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Cat Scratch Fever

Posted on: June 17th, 2011 by

Pet insurance advocator Arden Moore's book cover.
Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance

Q. I’ve always had fish and turtles, and finally decided that I was ready for a more complicated, interactive pet. After researching pet insurance, I recently adopted a big orange tabby from the local animal shelter. Gus is great, but he loves to claw and tear at his scratching post. Luckily for me, he leaves my couch alone. Why does he have this need to scratch?

A. Bravo! With no disrespect intended for the fish and turtles in your life, I am happy that you are ready and willing to enjoy the perks of feline companionship. And I am happy to hear that you adopted from a local shelter because you have given a homeless cat another chance.

Scratching, as you have discovered, is one of the signature actions of cats. Even declawed cats will perform scratching gestures. You are lucky that Gus adores his scratching post and not your expensive sofa. Cats scratch for a couple of reasons. One reason is to keep their claws in shape – what I call a “peti-cure.” Those scratching sessions remove the dead outer nail covering and hone the claw’s shape and sharpness, keeping Gus prepared to defend himself or to pounce on a passing toy mouse.

However, the paramount reason cats scratch has to do with turf talk. When Gus scratches, he is leaving a feline business card, if you will. He not only leaves physical marks, but also the scratching action releases a scent from the sebaceous glands in his paws that communicates to other cats – and to himself – that this is his domain.

You mention that you are grateful he only scratches the cat post, but I’ll bet if you pay close attention, you will discover that old Gus is pawing and rubbing his face to leave his scents on doorways and wall corners. It appears as a dirty, oily discoloration on the walls and doors. This is another form of feline scent marking.

Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”

Author Arden Moore and her pets with pet insurance.

On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Moore, who hosts the “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio www.petliferadio.com – the No. 1 pet podcast in the world — by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).

Getting cat insurance quotes

Posted on: June 15th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance looks at the camera.

Cat insurance plans vary just like dog insurance plans. You’ll want to compare the coverage provided from a few pet insurance plans before making your final selection.

But before you choose a plan and discuss it with the company’s representative, you’ll want to get some basic information. One way to compare health plans is to get cat insurance quotes from different companies.

You may also find that a plan’s premiums are simply cost-prohibitive. We don’t like to put a dollar value on pet health, but it’s best to find affordable coverage. You can get information about rate quotes on the pet insurance plan’s sites.

Putting in Your Cat’s Information

On the pet health insurance website, you’ll be asked to enter some information about your cat:
• Cat’s name
• Cat’s age
• Cat’s breed
• Your zip code (Some sites may require additional information.)

On most sites, your quote will automatically be calculated. You can then select the plan and deductible that will work best for you and your pets’ needs.

Pet Insurance Comparison: Plans
Some companies will also have a side-by-side comparison chart so you can see how they stack up against others. Most of the time a “sample” pet is used for the cat insurance comparison, such as a “domestic shorthair cat under 1 year old.”

Keep in mind that these pet insurance quotes are mainly for informational purposes, but they will give you an idea of a plan’s coverage costs. For more information about pet insurance visit www.petsbest.com.

Feline obesity: An increasing problem

Posted on: June 14th, 2011 by

An overweight cat with cat insurance lounges around.
By: Dr. Kerry Fost
Managing DVM
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Feline obesity is a real disease affecting our pets’ health. It may be the most prevalent form of malnutrition in domestic cats. In the United States 44% of cats between the ages of five and eleven years are overweight.

Though we may see our “roly- poly “ feline friends as cute and cuddly, obesity has detrimental effects on pet health and longevity. Obesity related diseases in cats include osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, constipation and an increase in some cancers. These are not so cute and cuddly.

The main reason for development of obesity in any animal is consuming more energy than is expended. As a veterinarian, my clients often tell me that their kitty really doesn’t eat that much. But if your cat is overweight, it is consuming more calories that it is burning no matter how little that food amount seems. This energy imbalance can occur with excessive dietary intake of calories through food or treats, or decreased energy expenditure due to illness, injury or inactivity.

One risk factor for obesity in cats includes being an indoor only cat. Indoor kitties don’t have to burn energy to keep warm outside and they often don’t get much exercise. Owners who have dry food available in the bowl all the time risk overfeeding. It only takes a few extra kibbles of food daily to put on pounds yearly. Neutering is also a risk factor for weight gain due to hormonal changes that may reduce metabolic rate. Neutering does prevent a number of other pet health risks and should not be avoided to prevent obesity.

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Aside from ensuring our cats have pet health insurance and routine exams, there are a few other things we can do to help our cats stay healthy.

First, carefully control the intake of calories. As soon as a pet is neutered, stop free choice feeding and you can reduce intake by about 25% to account for reduced energy needs. Kittens do not need to be fed a kitten food through one year of age. If they are neutered at five months they can be switched to an adult food. As we all know, it is easier to prevent weight gain than to fix it once it has happened. The average 11 pound house cat doesn’t need more than 200 kcals per day.

Second, meal feed a measured amount two to three meals a day. Your cat can be trained to a meal time. If you have more than one cat you will have to become the food police. Either separate the cats behind closed doors during meals, or feed in separate bowls several feet apart and stand there and remove any left over food when one walks away. Unlike dogs, cats often love human contact when they are eating. If you have to stand there, pet and talk to them making it an enjoyable social activity for everyone. Love with attention, not with food.

Third, feed a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. Cats are true carnivores. They have an obligate need to eat protein. They use this protein for energy and their digestive systems are not designed to utilize large amounts of carbohydrates. Carbs that are not immediately used for energy will be stored as fat. High protein, low carb diets also help normalize appetite, reducing the cats urge to eat constantly because they are satisfied.

Forth, if at all possible feed canned food. The commercially available diets highest in protein and lowest in carbs are canned foods. But you must read the label. Not all canned foods are high protein, low carb.

There needs to be a meat source in the first couple of listed ingredients, not a grain or starch. To manufacture dry food, it is extruded (made into a biscuit). Carbohydrates are required in the cooking process, and thus, it is difficult to achieve a very low carb dry diet. Also many of the available high protein, low carb dry foods are not low calorie, so it is easy to feed too much. Most canned foods range from 30-40 Kcals per ounce. So a 5.5 ounce can is perfect for feeding an 11 pound cat in 24 hours.

Fifth, get that cat moving. Burn those calories. Obviously it is easier to exercise a dog than a cat. How often do you see someone walking their cat on a leash through the park? But if a cat is only eating 200 kcals a day every little bit of exercise helps. Get them going up and down the stairs. Give them elevated perches to climb, paper sacs to investigate, laser pointers to chase, a variety of toys. Cats can learn to fetch or play hide and go seek.

By keeping our feline friends at an optimal weight we can help them live a longer, healthier and more comfortable life. Who wouldn’t want that?

Summer pet health: Keep your pet safe

Posted on: June 13th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance enjoys the summer weather.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

It’s summertime! With rising temperatures and time off school come vacations, fun in the sun and time with family. The heat, sun and summer activities can also bring some perils, especially to the furry members of your family. While there are a number of things you can do to keep your pets healthy, like ensuring they have pet insurance, knowing the following things can help keep your pets safe this summer.

Heat stroke is a very deadly threat to pets. Heat stroke is defined as severe hyperthermia, with temperatures sometimes over 105 degrees. The animal can suffer severe internal damage to important organs, especially the brain. Dogs don’t sweat like we do, and their only means of cooling themselves is by panting. While in the right combination of circumstances any dog could potentially suffer from heat stroke, the dogs most at risk are those that have difficulty breathing, such as older dogs with underlying respiratory disease and ‘brachycephalic’ breeds.

Having pet insurance for your dog, can come in handy in unexpected emergency situations like heat stroke. And some dog insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance don’t have upper age limits, so even older dogs can enroll.

Brachycephalic syndrome describes the ‘smug nosed’ breeds, which are at the highest risk for heat stroke. These include Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzu’s and other breeds with short noses. These breeds have more difficulty breathing, and therefore have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Prevention is the key in heat stroke, as treatment can be involved and costly. Don’t walk your dog in the heat of the day, stick to the cooler mornings and evenings. Always make sure shade and water are provided. Black dogs may be at an increased risk since their fur absorbs heat.

Signs of heat stroke include rapid breathing and heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and depression. As heat stroke progresses, severe respiratory distress, grey or purple gum, seizures, and eventually collapse can be seen. NEVER douse your pet in water if you believe they are suffering heat stroke, lowering the body temperature too quickly can be lethal. Immediate veterinary attention is paramount. And because emergency visits can be costly, it’s important to research pet insurance companies that would cover this type of condition. Pets Bets Insurance reimburses 80 percent of actual veterinary costs, which can help leverage how much the pet owner can afford.

Warmer temperatures can bring parasites to pets as well. Depending on which part of the nation you live, there are risks of exposure to mosquitoes, fleas and ticks and the diseases they carry. Mosquitoes are the vector for heartworm disease, a deadly parasite that lives in the heart and can cause heart failure. Ticks can carry a variety of serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, to name a few. Tick borne disease can be difficult to diagnose and equally difficult to treat. Fleas, in addition to being unwanted in your home, can also be a factor in tapeworm infestations and are uncomfortable for pets to have. Always use a product that will protect against fleas, ticks and heartworm disease. In general these are prescription products and should be purchased through a veterinarian’s office. Some pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, offer dog insurance wellness plans that can help with the costs of routine care and parasite prevention.

Undoubtedly this summer you will probably have some family outings and trips. Hopefully your animals can be a part of these experiences also. A little common sense will go a long way in terms of keeping your pets safe. Dogs can be great companions on hikes, but make sure you bring water for them, and be mindful of things like foxtails that can cause painful paws. Water activities can be great fun for the right dog, but be cautious when introducing your dog. Not every pet will feel comfortable on a boat, for example. Invest in a life jacket made for dogs to keep them safe. A little foresight can be the key to making this a great summer for all the members of your family!

June campaign donates to shelters

Posted on: June 10th, 2011 by

A Puggle with pet insurance waits to be adopted.
Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

During the month of June, dog lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts can help donate food to shelters just by enjoying Facebook or Twitter like they always do. PEDIGREE® Brand dog food will donate a pound of food to shelter dogs every time someone interacts with the Every Dog Deserves campaign via social media.

According to a press release announcing the campaign, “Whether it’s a Facebook status update, a tweet, an @reply, a re-tweet, a photo upload of their four-legged friend, a status ‘like,’ or wall post – any social media engagement directed at the PEDIGREE® Brand will help feed dogs in need.”

The campaign will donate up to 100,000 pounds of dog food to shelters, and dog lovers can help by visiting the Facebook page (Facebook.com/pedigree) or following @PedigreeUS on Twitter and speaking up about what every dog deserves. Here are some starting ideas:

Every Dog Deserves Good Health
Just as kids would skip the dentist and eat candy for breakfast without guidance, pet health relies on its owner. Regular vet visits supplemented with dog insurance can help catch issues before they start to bother a pet or become serious. No dog deserves to be in pain, and when they are, they aren’t great at communicating what’s wrong.

Every Dog Deserves Daily Walks
It’s great to have a dog waiting at the door after work. But was he by that same door before work, too? Humans would go stir-crazy being locked inside day in and day out, why wouldn’t dogs? Daily walks are not only great for pet health, they are amazing, natural emotional boosters and stress relievers as well. Starting a daily walking routine is often the first course of action for destructive dogs, who are looking for an outlet to vent excess energy.

Every Dog Deserves Boundaries
Dogs love to play and have a good time, but pet safety means setting boundaries. Pushy dogs may benefit from rules being set on when they are allowed on the furniture. Frisky puppies need to be protected in a home that has been puppy-proofed. This means tucking away electrical cords that could be chewed on, not laying out food, and gating off unsafe areas of the home.

Every Dog Deserves a Loving Family
Dogs are pack animals. They don’t care as much about having a yard to run in or a large house to live in as they do about having together time with their pack—their family. For a dog, a little love goes a long way.