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Pet health: Heartworm in dogs can be fatal

Posted on: February 9th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance is tested for Heartworms.

One of the most common preventable diseases in dogs is Heartworm, which is potentially fatal and expensive to treat. Heartworm is caused by bites from infected mosquitoes.

After six months, adult worms infiltrate the dog’s heart and/or lungs. Blood tests can detect the disease, but not until the dog has been infected for about seven months, according to the American Heartworm Society.

Dogs who develop Heartworm disease do not show symptoms in the early stages of their infection. Later, symptoms may include coughing, loss of energy, and weight loss. If left untreated, dogs infected with Heartworm will die.

The American Heartworm Society recommends annual Heartworm testing, which may be covered by some pet insurance companies. Testing for the disease is required before a dog may begin Heartworm preventative. Such preventatives include chewable tablets, topical and injectable treatments, and the costs of these medicines can also be offset with pet insurance.

Heartworm prevention is important because some sources believe this potentially fatal disease may be on the rise in the Eastern half of the United States and the Gulf Coast. Treatment for the disease is costly, usually requires hospitalization, and recovery can take up to two months. Since Heartworm is preventable, many pet insurance companies do not cover treatment costs.

The American Heartworm Society reports that nearly 100% of dogs bitten by infected mosquitoes will develop Heartworm. Dogs can catch Heartworm on their daily walk or from a mosquito inside the home. Dog owners should not skip giving Heartworm preventative treatment to their dogs, which is safe and very effective, especially since it can be covered by pet insurance.

Do cats dream?

Posted on: February 9th, 2011 by

Arden Moore's book cover.

Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore

Q. I love watching my cat sleep. He moves a lot and even makes little squeaking sounds at times. His legs quiver and his whiskers move. Is he dreaming?

A. Cats do dream, but we can only speculate on the subject matter. It might be that your cat is reliving the brilliant capture of a wayward fly buzzing near a sunny window or a particularly speedy spring down the hallway. Perhaps he is recalling with amusement how he charmed that final piece of broiled tuna off your dinner plate and into his own bowl.

We do have scientific evidence that cats dream. As with humans, feline sleep falls into two types – REM (rapid eye movement, which is when dreams happen), and non-REM (deep sleep). You will know your cat is in REM sleep because he is apt to twitch his legs, wiggle his whiskers, and subtly move his eyes behind his closed eyelids.

Studies using electroencephalograms (EEGs) to read brain activity in sleeping cats have indicated that cats are in the REM sleep stage for about 30 percent of their sleeping time and that their brain wave patterns during REM are similar to ours. In comparison, we spend about 20 percent of our sleep time in the REM stage (although human babies spend up to 80 percent in REM).

When cats are not dreaming, they are in the deep sleep phase. This is the time when the body goes to work repairing and regenerating bones and muscles and bolstering the immune system to fend off disease. The only movement you can detect during this sleep stage is the quiet up and down of breathing.

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!”

Pet expert Arden Moore spends time with her pets.

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 Arden Moore, who also hosts a weekly radio show called “Oh Behave!” on Pet Life Radio (www.petliferadio.com) by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).

Dog Skin Conditions and Reverse Sneezing

Posted on: February 8th, 2011 by


Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I’d like to take a chance to answer some questions from our Facebook page.

The first question is, “My dog has dark brown staining on the insides of her legs that’s been there since I adopted her. Now there’s a small dark patch developing in the middle of her belly. The skin is discolored and the fur has a strange texture. She doesn’t lick it and the area is never damp. She isn’t in pain and it doesn’t itch. What could be causing it?”

This is a great question. It’s really a common change on skin and fur of dogs and it’s generally related to moisture on the skin. Places that this can accumulate are between the toes, in facial folds, in the center of the belly where there’s a kind of belly button. The moisture, just normal moisture from your dog’s skin, can create an environment that a very non- harmful yeast organism, a fungal organism, can actually live there.

It’s cosmetic and it usually doesn’t cause a problem. If it’s itchy or if it’s bothering your dog, it could be related to something else and you might want to bring it up with your veterinarian.

This question says, “My Chihuahua reverse sneezes frequently. I know it’s not a cause for too much concern but it sure sounds awful when she’s doing it. What causes this and is there anything I can do to help her?” This is great question. If you’ve never heard a reverse sneeze, the first time you do it sure does look terrifying. The majority of the time it’s not related to any sort of problem. It doesn’t mean your dog is gasping for air and it’s not an asthma attack.

There are a couple of things that can sometimes predispose dogs to it. One is size, so smaller breed dogs tend to do it more than bigger dogs. Occasionally it can be caused by allergies, so you may find that in the spring or in the fall when there’s a lot of pollens, your pet might do this more frequently. In certain areas of the nation, nasal mites can actually cause this. Another common cause of reverse sneezing is excitement, so oftentimes feeding a treat or a meal can predispose them to having these attacks.

If this is happening suddenly and your pet has never done it before, you might want to contact your veterinarian.
www.petsbest.com

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.