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Wildlife dangers and your pet

Posted on: August 18th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance sits outside.

During summer, it is essential to protect pets and other domesticated animals from possible encounters with local wildlife, which can result in injuries to pets as well as expose them to dangerous diseases. This is why proper attention to pet health and safety, and researching the best pet insurance, is essential in order to ensure the well-being of household pets in the great outdoors.

Fencing Around the Home
Fences are a good first step in preventing pets from coming into contact with other animals, but they only provide a basic level of protection and cannot defend against wildlife that can dig or climb over these barriers. Fences should be maintained and checked for holes and gaps.

Rabies Shots
One of the greatest risks to pets is the threat of contracting rabies from infected wildlife. Reported rabies cases are up this year in several areas of the country. The Virginia Department of Health, for example, is cautioning pet owners in the New River Valley district that the number of cases of rabies through May of 2011 has already matched the number for the entirety of last year. Cases have been reported in skunks, cats, raccoons and cows. Other areas of the state are similarly affected by the highly infectious disease.

The best way to ensure pet safety and to protect pets against contracting this deadly viral infection is to ensure that they get annual vaccinations against rabies as part of their regular veterinary routine. Rabies vaccinations are required in most areas of the country and provide nearly 100% protection for pets against contracting the disease. Some pet health insurance plans cover a portion these and other routine vaccinations.

Habitat Alterations
In Florida, the growing coyote population is beginning to pose a threat to domesticated animals. There have been a number of substantiated reports of coyotes stalking cats and dogs and even attacking them, according to Greg Andrews of Pinellas County Animal Services.

One way to make lawns and outdoor living areas less attractive to coyotes and other predators is by ensuring that pet food and garbage cans are not readily available food sources outside. Additionally, keeping the grass short and hedges and shrubs neatly trimmed is safer for pets since it presents fewer hiding places for undesired wildlife.

Another way to protect pets from wildlife and outdoor dangers is with pet insurance. Pet health insurance helps to manage costs associated with most possible wildlife-related incidents and also help ensure the best possible veterinary care is more afforable to your beloved pet.

What’s wrong with Frank the Dachshund?

Posted on: August 18th, 2011 by

A Dachshund without dog insurance plays with a bone.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Frank had a rough start on life. He spent who knows how long on the streets until he was spotted by a good Samaritan who took him in. He was hard to resist, since he was a very cute golden brown Dachshund with the longest ears. He was probably less than a year old. After a few days in his ‘new’ home, the good Samaritan realized something was wrong. And unfortunately, the pup didn’t yet have dog insurance.

He didn’t eat well, and when he did, he would vomit. In addition, his breathing was off; it was rapid and shallow. They made an appointment to see me the next day.

Frank was very thin when he first came to the clinic. It was clear there was a serious problem based on his physical exam. While the new ‘owner’ had gotten somewhat attached, she wasn’t prepared financially to take Frank on as her own dog and she made the difficult decision to relinquish him. Frank officially belonged to the clinic.

Using donated funds and doctor time, Frank was radiographed and admitted to the hospital for treatment. The x-rays revealed a disturbing change in Frank’s chest. The thin muscle wall that separates the lungs from the other organs in the body, the diaphragm, was torn. This tear, or hernia, had allowed things that are supposed to be in the abdomen access to the chest. Frank’s intestines and his stomach were in his chest and pushing on his lungs, partially collapsing them, making it hard for him to breathe. This is also why he couldn’t eat, and vomited when he did.

The name for this condition is a diaphragmatic hernia and can be very serious. Frank probably had some type of trauma, maybe he was hit by a car or fell from something and caused this to happen. Since he had no other obvious injuries on his body, it was impossible to know how long the hernia had been there.

Frank was given pain medication and an IV catheter to administer fluids and surgery was scheduled for the next day to repair the hernia.

In the morning Frank looked worse, it was even harder for him to breathe. He was quickly taken to the radiology room and x-rayed. The radiographs showed that Frank had an even more serious problem. The trapped stomach, which was in the chest, had started to bloat, filling with air and pushing more and more on the lungs.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is commonly referred to as “Bloat” and is a potentially life threatening emergency that occurs primarily in large deep chested dogs, like Great Danes. The gastric dilatation (expansion) and volvulus (rotating) can occur separately, but when together the stomach will rapidly fill with air and can result in death if left untreated. It is unclear exactly what causes a gastric bloat to occur. It has about 15 to 33% mortality rate. It is estimated that approximately 22% of giant breeds and 24% of larger breed dogs may suffer a GDV in their lifetime. Thankfully, many pet insurance companies cover this condition.

However, not only was Frank not a large breed dog, but his GDV was even more life threatening since it was occurring in his chest. He was rushed immediately to surgery where the stomach was gently removed from the hole in his diaphragm and untwisted. Immediately his lungs were able to expand and his oxygen levels improved. The tear in the diaphragm was repaired and the stomach inspected for any damage. It was ‘tacked’ to the body wall to ensure it didn’t twist again.

When Frank woke up, he felt like a new dog. His recovery was very quick and within days he had gained weight and was acting like a puppy again. He was placed in a foster home and quickly adopted into a family that loved him.

Frank’s case is definitely a once in a lifetime situation and very unusual. Thankfully it ended well and Frank touched a lot of hearts in his short stay with us.

Oh, those house training issues!

Posted on: August 15th, 2011 by

A Chihuahua puppy is house broken.

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

House training issues are a common complaint among dog and puppy owners. Even if you provide your pup with the best food, toys, vet care and dog insurance, most dog owners will struggle a bit with potty training at first. As owners we often unknowingly set-up our dogs to fail house training. These are common mistakes that can be easily remedied.

First be consistent with potty breaks. You should always set your puppy or dog up to succeed. I suggest setting a timer for every 60 to 90 minutes. When the timer goes off, take your puppy outside on a leash and ask your puppy to “go potty.” You can use any cue word you would like. Some people ask their dogs to “do their business”, “take a break,” “go potty,” etc. It doesn’t matter what you say, just be consistent.

As soon as your new puppy finishes going, immediately say “good” and give your pup a treat. It is important you give the treat outside as soon as your pup finishes. If you wait until you take him inside, he may not realize that he is getting a treat for going potty. You want to be very clear that he is getting the treat for relieving himself outside. I often recommend people make a big deal of the puppy going outside, praise, treats and happy talk. You want your puppy to “love” going outside to potty.

So what should you do when your puppy has an accident inside? If you see the accident after the puppy has gone, simply clean up the spot with a good enzyme based cleaner, to remove the odor. DO NOT punish your puppy or bring attention to the accident. If the pup or dog has an accident, it is simply that– an accident. Next time just be aware of the puppy’s needs and take him out more frequently. Remember the dog cannot open the door and let himself out, they have to depend on us to let them out.

If you catch the puppy in the act of relieving himself inside, scoop him up and take him outside. Do not scold him, or punish him. This is where many people make a mistake by correcting the puppy. You should NEVER correct your pup for having an accident. Correcting your puppy does not teach him to stop relieving himself inside, but it does teach him that going in the presence of people is dangerous.

This is why some puppies will go into another room, or hide behind furniture to relieve themselves. They need to relieve themselves, but they are frightened of what may happen when people are present.

Correcting a dog or puppy for relieving themselves can create another issue; dogs that will not relieve themselves when on lead. If your dog will not relieve himself when on a lead, it may be difficult to:

– Take your dog on a trip and stop for potty breaks
– Leash walk your pet if he becomes injured
-Kennel your dog
-Compete in dog shows
-Train him to be a therapy dog

Another method for house training, is to teach your dog or puppy to ring a bell to notify you that it is time to go outside. Hang some bells on the wall beside the door you take your puppy out for potty breaks.

(Do not hang the bells on the door knob since people opening and closing the door will cause the bells to ring sending the puppy mixed signals.) Every time you take your puppy outside, say to your pup “let’s go potty” ring the bells and take the puppy outside. Soon your puppy will associate ringing the bells with going outside to relieve himself.

There is a common myth that certain breeds of dogs are harder to house train than others. This is actually a misconception. Most of the dogs that get this bad reputation are the smaller breeds like Yorkies, Maltese and Bischons. Because these breeds are smaller, the accidents are smaller, so many people are not as disturbed and therefore the house training is not as urgent. The urgency in house training often correlates with the size of the dog’s accident. Any dog or puppy can be house trained, no excuses for the little ones.

One last note; if you notice your puppy or dog relieving himself more frequently than usual or needing to go out more often, you should consult your veterinarian. Your vet can rule out possible medical issues, such as urinary tract infections, which may sideline your house training efforts. UTIs are not uncommon in dogs and can be very painful. This is another good reason to look into pet insurance for your new puppy if you haven’t already. Your vet can do a simple urinalysis and provide you with medication to clear up this condition.

Caring for your new kitten

Posted on: August 12th, 2011 by

A kitten with cat insurance plays in a food bowl.

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

Congratulations on making the informed decision to add a new kitten to your family. Cats are wonderful animals, and owning one (or more!) can be a fun and rewarding experience. Aside from ensuring your new kitty has the best food, toys and cat insurance, there are a few other things you might want to know. Here are some guidelines to help your kitten get off on the right start to a long and healthy life:

Introducing a New Kitten to it’s New Environment
Kittens love to investigate and explore new surroundings, but giving them free range may be a bit overwhelming and unmanageable for them at first. Initially, confine the kitten to one room for a few days, and then slowly allow access to other areas of the home.

Introducing New Kittens to other Pets in the Household
Most kittens receive a hostile reception from other household pets, especially from an established cat. In general, cats do not like changes and can become territorial and aggressive. Thisis why introductions need to be made slowly. During the first few days when the kitten is isolated in a room, try switching out items like bedding and toys so the cats will get to know each other by smell. Then carefully allow supervised interaction.

Hissing, spitting and growling are natural and are the ways in which cats will establish the hierarchy among themselves. The use of a synthetic pheromone (a feel-good scent) spray or diffuser can be very helpful in reducing stress among the cats during this introduction phase. Pay extra attention to the established cats to reassure them that they are not being replaced. Provide sanctuary spaces for the established cats with separate food/water and litterboxes so they can escape to a quiet area where they won’t be bothered by the kitten. Of course, you want to make sure that your kitten has seen the veterinarian first before mingling with the other cats. Researching pet health insurance companies is also a good idea.

The introduction period will usually last 1 to 2 weeks and will have one of three possible outcomes.

1. Bonding will occur between the existing cat and the kitten. They will play together, groom each other and sleep together. This is more likely to occur if competition is minimized and if the existing cat is lonely for companionship.

2. The existing cat will only tolerate the kitten. Hostility will cease, but the existing cat will act as if the kitten is not present. This is more likely if the existing cat is very independent, has been an only cat for several years, or if marked competition occurred during the first few weeks. This relationship is likely to be permanent.

3. The existing cat will remain hostile to the kitten. Fighting may occur occasionally, but very rarely will get serious. You can minimize this by reducing competition for food/water and affection. Offer several feeding areas and different litterbox locations, as well as plenty of perches and resting spots so each cat can have their favorite area.

Slow, supervised interaction between a new kitten and a dog is recommended to prevent injury. Never leave a kitten or new cat unattended with a dog until you are convinced that the dog will not harm them. Pet insurance is also good to have because accidents can occur between pets who interact– even if they’re just playing together.

Introducing a New Kitten to Children
Children can unknowingly injure a kitten by playing too rough or handling them improperly. Additionally, kittens can bite and scratch a well-meaning child unexpectedly. Teach children to be gentle and to handle the kitten properly. Teach them the warning signs that suggest that the kitten is hurting or doesn’t want to interact. These may include hissing, ears flattened to the head, biting, growling, scratching or crying out.

Socialization/Play Behavior in Kittens
The socialization period for kittens is between 2 and 12 weeks of age. During this time, the kitten is very impressionable to social influences.

If it has good experiences with men, women, children, dogs, other cats, etc, it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, expose your kitten to various types of social influences. Direct exposure to other cats should be kept minimal and done with caution since kittens are more susceptible to disease until fully grown and vaccinated. Some cat insurance companies will help cover the costs of routine care, including vaccincations.

Stimulating play behavior is important for kittens. Stalking and pouncing help with proper muscle development. If given sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities.

The best toys are lightweight and movable. These include wads of paper, small balls, feather toys, and laser pointers. Toys that contain catnip are safe for any cat. Kittens should never be allowed to play with string or ribbons in case of accidental ingestion. Any other toy that is small enough to be ingested should be avoided. Never play rough with your hands or allow the kitten to bite and scratch you. This will teach it to be aggressive to people as an adult.

Disciplining a Kitten
Kittens (and cats) do not respond well to physical punishment. Hand clapping, using shaker cans or small horns, or other loud noises can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior. However, remote punishment is preferred. Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher to stop the problem behavior. Examples include spray bottles, squirt guns, throwing soft objects in the direction of the kitten to startle it, and making loud noises. This way the kitten associates punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

Household Hazards
“Kitten-proof” your house because kittens will try to get into everything! Some common hazards that can be swallowed include paperclips, coins, marbles, string, ribbon, dental floss, tinsel and Easter grass. Some plants are toxic. The most common are those belonging to the lily family like the Easter lily.

The dryer, washing machine and dishwasher also provide an unexpected and life-threatening hazard for kittens. Be sure you keep the doors to these appliances closed at all times and always check before turning them on.

Feeding
Always feed a well known name brand kitten food. Stay away from generic or store brands. Price is closely linked to quality, so stay away from the cheapest brands if possible. They can be less nutritious with more fillers, so your kitten will actually need to eat more volume to get the same nutrition that they would from a smaller portion of a higher quality food.

The most nutritious foods are the high protein, grain free foods available at most pet stores. Canned food is recommended in addition to dry. By offering both, you help to ensure your cat won’t be a picky eater. Canned food is also a great way to provide extra moisture to help prevent from dehydration. Always offer some canned food to smaller kittens as their teeth are tiny and it is difficult to chew kibble.

Cats prefer to eat small meals throughout the day. Free feeding or multiple meals throughout the day are best for a growing kitten. Once they are adults, some cats will do fine with free feeding, but many will eat too much and become obese. Your veterinarian can help guide you as to the best feeding regimen for your adult cat.

Try to stay away from feeding table scraps as much as possible so your cat won’t develop bad habits. Many cats and kittens are lactose intolerant, so don’t get into the habit of giving them dairy products on a regular basis. A very small amount of milk or cheese once in a while as a treat is OK.

Litterboxes
The general rule of thumb for the number of boxes you should have is one box per cat plus one additional box to minimize competition and inappropriate urination/defecation. Use the largest size boxes possible so adult cats can comfortably squat and dig around in them. Clear plastic storage boxes with 4-6 inch sides that are sold at many stores are perfect.

Cats typically don’t like hoods or covers on the boxes. They may feel trapped or vulnerable with covered boxes, and the odor trapped inside may be intolerable for your cat. Choose several locations around your house for the boxes that are quiet and non-threatening. Most cats prefer clumping litter because it tends to feel softer. If you choose clay litter, pick one that is dust free and fragrance free so it’s less irritating to your cat’s lungs. Cleanliness is critical for avoiding problems! Scoop boxes at least once or twice daily, and dump the entire box every week or two depending on litter type. Even clean looking litter will eventually absorb odor.

If your cat does start urinating or defecating outside the box, don’t assume it is a behavioral problem. Many medical conditions can cause this behavior, and it is always safer to have your cat checked by your veterinarian rather than just assuming your cat is acting up.

No Meowing Part 2, When to Give Heartworm Meds

Posted on: August 11th, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This question comes from Sharon. “My cat, Trevor, does not meow. He is a year old. Is that normal?”

It’s probably normal for him. Some cats aren’t as vocal as others. He’s probably able to meow but for whatever reason he chooses not to so I wouldn’t worry about it.

The next one comes from Donna. “Because we spend so much time outdoors in the spring and summer, I started administering flea and tick preventatives to my dogs last month. I discontinued the flea and tick preventatives after the first frost. However, I give them heartworm medication all year long. Is this necessary in the cool of fall and winter months?”

This is a great question. It really depends on where you live. Most veterinarians and manufacturers of heartworm medications believe that heartworm medication should probably be given all year-round. Because heartworm disease is so difficult to treat, we really aim our medicine on preventing it. If you travel or if you live in certain areas where there might be the possibility of mosquitoes, it’s better to just stay on the preventative all year-round.

In terms of fleas and ticks, ticks especially are really a summertime thing, but again, depending on where you live, this could be an all year-round thing. If you’ve got specific questions about your region and your area, I would contact your veterinarian.
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