Do you go to the vet often enough?

A dog with dog insurance sits on a table at the veterinarian office.

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

Dogs and cats are increasingly becoming part of the family, and are being treated as such. Dogs are no longer just outside animals, and are now sharing the bed and the couch with us. About two thirds of US homes have a dog or a cat, and the majority of people seem to agree that their animals are members of the family. However, despite the increase in the roles pets are playing in our family lives, there has been a disturbing negative trend in pet health. Veterinarians are reporting in the past several years fewer pets are coming into veterinary clinics and preventable disease seem to be on the rise.

There seem to be several reasons veterinary visits are declining in the US:

1. The economic impact of the recession and the cost of veterinary care
Money is tighter for a lot of families and the cost of veterinary medicine is on the rise. Most people have health insurance for themselves but may not have considered their pets ought to have pet health insurance too. It is well documented that people with dog and cat insurance tend to visit the vet’s office more frequently, and sooner when a problem occurs. This is likely due to the fact that the cost associated with veterinary care is defrayed with pet health insurance. Most veterinarians agree that pet health insurance is extremely beneficial to the owners, and subsequently the patients benefit as well.

2. Fragmentation of veterinary services
Low cost vaccine clinics and spay/neutering clinics have their place in the community, but they are not substitutes for a routine wellness exam. Vaccinations clinics are just that, only for vaccines. Most of the time the doctor at the low-cost clinic is not able to take the time to fully examine the insides of the ears, palpate the abdomen, or carefully auscultate the heart to screen for other problems. The doctor will often not have the time to ask and answer important pet health questions, such as changes in water consumption or limping, which can indicate an underlying problem.

3. Consumers substituting internet research for office visits and the perception that regular medical check-ups are unnecessary
A recent study by Bayer showed 15 percent of owners said that by using the Internet, they believe they have less need to visit veterinarians. While it is true some websites are credible sources of background information, an alarming number of pet owners take online blogs written by non-experts as infallible.

A wellness exam is an important time for a veterinarian to examine all parts of your pet so that disease, such as obesity, periodontal disease and even diabetes can be prevented. Animals can be skillful at disguising their illness, and veterinarians are trained to recognize early signs of some preventable or manageable diseases. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure in veterinary medicine, which can be expensive. As we take on the responsibility of adding pets into the family, we take on the responsibility of keeping them healthy as well.

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Most manufacturers of vaccines have altered the vaccination recommendations, and veterinarians have adopted these new regulations, which tend to require fewer vaccines and more years in between vaccines. This may equate to less vet visits, but vaccines are only a very small part of keeping your pet healthy. A regular yearly wellness exam is crucial to maintaining health, even if vaccines aren’t due, and even if the pet is primarily indoors.

4. Pet resistance, especially cats
Veterinarians understand it is hard to get your pets into our offices. Especially cats, which tend to vocalize, hide, and become aggressive or scared. It is thought that this may contribute to the falling numbers of vet visits, especially in cats. If you have issues getting your cat to the vet, you might consider a house-call veterinarian who will come to the house to perform wellness exams there. There are products, such as Feli-way, a pheromone spray that can also help calm cats and dogs for stressful trips to the vet.

By taking in a pet as a member of your family, you are making a commitment to a lifetime responsibility for their care. They are completely dependent on us and offer so much in return. Always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for frequency of visits and consider pet health insurance as a way to help in case of an emergency or unforeseen illness.

Ringworm in cats: Fungus among us

A cat with pet insurance is looked at by a vet.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Contrary to its name, the pet health condition known as ringworm is not actually caused by a worm at all, but by a fungus that can infect the hair, skin or nails. It is the most common contagious skin infection in cats. Also known as dermatophytosis, ringworm often spreads to other pets in the household, and can spread to humans too.

Cats may become infected with ringworm either by direct contact with fungal spores of an infected animal, or by exposure to a contaminated environment or contaminated objects such as grooming tools, clippers or bedding. Ringworm spores are notoriously hardy and can survive in the environment up to 2 years. Ringworm seems to be more common in young cats less than a year old, and in long-haired cats, particularly Persians.

Ringworm lesions are oftentimes very similar to other feline skin diseases like flea allergy dermatitis, inhalant allergies or even feline chin acne. Some loss of hair is usually involved, but the amount of inflammation, scaling and itchiness can be highly variable. It’s even possible for a cat to carry ringworm spores and not show any symptoms at all. Classic ringworm symptoms are discrete, roughly circular, scaly areas of hair loss, especially on the face, head, ears or paws.

Since some cats show few or no symptoms, a diagnosis of ringworm is rarely made just by looking at the skin. A veterinarian may use a specialized ultra violet light to help diagnose ringworm, or may examine a fungal culture taken from a cat’s hair or skin cells. Skin biopsy and microscopic exam are sometimes also performed. A fungal culture is the most reliable method.

Treatment of ringworm depends upon the severity of the infection. Healthy, short-haired kittens and cats with small, isolated lesions are often treated with topical therapy only. Topical therapy plays a vey important role in reducing environmental contamination. The recommended topical treatment is lime sulfur dips. These dips have a bad odor and can temporarily turn the coat a yellowish color, but they are extremely effective and should be used as directed by your veterinarian.

In more severe cases, a combination of oral and topical treatments is generally used. Several oral antifungal agents are available. Itraconazole had been the antifungal of choice, but recently more veterinary dermatologists are using fluconazole instead. It is available as a generic and is, therefore, considerably less expensive. It is also excreted from the body via the kidneys so it has far less side effects on the liver.

Treatment should be continued until all of the affected animals have recovered and are negative on fungal cultures. In most cases cats will need treatment for a minimum of 6 weeks and in some cases much longer. Minimizing exposure to other cats or dogs and to your family members during this period is recommended.

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Decontamination of the environment is essential to help eliminate and control fungal spores. Confine animals with this pet health condition to one room of the house if possible to avoid spreading spores. Use bleach mixed at 1:10 dilution on any surface you can. Vacuum the entire house thoroughly and dispose of vacuum bags which will contain spores. Wash all bedding, brushes and collars. Change the furnace filters as spores can become airborne. Repeat this cleaning process weekly.

Always be aware that ringworm can be spread between cats and people. Direct contact with affected cats should be minimized. Persons should wear gloves when handling affected animals and wash hands well afterwards. Ringworm lesions on human skin often have the characteristic red “ring”. If any skin lesions develop the family doctor should be consulted. Fortunately, ringworm in humans usually responds well to topical treatment.

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

About pet insurance for older pets

A senior aged dog with pet insurance enjoys the sunshine.

By: HM
For Pets Best Insurance

Pet insurance is important for many reasons— pet owners often don’t realize that vet medicine and technology have reached an all-time high. We’re now able to provide our pets with treatments that are very similar to what we might do for ourselves if we became hurt or sick.

Vets have started using equipment and procedures similar, if not identical, to those your physician or surgeon might use on you. And because of this, pets are living longer, healthier lives—but that high level of care vets are able to provide comes at a price, and many pet owners are unaware of how high the cost of care can actually be.

As a dog owner and animal lover, I made sure to purchase a pet insurance policy for my furry little girl a few years back. When I initially bought her policy, she was just a young, spritely pup. I was impressed with how cost effective it was to insure her in the case of accidents and illnesses. But it made sense to me that as she ages, her premiums will increase, considering that she will be more likely to have health issues as she grows older.

Some pet owners may notice a change in rates this policy term. This change has come from a recent analysis of Pets Best Insurance actuarial data, and is not based on personal claims filing history. The data revealed that Pets Best Insurance was under accounting for pet ages, so older pets were enjoying rates normally reserved for younger pets.

To alter the impact of a rate change, pet owners can consider changing their limit, deductibles, or reimbursement levels. For instance, moving to a $2,500 per-incident, $250 deductible, 70% reimbursement amount plan could bring significant change to your rate.

Many pet owners would be surprised to learn that insurance rates are based on a number of things that are largely out of the insurer’s hands— like actuarial data that shows senior pets file more claims on average and have more health problems overall. Some of the other premium price determining factors include: the pet’s age and breed, where they live, the plan and deductible selected, and general inflation. But Pets Best Insurance never increases premiums based on the number of claims a pet owner has filed—which is reassuring to me, considering how much trouble my sweet girl tends to get herself into.

If you think of pet insurance like human health insurance, it’s understandable that a 20-year-old woman would pay a lower insurance premium than, say, a 80-year-old woman—the reason being, of course, that the older woman will likely have more health issues than someone 60 years younger. As pets (and people) age, there’s more likelihood that they will develop issues, such as cancers, diabetes, and other age-related conditions. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 pets will develop cancer sometime over the course of their life and it’s most often seen in older pets. Unlike some of the other dog and cat insurance companies who require pet owners to purchase an add-on plan to cover cancer, coverage for cancer is included in the standard accident and illness plans from Pets Best Insurance.

One of the great things about insuring your older pet with Pets Best Insurance is that there are so many plan options. Pet owners have the ability to customize their policy so it fits within their budgetary needs. Similarly to any other kind of insurance, with pet insurance, the higher the deductible you choose, the lower your monthly premium—and vice versa. Pets Best Insurance has a number of deductible options you can choose from, including the newly added $50 deductible (in addition to the $100, $250 or $500 options.)

Aside from the deductibles being highly customizable—pet owners can now choose from a 70%, 80%, or 90% level of reimbursement. Another great perk Pets Best Insurance has added to its plans, is increasing its lifetime limits. This was formerly capped at $100,000 over the pet’s lifetime—but now has been increased to $200,000. With more plan options, and higher levels of coverage, it’s easy for pet owners to find a premium rate that will work for them and their senior pet.

*The explanations provided in our insured blog communications do not replace actual Policy terminology. They are brief explanations to assist you in understanding how your Policy operates. Please refer to your actual Policy form for all terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions.

Improvements to our pet insurance plans

A beautiful dog with dog insurance looks up.

By: HR
For Pets Best Insurance

Revised Per-Incident Plans
Pets Best Insurance has long offered pet owners comprehensive pet insurance coverage by presenting a variety of options at a number of price points. But recently, we’ve made a few changes that will provide even greater benefits and more options for you and your pets! Read on to learn about some of the exciting changes we’ve made.

Reimbursement Levels
If you’re a current Pets Best Insurance policyholder, you’re probably familiar with our plans. While we’ve always offered our policyholders a flat 80% reimbursement on their claims (after the deductible) we’re happy to announce that policyholders can now choose their own level of co-insurance in the amounts of 70%, 80% or 90% reimbursement! With more co-insurance options, pet owners will be able to adjust their premium and lower their monthly cost to fit their budget.

Per-Incident Deductibles
With Pets Best Insurance, having a per-incident deductible means you only pay your deductible one time for each separate incident. For illustrative purposes, we’ll use the example of a dog that breaks his leg. With a per-incident deductible, you can take your dog into the vet as many times as necessary for treatment of the broken leg, until you reach your plans’ per-incident limit.

That means your deductible would only be taken out one time, as the broken leg is defined as “one incident.” Policyholders have always been able to select from a $100, $250 or $500 deductible. Now, in addition, pet owners will also be able to select a $50 per incident deductible. Just as in any other type of insurance, the higher the deductible, the lower your monthly premium will be and vice versa. Now, with more deductible and co-insurance options, we’re confident pet owners will find a plan that’s perfect for their pet and their budget!

Lifetime Limits
Another great change we’ve made is increasing lifetime limits:
• The former maximum lifetime benefit for the Pets Basic Plan was $42,500
• The former maximum lifetime benefit for the Pets First Plan was $100,000
• The former maximum lifetime benefit for the Pets Premier Plan was also $100,000
Now all three of the pet insurance plans’ lifetime limits are $200,000!

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Hereditary Coverage
Many pet health insurance companies omit hereditary coverage from their policies altogether, Pets Best Insurance wants to help pet owners afford hereditary treatment, while at the same time, keep the premiums as low as possible. Pets Best Insurance has always offered a limited reimbursed amount for hereditary conditions, but now, we’ve increased our hereditary coverage!

• The hereditary lifetime benefit for the Pets Basic Plan is now $750 versus the former $500.
• The hereditary lifetime benefit for the Pets First Plan is now $1,500 versus the former $1,000.
• The hereditary lifetime benefit for the Pets Premier Plan is now $3,750, versus the former $2,000.

Full coverage for behavioral, pregnancy and mortality
Another great change we’ve made for our policyholders was removing sub-limits for the behavior pregnancy and mortality benefits we offer! Before, pet owners’ claim reimbursements were capped at amounts as outlined by their plan. So for example, if you had the Pets Basic plan, you could only receive up to a $200 reimbursement for behavioral claims, $300 for claims related to pregnancy and $200 for mortality expenses like cremation.

We’ve decided to remove those limits, which now means pet owners can receive reimbursement for behavioral, pregnancy and mortality (cremation) up to their per-incident limit! This means more coverage for behavioral issues diagnosed by a licensed vet and more coverage to help your pet through her pregnancy. Additionally, we’ve completely removed the deductible for mortality expenses.

*The explanations provided in our insured blog communications do not replace actual Policy terminology. They are brief explanations to assist you in understanding how your Policy operates. Please refer to your actual Policy form for all terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions.

How to throw a dog birthday party

Sookie and Roxy, two dogs that are pet insurance enthusiasts, celebrate their birthday.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Even though I work in the pet insurance industry, on occasion, I still forget one of my pet’s birthdays. And boy, do I feel guilty about it! Not that they know any different, but it makes me happy to show up after work with a new bed or special treat.

If you want a sure-fire way to remember your pet’s birthday, plan a birthday party! Pet parties have grown in popularity over the years, so you won’t get nearly as many funny looks today as you would have in the 80s.

Let’s be honest – parties are for the dogs. Inviting cats will only result in the fur flying, so this pet insurance blog goes over the basics of throwing a doggie birthday party.

Step 1: Make the guest list
This is one time you definitely want an A-list of guests. Invite only pooches you know to be good with other dogs and strangers. And consider the time of year. If you have a large yard for a July party, invite the neighborhood. If you have a small living room for a December party, trim the guest list to a best bud or two. And unless you want to dogsit and poop-scoop by yourself all afternoon, make sure the pet parents know they’re invited (expected) to stay for the fun.

Step 2: Safety counts
Doggy-proof all areas of your home. Don’t leave shoes, food or other temptations around, and make sure your fenced yard doesn’t have any loose or missing boards. Close doors to off-limit rooms, and if you have young children, make other arrangements for them during the party. Even if they’re used to being around dogs, not all dogs will know how to play with small children.

Step 3: Prep for playtime
Dogs don’t need much help playing! Have plenty of Frisbees and other fetch toys on hand so there’s no squabbling and everyone gets lots of turns. Keep large bowls of fresh water available for rehydration.

Step 4: Plan the menu
If you want to offer a doggy birthday cake, make sure it’s specifically made for dogs and comes from a reputable pet food bakery. Or, you may want to skip it considering how sensitive some dogs’ digestive systems can be. In that case, offer a little pouch of kibble or a simple treat or toy for each pup to take home. Treat your human guests to light hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

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Step 5: Know What to Skip
For many, our pets are our children and we want to treat them accordingly. But party goods like plastic favors and candles have no place at a dog’s party. The favors aren’t designed to withstand doggy chewing, and we’ve heard of pets singeing their whiskers (or swallowing lit candles altogether) when they get too close to decorated treats.

Step 6: Take Great Photos
Dog eyes can appear white, gray and even aqua in photos taken with a flash. Your computer’s red eye removal tool can’t help, since it’s only designed to remove red. To get great photos, turn your camera flash off and make sure there’s plenty of natural light in front of your pet. Then you can capture her beautiful face the way it looks in real life.

Step 7: Give a Gift
Top off your pup’s big day with dog insurance from the best pet insurance company, if he doesn’t already have it. While it can’t really be wrapped, you could always print “pet insurance” on a slip of paper and wrap it up with a rawhide or another treat – we’re sure he’ll tear right into it.

Have fun, and be sure to share your pet’s birthday pictures on our Facebook wall!

Thanks to Rayna for sharing this picture of her dogs, Sookie and Roxy, celebrating their first birthday!

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