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Dogs and Holiday Visitors: 3 Common Issues and How to Help

Posted on: December 4th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance sits near a Christmas tree.

By Liam Crowe, Bark Busters CEO and guest writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats

For many families, December holidays bring a change in routine and lots of extra commotion to the household— which can be stressful for your dog. Although you may be versed in pet health and behavior, with all the extra commotion, your pet many begin to exhibit unusual or undesirable behaviors like stealing food, jumping up on people, or growling or snapping at visitors.

Although it’s a good idea to have pet insurance in case of an accidental illness or injury during the holidays, the following tips can help keep your dog calm, happy and safe in your home this season.

1. Front door behaviors
Whether your dog perceives it as exciting or alarming, a knock on the door can be a stimulating and potentially dangerous event. It is natural for him to want to find out who the visitors are and to determine if they are friendly or not. However, a dog that behaves in an out-of-control manner at the sound of the doorbell is not only annoying, but unsafe. Your pet could harm himself by escaping out the door or getting underfoot and becoming a trip hazard. Your dog could also hurt others by knocking elderly visitors or children down, or even becoming aggressive to the visitors.

What to Do

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Posted on: December 2nd, 2011 by

Winking Dogs and Dog Lice

Posted on: December 1st, 2011 by

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

The first question comes from Drew, who asks, “Why does my dog sometimes wink, and is that normal?”

This is probably completely normal. Dogs will blink or wink to remove debris off the eye or if hair gets in there. If it’s constant, or if the dog is squinting or you’re seeing discharge, that might be an indication of a problem, but just a normal wink here and there probably doesn’t mean anything.

The next one is from Mary Ann, who asks, “Is there a home remedy for chewing lice?”

Dogs can get their own type of lice, just like people can. I’m going to recommend that you go to a veterinarian to get this treated. There are some things that you can do at home but probably the guidance of a professional is going to be helpful.

You can use some type of an insecticide shampoo. Make sure that it’s a shampoo that’s meant for the animal you’re using it on. For example, cats are especially very sensitive to topical shampoos. If it’s a dog, make sure you use dog shampoo. Usually the flea and tick shampoos will actually help with lice as well.

You’re going to need some type of a topically-applied medication, such as Frontline or Revolution, that are generally prescribed by a veterinarian. Those typically need to be done in a series of three to four treatments every two to three weeks apart.

These are all things you’re probably going to need to work with a professional about. The environment’s really important as well. You’re going to want to wash all the bedding or throw it away. You might even consider, in a large infestation, getting an exterminator.

Fleas in the wintertime? You bet.

Posted on: November 29th, 2011 by

Two cats with cat insurance cuddle under a blanket.

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

I live in a dry Western state, and when I moved here a year ago, my colleagues told me that fleas are not much of a problem in our area because of the low humidity. Imagine my surprise, then, with the cases of heavy flea infestations that I’ve seen over the past month. Given the right conditions, fleas can be plentiful! Since some pet insurance companies will even help to cover a potion of flea prevention with their wellness plans, it’s a good idea to inquire.

Fleas are not just a summer issue, like you might think. While fleas won’t survive a good frost outside, they can be a year-round problem inside your home. The most common flea in the US which feeds off both cats and dogs is called Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea. The primary determining factor of populations is humidity, so fleas can be worse from one area to another and can vary seasonally from year to year. We had a wet spring this year, so that probably accounts for the more numerous infestations that I’ve been seeing.

While many pets live with fleas and show minimal signs of infestation, some develop a pet health allergy to flea saliva which causes them to scratch excessively or develop other skin disease. The painful itching can be so bad that the poor animal may scratch herself raw in seeking relief. The cat flea can carry the larval stage of the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum. Pets can then be infested with these worms by eating fleas during grooming. Fleas have the potential to transmit other infectious agents causing diseases such as Haemobartonellosis which is a serious form of anemia. Adult fleas feed on animal blood. In young kittens and puppies this can cause weakness, anemia and death. Cat fleas can also cause itchy bites on sensitive humans, typically around the ankles.

While you may see actual fleas on your pet, the most common sign is flea dirt, which is actually flea feces. It is black pepper-like granules in the coat, especially on the rump and groin area. It is found by either parting the fur or using a special “flea comb” with narrow spaced teeth. To determine if what you find is flea dirt, which has digested blood in it, place the granules on a moistened white paper towel. Rub them gently; if the paper towel turns red-brown, your pett has flea dirt.

Within 2 days of finding a home on your pet, the mature female flea starts to lay eggs at a rate of about 50 a day. The eggs fall off the cat’s coat together with flea dirt. This flea dirt provides food for the hatching flea larvae. Eggs and larvae can be found anywhere your cat or dog has been, but are particularly concentrated in bedding or in areas where your pet spends a lot of time. The larvae dislike light and move deep into the carpet or soft furnishings. The larvae develop into pupae, each encased in a sticky cocoon. An adult flea develops within the cocoon and awaits a sign that there is an animal or person close by. It does this by detecting pressure, noise, heat, carbon dioxide or vibrations. The new flea can emerge and attach to the host within seconds. Fleas can lie waiting in the cocoon for up to 2 years. However, in the right conditions, the whole life cycle can be completed in 15 days. Because prevention is always best, it’s important to purchase a wellness plan from a pet health insurance company that will reimburse a portion for preventing fleas.

Once there is a flea infestation it is important to treat all the animals and the house. There is a vast and confusing array of flea treatments on the market, and it is important to follow your veterinarian’s advice for the best and safest results. Never use products labeled for dogs on cats, as they can be toxic. In particular, the insecticide permethrin can be safely used as a flea treatment for dogs, but is highly toxic to cats and may even cause death. Always consult your veterinarian first!

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The older generation of flea control products (flea powders, flea collars and dips) are now completely obsolete. The latest treatments are the topical “spot-ons” which are much safer for both pets and humans. These are applied to the skin, usually at the back of the neck, and disperse through the skin’s oils. Most topicals are labeled for once-a-month application. I like Advantage, Frontline and Revolution. If a pet is heavily loaded with flea dirt, I recommend a cleansing bath first, followed by one of these topical products after the animal is dried completely.

Treatment of the house is also necessary. Vacuum your entire house paying particular attention to corners, dark crevices, under furniture, under beds, pet beds, rugs and especially around baseboards. Dispose of vacuum bags/contents to prevent collected immature flea stages from continuing to develop in the house. Wash all bedding thoroughly.

Treat your house to eradicate fleas at all stages of their development. Choose an insecticide that contains an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). Spray all carpets, rugs, floors, soft furnishings and places your pet sleeps with an aerosol, flea bomb or fogger that kills flea eggs, larvae and emerging adult fleas. Make sure that you spray into every nook and cranny and pay special attention around baseboards and under rugs and furniture, including under beds. Aerosols are best for getting these hidden spots. Read and follow directions carefully when using insecticides.

While the fleas are in the pupae stage (in their cocoons) they are not affected by insecticides. The cocoons are watertight and protect the developing flea. This is why you may see a new flea infestation about 2 weeks later as new fleas emerge from these cocoons. If this happens you may need to treat your house again.

Continue to treat your pet monthly with one of the topical products for several months minimum to be sure the flea infestation is resolved. Periodically flea comb your pet to monitor the progress.

Once adult and immature fleas have been completely eradicated from the household, reassess whether further treatment is necessary. If your pett goes outside, consider using one of the topical products in a preventative manner.

For more information about dog or cat insurance visit Pets Best Insurance.

The mythical cat health conundrum

Posted on: November 28th, 2011 by

A cat that could benefit from cat insurance licks her coat.

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

It’s quite common for my clients to come into an appointment thinking that vomiting is normal in their cats. Before I even inquire as to whether they have cat insurance for their pet, I ask if their cat has any problems related to vomiting. I’ve learned to ask very directly, “Does your cat vomit?” And I’m always surprised by the number of clients who answer “Yes, but that’s what cats do, right?” Wrong!

These clients tend to respond that the cat is fine even though I later discover that the cat has been vomiting habitually for years. I’m not sure how this myth started, but the truth is that vomiting in cats is NOT normal. Sure, an occasional hairball once a month or so can be expected, especially in a long-haired cat, but vomiting that is more frequent than that needs to be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. Having a pet health insurance policy for your cat can significantly help diminish vet-related costs when it comes to visits and diagnosing cat vomiting problems.

So why do cats vomit? The list is long! My approach to a vomiting cat depends on whether the vomiting is acute or chronic, the age of the cat, and how sick the cat is. If the cat is young to middle-aged, still bright and alert and feeling good, and if the vomiting has been going on for several months or longer, I feel comfortable taking a little more time trying to uncover the underlying problem. However, if the vomiting started suddenly, the cat is not feeling well and not eating, or if the cat is older and I see weight loss or other problems, then I will be more aggressive with my diagnostic testing and treatment.

If there is evidence of hairballs, I will use a hairball diet along with consistent brushing of the coat so the cat won’t ingest as much fur. I have clients keep diaries of the vomiting so we can look for frequency and patterns as well as help to determine whether our treatments are resolving the problem.

If the hairballs have decreased but the cat is still vomiting, I try to determine if food is a factor. I will generally recommend a grain free diet first, a hypoallergenic diet to rule out food allergies or sensitivities next, and then a so-called gastrointestinal diet that has a more highly digestible protein component.

If the cat is allowed outside unsupervised, and especially for cats that hunt, I make sure I do a thorough deworming treatment. I also make sure the cat is not ingesting any toxic/irritating material or plants. Many people think that if cats don’t feel well they will instinctively eat grass to make themselves vomit to feel better. I don’t think cats can reason like this. I more often see that many cats just like to chew on greens naturally and may vomit from stomach irritation that plants can cause, particularly grass. If your cat likes to chew on grass, provide him or her with organic wheat grass or oat grass that you can find in local markets. It’s less likely to cause vomiting.

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For young cats that come in with vomiting and a painful belly, I often think of possible ingestion of a foreign body like a string or small toy. I use x-rays or an ultrasound scan to try to identify those problems, and the kitty may need surgery to remove the material. Again, because diagnosis can be costly, I always recommend pet insurance to my clients. While pet insurance will not cover preexisting conditions, it’s a good idea to invest early to ensure coverage for accidents and illnesses that can crop up thereafter.

For older cats or for cats that are very sick on presentation, I’m more likely to recommend immediate diagnostics including bloodwork, a urine test, blood pressure measurement, and abdominal x-rays. Unfortunately, this does not always give us the answers. Sometimes the cat may need special procedures like endoscopy with biopsies or exploratory surgery of the abdomen. These more invasive techniques can be costly. Pet health insurance allows the pet owner to give her cat the best possible treatment available without financial worry. Because of this, cost does not have to be the major factor in the medical choices you make for your furry friend.

In my future blogs, I’ll look more closely at specific causes of vomiting in cats and how to diagnose and treat them successfully. For more information about cat health and pet insurance for your cat, visit Pets Best Insurance.