By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance
Feline asthma is a common, but poorly understood respiratory disease in cats. It is very similar to asthma in people, but cats pose an interesting challenge in terms or delivering medications to control this disease! Because of the difficult nature of treating this disease, it’s advised to research cat insurance early on.
It is thought that the cause of feline asthma is related to an allergic reaction to something inhaled. Successful therapy will often include attempting to determine what in the environment the cat is reacting to. Often this is difficult to do; possible allergens include dust, cigarette smoke, mildew and mold, pollen, cat litter, and possibly household chemicals.
Cats in city environments and in households with owners that smoke do seem to be at an increased risk for feline asthma. There is no conclusive proof, but it is thought that avoiding these allergenic triggers can help to control this condition.
This disease is characterized by inflammation of the lower respiratory system resulting in bronchoconstriction. When the bronchioles narrow, there is less room for airflow. Cats will compensate for this by increasing their respiratory rate. Thus, most cats I have seen with this condition have a rapid respiratory rate and cough, but every cat can show somewhat different symptoms.
Some cats will have a slight chronic cough or wheeze for years and never seem in distress. Other cats can have a seasonal component to their symptoms. Some will only acutely present in respiratory distress without any history of coughing. Because diagnosis and treatment can sometimes be expensive, it’s a good idea to have pet insurance for your cat. Purchasing this when your cat is still a kitten is a good idea. Left untreated, cats can suffer severe bronchiospasms, leading to asthma attacks and even death.
Cats can compensate for respiratory disease in amazing ways and subtle changes in breathing can actually indicate a serious problem. Any change in character or depth of breathing, or a resting respiration rate over 50 to 60 breaths a minutes is typically abnormal in a cat. Any cat that is breathing with its mouth open, like a panting dog, is also abnormal. Respiratory issues warrant immediate veterinary attention to treat and diagnose the underlying problem. Consider having cat insurance as a way to help keep your cat healthy!
There is no one reliable test that proves feline asthma is the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will need to perform several tests, likely blood work and chest radiographs in order to rule out other diseases that can also look this way. This is really important since other respiratory diseases mimicking asthma can be even more serious; such diseases include pneumonia, heartworm disease, lung cancer, heart failure and chronic bronchitis, just to name a few.
Initial treatment in an acute crisis will likely include steroids, bronchodilators and oxygen therapy. Hospitalization and veterinary medicine in general is expensive, and considering pet heath insurance is always a good idea to help with unexpected costs. Once a diagnosis is made, most cats can be managed on two types of medication, similarly to people. One medication is used for long term control (usually some type of steroid), the other medication (usually a bronchodilator) is needed for short term immediate relief during an ‘attack.’
Believe it or not, there are feline asthma inhalers available that can deliver medication directly to the lungs. They are shaped like a face mask and are placed over the nose and mouth. This isn’t always tolerated well by cats. In those that refuse this, oral or injectable medications are needed.
An asthma attack can be a scary thing to watch, and certainly always warrants medical attention, but the good news is that cats can live very comfortable lives as a well-controlled asthmatic.
Dr. Jane Matheys
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance
Oscar, a handsome 7-year-old male, black and white, short-haired cat was brought to our clinic because his owner thought he might have eaten embroidery thread. She had come home at the end of the day to find a trail of the string she left on the kitchen counter the day prior, wrapped around the legs of the counter bar stools. The next morning she noticed that he was listless, didn’t eat and had vomited clear fluid a couple of times. Unfortunately, Oscar’s owner didn’t have cat insurance. Sometimes pet owners assume that if their cats live indoors they will be safe from harm’s way. But cats can have numerous accidents and illensses, even if they are indoor cats– just like Oscar.
As I began the exam, Oscar was bright and alert with no evident belly pain. However, I could see a royal blue embroidery thread caught around the base of his tongue. Oscar was anesthetized later that afternoon. I re-examined his mouth and found that both free ends of the thread were already down his esophagus. I removed the thread from around the tongue base and gently tried to pull it. I was only able to move the thread about 2 inches before feeling resistance, so I had to stop to prevent any tissue damage.
The resistance indicated that the thread was already in the stomach and possibly even down into the intestines. I cut the thread as short as possible in hopes that it might be able to pass uneventfully.
Cats, especially young ones, love to play with long, thin objects like string, yarn, ribbon or thread. If ingested, though, these linear foreign bodies can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening problems.
It can cause the intestine to scrunch together, or plicate, just like if you were to pull a loose thread on the hem of a skirt or pant leg. In addition, very fine objects like thread can actually start to saw through the intestinal walls where they are all bunched together. This can cause holes in the intestines and bacteria can leak out into the abdomen potentially causing massive infection and maybe even death. As you can see, it’s because of accidents like these, that cat owners should consider purchasing pet insurance for their kitties.
X-rays of Oscar’s abdomen showed a suspicious area of intestines that I thought might be starting to plicate. He also seemed to be getting a little painful in his belly at this point too. He was stabilized overnight with fluids and pain medication, and after reassessment in the morning, I decided he needed surgery to remove the embroidery thread before it caused major damage.
Oscar was anesthetized for the second time, and I surgically opened up his abdomen. I cut into his stomach and found one end of the thread inside. I tried gently pulling it out from the intestine, but it wouldn’t budge. I made an incision into the beginning of the small intestine, grabbed the thread at that point, gently pulled it from the stomach and stabilized it. I then went back and stitched the stomach closed. My next incision was about 5 inches further down the intestine from the first incision. Again I grabbed the thread and gently pulled it free and went back and stitched the previous incision.
I continued in this step-by-step manner, making an incision, pulling the thread loose and closing the previous incision, until I was able to completely remove the entire amount of thread. There was a lot of it, and it had almost made it all the way down to the large intestine. Luckily for Oscar, none of it had cut through the intestine. I ended up making nine incisions into the intestines, plus the one into the stomach.
Oscar recovered like a real trooper. He was up and about the next day wanting to eat! He went home under close supervision and never looked back. That turned out to be quite an expensive skein of embroidery thread! The total bill was nearly $2,100. Pet health insurance would have made it a lot easier on my client’s pocketbook. Especially since 5 months earlier Oscar needed surgery to remove a bladder stone, and 2 months after eating the thread, he and his housemate devoured some chocolate and ended up at the emergency clinic to make sure it didn’t make them toxic. If you have an indoor (or an outdoor cat) be sure to research cat insurance. It just might help save your kitty’s life.
By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance
Working in the pet insurance industry, I tend to follow pet-related groups on Facebook. Some of the pages I follow include rescue groups where I see daily pleas for foster parents to come forward and help pets showing signs of “kennel stress.”
It’s true that most dogs would prefer not to stay in a strange kennel by themselves, although many do okay. But those who start suffering clear signs of stress need to be handled in a special way to ensure they’re happy, well-adjusted and adoptable when the right family comes looking for them.
Whether a dog was surrendered by its owners, found running the streets, or just boarded in a kennel while its owners are on vacation, the causes of kennel stress are pretty clear. All of a sudden, the pup is contained in a new area, eating different food, sleeping with different bedding, surrounded by unfamiliar animals and accompanied by unfamiliar humans. All these changes can really affect pet health.
Some top signs of kennel stress include:
• Shivering or shaking
• Tail chasing
• Bed chewing
• Refusal to eat
• Excessive barking and jumping
Fostering, which is also called domestic socializing, is often the best way to counter the effects of kennel stress. When that’s not an option, shelter and rescue workers can try:
• Playing soft music
• Going for individual walks with the affected dog
• Socializing the affected dog with other dogs
• Playing games and teaching tricks
If you’re boarding your dog while you’re on vacation, you can reduce kennel stress by doing the following:
• Visit your dog’s kennel before you leave town to make sure it’s run properly and it will be staffed at all hours by a knowledgeable staff.
• Ask to leave your dog for just a few hours a day first, to ensure he’s comfortable there before the big trip.
• When you drop off your dog, include his favorite food, treats, toy and bedding
• Include an unwashed blanket or shirt of your own for an added familiar scent
Of course, not all dogs respond the same to the above solutions and preventive measures, so it’s important to monitor progress and see what works for each pet. And if you have room in your pet-friendly home, consider becoming a foster parent. Your efforts could help keep pets healthy, happy and ready for their forever homes.
For more information about pet health, well-being and pet insurance, visit the Pets Best Insurance blog.
By: Dr. Jane Matheys
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance
Diabetes mellitus, otherwise known as just plain “diabetes,” is a serious disease in which a cat’s body either doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t properly use insulin. During digestion, the fats, carbohydrates and proteins that are consumed in the diet are broken down into smaller components that can be utilized by cells in the body. One component is glucose, or blood sugar, a fuel that provides the energy needed to sustain life. Because diabetes can be a very serious and very expensive condition, you should research the best pet insurance for your cat, and purchase a policy that will cover this condition.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and is responsible for regulating the flow of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. Without an adequate amount of insulin, glucose is unable to get into the cells and it accumulates in the blood. When insulin is deficient, the cells become starved for a source of energy. In response to this, the body starts breaking down stores of fat and protein to use as alternate energy sources. As a consequence, the cat eats more. Therefore, a cat can have weight loss despite an increased or ravenous appetite.
The body tries to eliminate the excess glucose in the blood by eliminating it in the urine. However, glucose attracts water, so urine glucose takes large quantities of the body’s fluids with it, resulting in a large amount of urine. To avoid dehydration, the cat will drink more water. Thus you will see a cat with diabetes exhibit four classical signs of the disease: weight loss, increased appetite, increased water consumption, and increased urination. When these symptoms present themselves, it’s important to get your cat to your veterinarian right away. Having cat insurance can help diminish sometimes high costs in diagnosing this condition.
Two types of diabetes mellitus have been discovered in cats. In Type I diabetes, the cat’s body generates little to no insulin due to an insufficient number of pancreatic cells capable of producing insulin. This is the most common type of feline diabetes and is also known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes. As the name implies, cats with this type require insulin injections to stabilize blood sugar. In Type II diabetes, the pancreas may produce insulin, but the body’s cells have difficulty making efficient use of it. This is called “insulin resistance.” Most cats with Type II diabetes eventually progress to Type I and require insulin also. During September’s Pet Health Insurance Month, watch for signs and symptoms of either form of diabetes in your kitty.
While diabetes can affect any cat, it most often occurs in older or obese animals. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get your cat signed up for pet health insurance while they are young– so issues, like diabetes, that develop later in life, will be covered. Unfortunately, since the incidence if obesity is rising in our pets, the incidence of diabetes is increasing also, similar to the trend seen in people. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. Obesity is the major predisposing condition, but chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases and certain medications, such as steroids, have all been linked to the disease.
In addition to increased thirst and urination and weight loss, some affected cats may also exhibit a flat-footed gait with their hind feet, rather than walking up on their paws. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy, and is a result of prolonged high blood glucose on the cat’s nerves. Most diabetic cats remain bright and alert. owever, if an owner has not recognized the signs of diabetes early, a condition called ketoacidosis can develop and the cat may become very ill if medical care is not sought. Cats in this situation may become depressed, weak and dehydrated. They may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and severe weight loss. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs of diabetes so the condition can be recognized and treated early.
In addition to performing physical examinations, veterinarians will use laboratory analyses of blood and urine samples to diagnose diabetes mellitus. Occasionally, frightened or stressed cats may also have a fairly high blood glucose level which can be confused with diabetes. A specialized test, called a fructosamine test, can distinguish between the two and can also be very helpful in understanding difficult cases.
Treating diabetes is usually a rewarding endeavor, and a diabetic cat can live many healthy years. All diabetic cats do best with consistent medication, consistent feeding, and a stable, stress-free lifestyle.
The first step in treatment is to alter your cat’s diet. Cats are obligate carnivores. hey have very little requirement for carbohydrates. Canned diets high in protein and low in carbohydrate are preferred because of how cats digest and metabolize their food. For some cats, this type of diet alone may control the disease. For many other cats, this diet may at least decrease the amount of insulin the cat needs to control the diabetes. It is important to keep this in mind so that your cat does not get too much insulin. If your cat is overweight, you will need to help him lose weight gradually. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best diet for your cat, and can tailor a safe weight loss program.
Most diabetic cats require insulin injections administered under the skin twice daily. Although many people are initially fearful of giving insulin injections, for most cats, injections are much easier than giving tablets, and both the cat and the owner handle it very well.
Several types of insulin are used in cats. Some are made for use in humans and obtained from regular pharmacies, while others are made for pets and obtained through your veterinarian. The current recommended insulin in cats is a human insulin called glargine. Recent studies indicate that newly diagnosed diabetic cats started on glargine insulin and a high protein/low carbohydrate canned diet have a higher likelihood of eventually going into remission and no longer requiring insulin. While some cats may return to insulin dependence in the future, they can have many months or even years when insulin is not required. Owners will be instructed by their veterinarian about the techniques to properly handle and administer insulin injections.
It is necessary to check your diabetic cat’s progress on a regular basis. Monitoring is a joint project between you and your veterinarian. At home, you’ll need to be constantly aware of your cat’s appetite, weight, water consumption and urine output. It is important to feed a consistent amount of food each day so you can be aware of days that your cat either does not eat or is unusually hungry after feeding. Any significant change in your cat’s food intake, weight, water intake or urine output is an indicator that the diabetes is not well controlled, and you should contact your veterinarian.
Your cat’s blood glucose levels will also need to be monitored periodically to make sure the diabetes is regulated. This can be done at the veterinary clinic or you can be taught to do it at home by getting a tiny blood sample from your cat’s ear vein. The glucose readings obtained at home will be more accurate because of the reduced stress to your cat.
The most serious complication of insulin therapy is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, usually at the peak of insulin activity. The cat will become weak, lethargic and disoriented and may stagger on its feet. Left untreated, this situation may progress to seizures and, in rare cases, even death. If mild signs are observed, feed the cat immediately or give 1 tablespoon of Karo syrup by mouth and consult your veterinarian. If severe symptoms occur, rub Karo syrup onto the cat’s gums and seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Never put food or liquid down the throat of an unconscious or seizuring cat, as it may accidentally enter the airways.
Beyond the monetary cost of diagnosing, stabilizing, treating and maintaining a diabetic cat, with the help of cat insurance, there is a time commitment required of owners. Such a commitment may seem daunting at first, but it can be very rewarding for both owner and cat. It will add to the quality of life and is paid back in years of healthy companionship.
By: Pam Lind
For Pets Best Insurance
As a volunteer at the local animal shelter, I see lots of dog and cat adoptions. Some are successful and result in the “forever family” that we so desperately want for our four-legged residents; however, some are not successful and result in the animal being returned to the shelter.
Typically, returns are due to poor choices on the adopter’s part and are not the animal’s fault. When you adopt a pet, you take responsibility for that animal for its lifetime; therefore, it’s hard to understand why some people don’t put a little more thought into choosing a pet.
Most of my pets have been rescues one way or another and each has added such joy to my life. Over time, I’ve picked up some helpful tips from my volunteer work and from my own animals which can help ensure successful adoption of a rescued pet.
Do your Homework
Homework includes, but is not limited to, determining if you can afford the cost of caring for the animal over its lifetime, deciding what type of animal interests you and is best suited for your lifestyle, getting your home ready for the new addition, and given the cost of veterinary care, you may also wish to research pet insurance policies. If you can’t afford the cost of caring for a pet, don’t get one. You will not be doing you or the animal any favors.
Although shelters may occasionally receive purebred animals, most of the animals are a mix of other breeds. Shelters do their best to determine the breed mix of an animal; however, it’s not an exact science. Don’t adopt a dog identified as a Labrador mix and then get upset later because you find the dog is exhibiting characteristics associated with another breed. That’s exactly why the animals are identified as MIXES.
Keep an Open Mind
You may have a certain type of dog (or cat) in mind, but once you get to the shelter, you may find another animal which will fit with your family much better than your dream pet. Keep in mind some shelter animals bear physical or emotional issues which will need to be addressed. This “baggage” doesn’t necessarily render an animal unadoptable, it just means he requires extra love and care. Don’t let an animal’s special needs stop you from considering this animal for adoption. As long as you are willing to commit to the extra love, time, effort & expenses that a special needs animal requires, then go for it!
I adopted a paraplegic kitten, Smooches, who is paralyzed in his back legs. I did not know exactly what was wrong with him at the time, but I’ve never regretted bringing him home despite the extra care he requires. Smooches is 10-years-old now and so full of life. He still manages to climb and get around the house thanks to his tremendous upper body strength and a ramp that I built for him. I love that cat like no other because he is SO special. And it is because I love him so much and want him to stay healthy, that I recently obtained cat insurance for him, even though his preexisting conditions will not be covered under the policy.
Be Patient and Expect the Unexpected
Animals, like people, take time to get used to their new surroundings. Each animal will adjust to his new home at a different rate. Their personalities will also have a chance to fully develop so you may see new behaviors that weren’t observed at the shelter. My cat, Megan, who I adopted two months ago, adjusted to her new home almost immediately; however, after a few weeks, we noticed she was getting a bit rough with Smooches. We knew she just wanted to play with him, but his disability makes it difficult for him to play normally. We solved the problem by adopting Ruthie a few weeks ago. Ruthie didn’t adjust to her new home so quickly, hiding under my bed for the first few days and coming out only occasionally. By day 3, she started socializing a bit more and now at the end of week 3 she is practically best friends with Megan, engaging in playful wrestling and mutual bathing.
I can’t stress this enough. Love them. You made the effort to bring this precious dog or cat into your family — so love them. It’s a fact that caring for a pet helps us live longer by reducing our stress levels — so love them. It’s not enough to just provide food, shelter and pet health insurance — you have to love them. It’s not enough to just keep them healthy, with or without pet insurance — you have to love them. They give us unconditional love. Don’t they deserve the same?