By: Chryssa Rich
Pets Best Insurance Marketing Associate
On the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page, we recently asked pet owners to share the most bizarre pet health advice they’ve ever heard.
Today, we’re taking some of those responses and busting the myths for good.
MYTH: Pour motor oil on a dog to cure mange or kill lice.
BUSTED: Never pour motor oil on a pet. Aside from being messy, it’s highly flammable, dangerous to work with and could make you and your pet extremely sick. If your pet is suffering from mange or a lice infestation, a quick trip to the vet will get you safe, effective treatment and ensure proper pet health.
MYTH: If your dog has an accident in the house, you should rub his nose in it while scolding him.
BUSTED: Dogs have short memories, and unless you catch them in the act, scolding about going potty will only lead to confusion and fear – your dog will become afraid to go to the bathroom in your presence. If there’s an indoor accident you don’t catch while it’s happening, let it go and remember to praise heavily when you dog goes potty outside. If you do catch him in the act, say “No!” Then take him outside and praise him for going in the right place.
MYTH: To keep your cat calm when traveling, transport her in a pillowcase.
BUSTED: Never transport a cat in a pillowcase. Movement is restricted and could lead to injury, especially if the cat panics. The fabric could also restrict airflow and cause a severe cat health care issue. When kitty needs to come along for the ride, use a pet carrier that’s the right size – she should be able to stand up and turn around in it – and add a favorite toy or blanket to comfort her. If you’re traveling by plane, be sure you buy an airline-approved carrier. The style will vary depending on the size of your pet and whether she’ll ride in the cabin with you or in cargo with larger pets.
MYTH: To remove a tick from a dog, hold a lit match to it.
BUSTED: Never hold a lit match near your pet, as this could be extremely detrimental to pet health. To remove a tick, light a match, blow it out, and hold the hot matchstick it to the tick’s belly. The heat will cause it to pull out of the pet. Good old-fashioned tweezers work as well, so long as you grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and apply steady pressure to ensure you do not leave the tick’s head behind. If tick removal makes you uncomfortable or you think your pet might need treatment for an allergic reaction, take him or her to your vet for recommendations and safe treatments.
When it comes to pet health care advice, use your best judgment. If something sounds like a bad idea, it probably is. Do your own research and see your vet for the best answers to your dog and pet health questions.
By Dr. Jack Stephens, DVM
Pets Best Insurance President
Pets are dependent on their human counterparts and need routine and wellness care to ensure optimum pet health.
Unlike humans, pets cannot talk or communicate when they have an ache, pain or illness. Instead, they might let out the occasional whimper or simply remain quiet, which is why regular exams are so important.
A thorough pet health wellness exam should be all-encompassing and include equal part examination, vaccination, preventative measures, and testing. The exact health protocol for your pet will vary depending on the pet’s breed, age and current health.
During a physical exam, your veterinarian and their technicians will check for a host of things, such as irregularities in the heart, lungs, eyes, ears and throat. They will also check for lumps and bumps, feel the abdomen for abnormalities, take your pet’s temperature, evaluate your pet’s weight and inspect their mouth for tartar and oral growths.
Lymph nodes and joints will also be examined, and finally, mucus membranes will be checked for abnormalities which can indicate internal organ disease or anemia.
Part of the pet health exam should also include the pet’s health history. Let your veterinarian know if there have been any changes in behavior, appetite, or if the animal has been vomiting. If your pet has insatiable thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, lethargy or depression you should take him or her to the doctor as soon as possible.
Another important part of pet health is vaccination. Vaccines are administered to prevent contagious diseases, which can cause epidemics like distemper, rabies and parvovirus. Young pets that have undeveloped immune systems often require a series of vaccines which are spaced-out several weeks apart to provide temporary protection until their immune system matures.
Some vaccines require at least two inoculations to develop a lasting immunity, while others, such as rabies, provide immunity for several years. Your veterinarian will discuss which vaccines are the best options for your pet. In some circumstances, like when boarding a pet, additional vaccines may be necessary due to the likelihood of disease exposure.
Any good pet health care program should also provide screening tests which helps to identify medical conditions that are present whether or not symptoms have manifested.
An early diagnosis or abnormal finding may result in disease prevention or at least expedited treatment. Some tests, such as blood work and fecal tests, are recommended routinely.
Diagnostic tests after your pet has become ill can be quite expensive without pet insurance and many times could have been avoided by performing a less-costly routine test.
Regular wellness exams, vaccines and certain tests, depending on the age and health of your pet, can go a long way in keeping your beloved friend in the best possible pet health.
*Pets Best Insurance offers an optional Wellness and Routine care plan that can be added on to any of our three accident, illness and injury policies. For more information on pet care insurance, visit www.petsbest.com.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens, DVM
Pets Best Insurance President
As a veterinarian, before I worked in the pet insurance industry, pet owners were constantly asking me how much they should feed their pets.
The amount of food each pet requires is dependent upon a host of variables, including breed, size, genetic predisposition, amount of exercise and type of food they’re being served.
Pet owners may suspect their pets are a little overweight, but they often make excuses for it or fail to realize how many extra pounds (or ounces) their pets are actually carrying. It’s a natural tendency to show our pets love with food, and that can quickly result in overfeeding. After the cycle of treat-giving or overfeeding begins, pets become patterned and begin to expect it.
My Chihuahua, Torrey, will beg for her morning treat every day at the same time due to a pattern we established years ago. Your pet may guilt you into overfeeding by looking up at you with big puppy dog eyes and pretending to be famished after a meal. But remember, it is their nature to overeat when given the opportunity. In the wild, dogs and cats may not eat for several days, so their instincts tell them to fill up while they can. Understanding this can help relieve your guilt and ensure proper pet health.
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Working with your veterinarian will help you address all the variables that can cause pet health problems related to being overweight or obese. Ask your veterinarian if your pet’s weight is too high, and try not to take the response personally.
While genetics or breed predisposition may play a role in some pets being fat, it is not necessarily their destiny. Good nutrition can improve your pet’s health and even aid with impending problems. Studies have shown that reduced weight relieves arthritis from hip dysplasia and of course, healthy pets can live significantly longer than overweight pets because there’s no extra strain on the heart or other organs, and the risk of cancer is reduced.
Your pet’s activity level will also help determine how much you should feed him or her. A sedentary lifestyle requires fewer calories than an active lifestyle, just as with humans. Also, neutered pets tend to require fewer calories than unneutered pets. Treats and rawhide bones can be high in calories and should be factored into diet discussions with your veterinarian.
Some pet owners like to stay healthy with their pets by walking and jogging together. In fact, people who walk their dogs lose weight faster, keep it off, lower their blood pressure and are more likely to meet the activity guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Of course, dogs like my Torrey are not ideal for walking. A few retrievals of her stuffed giraffe toy and she is done for the day. But keeping her weight down allows her to repeatedly bound up and down the stairs, and more importantly, it means she will be with me much longer.
There are a few simple ways to determine if your pet is overweight. First, feel your pet. Does it feel muscular or have extra padding? Second, stand over your pet and look down at them. There should be a slight indentation above the hips, just as in a healthy human.
If you learn your pet is overweight, in addition to making exercise changes for pet health, make food changes. Only younger pets need the high-fat kitten and puppy formulas. If you have indoor cats, choose an indoor formula since they won’t need as many calories as outdoor kitties. Right after eating, take your pet for a walk or offer a favorite toy to prevent begging for more.
The good news is, it only takes a few small changes to make a big difference in pet health. And the payoff is well worth it – extra years together. As I always say, “Pets are good for us.” Keep an eye on your pet’s health and they will also ensure you will be healthier and happier.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens, DVM
Pets Best Insurance President
One of the most costly dangers and causes for dog health care in the summer may surprise you.
Grass Awns, most commonly called “Foxtails,” often become lodged in pets’ fur and can cause severe infection and other pricey pet health problems.
Foxtails, also known as “cheat grass,” come from tall grass that has gone to seed. They have sharp points and are difficult to extract given their barbed shape. They are also the same aggravating plants that get stuck in your socks when walking through high, dry grass and are usually found in vacant lots or overgrown areas.
Foxtails often get stuck in between pets’ toes, inside their ear canals, in their eyes and in extreme cases they can be inhaled through the nose. If this happens, a dog will suddenly have a violent repeated sneezing episode. When they become lodged in fur or other body parts they can cause abscesses which often require surgery and immediate dog health care. Generally, long-haired dogs and dogs with floppy ears are are at a higher risk.
Cats can also get Foxtail infections, but these are not nearly as common, likely because they groom themselves and are able to remove the Foxtails before they become problematic.
Foxtails can also become lodged deeper into the oral cavity, chest cavity or abdomen causing life- threatening pet health problems. Once they migrate into these cavities, major surgery, which can be very expensive without pet insurance, may be required.
Sometimes the Foxtail is so hard to find and has migrated into the pets’ body so deeply, it can require multiple surgeries to locate. The migration may also cause infected tracts that can go into the lungs.
Untreated, these migrations can result in serious pet health problems and even death.
The treatment costs depend on how complicated, how much infection and where the Foxtail ultimately lodges. But the bills can be upwards in the hundreds of dollars for surgery alone, and additional for aftercare and medications.
The ultimate key to preventing the pet health problems caused by Foxtails is brushing and inspecting your pet often and keeping grassy areas where your pet has access well-manicured so Foxtails don’t grow.
By: Chryssa Rich
Pets Best Insurance Marketing Associate
I adopted my dog Jayda about six weeks ago, after I began working for a pet insurance company. We bonded quickly and within days, people were already commenting on how much she seemed to love me.
Almost overnight, our bond got a little too serious. At the Pets Best Insurance office, she’d growl and bark at anyone who came near me. At home, she’d snarl anytime someone came to visit. At the dog park, she’d snap at other dogs if they came too close to me. And anytime I drove through Starbucks, she’d bark and lunge at the window when the barista reached toward my car.
A quick Google search on dog health care turned up what I’d feared: Jayda was showing territorial aggression. People would say, “Oh cute! She’s protecting her owner!” But of course, Jayda wasn’t just protecting me—she was being obnoxious and scaring people.
I read that the best way to deal with territorial aggression is to teach the offending dog that its human is the pack leader. Pack leaders don’t need protection and dogs instinctively know it, so they don’t need to scare anyone away. The second aspect is instilling confidence in the dog so she starts assuming the best of strangers instead of the worst.
In addition to obedience classes, I started making small changes at home. For example, I stopped letting her jump up on the couch whenever she felt like it. Instead, she had to be invited. After a few days she began to understand that I was the pack leader.
I also made her “sit” before she received anything from me, including her meals. When she became defensive outside the home, I removed her from the situation and made her sit quietly to show her that I was in charge. At drive-through windows, I’d praise her being quiet before we approached the barista and throughout the transaction as long as she was quiet. Over a few visits, her barking and lunging tapered off into just one bark, then one muffled “woof,” and now nothing.
Lately people have been telling me “She’s like a different dog!” Jayda hardly flinches when people come in and out of the pet care insurance office, and a tiny squirt from a water bottle calms her down when she slips up. She’s quiet at home and friendly at the dog park. We took our first camping trip last weekend and she was extremely well-behaved, even staying quiet most of the time when the other dogs barked.
If something is odd about a situation or she hears a noise at night, Jayda still gives a low warning “woof.” I think this is the perfect balance – a friendly, sociable dog who’ll only alert me when she thinks it’s really important.
If I’ve learned one thing from adopting Jayda, it’s that dog health care is multifaceted. There’s much more to owning a dog than feeding and walking it—it’s also part psychology.