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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.

Why you need cat insurance

Posted on: June 6th, 2011 by

A woman holds a cat that is protected by pet insurance.
Pet insurance is a relatively new idea considering how long veterinary services have been around. Although more people are now buying pet health insurance policies for their pets, it’s still a fairly small percentage of pet owners. An even smaller percentage of people purchase cat insurance.

The Myth that Cats are Self-Sufficient
Unlike dogs, cats are often seen as being much more self-sufficient—they don’t need to be walked, they groom themselves, and they’re “independent.” People also believe that cats are less likely to get into things that might be harmful. There is a perception that cats are such finicky eaters, for instance, that they would never eat something they shouldn’t.

Dangerous Situations for Indoor Cats
But think about it, cats often ingest parts of cat toys, especially string or metal parts, that can be very dangerous to their digestive systems. They will also eat foods that are toxic, like chocolate, if it’s appealing to them. And most cat owners have seen their pet chew on house plants, some of which can also be poisonous. These are just some of the reasons that cat owners should consider purchasing cat insurance for their pets.

Outdoor Cats
Despite statistics telling owners that cats with access to the outdoors have higher injury and death rates, many cats are still let out. This can result in vehicle accidents, fights, injuries from other animals and opportunities for your cat to eat things that are harmful. The subsequent injuries or traumas often need very costly vet interventions, like complicated surgeries.

It’s crucial for you as a responsible pet owner to consider purchasing pet insurance for cats. Despite your best intentions, there may still come a time when having a good cat insurance policy will give you peace of mind.

New dog? Time to research dog insurance

Posted on: June 6th, 2011 by

A vet holds a new puppy with dog insurance

When I first picked up my beloved white German Shepherd puppy, Maddie, the only thoughts in my mind were the long walks we were going to go on, the adorable new collar I had just bought her, and how cozy it would be to have something so furry and adorable curled up with me on the couch. To be honest, pet insurance wasn’t something that initially crossed my mind. But I felt I was a responsible pet owner because I scheduled her vet visit the first week she was home, and I bought high-quality puppy food to get her started.

I think many of us first-time dog owners get caught up in the fun and newness of owning a pet, and overlook many of the bad things that can happen. Though older dogs may in fact have more health problems, accidents can happen at all ages—and they do. Dog insurance was the last thing on my mind when that adorable little fur ball explored every corner of my apartment. I had heard the term, but assumed that everything would be okay without any real thought, until I took my first trip to the vet.

Just the routine services provided by veterinarians can be incredible. I consistently overlooked the costs when deciding to get a dog, but once I did I was stuck. I certainly wasn’t going to let that fuzzy little ball of love out of my life once there. Thankfully, Maddie had no costly pet health issues in her puppy years before I finally got her pet insurance. Had something terrible happened, I would have been hard up to find the money to pay the medical costs for my little girl.

Understanding the incredible costs of veterinary care is absolutely vital when providing for your pet adequately. Dog insurance is just one way to make those costs manageable, particularly when your pet is having an emergency. Thankfully I didn’t find that out the hard way, but I hope you can learn from my experiences.

Boundary Training: No fence, no problem

Posted on: June 2nd, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance knows his boundaries.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

I make no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of electric fences. But many communities and subdivisions do not allow “visible” fences. So while there are many things you can do to protect pet health and safety, like signing them up for pet insurance, what is a dog owner to do if they can’t have a fence?

Boundary training is a great way to keep your dog in its yard without the use of electric fencing or even an actual fence. I also use boundary training to teach dogs to stay out of areas where they should not go, like flower beds and swimming pools. Many pet health insurance companies report injuries or illnesses stemming from dogs getting into areas or things they should stay away from. Boundary training can help keep your dog safe and healthy.

Training your dog to stay inside a boundary is quite simple. To get started you will need to purchase marker flags from your local hardware store. These are generally found in the garden section. You will also need high value treats for your dog. I like to use grilled chicken, roast beef, or cheese cut into very small pieces. Look for a treat your dog will go crazy over, and only use this special treat for boundary training. I prefer to use a clicker as a marker for training this behavior. The clicker is a reward marker communicating to your dog that she did the right thing and will get a reward.

You will start inside your house with your dog. Show your dog the flag, when she touches it with her nose click the clicker and give her a treat. This will teach her that touching the flag is what gets her the reward or treat. Next, place the flag a few feet away from you. Have your dog touch the flag; when she does this again you will click. She should then return to you to get her treat. Move the flag further way and practice having your dog go to the flag, click and give her a treat when she returns to you. By doing this, you will be conditioning your dog to move away from the flag.

Before moving the training outside, I like to work with my dogs for about a week to make sure they understand they are to move away from the flags. Remember to always use a clicker and a treat to reinforce this.

Once your dog understands they get rewarded for moving away from the flags, it is time to take the training outside. Place flags along your boundary line every 8-10 feet.

Using a 15 to 20 foot long line, walk your dog around the boundary of your yard. She should go to the flags and touch them. After this happens you will click and your dog should return to you for her treat. Remember to continue to use your clicker and click and dispense a treat every time she touches the flags. For the best success practice this several times a day.

You are classically conditioning your dog to return to you when she sees the flags. The flag become the cue to return to you, this becomes an involuntary response to the dog.

Practice as often as you can, 8 to 10 weeks of practice will help make this a very solid behavior. The more you practice the more solid the behavior will be.

As your dog gets better at returning to you, increase the length of the long line to 40 or 50 feet. You can also introduce some low level distractions to the training. This increases the difficulty of the behavior so make sure your dog gets a lot of praise and reinforcement for returning to you. Gradually increase the level of the distractions. If your dog is having trouble with this part of the training, make sure your distractions are not too high level.

The last step is working with your dog off-leash. Make sure you are supervising your dog during this part of the training. Reinforce your dog often during the off lead sessions. Be aware of what is going on outside your yard and if you feel the distractions are too much for your dog to handle put her back on the lead.

You will also want to make sure your yard is a fun environment for your dog. The yard should be a place where your dog feels safe and happy.

One last tip; Do not punish your dog if she goes out of her boundary. Simply call her back and praise her when she returns. This will teach her that being inside the boundary is always rewarding and good things happen whenever she is inside the boundary.

In the next blog we will learn how boundary training can keep your dog out of the flower beds, away from the pool, out of specific rooms in your home, etc.

Cat health: Feline Allergies

Posted on: June 1st, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance eats a meal from a dish.

Like dogs, cats can also have allergies. There are several different causes for cat allergies including flea bites, food allergies, atopy (inhaling something like pollen or dust) and immune-response allergies, which can be very serious. Many pet insurance companies will cover allergies so long as they are not preexisting conditions.

Food Allergy
Cats can have allergic reactions to foods that cause similar responses in humans—soy, dairy products, wheat, or meats. To determine if a cat is allergic to a substance, they must be exposed at least twice. If a reaction happens after only one exposure, it could be an isolated incident.

• Symptoms: These can include itchy rashes on cats’ heads, necks and backs. Often hair loss and sores will result from scratching. Less common is redness and a discharge from the ears.

• Treatment: After it’s determined that a food is causing the allergic reaction, treatment starts with changing the food to a hypoallergenic type.

Inhalant Allergy (Atopic Dermatitis)
Sometimes you will see an inhalant allergy as the seasons change and pollen gets in the air. But mold, dust, and other irritants can cause the reaction as well. You may see itching and rashes on the cat’s head, neck. Excessive licking can cause hair loss.

This type of allergy is hard to differentiate from allergic reactions caused by insect bites. Diagnosis is often made after skin tests. Because quality veterinary care can be expensive, looking for the best pet insurance for your cat is a good idea.

• Treatment: As with foods, try to identify the allergen and remove it from the cat’s environment. The cat can also be treated with antihistamines, but this will not cure the allergy.

Immune-Related Skin Allergies
These are a group of diseases that come from the body’s autoimmune system “attacking” the skins. It’s the most common allergy seen in cats and results in itching and small pustules. In severe cases, symptoms include a fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

• Treatment: This can include corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs.

Watch for symptoms and signs of allergies in your cat. Because cat health care can be expensive, be sure to find a pet insurance company that will provide coverage for allergies.