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Dog Health Questions, Answered

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home answering questions today from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Tina and she asks, “Will neutering my male dog help with his marking issues? In the last six months he’s begun lifting his leg on various outdoor items and he never used to do this. Could it be jealousy over our toddler getting more attention or territorial? Will neutering help, and if not, what do you suggest I try?”

This is a tricky one. Absolutely, neutering may help because marking territories is often a testosterone-driven behavior. I think it would be important for you to be prepared for this to not go away completely. Behavioral modification might be helpful for you; maybe disciplining him when he marks things that he’s not supposed to or making it less desirable for him to approach those objects and mark on them.

Know that this is a frustrating behavior and consulting with a behaviorist might be helpful as well. In addition to potentially helping with his marking issue, neutering is going to be helpful in general for him, not only to prevent unwanted puppies but it will decrease his risk of certain types of testicular cancer.

The next question comes from Amy and she asks, “I have a 9-year-old Great Dane and he needs a dental cleaning. I’m wondering if it’s safe for a Dane his age to go under anesthesia.” This is a terrific question and I think it’s a really common concern for people with older pets. Great Danes have a shorter life span, so 9 is pretty old for a Great Dane. Obviously you’d want to have an exam by your veterinarian, but if he has no underlying heart issues and his blood work screens for any underlying disease, anesthesia should be just as safe for him as for a younger Great Dane.

Oftentimes the amount of disease in the mouth is more harmful to the pet than the risks of anesthesia. If you have an exam with your veterinarian and you find underlying problems, such as maybe a heart murmur, or blood work shows that there’s some elevations in certain of the enzymes associated with organ dysfunction, you probably want to talk with your veterinarian in depth about whether the risks of undergoing anesthesia are worth cleaning up the amount of disease that’s in the mouth. It’s not always straightforward but your veterinarian should help you make that decision.
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Idiopathic Vestibular Disease

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance is treated for Idiopathic Vestibular Disease.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Idiopathic vestibular disease is a pet health condition that can initially be terrifying to any pet owner. Imagine one day your older dog is fine, then the next she is falling down to one side, sometimes even rolling because she can’t keep her balance and her eyes are jerking back and forth.

Owners often fear the worst, thinking that their pet can’t possibly recover from such a horrible disease. We often think of it like a ‘stroke’, which can cause one sided symptoms in people, but the disease is actually very different, and when appropriately diagnosed, generally has a much better outcome. And if you have Pet insurance through a company like Pets Best Insurance, you can rest easy knowing 80% of the vet bill will be reimbursed to you.

The vestibular apparatus controls our sense of balance. It allows us to orient our bodies in relation to our world. If the floor were tilted, you could lean to compensate for this and still maintain your balance. There is a left and a right side which each gathers information from our world to transmits this to the brain. If all of a sudden one side isn’t working anymore, this one sided information wreaks havoc on the brain, which thinks its world is spinning or lopsided. The patient will tilt their head, jerk their eyes or fall to one side, thinking their world is off balance.

Part of the vestibular system is located in the middle ear, and the vestibular nerve exits from a specific location on the brainstem. The three most common reasons for vestibular disease include an ear infection, a brain lesion and idiopathic, meaning nobody knows exactly why it occurred. Clinical signs of vestibular disease include ataxia, or incoordination, head tilting or turning to one side, and nystagmus, or jerky eye movements. Patients will often feel intense dizziness or even vertigo, which can lead to motion sickness and nausea, thus many animals will vomit as well.

Vestibular disease is often mistakenly referred to as a ‘stroke.’ A stroke is a vascular accident that cuts off blood flow to a certain portion of the brain. While this is a rare cause of vestibular disease, generally this isn’t a true stroke, as there has been no vascular accident in most cases.

A central brain lesion causing vestibular disease can be a very serious, and often pets won’t recover well from this. Advanced imagining, such as MRI or CT scan is often needed to diagnose exactly where the brain has been affected, how serious it is, and whether it can be treated. Although these diagnostic tools can be expensive, many pet insurance companies will cover them. Ear infection causing vestibular disease has a much more favorable prognosis, treating the ear infection generally leads to recovery. Idiopathic vestibular disease, or “old dog vestibular disease” is the most common vestibular disease seen in cats and dogs. Interestingly, cats in the northeast united states are most likely to get this disease in the late summer and early fall.

It is important to immediately take your pet to the veterinarian if he or she is having symptoms of this disease so that it can be determined if there is central lesion, or an ear infection. Since this disease affects almost exclusively older pets, it is a good idea to have screening blood work performed to ensure there are no other underlying diseases. Once idiopathic disease is confirmed, treatment generally involves controlling nausea and letting the disease take its course. Usually there is noticeable improvement in balance within 72 hours. Most pets are nearly normal within weeks.

There will be intensive nursing care in the beginning, as your pet will have trouble going outside to potty and getting to the food dish. It is important to protect them from stairs or slippery surfaces where the pet could potentially harm themselves. It is also equally important to challenge them too! They have to re-learn to use their bodies. Provide sure footing, like carpet or grass and encourage them to try to get around. After recovery, most pets can return to their normal lifestyles.

While this disease is frightening and terrifying in the beginning, your veterinarian can help assure you that idiopathic vestibular disease carries a great prognosis. It’s one of the few diseases where you really can relax and know that things will improve and your pet will get better.

No more nipping

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by

A book cover. For information on dog insurance visit Pets Best Insurance.
Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance

Q. After my husband of 59 years died, I decided to adopt a new born puppy. Buddy fills my house with joy and happiness. He makes me laugh and I feel safer having him here. Unfortunately, Buddy likes to nip my hands and arms to get my attention. He isn’t biting aggressively, but his playful nips cause bruises and occasionally, his teeth break my skin. My hands and arms are sore. I tried spraying Bitter Apple on my hands and arms, but Buddy actually likes the taste! What can I do to stop him from being so mouthy?

A. Sounds like you have one spirited and loyal puppy. Mouthing is a very common behavior for puppies, who have very sharp baby teeth that are falling out to make room for adult teeth. Depending on the breed, this teething period and the desperate need to chew to soothe the gums can last up to a year. I’m not sure what type of dog Buddy is, but a lot of herding dogs, such as Border collies, tend to use their mouths when they’re playing. They have been bred to herd cattle and sheep by nipping at their heels. Some hunting dogs, like Labrador retrievers, are also particularly mouthy.

Whatever breed he is, the nipping and mouthing is still painful. Bitter Apple spray is usually effective because most dogs can’t stand the taste. But there are always exceptions like your Buddy. An effective alternative is breath freshener spray. The minty taste is far from being a canine favorite. You might also try dabbing your hands and arms with pickle juice. The juice contains a very sour additive called alum, which keeps the pickles crisp but is also a good dog deterrent – if you can stand the smell yourself!

It is more important, however, to train Buddy not to nip than to rely on repellents. He is bonding with you and needs to know that his nipping hurts. Around eight to 10 weeks of age, puppies in litters learn about bite inhibition. When one puppy bites too hard, and his sibling helps, he learns to soften his play bite. So, when Buddy mouths you too roughly, you need to yelp loudly. In addition, you need to stand up, turn your back on him, and walk slowly away. The message is: “You are not fun right now, and playtime is over.” Buddy wants to play with you and when you walk away, he will learn that mouthing ends good times.

That said, Buddy is at an age when he needs to chew. When he gets in a mouthy mood, offer him some suitable chew toys as substitutes for your hands and arms. When you play with him, use thick rope toys or rubber tugs that provide something safe for Buddy to put his mouth around while protecting your hands and arms. Please resist smacking his muzzle or holding his mouth closed, as these punitive tactics can backfire and cause him to bite more, and harder.

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!”
Dog insurance enthusiast, Arden Moore, is seated with her four legged friends.

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).

Popular dog breeds: The German Shepherd

Posted on: March 21st, 2011 by

A German Shepherd with dog insurance sits on the ground.

“And this year’s runner up is…the German Shepherd!” Although the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever edge him out by a nose, the German Shepherd is another popular dog breed. Like the top winners, this dog has very desirable traits – he’s family-friendly, fearless, alert and intelligent. Many German Shepherd owners know that having pet insurance for theirs, is an important peice of the pet health puzzle.

Description and Size
German Shepherds are well-muscled and strong. The head is chiseled and in proportion to its body. The eyes are almond-shaped and dark. Their ears are pointed and erect. German Shepherds have a medium length double coat and the colors vary from a lighter tan to black. Male Shepherds are between 24 and 26 inches high and weigh between 70 and 85 pounds. Females are 22 to 24 inches high and weigh between 60 to 85 pounds.

Character and Temperament
German Shepherds are very attached to their families, but can tend to be overly protective, especially around strangers. This is a trait that responds well to good training. Active socialization from birth will make him more open to others. They are great with children and usually good around other pets.

When a German Shepherd exhibits aggressive behavior, this is due to poor breeding and lack of training. They are excellent workers and thrive on hard exercise.
Health Issues

Like other large dogs, German Shepherds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. If possible, potential owners should check into the hip health of both parents. Another concern is that they are prone to bloat and shouldn’t be allowed to consume large amounts of food and water at once. Bloat can be deadly.

Because pet health can be an issue for any breed, investing in the best pet insurance is a wise decision.

Pet insurance protects pets and budgets

Posted on: March 21st, 2011 by

Posted by: HR
For Pets Best Insurance
A dog with pet insurance is protected from high vet bills.

While the joy of owning a dog is far beyond the value of the dollar, the expenses of doing so certainly are not. Between food, toys, and medical expenses, our pets can be expensive members of the family.

There are some great ways, however, to be a proactive pet owner and cut down some of these expenses. In some cases one may be required to get a little creative and in others make an investment in the future—but however the costs are cut, it will be better for dog owner and dog in the long run.

Prevention and preparation are two very valuable tools when it comes to cutting down the cost of owning a pet. Purchasing quality food may seem expensive now, but will decrease the likelihood of digestive problems and allergies—which means less trips to the vet and less of the bills that come with it. Similarly, checking out pet insurance companies for the best pet insurance plans will help buffer the costs of diagnostic tests, accidents, surgeries, prescriptions, and a host of other procedures.

Getting pets fixed will also trim down costs. According to Spay USA, spaying or neutering pets will reduce their likelihood to roam as well as unwanted puppies or kittens. Wandering goes beyond surprised litters, also increasing the likelihood of dogs being hit by a car or otherwise injured. Many pet health insurance policies cover neutering and spaying within wellness packages, as well as surgeries that could result from an accident.

Obviously our pets can’t tell the difference between a Gucci collar and one purchased at the local dollar store—and cats will likely take more enthusiastically to a bath loofah than the $20 toy purchased from PetSmart. These extra costs can easily be avoided. When it comes to health coverage, however, obtaining pet insurance information could be a lifesaver, or at least a budget saver.