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Kennel stress: Signs and what to do

Posted on: September 19th, 2011 by

La La the Chihuahua watch dog looks out the window.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Working in the pet insurance industry, I tend to follow pet-related groups on Facebook. Some of the pages I follow include rescue groups where I see daily pleas for foster parents to come forward and help pets showing signs of “kennel stress.”

It’s true that most dogs would prefer not to stay in a strange kennel by themselves, although many do okay. But those who start suffering clear signs of stress need to be handled in a special way to ensure they’re happy, well-adjusted and adoptable when the right family comes looking for them.

Whether a dog was surrendered by its owners, found running the streets, or just boarded in a kennel while its owners are on vacation, the causes of kennel stress are pretty clear. All of a sudden, the pup is contained in a new area, eating different food, sleeping with different bedding, surrounded by unfamiliar animals and accompanied by unfamiliar humans. All these changes can really affect pet health.

Some top signs of kennel stress include:
• Pacing
• Shivering or shaking
• Tail chasing
• Bed chewing
• Refusal to eat
• Lethargy
• Excessive barking and jumping

Fostering, which is also called domestic socializing, is often the best way to counter the effects of kennel stress. When that’s not an option, shelter and rescue workers can try:

• Playing soft music
• Going for individual walks with the affected dog
• Grooming
• Socializing the affected dog with other dogs
• Playing games and teaching tricks

If you’re boarding your dog while you’re on vacation, you can reduce kennel stress by doing the following:

• Visit your dog’s kennel before you leave town to make sure it’s run properly and it will be staffed at all hours by a knowledgeable staff.
• Ask to leave your dog for just a few hours a day first, to ensure he’s comfortable there before the big trip.
• When you drop off your dog, include his favorite food, treats, toy and bedding
• Include an unwashed blanket or shirt of your own for an added familiar scent

Of course, not all dogs respond the same to the above solutions and preventive measures, so it’s important to monitor progress and see what works for each pet. And if you have room in your pet-friendly home, consider becoming a foster parent. Your efforts could help keep pets healthy, happy and ready for their forever homes.

For more information about pet health, well-being and pet insurance, visit the Pets Best Insurance blog.

Kidney Diesease Diets and Spooked Dogs – Answers from a Vet

Posted on: September 14th, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering Pets Best questions on their Facebook page.

The first question comes from Nicole. She says, “I have a five-year-old Chessie with kidney disease. I need to switch food and I’m considering going to a raw diet. What considerations should I take into account when switching over and with a raw diet?”

First of all, with kidney disease, I definitely think that you should get your dog on a kidney-formulated diet. These diets tend to be lower in phosphorus and have balanced amounts of protein, making it easier for the kidneys to function at their optimal level. Typically, the best thing for kidney diets is to use a prescription diet that’s formulated for kidney disease. There are some homemade diets that can be done this way, formulated for kidney disease as well. You probably need to talk to your veterinarian about those homemade diets.

I’m not a huge fan of raw food diets for the same reason that you don’t eat raw meat. Dogs can get salmonella and all kinds of other GI diseases from raw food. There are some veterinarians out there who are more of an advocate for it, but personally, I see so many food-borne illnesses with raw food diets that it’s not something that I would recommend.

The second question comes from Carrie. She writes, “My dog has suddenly become terrified of loud noises and trucks on our walks. He will start shaking violently and drags me home. What can I do to help my poor baby?”

This is really unfortunate. Noise anxiety can happen at any time and with any dog. It can be triggered by any number of different things. My advice to you is going to be to work with a behaviorist. I think that’s going to be your best plan to get him over this fear. There are some things that you can try to do, such as desensitization, which can be a little bit tricky. I would talk with your veterinarian about how desensitization towards noises works.

There are anti-anxiety medications that can be used. You might try walking him in an area that’s not as noisy or maybe taking him somewhere completely different, like a park that’s a little bit quieter. If you’re interested in desensitization or anti-anxiety medication, contact your veterinarian.
www.petsbest.com

Another reason you need cat insurance: Diabetes

Posted on: September 13th, 2011 by

A cat with diabetes who has cat insurance drinks lots of water.

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

Diabetes mellitus, otherwise known as just plain “diabetes,” is a serious disease in which a cat’s body either doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t properly use insulin. During digestion, the fats, carbohydrates and proteins that are consumed in the diet are broken down into smaller components that can be utilized by cells in the body. One component is glucose, or blood sugar, a fuel that provides the energy needed to sustain life. Because diabetes can be a very serious and very expensive condition, you should research the best pet insurance for your cat, and purchase a policy that will cover this condition.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and is responsible for regulating the flow of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. Without an adequate amount of insulin, glucose is unable to get into the cells and it accumulates in the blood. When insulin is deficient, the cells become starved for a source of energy. In response to this, the body starts breaking down stores of fat and protein to use as alternate energy sources. As a consequence, the cat eats more. Therefore, a cat can have weight loss despite an increased or ravenous appetite.

The body tries to eliminate the excess glucose in the blood by eliminating it in the urine. However, glucose attracts water, so urine glucose takes large quantities of the body’s fluids with it, resulting in a large amount of urine. To avoid dehydration, the cat will drink more water. Thus you will see a cat with diabetes exhibit four classical signs of the disease: weight loss, increased appetite, increased water consumption, and increased urination. When these symptoms present themselves, it’s important to get your cat to your veterinarian right away. Having cat insurance can help diminish sometimes high costs in diagnosing this condition.

Two types of diabetes mellitus have been discovered in cats. In Type I diabetes, the cat’s body generates little to no insulin due to an insufficient number of pancreatic cells capable of producing insulin. This is the most common type of feline diabetes and is also known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes. As the name implies, cats with this type require insulin injections to stabilize blood sugar. In Type II diabetes, the pancreas may produce insulin, but the body’s cells have difficulty making efficient use of it. This is called “insulin resistance.” Most cats with Type II diabetes eventually progress to Type I and require insulin also. During September’s Pet Health Insurance Month, watch for signs and symptoms of either form of diabetes in your kitty.

While diabetes can affect any cat, it most often occurs in older or obese animals. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get your cat signed up for pet health insurance while they are young– so issues, like diabetes, that develop later in life, will be covered. Unfortunately, since the incidence if obesity is rising in our pets, the incidence of diabetes is increasing also, similar to the trend seen in people. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. Obesity is the major predisposing condition, but chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases and certain medications, such as steroids, have all been linked to the disease.

In addition to increased thirst and urination and weight loss, some affected cats may also exhibit a flat-footed gait with their hind feet, rather than walking up on their paws. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy, and is a result of prolonged high blood glucose on the cat’s nerves. Most diabetic cats remain bright and alert. owever, if an owner has not recognized the signs of diabetes early, a condition called ketoacidosis can develop and the cat may become very ill if medical care is not sought. Cats in this situation may become depressed, weak and dehydrated. They may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and severe weight loss. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs of diabetes so the condition can be recognized and treated early.

In addition to performing physical examinations, veterinarians will use laboratory analyses of blood and urine samples to diagnose diabetes mellitus. Occasionally, frightened or stressed cats may also have a fairly high blood glucose level which can be confused with diabetes. A specialized test, called a fructosamine test, can distinguish between the two and can also be very helpful in understanding difficult cases.

Treating diabetes is usually a rewarding endeavor, and a diabetic cat can live many healthy years. All diabetic cats do best with consistent medication, consistent feeding, and a stable, stress-free lifestyle.

The first step in treatment is to alter your cat’s diet. Cats are obligate carnivores. hey have very little requirement for carbohydrates. Canned diets high in protein and low in carbohydrate are preferred because of how cats digest and metabolize their food. For some cats, this type of diet alone may control the disease. For many other cats, this diet may at least decrease the amount of insulin the cat needs to control the diabetes. It is important to keep this in mind so that your cat does not get too much insulin. If your cat is overweight, you will need to help him lose weight gradually. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best diet for your cat, and can tailor a safe weight loss program.

Most diabetic cats require insulin injections administered under the skin twice daily. Although many people are initially fearful of giving insulin injections, for most cats, injections are much easier than giving tablets, and both the cat and the owner handle it very well.

Several types of insulin are used in cats. Some are made for use in humans and obtained from regular pharmacies, while others are made for pets and obtained through your veterinarian. The current recommended insulin in cats is a human insulin called glargine. Recent studies indicate that newly diagnosed diabetic cats started on glargine insulin and a high protein/low carbohydrate canned diet have a higher likelihood of eventually going into remission and no longer requiring insulin. While some cats may return to insulin dependence in the future, they can have many months or even years when insulin is not required. Owners will be instructed by their veterinarian about the techniques to properly handle and administer insulin injections.

It is necessary to check your diabetic cat’s progress on a regular basis. Monitoring is a joint project between you and your veterinarian. At home, you’ll need to be constantly aware of your cat’s appetite, weight, water consumption and urine output. It is important to feed a consistent amount of food each day so you can be aware of days that your cat either does not eat or is unusually hungry after feeding. Any significant change in your cat’s food intake, weight, water intake or urine output is an indicator that the diabetes is not well controlled, and you should contact your veterinarian.

Your cat’s blood glucose levels will also need to be monitored periodically to make sure the diabetes is regulated. This can be done at the veterinary clinic or you can be taught to do it at home by getting a tiny blood sample from your cat’s ear vein. The glucose readings obtained at home will be more accurate because of the reduced stress to your cat.

The most serious complication of insulin therapy is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, usually at the peak of insulin activity. The cat will become weak, lethargic and disoriented and may stagger on its feet. Left untreated, this situation may progress to seizures and, in rare cases, even death. If mild signs are observed, feed the cat immediately or give 1 tablespoon of Karo syrup by mouth and consult your veterinarian. If severe symptoms occur, rub Karo syrup onto the cat’s gums and seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Never put food or liquid down the throat of an unconscious or seizuring cat, as it may accidentally enter the airways.

Beyond the monetary cost of diagnosing, stabilizing, treating and maintaining a diabetic cat, with the help of cat insurance, there is a time commitment required of owners. Such a commitment may seem daunting at first, but it can be very rewarding for both owner and cat. It will add to the quality of life and is paid back in years of healthy companionship.

Researching pet insurance

Posted on: September 12th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance is seen by a veterinarian.

Posted by: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

If you are like many pet owners across the country, you may be considering buying pet insurance for your dog or cat. With veterinary care getting more expensive, taking good care of our furry family members can become a real economic hurdle.

A good dog or cat insurance policy can help with those costs, allowing your pet to receive the best care available. But you will want to do your research carefully because pet insurance costs do vary from plan to plan.

What will be covered?
First, you will need to find out what kinds of veterinary care pet health insurance companies cover. Below are some coverage options to consider:

• Routine – Routine care is usually not covered as part of a basic pet insurance plan. Routine services include physical exams (not related to an illness or injury), vaccinations, some routine lab tests, etc. Companies like Pets Best Insurance offer a plan that includes routine care for an additional monthly fee.

• Vet services related to a health problem – The majority of basic pet insurance plans cover services related to illness, accidents or injuries. This usually includes emergency visits, surgeries, hospitalization, diagnostic lab blood work, tests like MRIs and X-rays, prescription medicines and more.

• Alternative treatments – Another add-on you might consider are “alternative” treatments like chiropractic care or acupuncture. Some companies charge an additional fee for this kind of care, but Pets Best Insurance offers limited annual coverage for chiropractic and acupuncture in its standard plans.

• Levels of care – Many pet insurance companies offer a menu of plans, mainly on different levels like “Basic,” or “Premier” and are priced accordingly.

• “Limited” Coverage – Some cat and dog insurance companies will offer limited coverage for things like pregnancies, hereditary conditions, behavioral problems and mortality expenses.

Know Exactly What Your Costs Will Be
A reliable, high-quality pet insurance company will spell out all the costs and coverage of its plans so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for, and what you’ll get. You shouldn’t have to worry about unexpected or hidden costs. Ask lots of questions from the customer service representatives until you are satisfied and feel confident in their responses.

Select a Pet Insurance company
After you have researched and factored in all the costs of a plan, you can determine what will be the best pet insurance for you and your pet. Some people will opt for a very basic pet insurance plan, and others may decide a full array of services will suit them. But only you know what will fit into your budget or what is comfortable for you.

For more information about cat and dog insurance, visit www.petsbest.com.

Chunky Pets! How to Help Them Lose

Posted on: September 12th, 2011 by

Hi. I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Brenda, who says, “My three-year-old feline is a chunky monkey. She has her dry food monitored but she’s only lost three pounds and needs to lose three more. She’s on Royal Canin Weight Management. It’s the lowest-fat dry food I’ve found. She gets less than a cup a day. What else can I do?”

Cats and dogs are the same as people in that weight loss has to be by burning more calories than they’re taking in. If she has additional weight to lose, she really needs less calories still. Something that you can do would be to cut back that food even just a little bit more. Try to be patient. When you’re a cat and you only weigh 10 or 13 pounds, or whatever your cat weighs right now, that weight loss is going to be really slow. You should aim for probably no more than a pound a month or so. There’s a possibility that if she’s already lost the three, you just need to be a little bit more patient.

You could try switching to a weight management canned food. Canned food tends to have more water content in it, and it’s kind of a bigger amount of food but it’s less dense in terms of its calories. That would be another way you could make her feel like she’s eating more food but actually is taking in less calories. Keep up the good work. A healthy pet is usually a thin pet, so I applaud your efforts there.

The next question also has to do with weight and it comes from Sue. She has a Bichon mix who is very overweight. He’s on weight manage food but it doesn’t seem to be helping. He’s a rescue and has doubled in weight.

We see this sometimes in pets that have been rescued that had poor nutrition before. They never knew when their next meal was going to come so they tried to really eat all the time. What he needs to learn is that his next meal is coming. Great job on getting him on a weight management food, but what you probably need to do now is portion control.

Rather than letting him graze all day with a bowl of weight management food, you’re going to need to actually measure his food. Get an actual measuring cup from the grocery store and follow the back of the bag. Aim for the weight he should be, and aim for the low end of the range that’s on the back of the bag. It’s usually a good place to start.

I recommend feeding dogs twice a day. If he’s the kind of dog that likes to graze all the time and you put the food down and he doesn’t particularly eat it all in one sitting, put his measured amount in. If he doesn’t eat it in 10 minutes or so, then the food goes away and he gets it for dinner. Then the same thing; set it down for dinner, and if he doesn’t eat it that time, take it away and he gets it for breakfast. He’ll figure out eventually that you’re going to take his food away so he’ll learn to eat a whole meal at one time and you’ll have a much easier time with portion control.
www.petsbest.com