By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance
I was recently approached by a veterinarian who expressed concern with a mutual client. The vet saw the client’s dog a few days prior and was astounded by the pet’s recent weight gain. The dog, which should have weighed around 35 pounds, had exploded to a whopping 45 pounds and had elevated kidney values. Considering how unusual the rapid weight gain was, I determined this would be a great post for the pet health insurance enthusiasts and animal lovers out there.
The veterinarian discovered that the client had recently been using chicken breast and roast beef as training treats.
The vet expressed concern about the weight gain and suggested the client use Cheerios instead—to which the client responded, “My trainer said Cheerios were not a high enough reinforcer to reward the dog for learning.”
I often recommend a “high value” reinforcer when training difficult behaviors—which simply means using a treat that a dog goes nuts for! But once the dog knows the behavior, a “lower value” treat can be used. Eventually the dog can be weaned off treats altogether.
While Cheerios may not be as enticing as say, a piece of prime rib, Cheerios are still a valuable treat option. I often tell my clients to fill a jar with the cereal and add a piece of dried salmon. After awhile, the Cheerios will take on the scent and flavor of the salmon, making them even more appealing to the dog.
The above situation caused me think more about proper treats and the many options available. When selecting a good treat, I always focus on finding treats that are healthy, yet reinforcing to the dog. I try to avoid treats that are loaded with unhealthy ingredients and chemicals. One popular treat on the market contains BHA and BHT which are preservatives that can accumulate in the body. Not a choice I want for my dogs, especially when there are many safer options for treats.
Many of my clients are surprised when they see the types of treats I carry in my training bag. My new favorites are dried fruits and vegetables. Most dogs I encounter love bananas, dried pineapple, apples, dried cranberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans and blueberries. When selecting dried fruits, you want to make sure there are no preservatives or added sugar. Also stay away from raisins/grapes—as they can be fatal to dogs if ingested.
There are several companies making wonderful, all natural dog treats from fruits and vegetables. A couple of my favorites are Bite O’ Blue, a combination of blueberries and applesauce made into chewy bite size treats, and Vegatopia, which is a company that makes dog treats from sweet potatoes, bananas, apples and carrots.
In addition to the above treats, I also recommend several other commercial dog treats; Wellness Pure Rewards, Charlee Bear Treats, Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuits and Cloud Star, just to name a few. These are all healthy treats that are just the right size for training. Remember that your dog just needs a taste, so keep the treats small.
Certain foods can be dangerous to your dogs. As mentioned above, never give your dog grapes or raisins. Other foods that can harm your dog include: onions, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and macadamia nuts. Before going through your fridge to find new treat ideas, you should consult with your vet to make sure your treat choices are safe for dogs. Because accidental ingestion can occur even under the watch of the most wary pet owners, pet health insurance is something that should be considered.
By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance
Many people enjoy good sushi, which is, of course, prepared safely and is eaten with little risk. But when Fido is scouting the banks of the river on your next camping or fishing trip for raw versions of his or her own ‘sushi,’ you might be wary, even if you have dog insurance. Some raw fish found in the Pacific Northwest can lead to Salmon Poisoning, an acute and often fatal disease if left untreated.
It is a very regional disease for a very interesting reason. The disease can only happen in areas that have a specific type of small snail called Oxytrema plicifer. The Pacific Northwest, including northern California, Oregon, Washington and southern Vancouver Island in Canada have this particular type of snail. So what do snails have to do with Salmon? Here is the tricky-to-follow life-cycle that can culminate with Salmon Poisoning:
The snail has to become infected with a type of parasite called a fluke. The fluke has to be infected with a type of Neorickettsial bacteria. The larval stage of the fluke containing the bacteria can penetrate the skin of the fish, who are not affected by this and don’t become sick. The fish has to be a salmon, steelhead or trout. The dog then has to eat the raw fish, therefore ingesting the parasitic fluke with the harmful bacteria.
Generally about one week after eating the infected fish, the dog will become sick, developing diarrhea in which the parasitic fluke egg is released in the feces, contaminating the ground where snails can pick it up and the cycle repeats itself. Did you follow??
Dogs with this condition generally have a high fever, sometimes over 104 to 105 degrees, and horrible watery, bloody diarrhea. About two thirds of patients will have swollen lymph nodes as well. The bacteria released by the fluke can spread to the liver, lungs, brain, and lymphoid tissues causing damage.
Definitive diagnosis is made by finding the eggs of the fluke parasite in the dog’s feces, even though it is not truly the fluke that is causing the illness. A cytology of the lymph nodes can sometimes provide clues to this diagnosis as well. Of course, a history of access to raw fish in the past week is also helpful. Your veterinarian will likely want to run blood work to determine the extent of damage done to organs and the vast majority of patients will need to be hospitalized in order to prevent dehydration and in order to adequately treat. Pet health insurance will undoubtedly be beneficial in order to ensure the pet has the best care possible and treatment doesn’t become a financial strain for the owner. Unless treated, dogs can succumb to infection within 7-10 days.
This illness can mimic parvoviral enteritis, which is typically vaccinated for, but a test to rule this out might be indicated.
Treatment can be costly, which is why dog insurance can be so beneficial. Depending on the severity of the illness the pet may need hospitalization, fluid support, antibiotics (to kill the Neorickettsial bacteria) and anti-parasiticides (to kill the fluke parasite). Once infected and recovered, dogs generally build a strong immunity to this disease.
In order to prevent this potentially fatal disease, Dogs should not be permitted to ingest raw salmon or similar fish as well as smoked raw salmon.
The Neorickettsial bacteria is not zoonotic, meaning people cannot contract this disease, nor does it cause any illness to other domestic species, including the cat.
So next time you’re chowing down on crunchy salmon sushi rolls, be sure not to share the treat with your pup.
For Pets Best Insurance
Pets Best Insurance President and Founder, Dr. Jack Stephens, has been named one of the top 5 most famous veterinarians in the world for his role in the pet health insurance industry.
Dr. Stephens, a former practicing veterinarian who founded the concept of and implemented pet health insurance in the US in the early 1980’s, has been listed as one of the most influential and famous veterinarians by popular website, www.Ranker.com.
The pop culture site, Ranker.com, ranks thousands of varying topics— including everything from the most important leaders in world history, to the best theme parks for roller coaster junkies.
The honor of the top 5 most famous veterinarian listing was ironically unveiled the very month Dr. Stephens founded pet health insurance 29 years ago—which is also revered by many in the profession as National Pet Insurance Month.
Dr. Stephens said he is honored to be named among some of the most influential veterinarians given his hand in pet insurance, but reminds that there were many who paved the way in the vet industry before him.
“There are many other vets who have come up with great discoveries, created new surgeries and found vaccines that once devastated livestock,” Stephens said. “To even be considered for this, given my role, renders me speechless. I am sincerely honored.”
Pet expert Dr. Jack Stephens, founded the US pet insurance industry after he had to euthanize a dog because the owner couldn’t afford treatment. A few weeks later, Dr. Stephens ran into his former client and her child at the supermarket. When the mother asked the little girl if she remember Dr. Stephens, the little girl looked up and responded, “Yes, he killed my dog.”
It was at this very point in time, Dr. Stephens determined he wanted to end “economic euthanasia” and founded the first pet insurance company in the US shortly thereafter. In 2005, Dr. Stephens decided to take what he had learned in the industry and used it to form Pets Best Insurance, where he currently serves as president and founder.
Dr. Stephens is a pet enthusiast who shares his home with his wife Vicki and their multiple pets. Jack’s driving passion to increase the quality of care for pets and his background in the veterinary industry fortify him as the guru and expert on pet insurance that other industry professionals turn to.
Learn more about pet insurance.
By: Dr. Jane Matheys
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance
Pet owners are spending more on health care for their furry friends than ever before. It’s estimated that Americans will spend $12.2 billion on veterinary care this year, up from $11 billion last year and $8.2 billion in 2006.
There have been major advancements in the sophistication and cost of veterinary medical and surgical services. Procedures once reserved for humans, such as ultrasound, chemotherapy and blood transfusions, have become increasingly available in the care of pets. Along with these advancements have come specialists, including veterinary neurologists, cardiologists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and dentists.
As a result, vet bills of $1000 or more are becoming commonplace. I strongly suggest that all pet owners assess their financial situation, and consider the ability to meet unexpected expenses that may be incurred for veterinary care. For many people, pet health insurance is becoming an increasingly attractive option.
The good thing about pet health insurance is that it can prevent owners from being faced with having to euthanize their animal because they don’t have the money to treat it. Insured pets receive more care since the insurance is paying the majority of the cost. Pet owners respond to symptoms much faster when the pet is insured, providing the veterinarian with a better opportunity to diagnose and treat an illness earlier.
Many people feel that pets are like their children. They’re an important member of the family, and owners want the best treatment possible when the need arises. Pet health insurance provides the financial help needed to afford excellent medical and surgical care.
One misconception about pet insurance is that it’s the same as human health insurance. Unlike human insurance, dog and cat insurance is primarily a reimbursement type insurance policy. Pet owners are expected to pay their bills at the time of service, in accordance with the clinic’s usual billing practices. The client files a claim with the insurance company which then reimburses the policyholder according to the terms of the policy.
Since the pet insurance company reimburses you, the veterinarian really has no involvement in the insurance. The advantage here is that you can select the veterinarian you want. The pet health insurance company does not dictate which provider the pet owner may use. They also don’t dictate what treatment the veterinarian and owner may select nor do they dictate how much the veterinarian may charge for services. The contract is between the pet owner and the insurance company. The veterinarian is not a party to the contract, as opposed to M.D.s who are in managed care human health insurance.
Improvements in pet health insurance over the past ten years have made it more worthwhile than ever. There are more companies offering the service and more policy options available, so you have a better chance of finding a policy that covers what’s important to you and your pet at a price you can afford. There has been a recent move to make insurance plans simpler, more comprehensive and easier to understand.
Before purchasing pet health insurance, be sure you understand what the policy covers. Some policies cover some preventative care such as vaccinations, but there may be additional cost for this coverage. It is important to understand the exclusions. All pet insurance companies exclude pre-existing conditions and some exclude hereditary conditions. Some may exclude certain conditions unique to certain breeds. Almost all policies have a deductible and a co-payment requirement. Be sure you understand how expenses will be reimbursed. Speak with your veterinarian or someone on the clinic staff. While veterinarians do not sell insurance, chances are they have had experience with the policy you are considering and can provide helpful advice.
It is best to start pet health insurance while your pet is young and healthy and there are no pre-existing conditions. As a cat doctor, I see several common medical conditions that can be very expensive to diagnose and treat. These include urinary obstruction in male cats, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and many cat bite abscesses. Pet insurance can greatly increase my clients’ ability to move from asking “How much will this cost?” to saying “Please do what is best for my cat.”
My recent cat patient “Thai” was diagnosed with a bile duct obstruction and spent three days in the hospital for intense treatment. He turned the corner and did well, but needed to come back for several recheck appointments and additional bloodwork. Thai’s total bill was a little over $2,500. His owners have a policy with Pets Best Insurance, and ended up paying only about $500 after a low deductible. Thai’s owners were so grateful that cost was never a factor in making medical decisions for their beloved cat.
Dr. Jack Stephens, a former practicing veterinarian, founded the first U.S. pet insurance company back in 1982. After 25 years of experience in the industry, he decided to take what he had learned and use it to form Pets Best Insurance located in Boise, Idaho. The company is known for its straight 80% reimbursement after deductible policy, no annual limits or age restrictions, and simple, fast claims processing. They are determined to help stop “economic euthanasia” for pets. Compare their plans and get free quotes at www.petsbest.com.
Veterinary care can provide your pet with many years of a healthy and happy life, and managing the expense of veterinary care can be done through dog or cat insurance. The important advice is to think about it before the need arises, especially during pet health insurance month!
By: Dr. Jane Matheys
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance
Last time I wrote about getting your new kitten off to a good start with a proper home environment and plenty of socialization. This time we’ll take a look at how a new owner must take a proactive role in a kitten’s well being. Keeping a new kitten healthy isn’t just about vaccines, medicine and cat insurance. Here’s what else you need to consider:
The first veterinary visit should be scheduled very soon after you obtain your new kitten so that the doctor can perform a complete physical examination to make sure there aren’t any pet health problems. This is typically when the kitten is around 6 to 8 weeks of age. Of course, it is very important to keep the kitten separate from the resident pets until it gets a clean bill of health from the veterinarian.
Every new kitten should be tested for FeLV (feline leukemia) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus or feline “AIDS”) prior to introduction into the household. Many pet health insurance companies will even cover a portion of these costs with their wellness packages. These diseases can be transmitted to a kitten from its mother/father or from other cats that your new kitten may have been exposed to. Both of these diseases are fatal, so knowing the status of your kitten will help you manage its health and will also help protect other household or neighborhood cats in case he/she is infected with one of these diseases.
If your kitten does test positive, your veterinarian can give you advice on what to do and what to expect. The test for both of these viruses is a simple blood test which can be run in about 10 minutes.
Internal parasites or “worms” are also very common in kittens. Microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help to determine the presence of intestinal worms. Regardless of the results, however, I recommend using a deworming product that is effective against the most common worm types: roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. Roundworms are a human health risk that can be passed from kittens to humans through fecal-oral contamination, so good hygiene is a necessity, especially when young children are handling kittens.
The most common external parasites in kittens are fleas and ear mites. Fleas spend much of their time in the environment and only jump on the kitten to feed and lay eggs, so it important to kill fleas on your new kitten before they become established in your house. Stay away from store bought flea treatments since they are often not very effective and in many cases can be quite toxic. Always ask your veterinarian for advice on which products to use on your kitten. Ear mites are common in litters of kittens if their mother had ear mites. The most common signs of ear mite infection are a dry, dark ear discharge and scratching at the ears. Always have ear mites diagnosed by a veterinarian and never treat ear mites with an over the counter medication without consulting your veterinarian first.
Ringworm is actually a type of fungus that can affect both animals and humans. It generally occurs first on the feet, face, ears, and heads of kittens, but can appear anywhere. It typically presents as patchy areas of hair loss but can vary widely in appearance. Your veterinarian will be the best source of information on effective treatments and controlling it in your kitten’s environment.
After you have signed your kitten up for the best pet insurance plan for you, the next most important aspect to be addressed is which vaccines should be administered and how often. While a whole host of vaccines is available for cats, it is essential to plan a well thought-out vaccine regimen to optimize the benefits of vaccination while minimizing the risks. The age you start vaccinating your kitten will determine how many initial vaccines are required. Your kitten’s lifestyle (indoor or outdoor) will also determine which vaccines will be needed. This should be re-evaluated periodically throughout life. I follow the vaccine recommendations of the American Association of Feline Practitioners where the distemper/upper respiratory combination vaccine and the rabies vaccine are considered the two core vaccines for all cats.
The feline leukemia vaccination is recommended for all kittens because they are the most susceptible. Cat insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance even offer partial coverage for this vaccination with their wellness plan, so long as the kitten is at least 7 weeks old. Your cat’s lifestyle will determine whether this vaccine is continued as an adult. Most vaccines should begin around 6-8 weeks of age, but they can be started after that. The last vaccine in a kitten series should be given around or after 16 weeks of age when the immune system is considered fully mature.
Your kitten should be spayed or neutered sometime between 4 and 6 months of age. Be a responsible pet owner and do your part in helping to prevent 3 to 4 million needless deaths of healthy dogs and cats every year due to pet overpopulation. Spaying and neutering greatly reduces the chances of certain cancers and infections, and it also greatly reduces unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying and roaming and fighting in males.
Dental disease is very common in cats, and the importance of regular tooth-brushing cannot be overemphasized. Training your cat to accept tooth-brushing is best started when it’s young. My favorite video on how to brush your cat’s teeth can be found at www.felinevideos.vet.cornell.edu.
It is also the best time to start training your kitten to get used to nail trimming and brushing the coat. You can do “mini-physicals” to have your kitten used to being examined and gently restrained. Lightly touch and manipulate the ears and mouth to get him/her used to being handled in these areas should the need for medicating arise in the future. This will also help you to know what is “normal” for your cat, so that you’ll be better able to detect when anything is amiss. Early detection is always best.
As mentioned, this is a good time to check out pet insurance for your cat too. There are many plans available at a price that can fit your budget. It’s always best to start the insurance while your cat is young and healthy so that medical conditions that may arise as your cat matures will be covered.
Once the initial flurry of visits is over, a healthy cat should still visit the veterinarian at least once a year. Twice a year is even better since cats age so much more quickly than people do. Starting your kitten off right, and following the wellness program designed by your veterinarian can help ensure a long, happy life for your cat.