Pet Q&A with Veterinarian Dr. Jack Stephens

Dr. Jack Stephens, the founder of US pet health insurance, sits with his pets.
I just found out my pet has a chronic kidney disease which is very costly to treat and none of the dog or cat insurance companies will cover this condition. Why does pet insurance exclude pre-existing conditions?

Dr. Jack Stephens’ Answer:
Insurance is purchased to protect against future, unknown events. Take car insurance for example. Once you’ve already been in a car accident you can’t call to get insurance coverage for repairs. No insurer would reimburse for damage that’s already occurred. If you think of pre-existing health conditions in these terms, it’s easier to understand why a pet insurance company isn’t able to cover things that exist prior to enrolling in a policy. Insurance transfers financial risk from you to the insurance company for future events in exchange for your monthly premium. If the insurance company covered pre-existing conditions, the premium cost would be much too high for the customers to even afford.

Pet health insurance operates by insuring thousands of pets and then pooling the premiums to pay claims for the insured. Some pets will have no claims, while others will have quite large claims. Being insured may help pet owners afford costly pet care for accidents and illness.

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Is Your Dog Allergic to Your Cat?

A dog and a cat with pet health insurance sit beside each other.

Dealing with an itchy allergic dog can be a frustrating experience for pet owners and veterinarians alike! It is frustrating because there is no cure and there is no one magic pill that works for every dog. Even diagnosing pet allergies can be far from straightforward. In addition, it is fairly common. All that biting and scratching can take a strain on everyone in the household, but with some persistence and patience an allergy program can be formulated to provide a little relief for everyone.

Kinds of Allergies

-Environmental allergies: True allergies are clinically referred to as Atopic Dermatitis (AD). With this disease pets develops antibodies inappropriately to things in the environment, such as pollens of grasses, trees, and weeds, as well as mold spores, house dust, dust mites, fleas and even other animals, like your cat! Because pet allergies can be difficult to treat, I always recommend pet owners invest in pet insurance while their pets are still young. Enrolling pets while they’re still puppies and kittens may help cover costs for veterinary care throughout the pets’ lives without the worry of exclusion of preexisting conditions.

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Cheat Grass Dangers for Cats

A kitten with cat insurance sits in the lawn.

By Dr. Matheys, a veterinarian and blogger for cat insurance provider, Pets Best Insurance.

It’s that time of year again to be on alert for various “invaders” from the plant world. As temperatures soar and rain is scarce, grasses and weeds dry out and seeds begin to scatter. This can mean trouble, by way of cheat grass, for cats that roam outdoors. Because of this, it’s a good idea to consider pet insurance for your cat since cheat grass can be very dangerous and costly to remove.

Cheat grass is one of the more common and invasive weeds found in many parts of North America and especially in the West. It is also known as June grass, Downy Brome, grass awn, foxtail, or by the scientific name, Bromus tectorum.

The danger for cats lies in the invasiveness of the dry seed pods found in late summer and early fall. These pods have one-way microscopic barbs that allow the seed to work its way into fur, skin and mucous membranes, but not work its way back out, much like the one-way movement of a porcupine quill. These annoying and troublesome weeds have been found in the skin, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, rear end, and between the toes; basically anywhere on the body.

Many times they will even migrate deep into tissue. They can even work their way through skin into body cavities such as lungs and abdomen, causing life-threatening infections. Cats are better at grooming and removing them from their coats, so we most commonly see them in their eyes and ears.

We have seen several cheat grass cases in just the past two weeks. One cat patient, without cat insurance, had two grass awns in her eye and suffered severe ulcerations from the barbs scraping against the cornea of the eye. Do not underestimate the potential seriousness of this common problem.

Cats will show signs relating to where the awn has penetrated. Cheat grass in the ear typically causes scratching at the ear and head shaking. Cheat grass in the nose can cause intense sneezing fits and nasal discharge, and awns stuck behind the third eyelid usually cause squinting and rubbing of the eye, sometimes with severe swelling of the inner eyelids. Cats with an infected grass awn penetration will show signs typical of an infection: lethargy, anorexia, pain or signs of drainage. Any time you see your cats showing any of these signs, have them checked by your veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Since most cats that go outside roam freely, it can be difficult to keep them out of grassy fields and roadsides where cheat grass grows. Keep your own yard free of these nasty weeds and try to identify any neighboring areas where they might exist and can be controlled. Keep long haired cats trimmed and free of mats. Check your cats after they have been outdoors. Daily skin and foot inspections plus quick removal will reduce or eliminate potential serious and expensive problems. For more information about pet health and pet insurance, visit


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Elevated Thyroid Levels in Cats – When to Worry

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Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from the Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’ll be answering some cat health questions today that were posted on the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

The first question comes from Kate. “Our Calico cat has a mid-range thyroid count. It’s not bad but higher than the vet would like to see. We walk her and play with her and I’m working on weight loss. What, if anything, can we do to help fix this?”Read More…

Flea Med Seizure; Found Dog with Lame Legs

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

The first question comes from Denise who writes, “My puggle has been diagnosed with epilepsy and takes daily medication, Phenobarbital. Every time I put on his flea medication, I’ve tried both Frontline and Pet Wormer, he has a mild seizure about 12 hours after it’s applied. Is there something else I can give him?”

Animals with seizures can be triggered by a variety of different things, and since this has been consistent, clearly this is a trigger for him. I agree you need to not give him this medication. The good news is there are so many flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives out there for you to try. The Frontline is a spot on. If you wanted to do something that was all inclusive, really you should talk to your veterinarian about different products, but you could use something like Revolution, which has flea and tick preventative and heartworm preventative. It might be a better option for you. There are oral medications that can be used as well. There are lots of products out there. Definitely talk with your veterinarian about trying something different so you can get the benefits of keeping him on preventative, but also not having him have these seizures.Read More…

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