Dog Park Etiquette Part II

A dog with pet insurance relaxes after playing in the dog park.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

In last week’s pet insurance blog, we covered pet owners’ top 5 dog park pet peeves. Read it here. This week, we’ll round out the top 10 so dog owners everywhere can help keep their neighborhood parks great places to hang out.

6. Take Your New Dog During Off-Hours
If you’ve recently adopted a new dog, take her to the park at a non-peak time and let her explore it quietly on her own. This way it can become familiar territory so she isn’t dealing with too many new situations and smells when it’s full of doggie friends.

7. If Your Pet Seems Sick, See the Vet First
Most dog owners have experienced the humiliation of trying to clean up a diarrhea mess, and you won’t make many friends if it happens at the dog park where other people’s pets are running around. If your dog has an upset stomach, is coughing, or otherwise seems under the weather, avoid other animals until a veterinarian has given him a clean bill of health. Almost nothing transmits disease faster than the shared toys and communal water dishes often found at dog parks. Because your pet can become sick or injured whether you’re at the dog park or not, it’s a good idea to look into pet insurance, as it can help decrease the cost of vet bills.

8. Leave the Kids at Home or in a Supervised Area
Not all dogs are accustomed to playing with children. Bigger breeds could knock down little kids, and smaller breeds could be seriously injured if a child falls on them or plays too roughly. If your kids must accompany you to the dog park, keep them in a safe area separate from the dogs, and remind them not to pet any dog without first asking permission from the dog’s owner.

9. Leave the Human Food at Home
I’ve watched dogs devour a fast food meal (bag, straw and all) while the owner of said food cleaned up after his dog. I’ve also seen dogs jump up on picnic tables to grab grub, and some are even brazen enough to take it right out of a person’s hand. Considering all the common items that can cause serious problems in dogs – chocolate, grapes, onions, mushrooms, bones, dairy – it’s a better idea to eat at home.

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10. Keep an Open Mind About Other Dogs
Each dog will have its own personality and temperament, despite what you may have seen in pet food commercials or read in the headlines. Not all floppy-eared mutts are friendly, and not all Pit Bulls are fighters. Be cautiously optimistic and treat each new dog as an individual – you and your pup will both make more friends.

Is there something in particular you love or loathe about your local dog park? Leave your comments below. For more information about dog insurance visit Pets Best Insurance.

Ensuring your health is as important as insuring your pets’

A couple, who own a dog with pet insurance, hold him on the couch.

By: Steve Anderson, Editor
Health Insurance Resource Center
For Pets Best Insurance

Americans love their pets in a big way, but is it possible they love their pets even more than themselves? It appears true in many cases and oddly enough, it can have a tragic outcome for pets.

In 2011, pet owners were projected to spend more than $50 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association’s annual review. Pet owners are buying everything from pet toys and food to veterinary care pet health insurance.

But for as much as human companions do to care for their pets, they often neglect to care adequately for themselves – and that can end up dramatically affecting a pet’s future.

Each month, the Washington Humane Society in the nation’s capital sees a dozen or so pets relinquished to its open-access shelter by their owners or the owners’ families. The pets are usually healthy, but the owners were not.

“The majority of animals that come to us are in excellent condition. They’ve obviously had happy lives and have been well cared for,” says Stephanie Shain, COO of the Washington, DC, Humane Society. “So [the pet relinquishment] has nothing to do with the animal’s health, but instead with the health of the owner,” Shain said.

It’s heartbreaking, Shain says. “We’ll see an owner go into the hospital and there’s no plan in place for the pet.” Often, if the owner is unable to make provisions for his or her pet, family members will resort to dropping off the pet at the shelter.

Having to relinquish a pet to the Humane Society or animal control agency is not only heartbreaking; it’s often deadly. A recent study by the National Council on Pet Populations Study & Policy showed that 57 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats relinquished to surveyed shelters were not adopted – and ultimately euthanized.

So even the most caring of pet owners need to take better care of themselves to ensure their pets’ survival, says Charles Smith-Dewey, founder of the Health Insurance Resource Center and the owner of two dogs and a pair of cats.

“It’s great that the number of pet owners purchasing pet policies is on the rise,” says Smith-Dewey, “it’s our duty as pet owners to do everything to ensure that our pets are well cared for. And we, as the people who love them most, need to ensure our own health.”

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That includes not only staying physically fit and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, but maintaining some level of health insurance coverage. “A health insurance policy doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Smith-Dewey, “but it has to be sufficient to minimize a hospital stay and stave off catastrophic medical costs that could leave a pet neglected … or worse.”

Fortunately, even for those who don’t have coverage through an employer, finding a policy that covers big-ticket medical expenses is not impossible. In fact, it’s now faster and more convenient than ever to find an affordable plan by seeking an online health insurance quote from a reputable site.

“Definitely insure your pets,” says Smith-Dewey, “but at the same time, do everything you can to ensure that you’ll be there for them as long as possible.”

For more information about how to get pet insurance for your best friend, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Dog Park Etiquette Part I

A dog with pet insurance runs in a dog park.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

For many dog owners, dog parks are a necessary part of life. They’re a great way to let your dog burn energy, socialize and get a change of scenery. But what happens when your favorite park starts to go south? We recently asked pet insurance enthusiasts to share their biggest dog park pet peeves on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page. Read and take heed, so you can avoid being “that guy”, so to speak.

1. Follow Park Rules
Most parks have posted rules that cover the basics – no smoking, clean up after your dog, use a leash when coming and going, etc. But some have additional requirements that your dog be current on vaccinations or even spayed or neutered. Respect these rules for the comfort of all dog owners, and to prevent yourself and your pup from getting the boot.

Oh, and clean up after your dog! It was the #1 complaint we heard from fellow dog owners. Many parks even provide plastic bag dispensers for your convenience.

2. Check Park Safety
When you first arrive, make sure the fences are fully intact so your dog can’t leave the premises. If there are playground or agility toys, make sure they’re not too hot in the summer, or covered with ice in the winter. Check any community Frisbees or tennis balls to ensure they’re not breaking into pieces that could get lodged in a dog’s throat. Because accidents can happen no matter what, it’s always a good idea to have dog insurance for your four-legged friend.

3. Know What’s Fair Play
Normal play between dogs of all sizes includes parallel running, pouncing, chasing, nipping, tug-of-war and even light growling. Unless one dog is yelping or trying to escape or hide, there’s generally no reason for concern and no need to scold another dog or pet owner.

If a situation does escalate, use a leash to remove your dog and ask the other dog’s owner to do the same. NEVER pick up a dog that’s agitated or in a fight, no matter how small he or she might be.

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4. Expect from Your Dog What You Expect from Others
Snarling, aggressive growling, lunging and biting are inappropriate behaviors, whether your dog is a 3-pound Chihuahua or a 70-pound Rottie. If your dog exhibits these behaviors, remove him or her from the park (on-leash) and opt for a less stimulating setting.

5. Be in the Moment
When the dog is occupied and there’s a nice shady bench nearby, it can be tempting to reach for your smartphone to answer emails and check your Facebook page. But distracted pet owners are a big no-no in dog parks. You need to be alert in case your dog tries to escape, harasses another dog, or makes a mess that requires attention. Besides, disconnecting for a few minutes can make the experience a relaxing break for you as well.

Check back next week for Dog Part Etiquette Part II – our Facebook friends were full of advice!

For more information about pet health insurance and pet health, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Dog Pees on Couch; Eating Squirrel Food

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

The first question comes from Kineen who writes, “My older male Weimaraner urinates inside our house almost every day when we’re not home, most often on the back of the couch. I notice this doesn’t happen when the other dog at home is gone. He’s been cleared of any medical issues that might be causing the problem and I have a dog walker that comes out at noon to let the dogs out. We’ve tried a belly band, animal communication, and crate training, and nothing has worked. Anything else we can try to do to stop this behavior?”

Sounds like you’ve done a great job working it up. I definitely applaud that you’ve gone to the veterinarian and made sure it wasn’t something silly like a urinary tract infection or something else that’s treatable.

Because you’ve ruled out the medical issues, it indicates that this truly is a behavioral problem. You’re definitely going to benefit from speaking with a behaviorist, so consider finding a local behaviorist to ask this question.

There are some other things you might try at home. If he doesn’t do it when the other dog is at doggy daycare, you could have the other dog at doggy daycare. If you don’t mind having him there, that would potentially solve the problem. You could also have the dog that’s doing the urinating go to daycare, too, and be supervised all day.

You might try to continue working with the crating. Some dogs will be self-destructive and should not be crated if they react really poorly to it, but if he’s just a whiner or it’s sort of a mild aversion, you could certainly work with it to try and make it a more fun place. Feed him in there. Keep his toys in there. Encourage him to go in when you’re not actually going to close the door and leave him there for the day.

Those might be some things that you could try. You can also talk with your veterinarian about certain anxiety medications or behavioral medications that can sometimes help with inappropriate urination.

The next question comes from Hannah who writes, “We live near a restaurant and squirrels constantly drop food remnants in our yard. We’ve found everything from bread bowls to pizza to hamburger buns and rolls. I try to ensure my dog doesn’t eat any of the food items while she’s outside but she sometimes does. Can any of this food be harmful to her and are there any diseases she could catch from the squirrels?”

This sounds like a really tough problem to deal with. I do think that there is some possibility that some of this food could be harmful to your dog, especially if it’s spoiled, since it was in their trash. There probably aren’t a lot of diseases that she’s going to get from the squirrels, just from them eating the food and then her eating the food that they dropped. Squirrels can have mites and parasites and that type of thing, but she would have to be in pretty close contact to have that happen.

I think you’re probably going to be in a position where you’re going to have to monitor the yard pretty well to keep her from getting hold of this food. You might try talking to the restaurant and see if they can do a little bit better job of disposing their garbage or maybe keeping it covered.

If you guys have pet health questions for me, feel free to post them at Facebook.com/PetsBestInsurance.

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