Author Archives: Hadley Rush

Do animals grieve the loss of another pet?

A dog mourns after losing a canine friendBy: Dr. Fiona, DVM
For Pets Best Insurance

Losing a pet is one of the hardest parts about having one. The furry animals become part of the family and take up a piece of your heart. After a loved one is gone, life can change drastically, not only for you, but also for other pets in the house.

Scientists are still uncertain exactly how pets perceive emotions, and if they are aware of emotions. Certainly simple emotions such as fear, pleasure and hunger are well documented in animals, but more complex emotions, such as grief are the subject of debate. In addition, we are uncertain how much dogs and cats understand about death.

Regardless of how animals actually perceive emotions, it is well documented that the sudden loss of a companion pet can be difficult for the remaining animal, causing some behavioral changes along the way. Obviously the loss of a pet is difficult for people too, and it is possible that animals may perceive their owner’s sadness, in addition to their own.

Signs Your Pet is Grieving

1) One of the most drastic changes when one animal in a multi-animal household dies is the change in the structure of the ‘pack’ hierarchy. Dogs and cats have very well defined social roles, with leaders and followers. Without the companion, your remaining pet’s role may be ill-defined. A normally more submissive dog may suddenly have no one to follow, and a leader may have no one to lead. This can manifest as behavioral changes; your pet isn’t sure how to act any longer.

2) You may notice a decrease in social interaction, such as hiding or segregating from the family. A decrease or increase in appetite, which can lead to weight loss or gain, can also occur. Some dogs may pace or even look like they are ‘searching’ for their lost loved one. Vocalizing excessively may occur in dogs; urination and grooming habits may change in cats.

How to Help Your Grieving Pet

1) Helping your pet adjust to the loss may have the added benefit of helping you cope as well. It is important not to ‘reward’ sulking or brooding behavior, but rather engage the pet in a new activity. Positive training is a beneficial way to help your pet learn its new position in the family and move on from loss. It can create a bond between you the handler and your dog. It also creates clear communication between you; this bond and communication make it easy for the pet to look to you for leadership. In fact, sometimes in this situation, a dog’s personality will actually blossom after the loss of another dog, allowing them to recognize a different more confident role.

2) A training class that uses positive methods or private lessons from a trainer may help you to learn the skills you’ll need. Dogs can keep learning for their entire lives, this new knowledge can make a grieving dog more confident and sure of itself. A confident dog that knows it’s ‘role’ is generally happier and easier to be with.

3) Another thing that is important to helping a grieving dog cope is increasing the activities it loves to do. For example, a dog that loves to play fetch at the park might benefit from a few more fetch sessions than you normally do. It could be simple things like extra brushing, or getting to ride in the car while you run errands, or maybe a new squeaky toy. Even just a few more minutes of play time can help a dog adjust to life without its companion, and may make you feel better too!

Should You Get a Second Pet to Fill Void?

Getting another dog is controversial and if it’s not the right time for you in terms of your grieving, free time, or finances, don’t do it. Dogs can adjust to being without canine companions in time, and some will even blossom. Just like people, pets will deal with loss in their own way. If you feel your dog needs other canine companions, but aren’t ready for a new dog, try the dog park, a doggy play date with a friend that has dogs or a training class. This will give you, your family, and your other pet time to grieve and rediscover their place, and eventually, open your hearts to love again.

If you are concerned that your pet’s health is suffering from their loss, call your veterinarian.


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What’s wrong with black dogs?

A sad black dog waits to be adopted.
By: Liz Blackman
Founder of
For Pets Best Insurance

Would it surprise you to know that black dogs have a harder time getting adopted than dogs of any other color? The news shocked me. My childhood was spent in the company of one black dog after another, sometimes more than one at a time. All adopted. Some big, some small. Some smart, some not. But all of them great dogs. It wasn’t intentional. The ones who came our way just happened to all be black. They were lovely, loving, lovable dogs, every one of them in their own way.

So when I heard that black dogs have a tough time getting adopted, often lingering in shelters long after other dogs go off to a new home, sometimes never to be adopted, I couldn’t believe it. Why? I knew that shelters were overcrowded with dogs who need a good home. I knew that the problem worsened in a bad economy. But I didn’t know that black dogs in particular have it tougher than the rest and that the bigger or older the black dog, the slimmer are his chances of being adopted.

The problem is so big and so real that shelter workers have a name for it: Black Dog Syndrome. And there are several theories as to its cause. Some think the problem is that black dogs are hard to photograph and don’t show well on online adoption sites like and

Well, I can attest to that. I have hundreds of horrible photos of all the black dogs in my life. Big black blobs in the middle of the photos with a hint of some white teeth and the certainty that there must be eyes in there somewhere. They are hard to photograph. Without the proper lighting and good equipment, it’s almost impossible to capture their soulful brown eyes, their smile or their expressive brows. I finally gave up and took our dog, Willhe, to a professional photographer recently in hopes of capturing even a little of his winsome, wonderful ways.

Another thought is that the problem lies in the dimly lit shelters. How is a little black dog, even a big black dog, supposed to make a good impression and catch the attention of someone shopping the rows of countless cages at a shelter when you can’t even see them because the lighting is so poor?

A third possible explanation is the most difficult to explain. Some people mistakenly think that black dogs just aren’t friendly. Ask anyone who has ever loved a black dog and they’ll surely tell you otherwise.

So what can you do? Well, this is what we did. My husband and I went online and looked for the oldest, biggest, blackest dog we could find. What we found was an 84-pound, 9-year old, purebred English Labrador Retriever who had been at our local shelter for nearly a month and whose time was running out. The only thing she had to her name was her name, Connie.

Day after day, week after week, Connie was passed up. The shelter staff described her as a love of a dog who played well with others and loved to fetch. Why was she there? Her family was moving and couldn’t take her with them. What was wrong with her? Nothing. At least nothing that a good, new home couldn’t fix.

She would have been a perfect choice for an active family with kids. She’s patient and she loves them. She would have been a great match for someone older or disabled. She’s happy to sit quietly at your feet. She knows how to sit and to shake and to use the bathroom outside. And she’s got plenty of good years left in her. Instead she wound up with us. But she could just as easily have wound up being put to sleep because not enough people choose to adopt. And of the ones who do, not enough choose a black dog.

So, give a black dog a chance. Behind those awful photos, the poor lighting and the misconceptions may be the dog of your dreams, waiting for the chance they deserve to be someone’s companion, confidant and kindred spirit. Maybe yours.

Note: Liz Blackman is the founder and president of 1-800-HELP-4-PETS (, a 24-hour, nationwide pet identification system, and the driving force behind The Black Dog Mission (, a grassroots effort to improve the number of black dog adoptions.

Shelter pets from cold, frost, and other winter dangers

A woman and her dog play in the snow.
Don’t let your pet’s fur coat or weathered paw pads fool you. He gets cold, too. For pet health and safety, dogs and cats should remain mostly indoors during winter months; especially young pets, senior pets, and those that have pet health issues of any kind. Below are some important precautions to consider for pets during the winter months.

Keep Pets Warm
A fur coat can only do so much. One of the reasons pets enjoy cuddling close to owners, and each other, is to keep warm. Although not recommended, pets kept outside for any lengths of time need shelter from the elements in a draft-free doghouse. They need extra calories and fresh water in a plastic bowl. Metal bowls could freeze and thirsty tongues can get stuck to them.

Prolonged exposure to cold and wind can cause frostbite on their ears, nose, tail and paws. According to the article “How to Recognize, Prevent and Treat Hypothermia and Frostbite in Our Pets” by Veterinarian Elisa M. Mazzaferro, frostbite requires an immediate visit to the vet because cat and dog health issues can result, including infections, amputations, and even death.

“Some animals can be left with permanent disfiguring injuries,” wrote Mazzaferro, Director of Emergency Services at Wheat Ridge Veterinary Specialists in Colorado.

While walking, small and short-haired dogs may benefit from a sweater and paw wax to protect their paws from ice, snow, and salt.

Indoors, pets can benefit from heated pet beds and blankets. Many upscale models are designed for pet safety—they warm only with the pet’s body heat, saving on electric bills and avoiding overheating the pet.

Supervise Pets
Chilly months bring new dangers and more opportunities to pet proof the home. Pets should not be left unsupervised near space heaters, fireplaces, or candles.

On their website, The Humane Society of the United States warns that sweet-tasting antifreeze is attractive but deadly to pets. The organization advises using “antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol, which is less toxic in small amounts than traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze.”

Because there are so many possibilities for wintertime dangers, pet owners may want to consider purchasing pet insurance for their pets. Not only can pet insurance help with pet health bills at the veterinarian, but dog and cat insurance also provide pet owners with peace of mind.

Pet Airways: Tips to prepare your dog for air travel

A dog sits in a crate, preparing for air travel.
By: The Pet Airways Team
For Pets Best Insurance

Road trips with dogs can be a wonderful adventure, but sometimes driving cross-country simply isn’t practical or possible. Air travel with pets can be a safe and comfortable option, with just a small amount of preparation.

When traveling with your pet to any destination, it’s also a good idea to make sure you’re up-to-date with your pet insurance coverage, as emergencies and illnesses are a possibility when traveling with pets, as well as in your hometown.

Make sure you have the correct pet carrier size
While we might like to imagine our dogs sitting in first class seats while enjoying in-flight entertainment, traveling in a carrier is actually the safest way to go– so longs as it’s the correct size! Remember, your dog must be able to stand and turn comfortably in the carrier. You’ll also want to add some canine amenities, such as a comfy blanket to provide warmth and cushioning on the joints, some healthy treats, a favorite toy, spare leash and collar, and any necessary medications.

Help your dog feel comfortable in the carrier
Dogs are den animals by nature. They seek out a quiet, safe haven they can call their own – and there’s no reason they won’t feel that way about their carrier with a little proper introduction:

• Let your dog sniff out and explore the inside of the carrier on his own. Enhance his curiosity by tossing a few bite-sized treats inside and leave the door open.

• Try feeding your dog in the carrier. Quietly close the door while he eats and then open the door after the meal is over and let him go outside.

• Make the inside of the carrier cozy and comfy by lining the bottom with a blanket, old bath towel or a t-shirt with your scent. Provide a favorite chew toy to keep him occupied.

• Never place your dog in his crate as a punishment. Select a different time-out location like a bathroom (turn the light on) when you need to stop an unwanted behavior quickly.

Do NOT Sedate!
It’s natural to want to keep your dog calm and relaxed during air travel, but administering a sedative is never recommended. Sedatives can alter a dog’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium and body temperature, which can lead to other pet health issues. Sedatives also relax the respiratory muscles, which makes breathing more difficult, potentially leading to over-exertion and a drop in blood sugar. Finally, sedatives also impair the flight attendant’s ability to determine if a pet is quiet or lethargic because of the sedative or because the pet needs medical attention for another reason.

Think twice about cargo
The reality of pet travel with passenger airlines is not comforting to pet owners. News media constantly bring to light stories of dogs chewing through their carriers, getting loose on the tarmac and most recently, tragedies involving brachycephalic breeds or puppies. The temperature in the cargo hold can vary from 0 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is no climate control on the ground. Even in cargo compartments designated for pets, the oxygen pressure may be minimized for fire suppression, and the pilot may not even know there are pets onboard, as they are classified as cargo.

Although in the past, cargo was the only option for dogs too large to fit under the seat, that is no longer the case. On Pet Airways, dogs fly comfortably in the climate-controlled main cabin of the specially-equipped planes under the constant care of a Pet Attendant.

Skin allergies in dogs: Causes & treatments

A dog waits for medical attention.Being a pet owner means being prepared for medical problems and unforseen emergencies. The best way to be financially prepared is by purchasing a pet insurance policy. When pet owners have cat or dog insurance, they are ensuring their pet can receive swift attention.

One medical condition pet owners need to be on the lookout for are skin allergies. pet health phenomenons of allergies in dogs is a mysterious ailment that can be caused by numerous conditions and events.

As mentioned, a pet insurance policy can help to alleviate the financial strain that comes with emergency pet health situations. A trip to the veterinarian is always in order when any of the following symptoms of dog skin allergies are observed:

• Hives
• Odorous skin infection
• Recurrent ear infections
• Limb biting

Possible causes of allergies in dogs include:
Yeast Infections of the Skin
Rashes that become thick, crusty, and odorous could be yeast infections. Like bacteria, yeast is normally found on the skin, but an allergy or immune deficiency can cause the yeast to grow out of control.

Food Allergies
It’s not uncommon for dogs to develop food allergies, especially to grains. Symptoms can include biting of the limbs, ear infections, and scratching at the face.

Airborne Allergies
Just like humans, pets can develop allergic reactions to pollen, grass, dander, and household chemicals.

Fleas & Parasites
Fleas don’t always just itch. Many dogs are allergic to those flea bites—especially dogs who already have a suppressed immune system or other allergies. In another Pet Health Library article by Brooks titled Food Allergies, she wrote, “Because allergies add to each other, it is possible that a food allergic dog will not itch if its fleas are controlled.”

A dog that suffers from these conditions may require numerous trips to a veterinarian to determine the cause and best course of treatment—a cost which can be offset with pet insurance. Pet owners should have observations ready for the vet’s questions so that a cause & treatment may be determined. Possible treatments may be as simple as a change in diet and avoidance of irritants, or as detailed as steroid injections, antihistamines and ointments.

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