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Pet health: Seizures can be scary

Posted on: May 10th, 2011 by

A small dog with vet insurance recovers from a seizure.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Watching your beloved pet have a seizure can be a terrifying thing. Animals may jerk and convulse, lose control of their bladder or vocalize. Some studies suggests as many as 5% of the overall canine population suffers from some type of seizure disorder, people are probably closer to 1%. Becuase there are some breeds that can be more prone to seizures, lending a hereditary component in some cases, it may be a good idea to research vet insurance for your pet. While frightening, many seizure disorders can be effectively managed, and there are some RIGHT and WRONG things for you, the pet owner to do while this happens.

Abnormal brain activity is responsible for the sudden and uncontrolled movements that characterize a seizure. Because the brain is complex organ seizures can vary in severity and portions of the body affected. Grand Mal seizures are generally severe and affect all of the pet’s body, but petit or partial seizures may only affect a portion of the pet. For example, ‘fly biting’ or ‘chewing gum’ seizures cause a pet to snap their jaw, while nothing else is affected.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine if your pet’s episode is a true seizure. One of the hallmark characteristics of a true seizure is called the post-ictal phase. This is characterized by a period of time after the incident where the dog will act ‘off’ or disoriented. The post-ictal phase can last from minutes to hours, to the greater part of a day after seizure activity and can manifest as lethargy, depression, pacing, anxiety, vocalizing, even dementia or hyperactivity. This is not part of the seizure itself, but helps to confirm the seizure diagnosis. Some dogs will even have a short pre-ictal phase before seizing, where the animal can sense that something is coming on. Having pet insurance for your pet, can help to alleviate stress that may come from financial worries.

Seizures can have very serious consequences for an animal. Seizing for longer than 3 to 5 minutes can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs or in the brain, in addition to causing a dramatic rise in body temperature, which can damage organs. “Cluster” seizures, where a pet will fall into another seizure, just as they are coming out of the last one, can also be dangerous.

Causes for seizures can include epilepsy, or idiopathic seizures, where the cause is due to abnormal brain activity, but no other external factors. This is the most common cause for repeated seizures in dogs. Other reasons include exposure to toxins, low blood sugar, brain tumors, trauma, some organ dysfunctions such as a portosystemic shunt, and infectious or inflammatory conditions. Some conditions can be treated. For example, a pet with low blood sugar can be treated and never have another seizure, as long as their blood sugar doesn’t drop. Other conditions such as epilepsy can not be cured, but only managed. Having vet insurance can give pet owners piece of mind, knowing that vet bills can be significantly lower.

It is important to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian to determine if the seizures are triggered by an underlying treatable disorder, or if epilepsy is the likely cause. Your veterinarian will likely want to perform some laboratory blood work in addition to performing a good general exam. In an older dog, or in a dog where a brain disorder such as tumor or hydrocephalus (water on the brain) is suspected, advanced imaging such as MRI or CT scan might be recommended. Pet insurance can help defray these costs, allowing your pet the best possible diagnostic testing and treatment.

There are some things you should and shouldn’t do during a seizure episode. Do try to protect yourself from getting bitten, NEVER place your hands near your pet’s mouth. Do not try to comfort or hold a seizuring animal. Do not try to startle your dog ‘out of it’ by slapping, yelling, or throwing water on them. This will not work.

It is a good idea to try to clear the area of objects that a pet might injure themselves on, especially water or swimming pools. Keep your other pets away, some dogs might become aggressive towards the seizing animal. Notice the time, or start a timer; it can be difficult to estimate exactly how long the episode lasts when you are scared. If the seizure lasts longer than 3 to 5 minutes, or the pet has more than one in a 24 hour period, or if it is the first time your pet has ever seized, seek veterinary attention. Consider vet insurance as an important part of keeping your pets healthy as well.

What to consider when buying pet insurance

Posted on: May 7th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance sits in his master's lap.

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

1. How are you reimbursed?
I mention this area because reimbursement issues can become your biggest area of discontent if you receive less than you anticipate for your pet’s medical cost.

Some pet insurance companies reimburse or pay claims based on a “set” benefit schedule. The problem with this is the schedule may not reflect what you are actually charged for veterinary care. For instance, if your pet had a broken leg that cost you $3,000; the pet health insurance company that operates from a benefit scheduled may reimburse a lesser amount after the deductible. This can be considerably less; leaving you with the balance. Pick a plan that pays a flat percentage (such as 80%) of your cost for pet health care and avoid this pitfall.

2. How long will it take to be reimbursed?
This is another important facet of cat or dog insurance that you may not initially understand why it matters. After all, with human health insurance, you go to your doctor and they submit the bills to the insurance company. The length of time this process takes is probably of little concern to you because your doctor or hospital is waiting for the funds, not you.

In contrast, with pet health insurance, you pay the veterinary cost upfront and then submit your claim to the pet insurance company, who will then pay you back. With pet insurance you are out-of-pocket for the cost up front and you may incur interest expenses on your credit card if your reimbursement is not timely from the pet insurance company.

It’s a good idea to ask what the average time is from receipt of a claim until payment is rendered by your pet insurer. If the company acts evasive, you have your answer; you will likely be waiting for your money for some time. Seek pet insurance companies that have a good history of paying their claims quickly. In addition, ask if they offer direct deposit, which can expedite your reimbursement.

3. How easy is it to file a pet insurance claim?
Another pitfall to avoid are the companies that make it difficult for you to file a claim and track your claims status. You should seek a pet insurance company that allows your claim to be filed electronically (email) for faster service. Also seek a company that will provide you with an email confirmation once they received your claim. And better yet, do a pet insurance comparison to find a company that will directly deposit your funds quickly.

Pet Insurance Life Lessons

Posted on: May 6th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance gets ready to play fetch.

Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

When I got my first dog, I was entirely naïve. You often hear people talk about how much responsibility owning a pet requires, as well as how expensive they can be. I initially assumed that I would have to take Snoodle to the vet about once a year, and entirely took for granted that dogs, too, can get sick or injured. It was around this time I realized pet insurance might be a good idea, but I didn’t initially act on it.

Of course these ailments require medical visits— but I grossly underestimated just how pricey those visits can be! I remember the first time I took my puppy to the vet because he had been sick to his stomach.

The price of the tests alone made my jaw drop. I had heard here and there about dog insurance, but I didn’t realize what value it really had until I had to pay a few vet bills out-of-pocket.

When I decided to get another puppy, I made the decision that a pet health insurance plan was a must. It was important for me to do a pet insurance comparison so I could find a plan that was affordable for me. I compared each of the dog insurance policies carefully, taking inventory of what each plan covered or did not cover. I looked for discount pet insurance, realizing that it usually covered just as much as the companies that claimed to provide more.

Overall, it took a little bit of research, but I was finally able to find a plan that was great for my new puppy. The cost of her discount pet care alone was lowered—and I know if a catastrophe ever arises that I won’t be footing those bills alone, thanks to pet insurance.

Parvo Virus: Bad for puppies, bank accounts

Posted on: May 5th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance looks up.

Dog owners generally purchase pet insurance because they know dogs will likely go through various bouts of illness and upset tummies throughout their lives.

But for puppies, such an incident can be very serious– as it often means the dog has Canine Parvovirus, otherwise known as Parvo. Parvo is a very dangerous pet health disease for puppies and elderly dogs that can turn deadly quickly.

Parvo virus infects the intestine and destroys the lining, causing severe bloody diarrhea and vomiting. What’s worse, the virus can live on surfaces for months and can spread very easily on clothing and shoes, infecting puppies that have had no contact with other dogs at all.

Treatment means hospitalization for at least three nights, and anyone whose pet has stayed overnight at the vet knows this is very costly without dog insurance.

According to Dr. Michael Dill, a veterinarian at Bienville Animal Medical Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, treatment for Parvo can even require ten days of non-stop hospitalization, which, without pet health insurance, could cost a pet owner hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But, “with appropriate treatment, parvo infected dogs have about 85 to 90 percent survival rates,” the veterinarian wrote in an article for the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald.

Fortunately, routine puppy vaccinations, which can be covered with dog insurance plans include vaccinations for Parvo. These shots require multiple booster shots and return vet visits, so puppy owners should compare pet insurance to find a policy that will cover this routine.

The extra preparation is well worth it for your puppy’s health and your bank account. According to Dr. Dill, “At my clinic, a full set of puppy visits (four visits including examination, vaccines and fecal examination) is less costly than a single day of parvo treatment.”

Paws for the Heart Promotes Owner and Pet Health

Posted on: May 5th, 2011 by

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Pets Best Insurance participates in Paws for the Heart.

Idaho residents now have a new reason to be out and about with their four-legged friends: Paws for the Heart. Vicki Stephens, wife of our founder and president Jack Stephens, recently participated on behalf of Pets Best Insurance.

Paws for the Heart was organized to promote pet owners walking their dogs for stronger hearts and improved overall human and pet health, something we have long supported here at Pets Best Insurance. After all, the evidence is clear that owning a pet can help a person be more active.

Despite the breezy and cool weather, the first-time event was very well attended with hundreds of pet owners and around 200 dogs of every size and shape. Attendees enjoyed a two-mile walk through a beautiful course surrounding a local medical center. One local shelter walked dogs available for adoption – their doggie vests let everyone know they were looking for forever homes.

Special guests included former Governor of Idaho Cecil Andrus, and “Lady 89”, the event’s most senior participant. Her age hasn’t slowed her down – she used her walker to walk the full two miles with her dog!

Vicki and her therapy dog Schotzie, who uses a wheelchair, hosted a Pets Best Insurance booth in order to educate other pet owners about pet insurance. One customer and his three Pets Best-insured Collies stopped by to rave about our coverage and service, and many stopped by to pick up brochures and learn how they can get pet insurance quotes themselves.

Now that the weather is nicer, we encourage you to seek out new opportunities to get moving with your pets! You’ll both be healthier and happier for it.