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Xylitol: Bad for pet health

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance recovers.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that was first discovered in the late 19th century and first was used as a safer alternative to sugar for diabetic patients.

In the 1970s its benefits in oral health was discovered and since then it has been used to sweeten dental products such as toothpaste and mouthwashes, in addition to sugar-free gum and candy. It tastes and looks like sugar and in people has very little side effects. In dogs, however, xylitol can be very dangerous, and even fatal. Just one or two sticks of sugar free gum could cause severe pet health problems in even a 20 pound dog.

In dogs, xylitol encourages the release of insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin, in turn, moves glucose (sugar) into the cells, causing the glucose levels in the bloodstream to drop. The result can be severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypogylcemia can cause tremors, weakness, collapse, seizures and even death. High doses of Xylitol can also damage the liver causing necrosis and can be fatal.

If you suspect your dog has ingested sugar-free gum or other product containing xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately. While there is no antidote or reversal for this toxicity, vomiting, which can remove the toxin from the stomach, can be encouraged if caught soon enough. Your veterinarian will want to run a blood panel to determine if your dog is hypoglycemic or having indications that the liver has been affected.

Treatment typically involves administering dextrose, or sugar, through an IV catheter, and intensive supportive care and close monitoring over several days. The effects of Xylitol generally wear off in several days. If liver damage has occurred, additional treatment is likely necessary and may be quite involved. Pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, often cover toxicity.

Pet health insurance can help with some of the costs accrued from accidental toxicities.

Older Pet Health – Incontinence and Weight Loss

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page today.

The first question comes from Amy. She asks, “Is there anything that can be done for older dogs that start having accidents during the night? We’ve been letting our dog sleep with us for 11 years and now we keep waking up to accidents. We’re unaware that she needs to be let out because she’s doing this in her sleep.”

This is a great question and there are some things that you can do. There are three things that come to mind that can cause this. First is that older dogs, especially females, can start to lose some of the tone in their urethra. This can cause them, without knowing it, to void their urine while they’re sleeping. There are some drugs that can be taken to help treat and prevent this but you would need to see your veterinarian for it.

In addition to that, urinary tract infections and some things that can sometimes make older dogs drink more water and therefore have more urine in their bladder can possibly cause this. I would say a great place to start would be to take your older pet to the veterinarian, have them look at a urine sample, and they can help you go from there.

The next question comes from Cindy. She says, “What do I do when my older cat is slowly losing weight for no known reason? How much does she have to lose before I get concerned about things like fatty liver? In her case, they ran blood tests and everything was fine. Changing her food is difficult as she free-feeds dry food and the other cat is overweight. Neither cat likes canned food.”

This is really common in old cats. They tend to start to lose some weight. Generally, it’s related to an underlying problem. I can’t comment on the blood work that was done beforehand, but make sure that your older cat is tested for thyroid disease and that a really good screening panel is done.

In older cats, there are three things that come to mind for me as specific diseases that can cause weight loss; an overactive thyroid, diabetes, and kidney disease, although there are other things that can do this, too. Make sure that the blood work that they’re running screens for these diseases. If you’re still unhappy, you can consider going to another veterinarian and getting another opinion, or you can go back to your veterinarian and tell them that your pet is still losing weight and see what tests can be done to make sure they recognize any underlying cause.

Top 4 tips for good cat parenting

Posted on: May 30th, 2011 by

A kitten with pet insurance sits in a food dish.

Posted by: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

In the U.S., there are 16 million more pet cats than pet dogs, according to the Humane Society of the United States. While 39% of households have dogs and only 33% of households have cats, most cat owners have two or more cats while most dog owners have just one dog. Less than 1% of all all cats and dogs in the US have pet insurance.

Cats are popular pets for many reasons. For many, it’s their ease of care. Their independence means owners needn’t worry when away from home. Most cats are just as content with company as without most of the day. As long as they have all the necessary cat essentials within paw’s reach, cats are mostly self sufficient. More and more cat owners are also starting to see the benefit of pet health insurance for their cats– and with pet health insurance cat owners can ensure their cats are in best possible health they can be in.

Attention and Affection
May 30 is Hug Your Cat Day, but that doesn’t mean you should refrain any other day of the year. While many cats are independent, many are not, and almost all cats love affection sometimes. Like a child, any pet can become destructive out of boredom if not paid attention and shown appreciation.

Toys, Toys, Toys
Cats have a deep-seeded desire to hunt, which equals play and exercise inside the home. According to a publication by the University of Maine, “Even when fed regularly by people, a cat’s urge to hunt remains strong.” Cats instinctively chase almost anything that moves, be it a real or play mouse, a fly, or their owner’s shoestrings and feather dusters. While almost anything can be used as a cat toy, from a sock to an empty paper towel roll, pet safety should always be of concern. Like dogs, cats often ingest things they are attracted to, and this can lead to an emergency vet visit or worse.

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Proper Pet Health Care
The fact that cats have an easy-care reputation doesn’t mean they are a “get it and forget it” pet. Annual vet visits and pet health insurance can help with the plethora of health concerns that can arise for cats, from spaying and neutering, to that emergency visit for an ingested piece of string, to potential issues like diabetes or periodontal disease. Pet insurance cost is also at its lowest if attained early in the cat’s life.

Perches and Scratching Posts
Cats love to scratch; it’s another instinctive and natural behavior. According to a video by the veterinary experts at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cats scratch to mark their territory, groom their claws, and to stretch and build their muscles. Declawing is an elective surgery that is not covered by pet plan insurance, and diverting scratching to posts is a more humane and cost-effective solution. Scratching posts that are also perches—cat trees and condos—offer exercise and a place where cats can climb to and feel safe.

To Fix or Not to Fix?

Posted on: May 26th, 2011 by

A cat is attended to by a veterinarian.

It’s estimated that one dog or cat is put down every eight seconds in U.S. shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

When Leigh Peterson of Ohio found herself posting ads trying to find homes for four puppies, she struggled with guilt.

“I felt like I was killing a dog in the pound every time someone came to see our puppies rather than go to a shelter,” said Leigh.

In the past, she had always preached how important spaying and neutering, vaccinating and investing in pet health insurance was. She volunteered at an animal shelter and considered herself fairly knowledgeable on pet health. “But when I started dating my boyfriend,” Leigh said, “he refused to get his dogs fixed.”

One day, when her boyfriend was out of town, he called and asked how everyone was. Leigh started to say how the dogs were fine and playing in the back yard, which was completely fenced-in. When she went to the window to look outside, she was shocked to find a strange male dog in the yard with their dog Abby. The two were mating.

“I stood there watching, telling him over the phone what was happening and resisting the urge to say I told you so,” said Leigh. “Even I had started to believe it was OK not to spay because I knew we were responsible pet owners. But this stray dog wanted in to our yard and found a way in.”

Sure enough, puppies were soon on the way. Leigh had to swallow her guilt and take control. She was releived they had purchased dog health insurance for their own dog, but now she had to focus on finding the best homes for the new pups.

The only thing in Leigh’s control now was making sure that these puppies didn’t further contribute to pet overpopulation. All the puppies were spayed and neutered before leaving her care. Although spaying females and neutering male dogs does not come without risk, it does offer some pet health benefits and reduces the urge to roam, like the male dog who found his way into Leigh’s fenced-in yard.

To help ensure that the puppies found good homes, the ads stated that the puppies would be fixed and an adoption fee was set at $50 per puppy. She screened all adopters and was able to keep in touch with them all, receiving pictures as the puppies grew.

When her boyfriend’s older dog developed a large tumor on her uterus, she was spayed, too. It was then his turn to feel guilt, as he could see that the surgery was much harder on a senior dog to recover from than it was for the puppies. From then on, he became a proponent of spaying and neutering, as well.

California pet insurance and your pet

Posted on: May 26th, 2011 by

Posted by: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

La La the Chihuahua watch dog looks out the window.

California has strict laws for bringing pets into the state. So if you will be traveling to California or moving to there with your pet in tow, you should familiarize yourself with the entry requirements. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with pet insurance– and if you will be moving, it may be a good idea to tell your pet health insurance company that you need to be transitioned to California Pet Insurace.

The reason for this is because some pet insurance companies base their premiums on the age of the pet, the breed of the pet and where the pet is located.

Cats and Dogs
Cats: All domestic cats must be healthy, with no sign of communicable diseases. A certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CV), which is a pet health certificate, is recommended. Cats entering California are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination, but must be vaccinated against rabies in the California.

Dogs: All dogs must be healthy, with no signs of disease. All dogs over four months of age must have a pet health certificate of current rabies vaccination. A Certificate of Veterinary Inspection is recommended.

Exotic Pets
California is rather strict on the private possession of exotic animals. Certain animals require a permit. The laws “cover importing, transporting and possessing ‘Live Restricted Animals’ as well as listing animals that are restricted species in the State of California. This list includes birds, mammals, amphibians, fish, reptiles, crustaceans, slugs, snails and mussels. According to this State Code, anyone wishing to possess, transport or import live restricted animals, as defined in this code, must have a permit to do so, issued by the California Department of Fish and Game.”

Remebering all these things when traveling or moving to California with your pets will help to ensure a smooth transition into The Golden State.