Your top pet dental questions answered

A dog with pet insurance holds a toothbrush in his mouth.

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

Pets need their teeth cleaned too and February is pet dental month! Are Fido’s kisses getting a little stinky? In addition to causing stinky breath, periodontal disease in pets can cause more serious underlying problems, even heart disease or infections of internal organs. That’s why veterinarians and pet health care workers team up every month of February to remind us to have our pet’s teeth examined by a veterinarian.

Here are some of the more common questions regarding your pet’s teeth:

Why should I brush my cat’s or dog’s teeth?
Removing plaque daily is important, as it is the precursor to tartar or calculus. Plaque is basically a film of bacteria that can irritate the gums. Tartar can’t be brushed off once it forms, and will eventually lead to further infection, loosening the tooth and eventually destroying it. In addition to loose teeth, infection under the gumline can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart.

How can I possibly brush Fido’s teeth?
With a little patience, creativity and praise, teeth brushing can become a regular part of your pet’s routine. Use a soft-bristled, or finger toothbrush. Use animal specific tooth paste (Don’t use human toothpaste! It can be toxic to animals). Be patient and go slowly.

How often does my pet need to have teeth professionally cleaned by the veterinarian?
This depends completely on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation. Try examining your pet’s teeth monthly; look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gumline. If you are uncertain, call and schedule an appointment for your veterinarian to examine.

The intervals between professional teeth cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush your pet’s teeth. Once or twice daily cleaning is optimum for good pet health, but anything is better than none!

Can I just take my fingernail and scrape off the calculus? Or can I have the groomer do a good brushing without anesthesia?
No! Dental disease occurs below the gum line as well. Pets need to be asleep in order for the insides and backs of the molars to be adequately addressed. Even the nicest dog won’t sit still enough for a thorough periodontal treatment. Also, if the tooth surface is scraped, this can leave small defects in the enamel that will exacerbate the problem, causing more plaque and tartar to form.

Does my pet have to anesthetized?
Yes, anesthesia is completely necessary when performing a proper teeth cleaning. Anesthesia provides three important functions: immobilization in order to clean below the gum line, pain control if a tooth needs to be extracted, and the ability to place a tube into the windpipe, to protect the respiratory system from bacteria.

Is anesthesia safe though?
Veterinarians will always take every precaution to provide safe anesthesia. Make sure your veterinarian runs a blood panel prior to anesthesia and uses up-to-date monitoring equipment. Most veterinary clinics should have the ability to monitor blood pressure, respiration, heart rate and rhythm, and oxygenation status, similar to a human hospital.

How much does a tooth cleaning procedure cost?
It is nearly impossible to determine how much the procedure will cost since most pets will not allow a thorough oral exam and certainly won’t allow for dental radiographs to examine the health of tooth roots.

Are there things other than brushing that I can do at home?
In a word, YES!

-Formulated dental diets typically will have ingredients that help repel plaque, and a crunchy texture that can help scrape the teeth as your pet chews. Diet alone will not control plaque, but it will help.
-Bones, hoofs and ears are not recommended. If the object is harder than teeth, they can lead to fractures. Bones in generally can cause GI problems, even dangerous obstruction and perforation of the bowel and are not recommended. But dental formulated chews with ingredients to help fight plaque can be helpful!
-Dental rinses can disinfect plaque, much like doggie mouthwash, and are sometimes more tolerated that brushing.
-Water additives can also help stop plaque from forming, and can be a part of a complete dental health program.

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How can I tell if my pet is suffering from periodontal disease?
The most common sign is halitosis, or bad breath. Dogs and cats should not give stinky kisses… Bad breath comes from infection. If your pet’s breath does not smell like roses, have a veterinarian create a treatment plan for you.

When should I start worrying about dental problems with my pet?
As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, it’s time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, the puppy or kitten gets used to the brushing procedure as a part of its normal routine, which should continue for life.

What can be done if my pet has periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease occurs when tooth support structures are affected by infection. In advanced cases, either periodontal surgery or extractions are generally necessary. Veterinary dental specialists are available to perform root canals and crowns, but generally if the tooth is diseased, it will need to be removed.

My pet had to have lots of teeth extracted, can she still eat her normal food?
Yes! Most pets will do great when the infection causing tooth pain is cured by removing the diseased tooth. Some pets will even eat better than they did before.

Let’s have the month of February be a friendly reminder to take care of our pet’s teeth too. Just think how much more enjoyable those sloppy doggy kisses will be!

For more information about pet health or to learn about pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Pet insurance comparison sites: What to ask

A cat with pet health insurance plays with a computer.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

At Pets Best Insurance, we understand that most pet owners will do quite a bit of research before choosing the best plan for themselves and their pets. Perhaps for this reason, pet insurance comparison websites are growing in popularity. Shoppers can compare pet insurance plans, fill out a form and receive quotes from multiple pet insurance companies at once. It sounds easy, but are they too good to be true? Maybe.

One concern for us has been the inaccurate Pets Best Insurance information we’ve seen on some third party websites. It can take weeks or months to get our information corrected, and meanwhile, pet owners see incorrect information that we can’t control. If it’s happening to us, it’s probably happening to other pet insurance companies you’d like to compare.

If you’re thinking about using a website to get multiple pet insurance quotes at once, here are 5 things you must ask before you proceed.

1. Will you receive actual pet insurance quotes?
Many comparison sites simply share your information with pet insurance companies who will then send you a link to get a dog insurance quote or cat insurance quote. So, you still have to enter all your pet’s information in multiple places before knowing your pricing options. If this is the case, it may be faster to compare pet insurance by visiting individual company websites.

2. How accurate is the information?
We offer a variety of deductible levels, plan levels and optional routine care coverage. Most of the comparison sites we’ve seen, however, show only a fraction of what we really offer. If they’re shorting you on Pets Best Insurance info, you’re most likely not getting the full picture when it comes to our competitors.

Here’s one way to check the accuracy of the site you’re using: visit in one browser window, and compare the third party site’s info in another window. If the information doesn’t align, move on. Here’s another: look for publication dates on the website’s content. If the content is more than 90 days old or there’s no date shown, choose another site.

3. Is the website maintained by an active webmaster?
The truth is, most websites exist to make money. Some entrepreneurs build websites, create spaces for ads, then walk away. Look for the site’s Contact Us section and send a quick email to see if you receive a response. If you can’t find contact information or are redirected to a different site, you may want to steer clear. You should only do business with a company that is easy to contact and will stand behind the information it provides.

4. Who else will receive your personal information?
Always read the website’s Privacy Policy to make sure your info won’t be sold to other companies. Otherwise you could be bombarded with offers from companies selling everything from chop-o-matics to tile roofing.

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5. Are the discounts legitimate?
Pet insurance pricing and discounting is heavily regulated by state laws – not just anyone can offer a discount. If a third party site is promising special pricing, go directly to the company you’re considering to verify the availability of the deal.

And finally, don’t waste your time with downloadable “free quote” coupons – we don’t know of any company that charges for a quote, and dog and cat insurance quotes are always instant and free at

The actual cost of owning a cat

A cat with the best pet insurance cuddles in her owners arms.

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

Cats can make wonderful pets for many people and, in fact, pet cats in the US now outnumber pet dogs, making cats the most popular pets, which is likely why cat insurance has become so popular. While the cost of owning a cat is much less than that of a dog, there is still significant cost and it is most likely much more than the average pet owner thinks.

There is truly no such thing as a “free” kitten. Being a responsible owner of a cat carries with it certain financial obligations. Cost does matter and directly influences both the type and the quality of care that a cat will receive. Each day animals are denied basic care and veterinary treatment because of the failure of owners to recognize that pets cost money. No pet should suffer because of poor financial planning and lack of commitment of the owner. It is essential to consider the expense of owning a cat before adopting one of these beautiful creatures. Researching the best pet insurance options for your cat is also a good idea. Having cat insurance may ultimately help you afford the best possible care.

The first year of a cat’s life can be one of the most expensive, depending upon how you obtain the cat. Pure-bred cats vary in price range from $300-$1,000. Shelter cats are usually around $50-$150. Both costs may sound expensive compared to getting a “free” cat, but most shelters and some breeders have already paid to neuter/spay, vaccinate, deworm and microchip the cat, so the initial cost isn’t expensive when you compare it to paying out of your own pocket for all those services performed on the kitten you got from a friend or relative. Additional initial cost items include supplies such as food and water bowls, litter boxes, grooming supplies, cat carriers, scratching posts and toys. These first year costs may add up to an average ranging from about $900 to $1500.

After the first year, the average yearly cost of owning a cat is estimated to be $1,320. This includes items such as food, cat litter, and annual veterinary check ups. These costs generally increase in older cats due to additional medical costs to treat conditions which may develop as cats age. If you consider that the average lifespan of a cat is around 14 years, this means you will spend an average of around $18,000 on your cat during his or her lifetime.

Are you surprised by the total cost? Keep in mind that these totals do not take into account costs due to accidents, injuries or unexpected health problems. This is where pet health insurance may help you more easily afford vet bills. If you have a cat with a chronic illness, your veterinary costs could triple. Prices could easily be doubled in large metropolitan areas versus smaller urban or rural areas. While some people think they can cut costs on food, litter or veterinary expenses, experience shows otherwise. If you feed cheap food, you may end up with a cat with urinary or intestinal problems and high veterinary bills. If you use cheap litter, your cat may use the living room carpeting instead. The same goes for avoiding routine veterinary care. By cutting corners, you will likely shorten your cat’s life or pay more money in the end.

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For many people, cat insurance is becoming an increasingly attractive option to help manage the cost of owning a cat. Improvements in pet health insurance over the past decade or so have made it more worthwhile than ever. There are more companies offering the service and more policy options available, so you have a better chance of finding a policy that covers what’s important to you and your cat at a price you can afford. Pet health insurance provides the financial help needed to afford excellent medical and surgical care. It’s best to enroll in pet health insurance while your cat is young and healthy and there are no pre-existing conditions. Companies like Pets Best Insurance have very affordable and comprehensive cat and dog insurance plans.

The animal shelters in this country are overflowing with abandoned and unwanted cats and dogs. Millions are euthanized every year, and millions more lead unhappy and poor quality lives with owners that do not meet their basic needs. If you are thinking of adopting a pet cat, make sure you’re prepared financially for the life-long commitment of a furry companion.

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

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.

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