Author Archives: Hadley Rush

Take a deep breath, kitty

A cat with feline asthma, who would benefit from cat insurance, is held by his owner.

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

Last week, a client brought in a 3-year-old, female, Siamese mixed breed cat who had a severe pet health issue. The cat had been coughing for 5 months. The coughing started out randomly, but had now progressed to multiple coughing attacks daily. She was coughing during her examination, and her abdominal muscles where heaving in and out in an effort to breathe. I diagnosed her with feline asthma, and with proper medications she is now breathing easily.

Feline asthma is a disorder that causes decreased airflow in the small airways of the lungs called bronchi and bronchioles. This airflow limitation generally is the result of some combination of airway inflammation, accumulated airway mucus, and airway smooth muscle contraction. Asthma in cats is sometimes also called feline bronchitis, but these are actually two separate disorders. However, the distinction between asthma and bronchitis is not made easily, and many times it is not possible to distinguish bronchitis from asthma in cats. They do share a common finding of chronic airway inflammation and hyper-responsive (over-reactive) airways.

Asthma affects about 1% of cats* and Siamese cats seem to be more susceptible. It usually starts between the ages of 2-8 years old. The most common symptoms in cats with asthma are wheezing and coughing. The coughing has been described as a dry, hacking cough that can be confused with retching or gagging. Many cats assume a squatting position with the neck held low and extended during these coughing episodes.

Mildly affected cats may cough only occasionally and appear to be normal otherwise. These early signs are often overlooked or are mistaken for hairballs. The frequency of coughing will increase with time in many cats, and the most severely affected cats have daily bouts of coughing and wheezing with severe airway constriction leading to open-mouth breathing and respiratory distress that can be life-threatening. Like humans with asthma, cats can die from an acute asthma attack.

The exact cause of the underlying airway inflammation and airway hyper-responsiveness in cats with asthma remains under investigation. It does appear that when the airway of the cat is sensitive to certain stimuli, exposure to these agents leads to a narrowing of the airways. The inciting agents are usually direct irritants to the airways or things that provoke an allergic response in the respiratory tract.

These agents can include inhaled allergens (dust from cat litter, cigarette smoke, perfume, hairspray, deodorizers), pollens or mold, infectious agents (viruses, bacteria), and parasites (heartworms, lungworms). Regardless of the irritating agent, the end result is the same: muscle spasm and constriction of the airways, build-up of mucus and airway inflammation.

Because feline asthma could occur in any cat, it’s a good idea to be prepared with cat insurance. After a thorough physical examination of your cat, your veterinarian will take chest x-rays to help diagnose asthma. Characteristic changes in the lungs are common on x-rays. Bloodwork may be run to help provide clues as to the underlying cause and to rule out other possible diseases like heartworm. In some cases, bronchoscopy and airway flushing are performed under anesthesia to visually examine the airways and obtain cell samples from deep in the lungs for microscopic examination and testing.

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Asthma in cats can be treated successfully but not cured. The most important drug for treating feline asthma is a corticosteroid to reduce the chronic airway inflammation. The traditional method is to utilize oral corticosteroids which are given at a higher dose for about 10-14 days and then slowly tapered down to an every other day dosing regimen. Cats are much more resistant to the side effects of steroids than are dogs or humans, and most cats do quite well with low-dose, long-term steroid use. Bronchodilators may also be used to open the airways and allow the cat to move air more freely.

In recent years, veterinarians have found that the most effective cat health therapy for feline asthma may be to use inhalers like human asthmatics use. A mask and spacer system has been designed for use in cats similar to those used for babies and small children. Both corticosteroid and bronchodilator inhalers are available for cats. The advantages of inhalers are that the medication is delivered directly to the airways where it is needed, and they are associated with fewer long-term side effects than oral systemic steroids. The downside of inhaler therapy is that it can be expensive. Your veterinarian will help determine which treatment is best for your cat.

Any factors known to trigger or aggravate breathing problems should be avoided. This may include trying different brands of cat litter, eliminating cigarette smoke from the home, and discontinuing use of any aerosols or sprays in the home or using them well away from the affected cat. Air purifiers may also be helpful. In addition, obese cats with asthma will benefit from weight reduction.

1. Padrid, Philip. Asthma. In August, JR, editor: Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, vol 6, St. Louis, 2010, Saunders, p 449.

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

Dog’s runny nose may be life threatening

A German Short Hair Pointer with pet insurance looks at the camera.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Duke is a sweet-as-pie male German Shorthaired Pointer. In his nine years he has been his owner’s faithful hunting companion, flushing out birds and doing his breed-trademark pointing. He had always been healthy until this last fall, when he seemed to catch a cold and had a snotty nose with mucus discharge and sneezing. Concerned about his depleting pet health, his owners made an appointment with the veterinarian to determine what was wrong.

Dogs don’t typically get sinusitis, or infection of the sinus cavity, without an underlying condition. Usually they get a sinus infection due to some other problem, such as snorting up a grass seed, for example. Duke was an active outside dog; it was possible he could have gotten something stuck up one nostril. In fact, the list of possible underlying causes was relatively short: allergies, foreign body (seed or other plant material most likely), mites, fungal infection, bacterial infection, tooth root infection, and lastly, cancer had to be included.

We decided to tackle the list systematically and treated him for allergies and nasal mites first. When he didn’t respond, we tested for fungal infection by looking for antibodies in his blood to the most common nasal fungi, and treated for bacterial infection. In the meantime Duke seemed happy despite his snotty nose and sneezing.

The fungal test was negative. Duke partially responded to antibiotics, which made him go from having discharge from both nostrils, to only the right nostril. The only causes left on his list of differentials were foreign body, tooth root infection and cancer. Duke’s owners agreed it was time to perform a rhinoscopy and skull and nose radiographs. Because procedures like these can be expensive, it’s always a good idea to have a pet health insurance policy in place. Dog insurance can help make the best pet health care more affordable.

A rhinoscopy is a procedure where a very small camera on the end of a rigid scope is used to examine inside of small cavities, like nostrils, while the patient is asleep. We were hoping to find a grass seed or some other foreign body there, as this would be quite treatable. There was none. Duke’s X-rays showed no tooth root infections that could be communicating with the sinus cavity and no other boney changes in the skull.

Unfortunately, this left cancer as the sole remaining possible reason for Duke’s chronic nasal discharge. His owners loved him and were determined to find the answer, and agreed to advanced imaging, and ordered an MRI of his nose and head. An MRI uses advanced technology to provide a much more detailed image of body tissues, allowing the clinician to visualize soft tissue as well as bone. It also will take the images in ‘slices’ allowing the clinician to visualize small sections of the body part, from the tip of Duke’s nose, through the back of his head.

Much to all of our dismay, Duke’s MRI revealed unequivocally he had a nasal tumor in his right nostril. The most common neoplastic condition in the nose of the dog is an adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is a malignant neoplasm that can occur in a variety of different tissues. Nasal adenocarcinomas generally carry a poor prognosis without treatment. Duke wouldn’t have long if the owners decided not to go forward with the recommended treatment.

Radiation therapy is the treatment of choice for intranasal carcinomas. About 50% of treated dogs will live longer than 12 to 18 months with a good quality of life. Most dogs tolerate radiation very well, with minimal side effects. Side effects that can occur are usually mild superficial burns secondary to radiation on the skin.

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Duke’s pet health condition isn’t uncommon. Cancer occurs in about 50% of dogs and a third of cats. Veterinary oncology is becoming more and more advanced, keeping up with human medicine, in terms of treating cancer. The biggest road block veterinarians often face, is the acceptance of owners to be financially responsible for costly cancer treatment, and the stigma that radiation and chemotherapy will somehow be cruel. Animals very rarely have the serious side effects of chemotherapy like people do; they don’t lose their hair or their appetites. In fact, owners often can’t tell anything has changed! As more people recognize the value of pet health insurance, hopefully this will allow more people access to lifesaving treatment options for cancer.

Duke’s owners were put in a difficult position. They didn’t have dog insurance for Duke and they had already spent a significant amount of money diagnosing him. Radiation therapy would be an additional $4,000.

Throughout the whole ordeal Duke has been a stellar patient. He never complains, is always happy to be examined, doesn’t mind being poked and prodded. It is unclear how Duke will do long term; his owners are still on the fence about pursuing additional treatment. It is clear Duke is a special part of his family, and he’ll love them either way.

Pet health special: A Basset’s broken biter

A dog with dog insurance smiles, showing healthy teeth.

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

Now that we’re well into February, and you’re both animal lovers and pet health insurance enthusiasts, you probably know that it’s National Pet Dental Month. You might be surprised that a dog trainer, like myself, would be concerned about the dental health of animals I work with, but the health of your dogs’ teeth is important for many reasons.

Recently I was called out to work with a client whose Basset Hound, Billy, was suddenly exhibiting severe aggression. I worked with Billy as a puppy and periodically when his family wanted him to learn new behaviors. Billy had never exhibited any aggression and had always been a happy, healthy and active dog. I was curious what was causing the sudden aggression. Any time, a dog has a sudden behavior change, my first concern is that there may be a pet health issue.

Often medical issues manifest themselves as behavior issues. While discussing recent events in Billy’s life, I searched for something that may have caused him to become aggressive. One of the children sadly told me that Billy stopped playing with his toys and would not even chew his favorite bones. After thinking about this, Billy’s owner told me they had purchased a cow hoof for Billy. That day Billy chewed on the cow hoof for a while then suddenly stopped chewing. That night he would not eat his dinner and the next day he seemed sad and grumpy, even snapping at one of the kids when they wanted to play with him. That is when they called me.

I recommended the family take Billy to the vet for a dental check-up. Later that day I received a call from the family who reported that Billy had a broken tooth. The veterinarian repaired the dog’s tooth and the aggressive behavior has stopped. Billy was obviously in pain from his broken tooth and a bit grumpy.

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Your dog’s dental health is very important. I recommend you brush your dog’s teeth as recommended by your veterinarian, give your dog good safe dental chews, avoiding chews that are too hard and examine your dog’s mouth daily to make us his teeth are healthy. Since this is Pet Dental Health month, it is a good time to make and appointment to see your vet and have your dog’s teeth checked. Your vet will also help you develop a good plan to keep your dog’s teeth healthy.

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

Poochie Pilates

A dog that would benefit from dog insurance stretches.

By: Kristie Sullens
Save-An-Angel Founder
For Pets Best Insurance

1 in 3 dogs is diagnosed with cancer each year, making it the leading cause of death for our canine companions. As with humans, EARLY DETECTION is critical and saves many lives every year. In the case of a cancer diagnosis, it’s also very helpful to have had a pet insurance policy in place for your pet.

Poochie Pilates is a fun way to check your dog for lumps! Performing monthly sessions could be the difference between life and death for your best friend. Poochie Pilates is for people and dogs of all ages and fitness levels. Not only can it be good for pet health, but it’s fun too! No medical degree or fancy machinery required! It’s simple, easy and fun. The next time your dog nudges you for affection, take that moment as an opportunity to be their voice. Let’s get started.

What you will need

• A positive attitude and a pooch
• A piece of paper and a pen to track any changes. You will use the same piece of paper every time so make sure it’s accessible.
• A calm, quiet environment. Pick a place where you and your dog feel comfortable and relaxed.
• Treats! Giving treats is a great way to distract hyper active or nervous dogs and puppies.

Pilate Techniques
Poochie Pilates is a great way to keep older dogs limber, and it helps young dogs become accustomed to being touched all over. The more comfortable your dog is with being handled, the easier it will be to tell if something is off. It is especially important for pet health to be sure you check inside the mouth and ears.

Bring your dog to a special place and lay them down on a towel, blanket or even your bed. Let them get used to you petting them while they are in this special place, so they will build a positive association with the Poochie Pilates environment.

When it comes to petting your dog, you can’t do it wrong enough or long enough! Here are some tips to get you started. Hold your hand out in front of you and spread your fingers (like you’re showing the #5) Place your hands flat on your dog’s back end with your fingers spread and gently squeeze. Continue the motion by moving your thumbs toward one another and work your way up. We always massage from the tail to head, or belly to chest to make the dogs more comfortable. Imagine how you would want a massage, and then give it to your pooch.

Make sure to check all over your dog’s body including the tail; back legs, belly, inside the legs, paws, chest, neck, back of neck, entire back, ears and even private parts. Remember to check inside of the mouth, because oral cancers are also a threat. We recommend brushing your dog’s teeth and giving heart worm preventatives on the same day you perform the monthly Poochie Pilates session.

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When you get to the legs, give your dog a nice long stretch and muscle massage. It might be difficult for older dogs at first; however it’s impressive to see how much they improve over time. Just like humans, dogs need to stretch in order to stay limber, so try to incorporate this portion of Poochie Pilates into your routine. Your dog will thank you for it!!

Now it’s time to create a baseline that will help you determine what is normal for your dog. It’s not uncommon for dogs to get lumps and bumps, however not all lumps are cancerous. Write the date, location of the lump, if the lump is hard or soft and the size and color of your findings on the sheet. This will help you track any changes that arise in the future. It’s important to note if the lump is hard or soft.

If you discover anything on your dog’s body, it’ It’s important to know if any existing lumps are benign (non-cancerous), and it will also help you to keep an eye on them if they grow.

Warning signs of cancer

• Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
• Sores that do not heal
• Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
• Offensive odor
• Difficulty eating or swallowing
• Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
• Persistent lameness or stiffness
• Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

When to call the doctor
Save-An-Angel recommends monthly “Poochie Pilates” sessions with your dog to check for unusual lumps, bumps and other warning signs. If you discover something on your dog, have it checked out by your vet right away! While Lymphoma is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs, it is just one of many that can occur. As with humans, EARLY DETECTION is critical and saves many lives every year.

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

I Love You, Snoofy Face

A dog with pet health insurance is dressed up.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Happy Valentine’s Day fellow pet insurance enthusiasts! There’s something about human nature that makes us give nicknames to the ones we love most.

Think about it: You wouldn’t call your boss Boo-Boo, nor would you call your neighbor Captain Fuzzypants. That would just be weird. But when it comes to our pets, almost nothing can stop the cute and silly nicknames we shower upon them.

We recently asked our Facebook friends which nicknames they have for their pets, and quickly discovered that most fall into one of five loving categories.

1. Inspired by the Pet’s Actual Name
Some of our favorites were Miss Maddy Mayhem for Madison and Magga Dagga Doo for Maggie. And we love Cokie Dokie for Coco! It’s also pretty popular to create the diminutive version of the name: Panchito, Bandito, Coopie, Hunty.

2. Inspired by the Pet’s Vocal Abilities
My dog Jayda’s nicknames are Miss Barky Pants and Woofie. We also heard about a Barky McBarkerson and a Meow Meow Kittycat.

3. Inspired by Random Thoughts
Lots of pet owners admitted they have no idea where their pets nicknames came from. Some of the most random included Boo Boo, Baby, Puppy (for a cat), Tatty Pants, JJ Ruggles, Bows-a-Roo, Zubie, Da Doots, Donkey and Bun Bun.

4. Inspired by the Pet’s Body Parts
There’s no room for being politically correct here! Big bellies and floppy skin are too adorable to go ignored. Hence nicknames like Li’l Boobers, Chunk Butt, Wiggle Butt, Fat Boy, Smushie Face and Fatty Fatty 2×4.

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5. Inspired by the Pet’s Bodily Functions – Voluntary or Otherwise
From kissing and licking to active digestive systems, we got a laugh out of these nicknames! Smoochy, Stinkybutt, Snifferdoodle, FruityToot, Wiggle Butt and Farty Pants are just a few of the names you’ll hear our friends call out.

This Valentine’s Day, give your pets plenty of hugs and kisses. And if they’re not already insured, treat them to a pet insurance plan from Pets Best Insurance. Nothing says “I Love You” quite like insuring them for a lifetime of good health.

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

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