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Feline obesity: An increasing problem

Posted on: June 14th, 2011 by

An overweight cat with cat insurance lounges around.
By: Dr. Kerry Fost
Managing DVM
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Feline obesity is a real disease affecting our pets’ health. It may be the most prevalent form of malnutrition in domestic cats. In the United States 44% of cats between the ages of five and eleven years are overweight.

Though we may see our “roly- poly “ feline friends as cute and cuddly, obesity has detrimental effects on pet health and longevity. Obesity related diseases in cats include osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, constipation and an increase in some cancers. These are not so cute and cuddly.

The main reason for development of obesity in any animal is consuming more energy than is expended. As a veterinarian, my clients often tell me that their kitty really doesn’t eat that much. But if your cat is overweight, it is consuming more calories that it is burning no matter how little that food amount seems. This energy imbalance can occur with excessive dietary intake of calories through food or treats, or decreased energy expenditure due to illness, injury or inactivity.

One risk factor for obesity in cats includes being an indoor only cat. Indoor kitties don’t have to burn energy to keep warm outside and they often don’t get much exercise. Owners who have dry food available in the bowl all the time risk overfeeding. It only takes a few extra kibbles of food daily to put on pounds yearly. Neutering is also a risk factor for weight gain due to hormonal changes that may reduce metabolic rate. Neutering does prevent a number of other pet health risks and should not be avoided to prevent obesity.

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Aside from ensuring our cats have pet health insurance and routine exams, there are a few other things we can do to help our cats stay healthy.

First, carefully control the intake of calories. As soon as a pet is neutered, stop free choice feeding and you can reduce intake by about 25% to account for reduced energy needs. Kittens do not need to be fed a kitten food through one year of age. If they are neutered at five months they can be switched to an adult food. As we all know, it is easier to prevent weight gain than to fix it once it has happened. The average 11 pound house cat doesn’t need more than 200 kcals per day.

Second, meal feed a measured amount two to three meals a day. Your cat can be trained to a meal time. If you have more than one cat you will have to become the food police. Either separate the cats behind closed doors during meals, or feed in separate bowls several feet apart and stand there and remove any left over food when one walks away. Unlike dogs, cats often love human contact when they are eating. If you have to stand there, pet and talk to them making it an enjoyable social activity for everyone. Love with attention, not with food.

Third, feed a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. Cats are true carnivores. They have an obligate need to eat protein. They use this protein for energy and their digestive systems are not designed to utilize large amounts of carbohydrates. Carbs that are not immediately used for energy will be stored as fat. High protein, low carb diets also help normalize appetite, reducing the cats urge to eat constantly because they are satisfied.

Forth, if at all possible feed canned food. The commercially available diets highest in protein and lowest in carbs are canned foods. But you must read the label. Not all canned foods are high protein, low carb.

There needs to be a meat source in the first couple of listed ingredients, not a grain or starch. To manufacture dry food, it is extruded (made into a biscuit). Carbohydrates are required in the cooking process, and thus, it is difficult to achieve a very low carb dry diet. Also many of the available high protein, low carb dry foods are not low calorie, so it is easy to feed too much. Most canned foods range from 30-40 Kcals per ounce. So a 5.5 ounce can is perfect for feeding an 11 pound cat in 24 hours.

Fifth, get that cat moving. Burn those calories. Obviously it is easier to exercise a dog than a cat. How often do you see someone walking their cat on a leash through the park? But if a cat is only eating 200 kcals a day every little bit of exercise helps. Get them going up and down the stairs. Give them elevated perches to climb, paper sacs to investigate, laser pointers to chase, a variety of toys. Cats can learn to fetch or play hide and go seek.

By keeping our feline friends at an optimal weight we can help them live a longer, healthier and more comfortable life. Who wouldn’t want that?

Summer pet health: Keep your pet safe

Posted on: June 13th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance enjoys the summer weather.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

It’s summertime! With rising temperatures and time off school come vacations, fun in the sun and time with family. The heat, sun and summer activities can also bring some perils, especially to the furry members of your family. While there are a number of things you can do to keep your pets healthy, like ensuring they have pet insurance, knowing the following things can help keep your pets safe this summer.

Heat stroke is a very deadly threat to pets. Heat stroke is defined as severe hyperthermia, with temperatures sometimes over 105 degrees. The animal can suffer severe internal damage to important organs, especially the brain. Dogs don’t sweat like we do, and their only means of cooling themselves is by panting. While in the right combination of circumstances any dog could potentially suffer from heat stroke, the dogs most at risk are those that have difficulty breathing, such as older dogs with underlying respiratory disease and ‘brachycephalic’ breeds.

Having pet insurance for your dog, can come in handy in unexpected emergency situations like heat stroke. And some dog insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance don’t have upper age limits, so even older dogs can enroll.

Brachycephalic syndrome describes the ‘smug nosed’ breeds, which are at the highest risk for heat stroke. These include Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzu’s and other breeds with short noses. These breeds have more difficulty breathing, and therefore have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Prevention is the key in heat stroke, as treatment can be involved and costly. Don’t walk your dog in the heat of the day, stick to the cooler mornings and evenings. Always make sure shade and water are provided. Black dogs may be at an increased risk since their fur absorbs heat.

Signs of heat stroke include rapid breathing and heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and depression. As heat stroke progresses, severe respiratory distress, grey or purple gum, seizures, and eventually collapse can be seen. NEVER douse your pet in water if you believe they are suffering heat stroke, lowering the body temperature too quickly can be lethal. Immediate veterinary attention is paramount. And because emergency visits can be costly, it’s important to research pet insurance companies that would cover this type of condition. Pets Bets Insurance reimburses 80 percent of actual veterinary costs, which can help leverage how much the pet owner can afford.

Warmer temperatures can bring parasites to pets as well. Depending on which part of the nation you live, there are risks of exposure to mosquitoes, fleas and ticks and the diseases they carry. Mosquitoes are the vector for heartworm disease, a deadly parasite that lives in the heart and can cause heart failure. Ticks can carry a variety of serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, to name a few. Tick borne disease can be difficult to diagnose and equally difficult to treat. Fleas, in addition to being unwanted in your home, can also be a factor in tapeworm infestations and are uncomfortable for pets to have. Always use a product that will protect against fleas, ticks and heartworm disease. In general these are prescription products and should be purchased through a veterinarian’s office. Some pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, offer dog insurance wellness plans that can help with the costs of routine care and parasite prevention.

Undoubtedly this summer you will probably have some family outings and trips. Hopefully your animals can be a part of these experiences also. A little common sense will go a long way in terms of keeping your pets safe. Dogs can be great companions on hikes, but make sure you bring water for them, and be mindful of things like foxtails that can cause painful paws. Water activities can be great fun for the right dog, but be cautious when introducing your dog. Not every pet will feel comfortable on a boat, for example. Invest in a life jacket made for dogs to keep them safe. A little foresight can be the key to making this a great summer for all the members of your family!

June campaign donates to shelters

Posted on: June 10th, 2011 by

A Puggle with pet insurance waits to be adopted.
Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

During the month of June, dog lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts can help donate food to shelters just by enjoying Facebook or Twitter like they always do. PEDIGREE® Brand dog food will donate a pound of food to shelter dogs every time someone interacts with the Every Dog Deserves campaign via social media.

According to a press release announcing the campaign, “Whether it’s a Facebook status update, a tweet, an @reply, a re-tweet, a photo upload of their four-legged friend, a status ‘like,’ or wall post – any social media engagement directed at the PEDIGREE® Brand will help feed dogs in need.”

The campaign will donate up to 100,000 pounds of dog food to shelters, and dog lovers can help by visiting the Facebook page (Facebook.com/pedigree) or following @PedigreeUS on Twitter and speaking up about what every dog deserves. Here are some starting ideas:

Every Dog Deserves Good Health
Just as kids would skip the dentist and eat candy for breakfast without guidance, pet health relies on its owner. Regular vet visits supplemented with dog insurance can help catch issues before they start to bother a pet or become serious. No dog deserves to be in pain, and when they are, they aren’t great at communicating what’s wrong.

Every Dog Deserves Daily Walks
It’s great to have a dog waiting at the door after work. But was he by that same door before work, too? Humans would go stir-crazy being locked inside day in and day out, why wouldn’t dogs? Daily walks are not only great for pet health, they are amazing, natural emotional boosters and stress relievers as well. Starting a daily walking routine is often the first course of action for destructive dogs, who are looking for an outlet to vent excess energy.

Every Dog Deserves Boundaries
Dogs love to play and have a good time, but pet safety means setting boundaries. Pushy dogs may benefit from rules being set on when they are allowed on the furniture. Frisky puppies need to be protected in a home that has been puppy-proofed. This means tucking away electrical cords that could be chewed on, not laying out food, and gating off unsafe areas of the home.

Every Dog Deserves a Loving Family
Dogs are pack animals. They don’t care as much about having a yard to run in or a large house to live in as they do about having together time with their pack—their family. For a dog, a little love goes a long way.

Adopt a shelter cat: Finding the purrfect companion

Posted on: June 10th, 2011 by

Two kittens with cat insurance play.

The American Humane Society is once again celebrating Adopt A Shelter Cat month throughout June to highlight the issues facing cat rescue shelters and to promote the adoption of shelter cats.

Most of the pets available from these shelters are healthy cats and kittens that need owners to love and care for them. Upon adoption many pet owners will begin researching the best pet insurance plan for their new cat. In return, these feline friends offer unconditional love and affection and a lifetime of purrs and cuddles for their lucky human owners.

Prospective adopters should consider certain factors before selecting their next pet, including:

-Age and temperament of the cat
-Environment inside the home (including any other pets already living with the family)

-Activity levels and available time of family members.

Cat vs. Kitten
While kittens are cute and cuddly, they typically require far more attention than adult cats and may need training in order to adjust well to their new environment. However, it may be more difficult for adult cats to find homes, so taking home a stable, loving adult cat may be a wise and humane decision for potential adopters. When taking age into account, a pet owner should also ask cat insurance companies if there are any upper age limits. Companies like Pets Best Insurance don’t have upper age limits, and will cover a pet so long as it is seven weeks old.

Social Environment
Most cats do better in a household with at least one other cat. In the wild, cats live in colonies and are highly social creatures; as a result, they require a great deal of contact with humans and other animals within the home in order to be happy and healthy. While cat rescue shelters and foster homes make every effort to ensure the well-being of their cats, ultimately cat health and happiness depends on having a dedicated and attentive owner to care for its physical and emotional needs. By adopting two cats or kittens at the same time, most owners find that their pets bond well and interact with other in the household in a more healthy way.

Activity Levels
Just as people may have widely differing personalities, cats can vary widely in their temperaments and activity levels. Some cats are lovable couch potatoes, content to snuggle up with their owners for hours on end. Others may perform acrobatics and engage in amateur clowning, demanding constant attention from their humans in return for entertaining them. By choosing a cat whose temperament complements their own, owners can ensure that their new pet is the perfect fit for their household.

Cats and kittens require veterinary care in order to grow and remain healthy and happy. Cat insurance is a solid investment for new owners, since it offers financial security even if serious health problems arise.

Pet insurance is typically a cost-effective purchase, as it usually covers much of the cost of typical veterinary procedures and emergency care. Purchasing health insurance for cats is one of the most practical ways of ensuring the health and happiness of the newest addition to the family.

Unusual dog crate may solve travel woes

Posted on: June 9th, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance examines her new kennel.

By: Chryssa Rich
Pet Insurance Marketing Associate

Last summer, my dog was a great camper for the most part. She’d swim and hike all day, then pass out next to the campfire every night.

But mornings were another story. After crowding me off my little air mattress all night, Jayda would be up at dawn, pushing her forehead against the tent seams trying to get out. Don’t get me wrong – I love crisp mountain air as much as the next person, but not at 5:45 AM.

The only way to appease Jayda during these early morning hours was to tie her to a tree outside my tent, where she’d shiver like crazy and bark at every little sound, thus waking the entire campground. I knew I needed a different solution for this summer.

Because I work for a pet insurance company and I’m familliar with the pet industry as a whole, I was able to do some quick online research and I stumbled upon a category of kennels I didn’t even know existed – the soft-sided pop-up kind.

Ideal for travel, these kennels collapse to be almost flat and usually come with handy carrying cases. For small breeds, you might even be able to find one that folds small enough to fit in a purse.

Here are 5 ways to make sure a soft-sided kennel will work for you:

1. Crate Train Your Dog
The flexible fabric structure of a pop-up kennel can’t take the scratching, clawing or chewing of a nervous pup or an anxious dog, so you’ll need to make sure your dog is crate trained and will behave in a kennel. If your pet has anxiety or behavioral problems, it’s a good idea to look for a pet health insurance company that will offer limited coverage for behavioral issues.

2. Get the Right Size
As with any kennel, make sure your dog has room to stand up and turn around comfortably.

3. Find the Right Features
Because I need Jayda to sleep in while camping, I made sure to choose a kennel with dark, opaque fabric and windows with covers. I also made sure the carrying case was designed with handles. For vehicle use, look for a kennel that can be strapped to the seat using a standard seat belt.

4. Make Sure it Fits
If the new kennel is to be used in a car, truck, camper or tent, open it completely and make sure it fits before you hit the road. Also, make sure the kennel won’t block the driver’s visibility.

5. Introduce Your Dog Slowly
To get Jayda used to her new kennel, I brought it into the living room a couple of days before our first camping trip. I filled it with her bedding and hid treats inside, and by the end of the evening she was comfortable walking all the way in without any prompting from me.

Jayda still whined a bit in her new kennel on our first camping trip this year, but overall it was much better than letting her jump around inside the tent. Once she’s fully comfortable with it, I know the new kennel will be a big help for every overnight stay away from home.