with your pet. One of the most common activities owners participate in with there pet is running and walking. Running or walking your pet is something your pet usually finds irresistible and provides exercise as well as further develops the human animal bond. Animals also benefit greatly from activities that stimulate their brain function even reducing problem behaviors. By spending quality time with your pet exercising and being involved in fulfilling activities can create a confident and well mannered canine.
…Running and walking with your pet dog is a great way to stimulate your dog with structured exercise…
Running and walking with your pet dog is a great way to stimulate your dog with structured exercise. It allows your dog the chance to get out of the house and get that much needed energy out of their system and provides an opportunity to manage you pet in a controlled fashion in a changing environment. Your pet must learn to travel at the owners pace as well as ignore outdoor distractions aiding to establish a good pet citizen. It provides your pet with an outlet for reserved energy as well as burns calories keeping you pet in good health. A proper weight is when the ribs are not visible but can easily be felt.
Stimulate your Pet
If you are unable to physically exercise alongside your pet there are plenty of other options. An average pet needs approximately thirty to forty minutes of a cardiovascular workout three or more times per week, depending on their size and fitness level. Also all pets needs daily mental stimulation, in which they feel there is a job to be accomplished and new behaviors to learn. One way to get your pet some of that much needed structured exercise is to teach your pet to retrieve. This is a low impact exercise for the owner but can be quite exhilarating for your pet. Also, you can practice working on teaching your pet to track items or people by scent. Again, low impact for the owner and is a great way to let your pet move around and stimulates the brain as well. Retrieving or tracking can also be handy when the weather is bad or if something unexpected happens to the owner limiting physical abilities. Don’t forget in addition to physical exercise pets need daily mental activities and challenges. Break up a boring pet routine by making dinner a scavenger hunt, hiding food in appropriate toys, purchasing interactive toys and scheduling monitored play dates. Pets can even be trained to be a service pet which can be especially rewarding for a disabled owner in which the pet can pick up items, open doors, and retrieve needed objects. Other options that allow a pet to obtain some much needed exercise can be sought by joining dog clubs, participating in agility classes, tracking classes or schutzhund training. These activities require regular attendance, a work out for the pet, mental challenges, and a social activity for you and your pet.
A Bored Dog
A canine companion that is not provided mental challenges and regular exercise is sure to become a problem pooch. Dogs can be extremely inventive when they are faced with boredom. Problem behaviors can be learned and established as a routine behavior when a pet has nothing else to do. Behaviors such as digging, chewing, barking, nipping, and jumping have a direct correlation with physical and mental stimulation. If your dog already has problem behaviors changing their routine and adding fun exercises can easily lessen those undesirable habits. Dogs are pack animals and need group activities with humans as well as other animals. In addition dogs were breed with a purpose that today is rarely needed. The canine still has a drive to exhibit that purpose whether it is herding sheep, killing vermin or accompanying a prison guard.
Take Precautions when Exercising Pets
There are many safety factors to consider when exercising with your pet. Always watch the temperature outside, if it is too hot your dog can easily become overheated and be headed to your local veterinarians office. Did you know dogs can’t sweat, making it harder for them to cool down? Black dogs have a tendency to dislike direct sunlight and arctic breeds can have a tough time not becoming overheated on a run on a summer day. An overheated pet can easily turn into a veterinary emergency and has taken the life of faithful friends in the past. It is also important to consider the environment you will be taking your pet into. Be aware of dangerous weeds, surfaces that are too hard on pet’s paws, fast cars, wildlife, etc. Additionally be cautious when roughhousing with a pet, most of the time rough play with people or other pets creates a pet that is extremely wound up, typically structured exercise such as a controlled leash walk is best and rough housing should be kept to a minimum. In addition you must take into account your pet’s fitness level and body condition, if your pet has a weight issue start out slow with just walking your pet for a short distance. Once your pet becomes fitter, losing unneeded weight and building muscle mass then increase the exercise level. Furthermore be cautious not to go overboard and create a stressed and anxious pet. Too tough of an exercise routine can be too harsh and too difficult of mental challenges can create frustration. Keep your pet active and having a good time at the appropriate level for that pet and make sure the pet continues to have fun and feel successful.
Always be a responsible pet owner when taking your pet to public locations. Keep your pet on a leash unless off leash trained, keep your pet off private property and always pick up any messes your pet makes. Any questions or concerns about exercising your pet should be directed to your local veterinarian and if you need help getting started with an exercise routine and daily challenges contact a local professional animal trainer. Animal trainers can also help extinguish those pesky problem behaviors.

Natural Disasters and Pets

Posted by Pets Best on 2/16/2006 in General Articles

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, fires and floods have a reputation for catching people unprepared, costing lots of money, destroying lives, plus injuring and even killing a huge number of companion pets. Too often pets are left behind in a home designated unsafe for any living being and must fend for themselves; unfortunately a vast majority are lost. Some pets are wiped out by the effects after a disaster strikes, some will slowly bleed to death from injuries sustained, some end up starving to death locked in a deserted home in an evacuated town and others will die from bad weather forced upon them.

The best thing a pet owning household can do to protect themselves and their pets is to be prepared. Don’t put disaster preparedness at the bottom of the “to do” list, make it urgent, any city anywhere at any moment can be struck with a deadly disaster. In order to accomplish this task the household needs to develop a plan that includes the pets. If an order to evacuate happens in your neighborhood where do you go? Do the work ahead of time, organize a list of pet friendly hotels, relatives or friends that will allow you and your pets to stay with them and plan pet friendly rest stops. Be prepared to travel quit a distance and plan to stay for an extended length of time, some people never return home after a natural disaster. Don’t plan to be able to hire a pet sitter or board the animals. Kennels that are safe will be full fast, if you leave your pet anywhere you may never be reunited and most kennels are not safe if they are in the path of the disaster. Remember if your home is not safe for you to stay in it during a natural disaster it is not safe for any animal. Also have disaster kits set up and accessible that contains first aid supplies, these may need to be grabbed at a moments notice.

A disaster kit needs to be kept in a location where it will be easy to snatch if you are in a hurry to vacate the property. Also it must be keep up to date if it is going to be safe to use therefore it should be checked and updated every two months. The kit should contain food, water, utensils, a can opener, pet dishes, extra means of identification for pets, photos, any medications, towels, plastic bags, extra leash and collar, flashlight and batteries, litter and box for felines, dish detergent, and a first aid kit. Food and water will need to be checked and possibly changed every two months to keep it fresh and safe to use. Also small animals need to have a kennel readily available and each small animal should have their own kennel, avoid placing two animals, even if friends, in the same kennel. Stress can cause animals behavior to change and being forced in close quarters could create an unneeded problem. In addition make sure all pets have a way to be identified if something happens to their owner or if they escape. Furthermore keep pets up to date on vaccines to help prevent disease transmission. Disease transmission always seems to be on the rise after a disaster attributed to many unvaccinated animals running loose and even breeding.

After the terror of Hurricane Katrina came through many issues came forth that involved pets who survived the disaster. During the evacuations in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana pets were not allowed to be housed in any shelters provided for humans. The consequence was many companions were left behind possibly as many as a quarter of a million left to fend for themselves. Fortunately more then six thousand have been rescued, but a great many survivors are still loose on the streets fending for themselves and multiplying. The reason for the growth on the streets and in the shelters was due to unaltered animals running loose. Shelters were seeing as many as seventy five animals come in daily and were finding a new age group, these were born a couple of months after the hurricane hit. Currently it is also a problem getting owned animals in the disaster area altered since owners are afraid to let their pet out of sight, worried they may not see them again. A concern with the growth of all these young animals is on the numbers of animals in the shelters and the spread of disease. These puppies may have been born without any antibodies to protect against preventable disease and there parents were exposed to horrible conditions including toxic water and heartworms. Heartworm has been found in a huge number of Katrina survivors and is expected to be spreading across the country as a result of rescued pets being adopted across the United States.

In addition to the health effects a natural disaster can have on animals there is a large amount of evidence that a traumatic event can affect an animal’s psychological well being. Evidence even suggests animals can experience post traumatic stress disorder. The psychological scars can run so deep that without rigorous training intervention the damage can drastically affect behavior especially when an animal stress level is increased. An event that reminds an animal of the stressful event may trigger undesirable behaviors even behaviors that are dangerous for the pet. Loud noises, thunder, heavy rain have been known to affect some pets that have survived natural disasters; some animals will act extremely strange and have even been known to jump out of closed windows trying to escape their fears. Signs of post traumatic stress include barking, crying, hiding, aggression, eliminating in an inappropriate location, and even pacing. These signs can show up right after living through a catastrophe while some animals will not show signs for weeks or even months after the disaster. Again the best thing you can do to protect any animals that you are responsible for is to keep them with you and when told to evacuate leave with the animals.

Natural disasters have been around as long as mankind, but with today’s modern society one would think with a warning loss of any living life could be kept to a minimum. Yet even as recent as Hurricane Katrina the loss of human and animal life was astonishing. Preparing your household for an unexpected catastrophe can greatly improve your odds for survival and by evacuating with your pets you can save their lives and minimize the danger created when mankind must try and rescue your pets after the disaster strikes.

Being a Veterinarian

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

I can think of nothing more rewarding, stimulating and at times as frustrating as being a veterinarian. As a youngster I knew early that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved biology, the logic of science, animals, critters (bugs) and nature, so becoming a veterinarian was my only option from which I never deviated. For me nothing was more rewarding than being skilled and knowledgeable enough to help animals and to perform sophisticated surgery or perform medical detective work to arrive at a diagnosis and heal a pet. I would have done it for free if I could, but alas I had a family and mortgage.

But, early in my practice career, I found out that far too many pet owners simply could not afford or would not pay for needed care for pets. As a new graduate I wanted to heal and treat pets, not simply vaccinate, treat symptoms or put pets to sleep if their medical condition was chronic, serious or expensive. I wanted to utilize ever more sophisticated diagnostics, when needed, to accurately treat a pet’s medical condition and perform surgery if, necessary to restore a pet’s health. But good medicine can be expensive and pet owners had to pay for that care from disposable income, which more often than not was not available or budgeted. Every veterinarian, early in their career, goes “overboard” treating pets for less than it cost, at times for free or making whatever payment arrangements they can to treat a treasured pet, rather than put it to sleep. But reality sets in when you realize that you are losing too much money with your generosity. Unfortunately, many people learn of your empathy and “prey” on it, seeking discounts and waiving of fees when they simply do not want to pay for a pet’s care. Giving away services does not allow a veterinarian to pay decent salaries, pay for their education debt or invest in the business if insufficient charging and discounting becomes the predominant way of doing business. Every veterinarian gives away services, but there must be a limit if they want to stay in business. I always knew there had to be better options.

So, the frustrating side of being a veterinarian is not being able to treat pets when they need treatment. Too often, people are either unwilling or lack the funds to provide for necessary care. Although my practice was in an affluent community, I found that many clients would ignore their pet’s health needs or put their pet to sleep (euthanasia) if a pet’s care cost more than they were prepared to pay. Putting pets to sleep when they can be healed is very frustrating and demoralizing to veterinarians, the veterinary staff and to pet families. But it was a hard and common fact then and even now it is a common negative alternative, when pet owners are not financially prepared for an accident or illness.

As pet owners, we are the stewards of our pets. Pets and domesticated animals depend wholly upon humans for their care and well being. Of course, if you are reading this, I know you are a good pet steward, and that you are committed to your pets care; otherwise you would never have even found me or our web site. Your affiliation with your pet springs from the fact that you have discovered the “human-animal bond”. That special feeling you have when you are with your pet. As a result of those feelings engendered in you by your pet, you are willing to provide for their needs. In future discussions, I will be sharing with you the many varied reasons why you and I feel the way we do about our pets and how pet interactions are mutually good for us, as well as good for our pets. There is an abundance of scientific evidence which demonstrates that the simple act of petting your pet improves your biochemistry and thus has positive effects on your emotions and even on your health. I hope my findings will help you express your feelings to skeptics, because they need to know about our “SECRET WEAPON” of pets.

We keep pets for a reason; in fact the canine and feline ancestors of our present day dogs and cats are thought to be the very first animals domesticated by man. Although we have kept dogs for maybe as long as 25,000 years and cats for 9,000 years, until recently we thought that we kept them for more rational or practical reasons, such as hunting, protection, herding, guarding and controlling rodents. To keep them for other reasons was either a sign of wealth or thought to be impractical. Keeping a household pet had to have a utilitarian reason, just like livestock or it was as sign of social stature to be able to afford and house an animal for strictly personal, non economic reasons. The societal norm was that animals had to have an economic value no greater than their replacement cost. Sadly, until a few decades ago that was the attitude and mind set of even the Universities that taught veterinarians. This attitude was due to the emphasis placed on domestic animals that spilled into the training of companion pet practice. The concept was that a pet was replaceable and as such, no one should ever spend too much on a pet, unless they were wealthy.

This attitude of an economic value was instilled in my generation, as it had been for hundreds of years because of the utilitarian value of pets being viewed similar to livestock. I did not want to be a large animal veterinarian for that reason; I wanted to use my training and skills to a higher degree than that of the simple economics of an animal’s worth. Somehow that view still seeped into my psychic. But that’s another story- more on how a small dog changed me at a later time.

When I was a young boy, my dog meant a lot to me, but to my parents, bringing her into the garage or my father’s workshop in the cold of winter was a big accommodation. Dogs and cats belonged outside and they ate leftovers. Commercial pet food was still a novelty. As I entered veterinary practice I noticed that people had moved their pets from the yard to the house.

And in a few short years I saw commercial pet food become the norm and then special pet food, formulated with higher cost ingredients Pets in the house fulltime then became the norm. Then in even a shorter time span I witnessed pets sleeping on the bed with their adult owners. I remember the few times, as a child I slipped my dog into bed with me, it was done so at the risk of punishment. Now my wife and I feel lost if we don’t have 3 or 4 of our dogs in bed with us, under the blankets! In fact, we are so forbearing when it regards our pets that will tolerate an awkward position, before we will disturb our pets. I had one pet, Spanky who took over my pillow by sleeping inside the pillow case. My wife found it incredulous that I would endure loosing my pillow. Now, I hear more and more of pet owners preparing gourmet home cooking for pets.

Did you know that expenditures for pets in the U.S. are higher than for toys and is growing at twice the rate as total consumer expenditures! Who would have imagined this level of spending and an attitude shift so swiftly in our society? What happened?

Was it simply that as a society we had become so affluent that we could afford to indulge our pets? If so why was spending for pets growing faster than our indulgence in toys for children? My bias towards a pet’s value changed later in my life, after my wife brought Spanky, a miniature pinscher into our household. And my attitude changed even more after a bout with cancer. Over those terrible months of treatment I witnessed the remarkable power of pets. I came to realize that a small dog could dramatically affect our lives. This experience caused me to look deeper into these changes in society and in myself. I will be sharing my extensive and compelling findings with you in future talks.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
Josh Billings

Pet Vet – Talks

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

As you can see from the photo of my wife and me with our dogs, we are indeed pet lovers, especially our dogs! We also have photos with our cats which I will be sharing, but on this particular day they made the collective decision of not cooperating, as only cats can, despite the fact that they interact and play with the dogs daily. It must have been my mood that day. In addition to our household family pets my wife also has miniature horses and a miniature donkey. Since early childhood I have had pets and critters. Everything from tarantulas, bats, fish, ants, pigeons, chickens, owls, birds, lizards and almost anything you can imagine, even a raccoon. I did not live on a farm, but a small town in southwest Oklahoma. Their care, housing and feeding were totally my responsibility. Today it is my dogs in particular that I am most fond. In fact Torrey my tea cup Chihuahua and Skeeter, my fourteen year old miniature pincher go to work with me most every day. It is rare to see me without them. They are my constant shadows. I love nature and its diversity and feel compelled to protect not only individual pets as a Veterinarian, but nature and ecosystems in general that provide for wild animals.

In my ensuing discussions of “Pet Vet -Talks” on the Pets Best Community web site I will share with you a host of diverse subjects about pets and how PETS ARE GOOD FOR US EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY. I will talk as a Veterinarian, a business owner, as a pet dad and as one who demands logic. I will share the logic I discover behind why we humans love our pets. And why some of us are “over the top” when it comes to pets. I will also bring you the perspective from one who has had a successful career as a no nonsense business person, a successful entrepreneur and as America’s first insurance executive for pets. Mostly I will share my journey of discovery on “Why we are so nuts about our pets,” a personal journey to understand myself and other pet owners. It will surprise you that the benefits of pet interaction is more than emotional, it did me. There is now scientific evidence that helps us better understand the relationship of humans and animals that can be demonstrated even to the pet skeptic. As you will hear from me many times, the relationship with animals is “Rooted in our Biology.”

I was asked to share all my many stories and experiences with others because of my diverse experience, credentials and my genuine love for animals. But as we journey along in the ensuing Pet Vet- Talks you will judge for yourself the value of taking your time to hear me out. I am human and like all complex humans have sides of me that you may not agree with at times, but, being direct, honest and constantly searching will not be one of my faults. Time is a precious gift and I will try not to waste yours.

Being the founder of Pet Insurance in the U.S. way back in 1980 and now starting, Pets Best in 2005, I will obviously have some insight that I will share with you about pet insurance. Providing pet owners with a reliable method to budget for a pet’s health and to always be able to accept needed care, without worrying about how to pay for that care has been my passion since 1979, when I first started exploring the concept of pet health insurance. After 24 years as the founding CEO of the first pet health insurance company and building it to over $100 million in annual sales I left in 2004 and soon realized I wanted to re-invent pet insurance to better address changing pet care and pet owner’s expectations of pet insurance. I developed the business plan for Pets Best and began a search for an Insurance Company to underwrite the plan. Fortuitously, after I moved to Idaho from California I met Greg McDonald and Dan Crandall, the Chairman and CEO, respectively of General Fire & Casualty Company. After several meetings and after reading my business plan, they asked me to join them. They were in the agribusiness of insurance and always wanted to provide pet insurance, but lacked the expertise. It was a perfect match that enabled me to do it over again and with their help and ideas improve upon the concept of pet insurance. I was able to utilize new ideas, apply what I had learned and of course benefit from my mistakes. It is very gratifying both personally and professionally to be able to take what one has learned and make it better. One thing about an inventor or an entrepreneur, you love the chance to do something again and hopefully better. With my zeal to help pets, Dan and Greg’s confidence and support, Pets Best insurance was born.

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