Pet Insurance Blog – Pets Best Insurance
Get a Pet Insurance Quoteor call 877-738-7237

Do I need pet insurance?

Posted on: February 8th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance is tended to by a veterinarian.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder, Pets Best Insurance

Some people advocate a “pet savings account,” instead of pet insurance. For example, they recommend putting away $50 per month in a special account that is only to be used in the event of a pet health emergency.

On the surface this may seem logical until you realize your pet may have a costly medical event well before you save enough to pay for it. What if your pet had an accident only two months into your savings? Then you would only be able to pay $100 on a vet bill that could be upwards in the thousands—and that’s only if you hadn’t already used the funds for something else.

On the flip side, your pet may have no serious or costly medical events other than routine care for several years. If this is the case, then would you keep the savings in the delegated pet account?

As with our own health, much depends on luck, which is usually out of our control. Your pets’ current health will be a strong indicator of future health, although this doesn’t necessarily take accidents and injuries into account.

Some breeds are much more susceptible to illness. Exposure to viruses and bacteria are unpredictable, as is cancer. And of course environmental causes, such as toxins, poisons and household chemicals can influence pet health. With pet insurance, a pet owner is always prepared. Preparation for pet illnesses and accidents comes down to risk tolerance and the level of importance peace-of-mind is to a pet owner. With pet health insurance owners know they will be able to afford nearly any expense incurred by their pet.

Many people wonder how insurance ultimately works—in the case of pet insurance, large pools of the insured’s premiums are collected and used to help pay medical bills for those pets who have an accident, illness or injury.

Some pets will have a few pet health problems, others may have one large, costly expense, and some might have multiple costly medical episodes. The conundrum is that no one knows in advance which pets will have pet health problems and which will not.

As a real life example, take my nine family pets over a four year period; one (Obie) had over $12,000 in medical cost for three separate gastric torsion surgeries and bone cancer. Four other pets had medical care in the $240-500 range and the others had just a few veterinary expenses. For me, the premium for all 9 pets was offset just by Obie.

The other pets I could have covered well enough, but with my pet insurance paying a high percentage after the deductible, I didn’t have to dip into savings or rack up any credit card debt. I may now go years before I have another costly pet expense. And I hope I do. The point is no one knows the fate of their pet’s health and pet insurance allows pet owners to pay an affordable monthly premium while knowing that a portion of any future pet medical costs may be covered by their pet insurance policy.

February is pet dental health month

Posted on: February 7th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance prepares to have his teeth brushed.

Pet owners understand the benefits of giving their pets quality food, annual checkups, and the best pet insurance coverage. But if their pet’s dental care is neglected, optimum pet health may be compromised.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that most pets show signs of oral disease by age two: 80% of dogs and 70% of cats.

These statistics are alarming, because poor cat and dog dental care can cause periodontal disease, which leads to tooth loss and unhealthy bacteria entering the bloodstream. This can cause infection in vital organs like the heart and kidneys.

February is Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time for pet owners to look into dog and cat dental insurance. The best pet insurance companies often include dental coverage for pets, or offer it as an additional option.

Pets Best Insurance covers routine dental cleanings as part of the BestWellness routine care coverage. Professional cleanings, performed annually by a veterinarian, will not only help prevent tooth loss, but will also prevent other pet health issues that can occur when plaque and tartar ravage a pet’s gums.

In between professional cleanings, pet owners can brush their pet’s teeth with specially formulated pet toothpaste. Pets love the taste, and it is free of fluoride and other ingredients that can be harmful.

Other tools are also available to keep pet mouths healthy, including tartar control treats, water additives, and gels. These products are available from pet stores and veterinary clinics. When treated with professional pet dental care and pet insurance, periodontal disease is preventable. No pet should have to suffer from painful, bleeding gums, tooth loss, or other potential diseases.

Benji and the unlucky penny

Posted on: February 4th, 2011 by

Benji's X-ray shows some remaining pocket change he ingested.
By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Benji is a sweet, spunky little 3-year-old mixed breed dog weighing just 12 pounds. He really does look like Benji from the old TV movies! He was presented to me for an unusual problem that ended up being very serious.

Unbeknownst to his owners, Benji ate about thirty one cents in change; a nickel, a penny and a quarter. Who knows why he thought it was a tasty treat, but this turned out to be a big pet health problem.

While nickels and quarters are less toxic to dogs, pennies can cause serious illness. We think of pennies being made from copper, but in fact, the composition of the penny has changed many times since the 1700’s. Traditionally pennies were made from copper, but since 1983, all pennies have been made of 97% zinc with a copper coating, to help with manufacturing costs. Zinc is extremely toxic to dogs and can cause a condition called hemolytic anemia, an illness that causes the body to destroy its own red blood cells.

When the penny sits in the acidic stomach, the zinc is released from the penny and absorbed into the blood stream. It is also irritating to the GI tract and can cause vomiting and diarrhea within hours of ingestion. The most serious side effect is the hemolytic anemia that can occur after 24 to 48 hours in the stomach. The exact mechanism of red blood cell destruction is unclear, but the zinc makes the body burst the red blood cells and can dramatically reduce their numbers.

When Benji came to me he had already thrown up the penny and a nickel, but the damage was done. Normally a dog’s blood is made up of about 50% red blood cells. Benji came to me with only 14% red blood cells. When the cell numbers are this low it is hard for the blood to deliver oxygen to the body. Benji received a blood transfusion and improved to 20% red blood cells and felt much better. Radiographs revealed he still had a quarter in his stomach, but he was too sick for surgery to remove it.

If the penny stays in the stomach long enough, the zinc can also start to cause organ failure. The most common organs to be affected are the kidneys. A blood panel can reveal dangerously high renal (kidney) values and this was the case for Benji. In cases of acute renal failure, time and IV fluids can help the kidney to regain some function. Benji received IV fluids and medication. Over several days he slowly improved, gaining strength. After 24 hours in my care he threw up again, but this time the quarter came up too! The owners had never been so excited about their dog throwing up; things were starting to look up for Benji. It looked like he wouldn’t need surgery after all!

In addition to organ failure and low red blood cell numbers, zinc can also cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and even cardiac arrest. Other sources of dangerous zinc include some older toys, nails and hardware, staples, zippers and jewelry, and some human creams, such as sunblock, calamine lotion and Desitin.

Overall Benji was lucky, even though his penny wasn’t! He ended up staying in the hospital with intensive care for 10 days before he finally went home to his grateful owners. The whole ordeal ended up costing Benji’s owner’s around $2,100– had they had a pet insurance policy with Pets Best Insurance for Benji, they could have only had to pay $400 out-of-pocket if they had selected a policy with a $100 deductible.

If your dog eats something it shouldn’t, it is important to contact your veterinarian to determine how serious it is.

Pet health: Outdoor cats

Posted on: February 3rd, 2011 by

A cat with pet insurance keeps warm outside.
Cat pet care should be at the top of your priority list, along with pet insurance and your cat’s overall health. If your cat must stay outdoors, make sure to take the proper precautions to ensure he stays safe.

Cats that live outside are at risk for a number of potentially dangerous conditions, which is another reason cat insurance should be a consideration.

It is important to make sure that your cat has a safe shelter from all of the elements. Cats should have a place where they can go to escape the cold and wind. The shelter also serves as a place to keep your cat warm and dry. The shelter should just be large enough for the cat to turn around and stand in. The cat’s body heat will help to keep the shelter warm.

Cats should have access to plenty of fresh food and water. Cats will tend to eat more during the winter due to burning more calories in order to keep themselves warm. Place food and water in plastic bowls to prevent tongue injuries. Metal bowls can cause their tongue to stick to them which may lead to injuries. Check water bowls daily to make sure the water hasn’t frozen. If you suspect there has been an incident that may have hurt your pet, take him to the veterinarian. Pet insurance can help keep veterinary costs, like these, down.

Cat health insurance will allow you to take your cat in for a check-ups whenever you need to, to ensure your cat is healthy. Cats that are sick can have a more difficult time dealing with the elements than a healthy cat.

Pet ID tags: Your pet’s wallet

Posted on: February 2nd, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance wears an ID tag.
By: Lisa Deanne Gilman
The Rescue Train, for Pets Best Insurance

The scariest news a pet owner can hear is that their dog or cat is lost. Whether the gardener left the gate open, a child didn’t close the door all the way or your pet escaped from a friend’s house while you were vacationing, the news of a missing family member sends a shock to your system.

Some lost pets do make it back home and having an ID tag on your dog or cat is the best way to increase your chances of that happening. And unless you have a pet kangaroo, your furry family member does not have a pocket to carry ID, so his collar becomes his wallet.

Being the director of an animal rescue, I hear sad stories of missing pets and all of the excuses of why they weren’t wearing a tag all the time. Some of the most common are:

Excuse: “I’ve had animals all my life and none have ever gotten out”.
My response: I’m sorry you learned the hard way that, unfortunately, unexpected things do happen.

Excuse: “I don’t like the noise the tag makes”.
My Response: Nowadays there are noiseless plastic tags, tag pouches, an engraved plate that adheres to the collar rather than dangle, and even personalized collars with your contact number stitched right onto the fabric.

Excuse: I had just given my pet a bath that day.
My Response: Put the collar right back on after the bath. Don’t wait!

Excuse: My dog has a microchip.
My Response: Microchips are an excellent way to keep track of your pet; however, the animal needs to be taken to a shelter or vet’s office where there is a scanner. Some people who find an animal don’t think to have it scanned for a chip. Make it easy for any Good Samaritan who might stop to help your animal by having an ID tag with all your current information, and have your pet chipped, too, in case a collar should fall off.

The reality is that an ID tag should be on 24/7 for the life of the pet. Without one they are at risk. Identification tags are the cheapest and easiest ways to bring your pet back home safely. When people tell me they don’t like to have a dog or cat’s collar on in their home I ask why? What if there were an emergency like a fire or earthquake? In the animal kingdom, when scary things happen, flight is often an animal’s first response. And if your dog or cat does get lost during an emergency situation, an ID tag greatly increases the chances of getting the animal home to you quickly.

When our rescue group goes to the shelter to pull an animal we make sure we put a collar and tag on the animal before stepping outside the building. We highly recommend that if you adopt a new pet, you do the same, as coming to a new home is a particularly vulnerable time for an animal. New people and situations can be stressful for a pet. You don’t yet have a relationship with a dog or a cat who is new to the family. They don’t know to come when you call them. If they get out of your yard they are not familiar with their territory. Don’t wait to get a tag – have it before the animal comes home.

We recommend the lightweight plastic tags that you can print on both sides. They are quiet, come in bright eye-catching colors, and don’t get scratched or worn like some of the metal tags. We also suggest putting your pet’s name, address and at least two phone numbers on the tag. Also the word “REWARD” might give anyone who finds your pet more of an incentive to return them to you. “Scan me for a chip” lets people know that your animal is also microchipped and there might be additional contact information. And remember, if you move or change your phone number, don’t forget to update your pet’s tag. It doesn’t do much good if the contact information is not current.

If your pet ends up at a city shelter, there are impound fees you must pay to get your pet out, and time spent in a shelter can be an extremely frightening for any lost animal. An ID tag is your best chance at preventing you or your pet from having to go through that. When I walk the kennels of our city and county shelters, I can’t help but wonder how many of these animals might have an owner who loves them but wasn’t able to find their missing pet.

What’s in your dog’s wallet?

Note: Lisa Deanne Gilman is The Executive Director of The Rescue Train, a Los Angeles based, 501(c)3, nonprofit, no kill dog and cat rescue dedicated to eliminating animal suffering and euthanasia through hands on rescue work, education and awareness.