Will Fluffy blow the bank?

A dog bowl is filled with money.

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

Anyone who owns a pet will tell you how much joy they bring into their lives, but probe a little more, and they’ll probably also tell you how they destroyed a pair of expensive designer shoes, or how the baseboards had to be replaced during a teething phase. Just what are you getting into financially when you open your home to a dog? About 40% of US families own at least one dog and according to the American Pet Products Association, in 2010 Americans spent over 47 billion dollars in animal related expenses that year.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are just over 78 million dogs nationwide. If you do the math, that comes to over $600 per year per dog in expenses. This estimate may actually be conservative. The ASPCA actually puts that annual figure at over $1000, depending on the size of dog you own. Owning a dog can be a long term commitment as well; with any luck Fluffy will part of the family for 10 to 15 years. That means that in her lifetime, Fluffy could cost you anywhere from $13,000 to $19,500.

You might be thinking, how can that be? But if you break it down, it really adds up. Consider the cost of food, toys and leashes, grooming, kenneling or boarding, training, spaying and neutering, regular annual veterinary care and vaccines, and emergency veterinary care (this can be especially high if you don’t have pet insurance.) Below is how the break down, and this isn’t even including the cost of a pet health insurance policy, which most companies allow you to pay monthly or annually, but may end up saving you money in the long run.

One Time Expenses
Spaying or Neutering: $200
Initial Medical Exam: $70
Collar or Leash: $30
Crate: $95
Carrying Crate: $60
Training: $110
Total One Time Costs: $565

Annual Expenses
Food: $120
Annual Medical Exams: $235
Toys and Treats: $55
License: $15
Miscellaneous: $45
Total Annual Costs: $470

Broken down, it becomes clear; dogs can be a big financial responsibility. Of course given the amount of pleasure, companionship and even health benefits dogs can bring us, it can still be a good investment! Here are some things you can do to be better prepared and even lower your pet care costs.

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Research, Research, Then Research Some More
Before you adopt a dog, make sure you are well aware of the costs and make sure these costs fit into your budget. Consider getting a mixed breed dog. Purebred dogs typically have more pet health problems and can be more costly to get pet health insurance coverage. If you have your heart set on a purebred dog, research the breed. There are over 400 genetic diseases identified in dogs. Many of these can be very costly. For example, hip dysplasia, common in Golden Retrievers, Laboradors, Rottweilers and other large breed dogs, can require hip replacement surgery which can cost over $5,000. Occasionally both hips can need to be replaced as well.

If a purebred is truly what you want, ensure that the breeder you go through has certified the breeding line is free of genetic diseases common to that breed. Visit the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals at www.offa.com for more information on genetic diseases even beyond orthopedically related, including deafness, eye disease and heart disease. This site also contains a database of lineages organized by ACK registry numbers. You can trace lineages back to see how the breeder’s dogs have tested in terms of genetic disease.

Puppy Proof Your House
Expect your new bundle of fur to be destructive until it is taught otherwise. Anticipate this by utilizing baby gates to block off areas of the house. Don’t leave anything you don’t want chewed on the ground or in reach. Invest in a good crate and crate train, especially in the beginning. This will make house training go more smoothly and give your puppy a ‘den’ or safe place that he or she will feel comfortable in. Remove anything that could be harmful or toxic, including access to the trash, plants, and the kitchen cupboards or pantry. This will decrease the likelihood of an emergency trip to the vet.

Get Pet Insurance
Veterinary care is expensive. The annual cost per household for veterinary care has increase about 47% in the last decade. Veterinarians are faced with staggering student loans and lower salaries than other advanced-degree professions, such as dentistry and law, which puts pressure on them to raise fees. Pet insurance can multiple your spending power, allowing you access to the most advance medical care, especially in an emergency situation. People with pet insurance are more willing to spend the money needed for their pet’s care if this cost is covered by pet health insurance.

Keep Your Pet Healthy
A healthy pet will end up costing you less. Invest in quality food, regular preventative veterinary exams, and vaccinations. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure! Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Obesity can cause a slew of health problems in dogs, just like in people, many of which can be costly to treat.

Being prepared and educated is the key to not facing sticker shock when Fido enters your family. Undoubtedly, owning a dog will be a journey that will enrich your life in many ways; being able to afford to provide for them is crucial for a successful lasting partnership.

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

Exciting news from Pets Best Insurance!

A woman holds a dog with dog insurance.

By: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

Pets Best Insurance has had some exciting things going on lately and to announce the big news, the pet insurance provider hosted a cocktail party at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas last month!

We had a great turnout, with over 200 industry professionals enjoying our hosted bar and delectable appetizers, just before the grand announcement was made.

If you weren’t able to join us for our cocktail party and “big news” unveiling, don’t worry! Here are some of the exciting highlights you may have missed.

1. Pets Best Insurance announced our new underwriter, Independence American Insurance Company.

2. We also announced that we will be unveiling even more plans with annual deductibles and limits, as well as a wide variety of deductible and co-pay options. This will allow customers more options when it comes to selecting the best pet health insurance coverage for their pet and their budget.

3. Vice President of Marketing, Chris Middleton also announced that we will be launching a cancer only plan, an accident only plan and specialized feline only plans in spring or summer 2012.

4. And last but not least, as you’re probably aware, some dog and cat insurance companies are now offering a “free” 30 day trial. We looked into offering a similar program at Pets Best Insurance, but found there were actually some issues surrounding giving insurance away for free. So instead, we’ve decided to launch a vet program that will provide even more value to pet owners than a free trial.

With the new vet program we announced at WVC, clients who take their pets into your hospital for a preliminary exam and are then given a clean bill of health, will receive both reduce waiting periods upon enrolling for a pet insurance policy, as well as a 10% discount off their pet insurance plan with us.

If you’re interested in our vet program please contact Amy Winkler. For more information about pet health insurance visit Pets Best Insurance.

Dr. Jack’s 10 reasons to spay/neuter

A dog with dog insurance visits the vet.

By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder
Pets Best Insurance

Spaying and neutering is as important for your pet’s health as it is your pocketbook. Some of the reasons why you should consider spaying or neutering include:

1. Spaying eliminates the possibility of your pet being afflicted with pyometra. Pyometra is a quickly-developing infection in the uterus, secondary to abnormal lining of the uterus which will result in severe pet health issues or death if untreated. Emergency surgical removal of the uterus is required and once a pet has developed pyometra it is much more expensive to treat than the preventative spay.

2. Spaying eliminates false pregnancy– a condition that mimics pregnancy and can cause painful swollen breasts, vomiting, diarrhea and weight gain. Although not life threatening, false pregnancy does require medications and medical treatment.

3. Spaying eliminates the chance of ovarian and uterine cancer.

4. Spaying, when performed at an early age, can reduce the chance of breast tumors.

5. Spaying eliminates complications from pregnancy, such as eclampsia (milk fever), abortion, retained placenta and general difficulties giving birth which may require a C-section surgery.

6. Spaying eliminates the chance of developing uterine infections.

1. Neutering eliminates the chances of developing testicular tumors or infection.

2. If done early, neutering can reduce objectionable behavior associated with hormones.

3. Neutering decrease the chances of males roaming for females in heat, which often results in fights with other males and/or being hit by a car.

4. Neutering can reduce aggression towards humans.

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Or Call 877-738-7237 to Add a Pet to Your Current Policy

Ultimately, spaying and neutering helps society by not adding to the pet overpopulation problems. Too many pets end up in shelters or are euthanized because there are simply not enough homes. Spaying and neutering can also save you money in the long-run by avoiding the many costly medical conditions listed above.

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

Spring break and your pet

A dog with dog insurance runs on a beach during spring break.

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

Spring break usually means a break from the normal daily grind and a chance to relax and maybe even travel somewhere warm. With some foresight and planning you can include the four-legged members of your family on vacation as well. Pet insurance provider, Pets Best Insurance even allows you to take your pet to any licensed veterinarian, anywhere in the world– so you can rest easy knowing you can travel with your four-legged friend and visit a vet in case of any accidents or illnesses on the road. Alternatively, if you have to leave your pet behind, being prepared prior to scheduling kenneling or a pet sitter can make the trip smoother for everyone.

Increasingly, more and more hotels and resorts are becoming pet friendly. Check websites such as petswelcome.com or officialpethotels.com in the area that you are traveling to find a place that will welcome your animals. Another option is to look into vacation rentals by owner at VRBO.com. These are condos and homes owned by people willing to rent them out for holidays and vacations. While you can probably expect a pet deposit fee, many will allow your pets to stay.

If you decide to bring Fido along, there are some considerations to make for his or her comfort and health. Ask your veterinarian what type of parasite prevention you might want to apply depending on the area you are traveling to. The United States is so large that different regions have very different endemic parasite borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and heartworm disease. Using a product to prevent parasites will help ensure good pet health.

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Or Call 877-738-7237 to Add a Pet to Your Current Policy

Traveling can be stressful for pets, especially cats. Acclimating your animal to an appropriately sized kennel with a comfortable blanket that smells like home can help to make the journey smoother, especially if you are driving with them. Consider bringing a toy from home, use the same food he or she usually eats to prevent stomach upset and try to stick to normal routines your pet is familiar with, such as afternoon walks. Products that contain calming pheromones have been shown to lessen anxiety as well. They are available for both dogs and cats; ask your veterinarian for additional information.

If you are flying with your pet, be sure to determine the airlines’ requirements prior to traveling, as each is slightly different. Most will require a veterinarian produced health certificate within 10 days of flying. The airlines typically require a dog crate that can bolt shut (not the plastic snap closures that some smaller kennels have). The animal must be able to stand and turn around comfortably. If he or she is flying cargo, tranquilizers or anti-anxiety medication are NOT recommended, as this can be sedating, causing the pet to be unable to regulate body temperature, or right itself if knocked over.

It your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin with you, you might discuss anti-anxiety medication with your veterinarian. He or she will likely have you try the medication prior to travel to ensure your pet tolerates it well. Never use over the counter medications, or your own medications on your pet without doctor supervision.

If your pet’s personality isn’t suitable to travel, or if you are traveling somewhere they are not invited, plan your care for them well in advance. Visit a local kennel and ask for a tour. Ask what their plan is if an illness occurs, or if there is a doctor on staff. Ensure their vaccinations are up to date, including bordetella or kennel cough. If leaving Fluffy in a kennel gives you anxiety, consider a pet sitter instead. Many pet sitters will even stay in your own home, or at least visit twice daily and perform walks and administer medication. This allows the least change in routine, which is especially nice for cats. Check out Fetchpetcare.com for local pet sitters in your area.

Spring break will be much more enjoyable if your only worries include what to order for dinner and remembering to applying sunscreen rather than stressing about Fido! With some planning and thoughtfulness, everyone in the family, including your pets, can return for spring break relaxed and happy.

For more information about pet health visit Pets Best Insurance.

CT scans save pet lives– if you can afford it

Torrey, a pet insurance enthusiast, stands in a pet MRI machine.

By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder
Pets Best Insurance

Last month Torrey, my Teacup Chihuahua, and I attend the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) in Las Vegas, a popular event for veterinarians’ continuing education. Vets keep up-to-date and meet their states’ continuing education requirements by attending such conferences.

Over 6,400 veterinarians and 2,000 technicians attended the annual conference this year to learn new treatments, surgeries, diagnostics and therapeutic agents for pets. They also visit a huge exhibition area to learn about pet health insurance, new technology, drugs, equipment and view a wide assortment of products and services that can be utilized by veterinary hospitals.

Pets Best Insurance exhibits at WVC each year to meet with veterinarians and their staff to help educate them about our pet health insurance and to answer any questions they have about how it works. We also like to get a perspective on how their clients, (our policyholders) view our coverage and service, and to inform them about any new plans, programs or benefits.

We know most veterinarians cannot take the time to fully research dog and cat insurance, but we do like for them to be comfortable with our pet insurance plans and with our company as a whole.

This was Torrey’s eighth WVC conference where she is always the smallest attendee. Torrey is always a hit with her diminutive size and fear-nothing bravado. Only a Chihuahua can bluff and intimate by sheer will, of which she is the queen. Torrey was much sweeter this year and was actually a good hostess in greeting attendees and getting her photo taken. Maybe she’s mellowing with age.

One piece of equipment now available for pets is a portable CT Scanner. This scanner, pictured with Torrey inside, is for the diagnosis of many diseases not detectable by other methods. This type of equipment, along with MRI units and Digital Radiography, can be very expensive. Despite the cost for some units in excess of $100,000, this technology can diagnose more quickly and efficiently, allowing for a much more effective prognosis and treatment.

Pet insurance quote button

Or Call 877-738-7237 to Add a Pet to Your Current Policy

At one time this type of sophisticated equipment was only available for humans. The only pet use most veterinarians could get their hands on was after hours and on a very limited basis. This was obviously difficult at best. Now this technology is being used at some veterinary hospitals! However, the cost for a scan or MRI can run $800-1,200 for each diagnostic screening. And multiple screens are often necessary. You can probably see why having pet insurance is a good idea as soon as the tab comes. A good deal of the cost reflects the high cost of the equipment. However, unlike humans, pets must be placed under anesthesia to utilize the diagnostic ability of the equipment. Any patient, human or pet, must be perfectly still while being scanned. I know when I had my first MRI, it took all my will power to hold still and avoid having to be sedated. Otherwise the scans of the brain, spinal cord, muscle and other areas can be unreadable. Unlike the photo of Torrey standing in the unit, pets have to be positioned exactly over the suspect area of damage for several minutes or longer to develop the image necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

While the cost is high, the information provided by an MRI can help diagnose pets earlier and may reduce long-term treatment costs while saving lives. And of course, if you have a Pets Best Insurance pet health insurance plan like I do for Torrey, you won’t be facing the costs alone because Pets Best Insurance reimburses a high percentage of the actual vet bill.

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

Portable Multi-Detector CT pictured, by Universal Medical Systems

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