Time to spring clean… your pet

A dog with pet health insurance gets ready to spring clean.

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

Animal lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts alike have probably noticed that the days are finally getting longer, which can only mean on thing. Spring is finally here! So put that extra sunlight to good use by doing some spring cleaning that involves your pet!

Instead of standard dust bunny clearing, mopping, and scrubbing the bathroom, what about spring cleaning your pet? Here are some ways to do just that, while keeping your pets safe and happy.

Spring clean by focusing on your pet’s outsides AND insides. Grooming can be a regular part of getting spring-ready, but even if your groomer will brush your pet’s teeth, this generally isn’t enough. Pets need to have their teeth professionally scaled and polished regularly, just like we do, in order to prevent periodontal disease. Consider making an appointment with your veterinarian to determine if your cat or dog should have this important procedure performed this spring.

A good springtime wellness exam with a veterinarian should be an annual part of your routine wellness care. A physical exam can uncover potential underlying disorders you weren’t aware of. Most veterinarians agree that having your pet’s internal function ‘examined’ as well by performing blood work should be a routine part of a senior pet’s annual care. Some pet health insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, even offer a wellness care package, to help make the best care more affordable.

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This can help your veterinarian get an early start treating such disorders as chronic kidney insufficiency and other diseases common in aging animals. Having a cat or dog insurance policy in place early on, may help with the associated pet health costs.

Annual pet spring ‘cleaning’ should also include any vaccinations due and deworming as well. Did you know that many canine and feline internal parasites can be transmissible to people? Especially in households with young children, at least annual deworming should be performed to keep your pet and your family healthy.

This spring, take the time during your annual cleaning to include your furry family members and consider their health. This can mean using pet safe cleaning products around the house, and important annual pet health check ups.

Feline Asthma – All About Asthma in Cats

Hello, I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’ll be answering some questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

I had several people write in about asthma in cats so we’ll tackle that one first. Cindy wrote in and she says, “My cat has been diagnosed with asthma. He is on theophylline and prednisolone but still is hacking and I can hear his breathing. It sounds raspy. I have an inhaler and I’m going to try it but if that doesn’t work what else can I do to make him more comfortable?”

Asthma in cats is pretty similar to asthma in people. There’s inflammation in the airways in the lung and that makes the cats cough. Cindy’s cat is on prednisolone which is a steroid. It works against the inflammation. Theophylline is what we call a bronchodilator. It opens up the airways and helps the breathing become more easy.

For most kitties that’s really all it takes to keep the asthma in check, but in Cindy’s case, that’s not enough for her kitty. She does have some options besides that regiment that the kitty is on right now. There are a couple of other more potent, stronger steroids that can be used in place of the prednisolone, and sometimes that’s all that needs to be done.

Another option is to use a steroid inhaler. This is very similar to the inhalers that people use for their asthma. We know that cats do not have opposable thumbs and they can’t hold the inhaler up to their mouths, so there’s a specially designed inhaler made for the kitty cats. It’s more like a little mask that is held over the cat’s face and there’s a small tube and the medication, the actual inhaler, is attached to the end. The inhaler is puffed into the tube there and that medication sits in that little tube. It’s called a spacer. The owner puts the mask over the kitty’s face, gives a couple of puffs, and then that mask is just held into place while the kitty takes about eight to ten breaths.

This is a perfect solution for Cindy’s cat because the steroid is getting right down into the lungs where it needs to be. That can be very effective versus the oral steroids that he’s on right now. Hopefully, after she tries that it will work really well for her cat.

Overall, kitties handle steroids very well. There are very few side effects, but sometimes you can see some such as diabetes. To reduce the risk of those side effects, if we can use the inhaler that will be better off for the cat in the long run.

We don’t know exactly what causes asthma in cats, but sometimes there does seem to be an underlying allergic component so an air purifier may be helpful. A good website that I’ve referred my clients to in the past is FritzTheBrave.com. It is a very nice website that give owners who have kitties with asthma a good education about exactly what asthma in cats is, how to treat it, and what to expect along the way. It’s written by the family who owned a cat named Fritz who had asthma, and despite his disease he lived a nice, long, fairly healthy life. Take a look at that so you can get an idea as to what to expect for your kitty cat.

Amber also writes in asking about asthma. She’s wondering if her cat has asthma. She says, “I wonder if that’s what’s wrong with my cat. He does the hacking sometimes and I was thinking it was maybe hairballs or allergies. How do I know if it’s asthma?”

Like Amber says, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the cough from hairballs versus coughing from asthma. They look pretty similar and can be confusing. At the risk of making myself look very silly I’m going to try to demonstrate to you what a coughing cat looks like, because it’s a very specific activity that you’ll see. Usually the cat will be hunched down; the elbows will be kind of out to the side here, what I call little chicken wings; the head will be really extended very far and the little face will be really close to the ground and you’ll hear your cat do something like this: [makes sound]. That’s what it sounds like.

I’m not that good at impressions. FritzTheBrave.com actually has a really nice video of poor little Fritz having a coughing or an asthma attack. Check that out, because a lot of people have never heard a cat cough so they don’t realize what it is.

Of course, the only way to tell whether your kitty has asthma is by taking your cat to your veterinarian. The veterinarian will definitely want to do chest x-rays. The veterinarian will be looking for certain patterns in the lungs that indicate asthma. Sometimes there’s some blood work done to rule out other diseases that could cause some coughing. Sometimes you have to go so far as to get a sample of the cells from the lungs by doing what’s called a tracheal wash when the kitty is under anesthesia. The good news is that if your cat is diagnosed with asthma, with some fairly simple treatments the kitty can go on to live a long and healthy life.

If you have any other cat health questions, please post them on the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.


How to Stop Your Cat from Throwing Up after Eating

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Hotel and Veterinary Hospital in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to answer some questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

First, we have Steena. She says, “My cat eats too fast and then throws up. How can I get him to slow down? Even buying a special slow-feed bowl didn’t work because he just eats around the protrusions.”

Some cats really do like their food. When I see this type of behavior, where the kitty is eating so fast and so much that they almost immediately vomit, oftentimes it seems to be those cats that as kittens or young cats were strays and outside. They don’t seem to get past this mentality of not knowing when their next meal is. They were out on the streets starving, probably didn’t eat for a number of days a time. Now, even though they’re in a nice home and the food is plentiful, they still have that mindset that they’re going to starve if they don’t eat as much as they can right now. There are other cats, however, who just really love to eat. It doesn’t help that we’ve made our pet food very nutritious and very tasty.

Steena has the right idea as far as, we do obviously want to slow down the eating so the cats can’t fill themselves and get so full that they vomit right away. What I like to have owners try is to feed the kitty from a cookie sheet or other flat tray. That spreads the dry little kibble pieces out so they have to pick up one or two at a time. They can’t shove their face in a bowl and try to take a big gulp.

Another thing that works really well is to try feeding the cat from an ice cube tray that you fasten down. Again, physically they just can’t eat so quickly because they’ve got to put their tongue down into each individual cube and get only a couple pieces at a time.

Typically, something like that is going to solve the problem for you. The other thing you want to think about is multiple small meals throughout the day, and when I say small, I’m talking about maybe an eighth of a cup or so of food. If you’re schedule doesn’t allow for that, you can purchase automatic self-feeders where you can program them to open up at certain times of the day. Then you can measure the amount that you put in each compartment at that time.

Finally, the last thing you can try is perhaps using what we call a food ball or a treat ball. You can get these from most of the pet stores. It’s just a little plastic ball with some small holes in it that will only allow a few pieces of food to fall out. You open it up, put the dry food inside, and close it back up. Again, he can only eat a few kibbles at a time. Usually the kitty has to either roll the ball or tip it so that he has to work to get his food released so not only are we hopefully solving the problem of him eating too much too quickly, you’re also going to give him the mental and physical stimulation that’s really important for our cats, especially if they’re indoor cats only.

If you have any other cat health questions, you can post them on the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.


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.

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