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Pet health: Heartworm Disease

Posted on: April 14th, 2011 by

A veterinarian gives heartworm medication to a dog with pet insurance.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Heartworm disease is a pet health condition that is becoming increasingly more prevalent in the United States. It has currently been documented in all 50 states and is most common in the Mississippi valley and southern US. Even if you and your dog don’t live in the south, heartworm prevention is very important anywhere to avert this serious pet health disease. Many pet insurance companies even offer limited coverage for testing and prevention with their wellness coverage.

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal disease characterized by parasitic worms that live in the heart and arteries in the lungs. The worms are a type of roundworm or nematode called filarids, and any age or breed of dog can be susceptible.

Filarids require an intermediate host to spread the worm from animal to animal. This intermediate host is the mosquito. This means that dogs can’t catch heartworm from causal contact with an infected dog, rather, they have to be bitten by an infected mosquito. Regions with the most mosquitoes tend to have the most incidences of heartworm disease.

Heartworms have a very interesting lifecycle. Like most parasites, they have a larval phase and an adult worm phase, but they also have a phase called microfilaria. The complete life cycle cannot take place in the dog’s body, but has to occur in the mosquito. This means dogs can’t ‘re-infect’ themselves, once the microfilaria turn into adults, the adults can’t replicate without using a mosquito as an intermediate host.

The larva is the infective phase of heartworm disease and is carried by the mosquitoes. The larva matures into adult worms, which in turn, produce millions of microfilaria that travel through the blood stream. Microfilaria cannot turn into the infective larval phase unless a mosquito takes a blood meal that has microfilaria in it. The microfilaria requires 10 to 30 days to turn into the infective larval phase. When the mosquito bites another dog, it can transmit the infective larval phase that once again turns into mature adult heartworms.

Treatment for this disease is costly and difficult. There are medications available that will kill the worms, but the heartworms have nowhere to safely go in the body after dying. Dead worms in the arteries of the lungs and in the heart pose a serious risk for the patient. The best method to keep your dog healthy is focus on preventing this disease. Most veterinarians agree that monthly heartworm preventatives are important for any pet that spends time outside and could be bitten by a mosquito.

Heartworm preventative generally takes the form of a monthly product that either is poured on the skin, or a tablet taken orally. Heartworm preventatives should be in prescription form, and therefore must be purchased at or through a veterinarian’s office, or certified veterinary pharmacy. If you are considering keeping your pet on a heartworm preventative, contact your veterinarian with any additional questions.

The Shiba Inu—Smallest Native Japanese Dog Breed

Posted on: April 13th, 2011 by

A Shiba Inu with pet insurance looks at his owner.

Most people, especially those in the pet or pet insurance industry, know of the Japanese dog breed the Akita, which is one of several breeds native to Japan. The Shiba Inu is less well known. The Shiba is the smallest of the Japanese breeds, the males standing just 14 to 16 inches and females, 13 to 15 inches.

When thinking of acquiring any breed of dog, it’s wise to do your research, especially concerning pet health issues particular to the breed. It’s also a good time to research and compare pet insurance if you are concerned about vet costs.

Breed Description
The Shiba Inu is described as a small, compact dog with head proportionate to his body. He has a rounded, shorter muzzle, deep-set eyes and erect ears. The tail is thick at the base and curled up over the back. The Shiba’s coat is very dense and comes in red, red with a black overlay, black with tan markings and all have a cream/buff or gray undercoat.

Although they are very solid dogs, their weights are relatively low—18 to 25 lbs. for males and 15 to 20 lbs. for females.

Disposition and Personality
Shibas are described as very alert, intelligent, and loving. Most owners say they are fairly easy to train. One particular trait stands out—the Shiba likes to be clean and is fastidious about it. They are quiet and become close to their handlers.

Healthy, grounded Shibas are good with children and other pets. Although they are often bold, they can be very shy around strangers. It is very important that the owner take the pack-leader position because the Shiba can be stubborn.

Pet Health Issues
The Shiba Inu is prone to hip dysplasia and slipped kneecap (patellar luxation). When talking to breeders, be sure to ask about the health of both parents and even grandparents if possible. And while most dog health insurance companies won’t cover congenital issues, be sure to invest in the best pet insurance for your pet.

National Animal Control Appreciation Week: April 11-17

Posted on: April 12th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance is tended to by an animal control officer.

The entire month of April is a cause for celebration. While it’s not all necessarily pet insurance related, the month of April is a time to focus on our pets and the people who devotedly work for their safety, protection, and animal health care. Throughout April, there are a number of week-long awareness and appreciation days.

National Animal Control Appreciation Week
Many of us have an outdated image of “Mean Mr. Dogcatcher” rounding up all the stray dogs in the neighborhood when we hear “animal control.” But in reality, animal control officers work hard on behalf of animals and always have their safety in mind.

The profession, which is state certified, also requires continuing education. In many areas, animal control departments also operate the local animal shelters. The men and women who do this job are invested in assisting and getting good results for both animals and the people who care about them.

According to the National Animal Control Association (NACA), an animal control officer’s job entails:

• Investigating animal neglect or cruelty
• Capturing roaming (and sometimes dangerous) dogs
• Rescue injured and sick animals
• Educate pet owners about the laws and proper pet care
• Mediate disputes between neighbors over pets
• Reunite lost pets with owners

Animal control officers are often at personal risk when doing their jobs, as they can be exposed to many animal-borne diseases like rabies and attacks by vicious animals. Many police departments, who usually oversee animal control, and local governments are planning events recognizing this profession.

So take some time this week to acknowledge the valuable contribution these people make to pet safety, and say “thank you” for their service to animals and the community.

Sweet Kitty with a Funny Meow

Posted on: April 11th, 2011 by

Sweet old black kitty has a very funny meow!

April 11 is National Pet Day

Posted on: April 11th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance goes for a walk.
Posted by: HR
For Pets Best Insurance

National Pet Day, April 11th, was founded as an act of love by Colleen Paige. Paige is founder of the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network as well as many other national holidays devoted to pets, including National Kids & Pets Day, National Dog Day, and National Cat Day.

National Pet Day is set aside to remember the pets that die in shelters every day (16,000 according to due to over-crowding and failure to spay and neuter. Another reason pets end up in shelters is because their owners find themselves unable to pay for pet health care. Many owners don’t know that if they had pet insurance for their beloved pet, relinquishing them to a shelter wouldn’t be necessary.

Prior to founding the Animal Miracle Foundation & Network and the lifesaving pet holidays, Paige worked in animal shelters and also as a paramedic. While working as a paramedic, she found herself distraught with the number of injured animals she would come across that she was unable to help.

If more pet owners would plan ahead and invest in lifelong pet insurance, emergency vet trips for everything from the common cold to an accidental bone break or even cancer would be less devastating. When purchased at a young age, kitten and puppy insurance is more affordable and covers more ailments, before the pet has the opportunity to develop them.

It isn’t easy to create a national holiday. It’s a long process that involves contacting representatives of congress and agenda proposals. It isn’t always easy to own a pet, either. But with some care and planning, the joy and benefits of pet ownership outshines all.