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Pet health: The ABCs of OCD

Posted on: June 27th, 2011 by

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

A dog with pet insurance displays OCD symptoms.

Obsessive behaviors in animals can be funny, especially at first. Turning again and again to bite a tail, or chasing a light obsessively seem humorous and harmless, but can be a part of obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) in pets. While we don’t know what our pets think, and therefore can’t comment on obsessive thoughts, OCD is a recognized disorder that can require medical and behavioral intervention. Some pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, even offer limited coverage for behavioral issues.

True OCD behaviors are defined as inappropriately repetitive motor patterns and can include such behaviors as rocking back and forth, pacing, weaving, feather pulling in parrots, licking and obsessive grooming, shadow or light chasing, spinning, and flank sucking in dogs. Some behaviors can be harmful, especially excessive licking. Some animals can create significant self-inflicted tissue trauma that will require medical treatment.

There are many postulated underlying causes for OCD. Recently there has been discovered a genetic link in Dobermans with flank sucking behavior, suggesting some behaviors can be inherited. Stress, the environment in which the animal was reared, frustration, boredom and underlying medical problems can all be possible causes for OCD.

Kittens weaned early often have ‘wool sucking’ and kneading behaviors. Dogs bred for herding, such as Border Collies will often be obsessive about chasing lights, especially laser pointers. Underlying arthritis might cause a dog to obsessively lick a painful joint, causing damage to the skin.

The first step in treatment of OCD behaviors is a medical work-up by making an appointment with your veterinarian. Consider pet health insurance, which, in some cases, can help defray veterinary costs if a limited behavioral benefit is included. Intervention earlier when the behavior starts is more likely to manifest in a positive and successful outcome.

Treatment can include psychopharmacological administration, such as anti-anxiety medication, and behavioral and environmental modification.

Behavioral modification involves teaching substitute behaviors the dog can use to cope with whatever feelings are prompting the inappropriate behavior can be an important part of behavioral treatment. For example, a dog that chases its tail can be taught the command ‘sit’ and ‘stay.’ Repeat until the dog forms a habit choosing the alternate behavior.

Environmental enrichment includes ensuring your dog gets plenty of one-on-one attention, lots of exercise and something to ‘do.’ When you are not able to supervise, a place for the dog to rest and stay out of trouble is ideal, such as a crate or kennel. This place must not be abused, or it will become a source of more stress to the dog.

Prescription medications are reserved for the pets with more harmful behaviors, with severe anxiety, or ones that have not responded to behavioral and environmental changes. The two medications most commonly used include clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, and fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Both have shown promising results. Goals of treatment are to wean the dog off medications while you, the owner are implementing behavioral training.

Not all dogs need medication. For some, the aspects of a treatment plan may be sufficient. It is always important to rule out underlying medical reason for a sudden change in behaviors and seeking veterinary advice first is warranted. Research pet health insurance companies that offer limited behavioral coverage early on, so that if your pet develops OCD later, you will have coverage options.

Pet health and our health

Posted on: June 24th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance looks up.

You’ve likely heard the expression, “dog is man’s best friend.” This old saying is actually true on many levels. Pets enhance our lives by simply being a part of our lives. Because having a pet has also been proven to benefit our health—both physical and emotional, it’s important to provide our pets with good nutrition, exercise and dog insurance to help ensure they are healthy and happy.

“Unconditional Love”
This is another term that is used so often, we may not pay attention to its importance. A loving dog (or cat) doesn’t care if we’re grumpy or tired. They care about us no matter the kind of day we’ve had. Coming home to a wagging tail is just the tonic to end the day.

Stress-Reduction and Emotional “Tuning In”
Being around pets has actually been proven to reduce blood pressure and relax people. Other things pet owners report when around their pets is improved mood, less loneliness and consistant good health. Because our pets can help to make up healthier, it’s important we provide then with pet health insurance to help ensure we can afford keep them healthy.

When people, especially children, suffer a loss from death, they often turn to their dogs for comfort and relief. Pets seem to almost instinctively know when we need their presence. Families who have experienced difficult times report that having pets made their family feel more stabilized.

We can return the wonderful benefits of having a dog by practicing good dog health care and good care for cats as well. Investing in dog insurance is one way to show we care.

Taking your dog to work: The good, bad and waggy

Posted on: June 24th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance joins his owner at the office.

Posted by: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

Of all the little-known national holidays that pop up on calendars every year, Take Your Dog to Work Day has become one of the most popular. This year, Friday, June 24th is the designated day according to the official website, takeyourdog.com. And Pets Best Insurance is happy to celebrate the occasion– as always, the pet insurance office is pet friendly!

First celebrated in 1999 thanks to Pet Sitters International and about 300 participating companies nationwide, the holiday is now embraced by thousands of companies. But the day is about so much more than carting dogs to the office. Ideally, the day encourages adoption and the enrichment of pet health through companionship and increased interactivity.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a six-year-old Shih Tzu named Sheriff goes to work with his mom twice a month. Sherry Friedlander, founder of the non-profit A Child Is Missing, initially began taking Sheriff to her office because he is afraid of thunder.

“Then I realized that he put everyone in a very friendly mood,” said Sherry, so she kept bringing Sheriff in occasionally.

“He goes to everyone’s desk and says ‘hello,’ then sits in the center of the hall and watches everyone come and go from office to office,” said Sherry. “He brings a calm to the office, everyone loves him.”

The extra socialization and change of scenery can do wonders for pet health and emotional well-being. But being around new situations and driven in the car also means precautions including making sure the animal is properly vaccinated and protecting it with dog insurance.

Camp Bow Wow is a national pet care company that offers doggy day and night care, in-home care, and training. Many of the franchise’s clients rotate their pets between day care, in-home care, and taking them to work when possible. So Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, provides pet owners with the following tips for taking their dog to work:

CORPORATE FIDO
Confirm that dogs are allowed by the boss and accepted by co-workers, and keep the dog on a leash when introducing to colleagues and their dogs.

CURIOUS FIDO
Dog-proof the office the day before just like you would for a child. Secure loose cords and dangerous small object like paper clips, staples and pens.

PLAYFUL FIDO
Make time to get the dog outside for a play session or a walk. Schedule outdoor dog activities with coworkers and their dogs.

STATIONARY FIDO
If extended time outside is not possible, bring the dog’s toys and bed from home to make him more comfortable and able to entertain himself. Leave the squeaky toys at home, and cherished bones or rawhide as well if other dogs will also be on staff that day.

HUNGRY FIDO
Don’t break meal times. If needed, bring bowls to the office and feed as usual. Keep the food of different dogs separate.

RELIEVING FIDO
Extra excitement can mean extra needed potty breaks. Get him outside a few times during the day, and consider bringing wee-wee pads to avoid accidents.

Annual exams for purrfect pet health

Posted on: June 23rd, 2011 by

A pet with cat insurance gets an annual exam.

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

The human-companion animal bond is stronger than ever, and pet ownership, pet spending and pet insurance is unquestionably on the rise. But the number of dog and cat visits to veterinary clinics is decreasing while the pet population is increasing. This is especially true for our feline companions. There are 82 million pet cats in the United States, compared with 72 million dogs, making cats the most popular pet. Yet studies show that the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year.

Sadly, many cats are not getting the veterinary care they need and deserve. A recent survey revealed that compared to dogs, almost three times as many cats had not received veterinary care in the past year. Thirty-six percent of pet owners surveyed said that were it not for vaccinations, they wouldn’ t take their pet to the veterinarian at all. And 24 percent said they thought routine checkups were unnecessary. Clients with “indoor pets” thought their pets needed less care than outdoor pets and were less likely to have visited the veterinarian the past year.

While an indoor cat is less likely to be hit by a car or involved in a fight that ends up with an abscess, it’s just as likely to get kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or another serious ailment– which is another reason pet insurance is a good idea. More surprising is the fact that pet owners with older animals were also less likely to have seen the veterinarian in the past year. Like humans, pet health problems increase as they age, so they need more care than the younger ones, not less care.

A recent analysis of veterinary patient data from 2006 to 2010 showed an increase in diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations and other common and preventable problems. There may be a correlation between the increase and prevalence of these diseases and the decreased visits to veterinarians. When pet owners don’t bring in their cats for regular exams, they miss the chance to have a veterinarian spot something like dental disease or kidney disease which can have serious consequences if left untreated. These cat owners also miss the opportunity to learn how to take better care of their cat at home-for example, feeding the best kind of diet to prevent obesity. Many cat owners simply don’t understand the need for routine care throughout their cats’ lives. Cats will live longer and be healthier if they visit their veterinarian at least annually.

People often associate clinic visits with shots or vaccinations, but the cornerstone of each visit is the complete physical examination that the veterinarian performs. The doctor is looking for any problems with the eyes, ears, teeth, skin, internal organs and other body systems. Cats, like people, can develop pet health conditions that, if undetected, can become chronic illnesses that are costly to treat and possibly even life threatening. Cats are naturally adept at hiding the signs of illness, so annual exams are especially important for early diagnosis and treatment of health problems. Because cats age much more quickly than humans, older cats or cats with chronic illnesses benefit even more by visiting the veterinarian twice a year.

Cats need regular veterinary care, including annual exams and vaccinations, just like dogs do. With cats, though, there is often the problem of what is called feline resistance: the hiding, aggression, vocalization, visible stress and fearful behavior cats may exhibit when crated and transported to unfamiliar surroundings. Choose a veterinary clinic that nurtures a cat friendly environment and has experience in compassionate handling and restraint of felines to try to reduce the anxiety associated with your cat’s visit. Ask the doctors and staff for tips on how to help acclimate your cat to her crate and condition her for the car ride to the clinic.

Understandably, cat owners may be unable or unwilling to spend money on veterinary care during the current economy and recession, but remember that regular exams can help your cat live longer, and prevent problems and expensive treatment later. Put plans into action to help budget for pet care, and check out the pet health insurance policies that are available. Prevention and early detection are keys to a healthy lifestyle for your cat. Take steps today to help maintain a state of wellness for your feline friend. Schedule annual exams and keep your cat purring happily for many years!

Elevated Dishes and A Puppy Who Won’t Be Held

Posted on: June 22nd, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This one comes from Donna. “Do you recommend elevated dog food bowls during feeding?” This is a great question. Bigger breed dogs and taller dogs, like Great Danes and Labradors, may benefit from having their food bowls a little bit higher just to make it easier for them to get to their food and water. There used to be some thought that elevated food bowls would help prevent certain things like bloat, which can be a big deal in bigger dogs like Great Danes. It’s thought now that maybe that doesn’t help as much as we thought it once did, but there still may be some value in raising the food bowls off the floor.

Gastric bloat is a really serious medical condition where the stomach will actually turn on itself and block off the esophagus and therefore it begins to fill with air. This is definitely a veterinary emergency. Generally, it will look like unproductive retching. The dog will want to vomit but nothing will come up. They’ll pace, they’ll seem agitated, and sometimes you’ll even be able to feel that their stomach feels hard.

The next question comes from Sue. “Two weeks ago I adopted a puppy from the Humane Society. She had a vet check and appeared to be healthy. It is her behavior that alarms me. She doesn’t like to be held at all. When we do, she lunges, snaps, bites and growls. This is the only time she does this.” Sue mentions that this is probably a Lab mix puppy.

What I would probably recommend is just not holding her. She clearly doesn’t like to be held. If she’s a Lab mix, she’s likely going to eventually be a size where it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold her anyway. I would just engage in affection with her on the floor, petting her and that type of thing.

There is some concern for me, too, that if she’s developing a habit of biting and growling now and is getting away with it, this could turn into a really big problem when she’s a larger dog. I would recommend getting in touch with a behaviorist and going to some puppy classes now, while she’s still young and a smaller size, to try to discourage her from doing these things.
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