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A prevalent cat ailment is on the rise

Posted on: July 5th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance recovers in a bed.

By: Dr. Kerry Fost
Managing DVM
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common endocrine disease affecting pets health in middle aged and older cats. It is a multisystemic disorder characterized by the overproduction of thyroid hormone.

The thyroid gland is located in the neck region and has an important role in regulating the body’s metabolic rate. With hyperthyroidism the gland becomes enlarged producing too much hormone and subsequently increases cats’ metabolic rate. The thyroid size increases most often due to a benign tumor. Less than 2% of cases involve a malignant tumor.

The prevalence of feline hyperthyroidism is increasing. In 1979 there was 1 reported case. From 1980 to 1990, 1 cat in 3,000 was found to have the disease. From the year 2000 on, it may be more common than 1 cat in 300. This increase is not thought to be just because of the increasing number of older cats. A specific cause has not been identified. The current theory is some type of environmental agent stimulates mutation of the regulatory proteins in the gland. Some of the environmental agents being looked at include, iodine in cat food, preservatives, pesticides, flame retardants in fabrics, heavy metals and plasticizers in non- stick can linings.

The most consistent finding with this disorder is weight loss, often with a good to ravenous appetite. With an increased metabolism the cat can’t eat enough to keep from losing weight. They also often have increased thirst and urination. Soft stool and vomiting may increase as well. Some cats have behavior changes with restlessness or changes in sleeping pattern. Hyperthyroid cats often have elevated heart rates and increased blood pressure. They may pant because they feel hot.

The diagnosis of feline hyperthyroidism is usually straightforward. It is made on the basis of typical clinical signs, the presence of palpable thyroid enlargement, and a high total thyroxin (T4) level in the blood. However, in some cats with mild hyperthyroidism, the diagnosis may be more difficult and require additional testing. Cat insurance can help to make this more afforable.

Treatment of the disease is usually successful. There are three choices for treatment; and any one of these could be the best choice in certain situations. Many factors must be considered when choosing the best therapy for an individual cat. These options include:

1) Oral or transdermal medication, usually methimazole, which ties up the excess thyroid hormone. This medication will have to be continued for the life of the cat.

2) Radioactive iodine treatment. This is a permanent cure but requires the patient to be hospitalized for several days at veterinary radiation treatment center. Not every state has a treatment facility available. And because this treatment can be expensive, it’s wise to research pet insurance so you’re prepared.

3) Surgical removal of the thyroid tumor. Surgery is less common than it once was due to potential complications.

Because this is a disease of older cats other concurrent diseases can complicate the prognosis. Most cats do well with treatment and the outcome is usually positive for both the owner and the cat. At present there are no known preventive measures, which why it’s a good reason to invest in pet insurance.

Chewing Golf Balls, Vaccine Frequency

Posted on: July 5th, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and today I am answering some questions on Pets Best Facebook page. This one is from Candy. “Is it okay to let dogs chew on golf balls? My Scottie scars the outside covering and I’m afraid she’s eating some of it, or at least ingesting some chemical. She has food allergies and is on the Z/D Kibble, which keeps her ears infection-free.”

It probably isn’t a good idea. A Scottie is a little dog so the chances of her swallowing the whole thing are pretty unlikely, but if she’s still chewing parts of the plastic off and ingesting it, it’s probably not going to be good for her. Try something like a Nylabone or a Kong, or something that’s made for dogs, to be a little bit safer.

The next one comes from Barbara. “Is it still necessary to do yearly vaccinations or is it being looked into to not have them done quite so frequently?”

This is a great question, and the answer is it depends. Some veterinarians will use vaccinations from a manufacturer that will only guarantee them for one year and that’s where the year deadline comes up. There are manufacturers that will guarantee their vaccines will work for three years. Contact your veterinarian and see if a three-year set of vaccines instead of one-year would be available for you to get.

Insuring your pet in California

Posted on: July 5th, 2011 by

A family with California pet insurance play at the beach.

Your pet is a beloved member of your family. As a pet parent, you want to keep your companion healthy and happy. Good veterinary care is a critical component of being a responsible pet parent. As a pet owner in California, you want to do what’s right for your furry friend but also keep costs down. California pet insurance allows you to do both. But it’s important that you understand the coverage parameters of any pet health plan you are considering.

Quality, comprehensive, affordable pet insurance coverage should also take care of your companion throughout California as well as in other states, not just in your city or town. Be sure your plan offers coverage for your pet when you travel, even outside of the U.S. It’s important to check to see that any licensed veterinarian (generalist, specialist or emergency-care) can treat your pet within California, in other states and countries. This is especially crucial if you often are traveling with your pet.

Costs of Veterinary Care Rising
Having a good pet insurance plan is now more of a necessity than ever. Fees for veterinary services are steadily increasing, often as much as doubling every 13 years! Our pets are also living longer and we want to give them a good quality of life. As pets age, they often need more extensive vet care. Unfortunately, our incomes may not keep up with the rising vet costs and our pets’ needs. Pet parents all over California can gain more peace of mind with a pet health plan.

Indemnity Pet Insurance
Pet insurance plans are called “indemnity plans,” which means that you pay for your vet’s covered services to your pet upfront. You then submit claims to your pet insurer to get reimbursement after you have met any deductibles and paid your co-payments. States usually have different regulations regarding insurance and pet insurance companies insuring your pet in California must comply by the state Department of Insurance guidelines.

Check on the website of any pet insurance plan you are considering. Often the underwriters for a pet insurance policy will have information listed there, or you’ll be directed to a link with helpful guidelines. Find out if there are any particular aspects of the pet insurance plan that may affect your pet that are specific to California’s insurance regulations.

So make a good choice in your California pet insurance plan and travel with your pet buddy, enjoying freedom from worry if he should need vet care while on the road with you.

The Fourth of July can be stressful for pets

Posted on: July 1st, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance holds an American flag in his teeth.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

The Fourth of July is always a much anticipated time of year for celebrating. Time with families, friends and fireworks brings happiness to many, but what about our pets? The sounds and sights of pyrotechnics are exciting to us, but they can also affect pet health and be very distressing for pets that have anxiety. There are some things you can do to help make this holiday fun for everyone.

Did you know that many pets go missing on July 4th? Animal control officers and shelters often see an increase in lost animals during this time. Extreme anxiety from firework noise can trigger an intense need to ‘escape.’ Pets can occasionally harm themselves and certainly can be destructive to your property during episodes of fear. Frightened pets have been reported to jump through windows, scale fences, tear though kennels, or chew their skin during fearful times. Because pets can harm themselves if they become scared, it’s a good idea to have pet health insurance for your pet. Pet insurance can often help diminish vet bills for unexpected illnesses and accidents.

If you have pets, even if they aren’t currently afraid of fireworks, there are some things you should do to keep them safe. Leaving a pet alone outside while you go off to see the fireworks display is likely a bad idea, especially if they are anxious. The noise will be louder outside, and escape will be easier. Always have identification on your pet. Microchipping is a good idea, as well as having a secure collar with your name and phone number on it.

Give your pet a calm, dark, and safe environment during the scariest times. If your pet is already comfortable in a crate, this can be a very helpful tool. Do not attempt to introduce crating to a pet that is anxious and has never been confined. This should be done much before the scary event. Turn on ambient noise, such as radios or the television to create background noise in order to drown out firework booms.

While your presence may be soothing and comforting to your pet, excessive coddling and attention may positively reinforce their negative behavior. In other words, excessive attention you lavish on your pet during scary times may have the opposite effect of encouraging the exact behavior you are wishing to avoid. Never punish your dog for being fearful, this will only make the situation worse.

The most anxious dogs may benefit from veterinary prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Medication that aims to reduce anxiety is typically more helpful than true sedatives, which sedate, but don’t relieve anxiety. While there are some over-the-counter remedies, such as Rescue Remedy, a prescription medication will likely be more appropriate for the most fearful animals. Some pet insurance companies even offer limited coverage for behavioral issues and medications.

An “Anxiety Wrap” or “Thunder Jacket” is a product you can purchase to help with noise phobias. It works by applying pressure on the dog’s body to divert attention away from the scary stimulus. It is a similar technique to that used to calm autistic children.

After the Fourth of July is over, or before it comes around, your fearful pet might benefit from desensitization and behavioral modification. For example, you might play a recording of firework noise, very softly at first, while giving a treat, or doing some other activity the dog likes. Slowly over many sessions increase the volume of the noise. It is important not to go too fast; try to end on a ‘good note’ before starting the next session. If you move too quickly and the dog becomes fearful, you’ll have to start over.

As always, in extreme cases, consulting with your veterinarian or a behaviorist is a good idea. If everybody feels safe, then you are more likely to be able to enjoy the festivities and take part in celebrating one of the best summer holidays!

Tips to keep that hot dog safe this summer

Posted on: June 30th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance goes for a swim.

Summer is a time of fun in the sun for many pets and their owners. However, it can also present significant risks for pets, with insect bites, sunburn, and accidental injury far more common during the summer months than during the rest of the year. Taking steps to protect your pet before you head out to enjoy the great outdoors can save you and your pet a trip to the veterinary office and ensure that you have a safe and happy summer vacation. But because accidents and illnesses can occur at any time, it’s also a good idea to have pet insurance.

Bug Bites and Poisonous Plants
Most insect bites are not serious and can be treated with cuddles and a warm dose of affection. However, heartworm prevention is very important as just one mosquito bite can eventually develop into the deadly disease. Also, if significant swelling or disorientation occurs after time outdoors, a trip to the veterinarian’s office may be required.

It is important to remember that just because something naturally grows outdoors doesn’t mean it isn’t toxic. Mushrooms can cause rapid illness, shock and even death if not treated promptly. Author Catherine Mann of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida learned this the hard way when a puppy she was fostering ate a mushroom he found under some bushes in her backyard. Catherine tried to get the mushroom out of the puppy’s mouth but the puppy, and one of her older dogs, both started vomiting.

“My son and I raced both dogs to the vet ER,” wrote Catherine. “My dog and the puppy had to receive charcoal treatments.”

Beep Beep
Car safety is a major issue when owners and their pets are out and about. Pet health care experts advise that maintaining good leash habits is crucial, especially when your dog is excited about exploring the great outdoors. Dogs can easily be overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations and may run away or break free of their leash to chase other animals or simply to investigate an interesting sight, sound or smell they have discovered. It is wise to invest in pet health insurance, as well as keep a close eye and a firm grip on your dog whenever you are around busy traffic areas.

Hot Dog
In hot, sunny weather dogs can easily overheat and even be sunburned with prolonged exposure. Most pet care professionals recommend keeping dogs inside from 10 AM to 3 PM when the sun’s rays are most direct. Ensuring that dogs have sufficient water and a cool place during the hottest part of the day can help protect them against heat exhaustion. You should also never leave your dog unattended in the car during hot weather even with open windows, as they can quickly overheat and die in the enclosed environment.

Purchasing and maintaining pet health insurance coverage for your pet is one of the most effective ways to protect his or her health in the event of an injury or illness. In general, the pet insurance cost is low compared to the services it can cover and the peace of mind it can provide for owners. Pet lovers typically view the initial pet insurance cost as an investment in their future happiness and the health of their beloved animal companions, especially during what should be the happy, carefree months of summer.