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Doggie Flu

Posted on: March 16th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance recovers from canine influenza.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
For Pets Best Insurance

In the past few months, a few of my pack of 10 dogs have been showing mild pet health symptoms of canine influenza. First, one will have a soft cough and mild sneezing similar to kennel cough, and then another.

They will get a slight fever for a few days and have a diminished appetite as well. Although this might be alarming to some, working as a vet and now in the pet insurance industry– I have seen canine influenza frequently.

A recent alert from the American Veterinary Medical Association reminded me that the disease is on the rise across the country. According to the alert, the virus that causes canine influenza has two forms; mild and severe. The mild form is as I have described above for my own dogs, however they report it lasts from 10-30 days, where only one of our dogs persisted for more than a week and need treatment.

The severe form requires pet health care from a veterinarian and although death is rare at 5-8%, it can result in pneumonia. It is thought to be a mutation of the equine influenza. There is no transmission to humans known at this time.

A dog can be susceptible to infection at any age and the disease is transmitted by other dogs from things like nasal discharge. Humans may transmit the virus from an infected dog to another dog, if the virus is on their hands, toys, bowls, etc. So be sure to wash your hands if you handle a dog outside your household before interacting with your dog.

If your dog is showing symptoms do not board them or visit dog parks or other areas where they could transmit the virus. Also, before you board your dog, inquire whether any canine influenza has been present in the facility lately. The virus can be killed by disinfectants; therefore if the kennel has good hygienic protocols for cleaning the risk will be lowered. Dogs showing symptoms should be isolated immediately from other dogs to prevent spreading the virus.

If your dog demonstrates symptoms, call your veterinarian as they may want to provide antibiotics to diminish secondary infections or provide fluids if you’re pet becomes dehydrated. This condition is covered under the “illness” portion of many pet health insurance companies but it is not covered if you have accident only coverage. To learn more go to www.petsbest.com.

Pet insurance lets you fight cancer

Posted on: March 15th, 2011 by

A Greyhound with pet insurance relaxes on the floor.

By: Tracie Hotchner
For Pets Best Insurance

People often ask me if they should get pet insurance for their dogs – and I say that while there are dozens of reasons to get pet insurance, the biggest one of all is because of the explosion of cancer in dogs and cats, which the best pet insurance plans pay for.

If you needed no reason other than cancer, then getting your dog health insurance from the moment she joins your family can give you a lifetime of peace of mind knowing that if (or when) cancer is found, you don’t have to worry about being able to afford the sophisticated treatments that can extend life with good quality- and in some cases even conquer the cancer – because you have pet insurance that will cover most of the cost.

Many times people react as though cancer is something “that happens to other people” but sadly it happens to nearly half of us who love our dogs – and to kitties, too, although not as often. Pet health and pet insurance go hand in hand. There are brilliant treatments for cancer, which can give your pet a positive outcome – and which gain you more time and quality of life with your beloved four-legged family member. But it is usually only those people who have planned ahead by getting pet insurance who can choose these costly medical options, which otherwise they probably could not afford.

How terrible would it be to have your pet diagnosed with cancer and then not be able to choose the treatment your veterinarian recommends, since most options are way out of most peoples’ reach financially. However, with a policy like the one that I chose from Pets Best Insurance for all my dogs, after the one-time deductible they will pay 80% of every bill I receive. I wish people could get health insurance as good as the very best insurance policies for pets!

Do you ever doubt that your own healthy dog has less real risk of getting cancer? Because I have to tell you that the statistics are frightening! Veterinary oncologist Dr. Alice Villalobos (the Official Cancer Specialist of both my radio shows) tells me that half of ALL dogs over two years old will get some kind of cancer! Some breeds like Greyhounds have a 2-in-1 chance of getting cancer – large male Golden Retrievers have a 75% chance of getting cancer. Boxers and Rottweilers have terribly high rate of getting cancer, too. Keep in mind that even mutts that are a mix of some of these at-risk breeds can inherit the cancer gene. So I say, how can anyone afford not to get pet insurance?!

Because it’s not all gloom and doom – cancer does not have to be a “death sentence.” There are excellent treatments that can halt the cancer and extend your pet’s life with dignity and comfort, offering you precious extra time with your pet. Since most cancer medication for pets is the same as used on humans, the costs are sky high but the results can be tremendous – and pet insurance puts them within reach. There are even treatments that can stop some cancers completely. Preparing for the possibility that your pet can get this disease means buying a pet insurance plan early in your pet’s life, which will include cancer treatment and has a high lifetime benefit so that everything is covered.

While frightening to think about, the important thing to realize is that cancer does not need to be a death sentence – for people or our pets – but the odds are high that you will have to deal with it some day. Giving yourself the protection of the best pet insurance plan can make it possible to afford the cancer treatments that will give your pet a fighting chance.

Yearly vaccines: What your pet needs

Posted on: March 14th, 2011 by

A sick dog with pet insurance waits for treatment.

Annual vaccines are a part of your pet’s annual check up. Vaccines help boost your pet’s immunity and protect them from common pet illnesses, some of which can be deadly.

To help with the cost of annual vaccinations for your pet, make sure your pet has a pet insurance plan that covers annual vaccinations. Pet health insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance offer supplemental wellness plans.

Annual dog vaccinations generally consist of the distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus, and rabies vaccines. Distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and coronavirus are usually given as a combination vaccine know as DHLPP-C. Many pet insurance companies help cover this if you have a wellness package.

Other vaccinations may include the bordetella and Lyme disease vaccine. If your dog is around other dogs frequently, your veterinarian will likely recommend that your dog get vaccinated for bordetella, more frequently known as kennel cough. If your dog goes camping or hiking, or you live in an area that is prone to ticks, then your veterinarian will likely recommend the Lyme disease vaccine. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and can cause serious neurological side effects.

Annual cat vaccinations generally consist of the feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, feline panleukopenia, and rabies vaccines. The vaccines for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calcivirus and panleukopenia are given as a combination vaccine known as the FVRCP vaccine.

If your cat goes outdoors at any time, then your veterinarian will likely recommend that your cat be vaccinated against feline leukemia. The feline leukemia vaccine is generally not recommended for strictly indoor cats.

Your pet’s annual vaccine protocol will depend on where you live, your pet’s age, and their health. Your veterinarian will discuss which vaccinations are right for your pet.

Pet health: Worms, mites and other gross stuff

Posted on: March 14th, 2011 by

La La the Chihuahua watch dog looks out the window.
By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

About two thirds of US households include at least one pet, and it’s no wonder why. Having a pet can provide so much joy, friendship and not to mention laughs!

Studies have even demonstrated that having animals can keep you healthier, by encouraging exercise, providing companionship, and even strengthening your immune system. But when can your pet give you more than just kisses? There are some instances where you can ‘catch’ illnesses from your furry family member.

Zoonosis is word that describes a disease or illness that has the ability to transfer from animals to humans. Some are very serious, like rabies, which is almost always fatal, and others are less serious, like ringworm, which is not a worm at all, but a fungus that causes an itchy rash. Generally it is easy to prevent zoonotic disease with normal common sense hygiene, adequate deworming and routine vaccination.

Internal parasites common in dogs and cats can occasionally be transmitted to humans. The Companion Animal Parasite Council suggests about a third of pets are currently infected with internal parasites, including hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. You can get sick from these parasites. Children are at increased risk, mostly because they are less discretionary about where they play and what goes in their mouths.

Hookworm larvae can travel through exposed skin leaving visible tracks, called Cutaneous Larva Migrans. A common way for this to occur is by walking barefoot through contaminated sand or soil. While the skin ‘rash’ can be intensely itchy, it is unlikely to cause serious disease, and is easily treated.

Roundworms or ascarids are the most common parasite seen in cats and dogs and can cause more serious problems in people, especially children. In cats and dogs, roundworms are gastrointestinal parasites, they rarely leave the GI tract. In people the worms get confused and can migrate outside the intestines to other parts of the body. Ocular toxocariasis is an eye disease that can cause blindness. It is caused by the microscopic worm entering the eye and causing inflammation and scarring on the retina. More than 700 people each year have permanent partial loss of vision due to this disease. This can be prevented by keeping children from playing in fecal contaminated dirt or sandboxes, and teaching them that eating dirt is dangerous.

There are two types of tapeworms that dogs and cats get, Ecchinococcus and Dipylidium. The one most commonly found in the US is not associated with significant disease or illness in people, but the more rare one, Ecchinococcus can be very serious and even fatal. Cystic Ecchinococcus can cause Hydatid disease, causing cyst formation in various organs, and Aveolar Ecchinococcus (AE), although rare, can cause parasitic tumors in the liver, lungs and brain. If left untreated AE can be fatal.

Scabies is another disease that can transfer between pets and people. Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, is caused by a mite that burrows under the skin. In pets it can cause hair loss, crusts and scabs and intense itching. People have similar symptoms, but the disease is rarely serious and it is very treatable.

Toxoplasmosis is a cat borne zoonotic disease that can be potentially serious. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that can infect cats that hunt small rodents or birds, or come in contact with contaminated soil. Most cats exposed become carriers of the parasite without becoming ill themselves. Toxoplasmosis infects people in the United States with moderate frequency. In fact, approximately 10 to 20 % of the population has this parasite, but it doesn’t generally cause disease. There are two important exceptions.

Immunocompromised people, such as organ transplant patients, or people with HIV can become very ill from this disease because their weakened immune system is unable to control the rapidly multiplying organism. The other exception is pregnant females. There are severe repercussions for a developing baby if the mother is infected for the first time during her pregnancy. This disease is transmitted through feces, so prevention of zoonosis involves good litter box hygiene; clean often and use gloves or a long handled scooper. Women might benefit from letting someone else take over litter box duty while pregnant as an extra precaution!

While learning all this can really be gross, these diseases are VERY preventable with normal good hygiene and preventative medicine. Families with children should always deworm their pets monthly. Deworming is inexpensive and safe for pets, so even though pet insurance doesn’t cover the cost it is still an affordible way to protect your pets and your family.

If you have specific questions about these diseases, ask your family physician or veterinarian for more information. With just a little common sense, your furry family members can continue to be a source of love, instead of illness!

Predator or Prey?

Posted on: March 11th, 2011 by

Arden Moore, a pet insurance advocate, author of the Cat Behavior Answer Book.

Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance

Q. My three cats seem to enjoy batting around toy mice and chasing the feathers on a wand toy. Why is their hunting instinct so strong after they have been domesticated for thousands of years?

A. While we usually think of cats as mighty hunters, they actually fill the role of both prey and predator, depending on the other species involved. Let’s start with the predator part. All cats, from a mighty lion to that sweet kitty on your lap, are genetically programmed to hunt. In keeping with their size, cats focus on small mammals and birds. Interestingly, most biologists regard cats as small mammal experts and bird opportunists because cats tend not to be very good at catching birds unless the birds are sick, young or ground nesting.

Predator behavior is mostly innate, and kittens early on show a tendency to chase moving objects and to pound on littermates. Just like us, they learn through trial and error, and their play sessions help them increase their speed and refine their leaping abilities.

Their moms also teach them by example. Outdoor cats often bring home a dead mouse or bird to their litter and eat it in front of the kittens to demonstrated needed behaviors. She will then present a dead animal to the kittens to eat themselves, and finally, will bring home a nearly dead creature for the kittens to finish off. These experiences hone their hunting and killing skills. For indoor cats, the prey happens to be a store-bought toy or perhaps your pink slipper. But the lessons learned are the same, and many cats who never see a mouse or a bird until adulthood quickly figure out how to catch and kill their prey.

When the tables are turned and cats become the prey, they tap into their survival skills and the fight-or-flight mind-set. Outdoor cats are at risk not only from neighborhood dogs; even in suburban areas they often fall victim to coyotes, hawks, and other predators. Their first response is usually to flee if at all possible, either diving into a hiding place or scooting up a tree. A cornered cat can fight fiercely, however, as many a startled (and scratched) dog has discovered. The very tools that make them effective predators become their best defense. That must be where the phrase, “to fight tooth and claw” comes from!

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!”

Arden Moore, a pet insurance advocate, sits 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 Moore, who hosts the “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio (www.petliferadio.com) – the No. 1 pet podcast in the world — by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).