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ACL Injuries: What they mean for your pet

Posted on: April 28th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance heals from an ACL injury.

By: Dr. Fional Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

It’s all too common, a big athletic dog suddenly comes back from the park limping, or even holding up the hind leg completely. You end up at the veterinarian’s office, where you are told your dog has just injured its ACL.

ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament; in proper veterinary terminology this ligament is the Cranial Cruciate Ligament, or CCL. We think of ACL injuries occurring in athletes, such as football players and skiers, but this happens in dogs and cats too. In fact, cruciate ruptures are the most common orthopedic injury seen in veterinary medicine; having dog insurance can often make this injury more financially feasible to treat.*

The cruciate ligaments are located in the knee (or stifle in animals). These ligaments are vital for proper movement of the knee. The term “cruciate” implies there are two ligaments that form an ‘X.’ The cranial and caudal ligaments do just this and normally function to stabilize the knee so the shinbone (tibia) doesn’t slide back front to back in relation to the thigh bone (femur).

One big difference between veterinary and human cruciate injuries is that human cruciate ruptures tend to be due to traumatic injuries, such as, playing sports. In animals this isn’t always the case, which is another good reason it’s often a good idea to look into insurance for dogs.

While some may occur as the result of some injury, such as after chasing a Frisbee, 75% of cases are thought to be due to congenital predisposition (genetics) or degeneration in the stifle. Obesity is a huge predisposing factor! Breeds prone to this condition include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, and St. Bernard among others.

Due to the degenerative nature of cruciate disease, between 30-40% of dogs will go on to eventually injure the other knee. This is due to increased weight bearing on the ‘good’ knee while the dog is lame, combined by the fact that the knees are generally symmetrical. Thus, an underlying predisposing problem in one knee will undoubtedly be present in the other.

There are basically four ways of treating a torn or ruptured cruciate ligament, three of these are surgical and can be quite costly; dog health insurance can often help to reduce these costs. Non-surgical treatment is only ever considered in pets weighing less than 15 pounds. Even in these smaller pets this is generally unrewarding and typically fails. About 50% of cats and 20-to 25% of dogs may respond to strict cage rest, weight control and pain relievers.

There are several companies that are making orthopedic knee braces for dogs. Although some dog insurance companies might cover the cost of these types of braces, most people agree that they are cumbersome to put on and difficult to keep on the patient. They also are not a long term solution, as the amount of stability provided isn’t sufficient for healing.

A permanent surgical correction is a better option, although braces may be suitable for post-operative rehabilitation. The majority of pets need to have surgical correction to provide return to normal function of the leg. Surgery is generally expensive and dog health insurance can often come in handy.

There are three main types of surgical repair. Your veterinarian should help you decide which is appropriate for your pet.

A Lateral Stabilizing procedure, also called a ‘Tight Rope’ or ‘Fishing Line’ procedure is generally less costly and can be a good choice for dogs weighing up to 40 or 50 pounds. This implant approximates the position and plane of the torn cruciate, providing stability. In people a graft can be used to replace the ligament, but this doesn’t provide long term stability in dogs and has fallen out of favor. Success rate is about 85% with surgical correction.

A TPLO, or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy is another common type of surgical repair. Smaller dogs may not be good candidates for this type of surgery due to the size of the surgical implant. This surgery is different from the lateral stabilizing surgery because it changes the biomechanics of the knee, negating the need for the cranial cruciate. It alters the slope of the top of the shinbone (tibia) to neutralize the forward motion of the shinbone in the absence of an intact cruciate ligament.

A TTA, or Tibial Tuberosity Advancement, has a similar goal to alter the biomechanics of the knee, and can be another excellent choice for surgical repair. Studies show that regardless of the surgery type, the TPLO or TTA surgeries appear to be associated with better results and less degenerative joint disease in very large dogs than the Lateral Stabilizing procedure.

There are some things you can do to prevent this type of injury. If you have a larger dog, or any pet for that matter, consider having dog insurance prior to any problems occurring. Don’t let your pets become obese, monitoring treats and people food is essential. Regular check ups with your veterinarian can help you to determine if your pet is getting too heavy.

If you are concerned your pet may have a torn cruciate ligament, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

*Pets Best Insurance does not cover cruciate injuries within in the first 12 months of coverage. After 12 months, regular benefits will apply to cruciate injures that develop after the first year of coverage.

Pet health: Vet trips don’t have to be stressful

Posted on: April 27th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance is tended to by a veterinarian.

While pet insurance can make a trip to the vet less stressful for the pet owner, pets may still feel uncomfortable.

The office is oftentimes cold, sterile, and uninviting. The smells are funny, and the waiting time is usually long and awkward. When it comes to visiting the vet, our pets experience the same kind of discomfort and anxiety as we do.

This office is a new place, or one that your pet likely associates with something negative (shots, surgery, medications).

Discount pet care is out there, but more often than not medical costs can run through the roof! So along with making sure your little ball of love is as stress-free as possible, managing the cost of veterinary care with cat or dog insurance will help you buffer the headache in the office. Here are some tips for making the most of your vet visit:

1. Make sure your animal has a security blanket. Okay, maybe not an actual blanket, but a familiar place or object that makes them feel safe—like a carrier, or a leash. Bring a familiar toy for some comforting smells from home.

2. Be sure to do a pet insurance comparison so you can better understand coverage. Just because you have cat or dog insurance doesn’t mean that everything is covered. When shopping for insurance for cats or dogs, take inventory of what services are covered prior to your vet visit. You don’t want any surprises!

3. Understand how your dog insurance plan works. Just having pet insurance isn’t enough. Make sure you really understand how the payment system works for that particular company. Find out what will be covered and what’s excluded.

Free Feral Cat Spaying Day – April 27

Posted on: April 27th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance lounges around.

Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

April 27th is the second annual “Free Feral Cat Spay Day.” Homeless and feral cat populations continue to increase by startling numbers. The hope of creating this special cat spaying day was to make the public more aware of the plight of these homeless cats, which is considered to be a national epidemic. The public understands the importance of spaying and neutering. Check to see if cat insurance plan you consider covers spaying or neutering. Many pet insurance companies offer limited coverage with their wellness plans.

Vets Give Free Cat Spaying and Neutering
This event was launched last year by the Alley Cat Rescue (ACR). ACR’s president, Louise Holton, asked veterinarians to participate by offering at least two free spay or neuters to homeless and/or feral cats. 150 vets participated in the event. In addition to this one-day event, many communities are trying to make this issue more public year round.

Reduce the Feral Cat Population
Feral cats contribute to overpopulation and the public isn’t as tuned into this problem because they don’t hear about it. In the case of feral cats, a program called “trap-neuter-return” or TNR involves humanely trapping the wild cats, having them spayed or neutered and then returning them to their location.

Inspire Other Vets, Shelters and Public Involvement
The hope of this two-year-old program is to raise awareness and not just encourage more vets to participate, but include the community and help fund shelters’ low-cost spay and neuter programs. Positive action combined with the veterinary profession’s caring participants will help spotlight this issue. Many companies that offer insurance for cats are also helping to educate about the feral cat issue. Plan to learn more and help out!

Schipperke Stomach Issues and Poop-eating Dogs

Posted on: April 26th, 2011 by


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

The first question comes from Donna who asks what I would recommend to feed a Schipperke with a sensitive stomach. She’s tried various formulas with salmon as the main ingredient but he doesn’t like it.

Schipperkes are a little, usually dark-colored haired breed with kind of fluffy hair. I wouldn’t say necessarily that they’re prone to sensitive stomachs, per se, as a breed in general, but sensitive stomachs as a whole in the population certainly can occur.

There are some things that you can do to try to find a dog food that’s going to work well for him and also provide the nutrients that he needs. Make sure when you purchase food from a pet store or wherever you’re getting the food to see if they have a money-back guarantee. A lot of times you can return these bags of food if he doesn’t like it. That way as you’re doing your experimenting to see what he likes and what works for his stomach, you can return these bags in the meantime.

There are a lot of brands that are actually advertised as meant for sensitive stomachs. That would be a great place to start. You could also contact your veterinarian. There are some prescription diets available that are formulated to be really easy on the stomach.

The next question comes from Kristin. “Why isn’t the smell of poop disgusting to my dog and why will she eat it when humans can’t get near it?” This is unfortunately a common thing for dogs, especially young dogs and puppies, and it is really disconcerting. There is probably an evolutionary reason for it. In the wild, dogs were trying to get the most nutrients as possible from their food so by eating their stool they might be able to get another kind of second run.

Obviously, in this day and age, this is not a behavior that you want to encourage because it can help perpetuate the life cycle of certain types of internal parasites. There are some medications available that make poop less interesting to dogs. This seems a little counterintuitive but they are out there. A lot of them are over-the-counter. Given to pets, they can sometimes help them to recognize that this isn’t something that they should eat.
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Study Proves Mixed Breeds Live Longer than Purebreds

Posted on: April 26th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance is tucked into a red bag.

Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

Soon after leaving home for college, I got my first cat in 1996. While I wasn’t aware of pet insurance back then, it’s become something that I’ve contemplated in depth.

While I’ve owned various dogs and cats, one pet I will never forget is Charlie. Charlie was found on the streets of Chicago and picked up by animal control. He was a scrappy, naughty, tabby tom cat and he scratched his way into my heart.

With all this changeover in pets and the consistency of Charlie, it occurred to me that those pets who were or seemed to appear purebred had more pet health issues. Whereas I found myself comparing dog and cat insurance companies for my Persian and Ragdoll cats, the idea never occurred to me for Charlie. I began to wonder if there wasn’t some merit to being deemed a “rescue” animal. Maybe Charlie came from a long line of scrappers, and he somehow inherited “heartier” genes. Regardless, I wasn’t sure that pet insurance was right for him.

Then I found a study published in 1997 by the Department of Veterinary Sciences and others at Purdue University. In a study of over 23,000 dogs treated at North American veterinary teaching hospitals, it was found that, “the median age at death was lower for pure breed dogs compared with mix breed dogs.”

In speculating as to why this may be, the study suggested that, “selective breeding of dogs over time…has accelerated physiological aging.”

The study also made it clear that all the dogs in the study were well cared-for pets or show dogs. As all the observed pets were patients at teaching hospitals where costs are likely high, and many were likely referred from their own vets to these hospitals, the dogs had a history of proper veterinary care and vaccinations and were likely even covered by pet insurance companies.