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How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Posted on: January 11th, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’d like to talk to you today about the importance of keeping your dog’s toenails trimmed and the proper way to do it.

Keeping your dog’s toenails short is important so that they don’t snag or become torn or infected, especially if your dog has dewclaws. Those dewclaws can actually grow around and curl into the pad and become painful.

When you trim the nails you’ll want to use a trimmer that looks like a pair of scissors. This size would be good for a dog like Tula. Something larger, like this, would be appropriate for a larger dog.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how far to go on the nail. Tulah has really nice white nails so you can see where the pink part is. That’s the quick and it’s alive. So for her I would want to take only where the white part is, making sure not to nick the pinker part.

It may be a two-person job for you; someone to hold the dog and to comfort them, while the other person uses the toenail trimmers.

So for Tulah, we will go just about to there. If you do trim too much and you start to get some bleeding, don’t despair. Put gentle pressure on the end of the tip of the nail. You can use a little cornstarch or a warm cloth to provide some pressure. Typically, that will stop the bleeding.

If you’ve got questions or concerns or are wary about trimming your dog’s nails, contact your veterinarian. They should be able to assist you.

I’m Dr. Caldwell, and that’s how you trim nails.

The Pets Best Insurance guide to litter boxes

Posted on: January 11th, 2011 by

A cat tries to climb out of a toilet.

By: Alex Fascilla
For Pets Best Insurance

If you’ve seen the popular comedy Meet the Parents, you certainly remember Jinx, Jack Byrnes’ beloved Himalayan cat. Why does Jinxy Cat stick out so firmly in our minds? Well, aside from Greg Focker’s carelessly concocted plan featuring Jinx’s impersonator with the spray-painted tail, we probably remember the same thing: Jinx was toilet trained!

But why would Jack Byrnes go to so much trouble to toilet train his cat? For the same reason we’ve all thought about it: to avoid the smell and unsightliness of a litter box.

Now, as just a partial stakeholder in my neighborhood’s stray cat, I’m certainly not the expert on litter box obstruction. However, in a recent Pets Best Insurance Facebook poll, we asked, “Cat owners, how do you hide the look (and smell) of your indoor litter box?”, and discovered some great answers. So, before you give puss the boot, review some of our best contributions below:

The top 5 ways to reduce litter box odor:

1. “Clean your litter box every day.” – Jennifer, Pittsburg, KS
While it can be time consuming, cleaning it regularly might be the best way to prevent the odors and waste and keep an eye on pet health. Often, irregular bathroom habits can be the first sign of illness.

2. “Baking soda on the bottom of your litter box, kitty litter, another layer of baking soda, and litter again.” – Danielle, Holly, MI
Quality cat litter and baking soda combine to form one powerful odor-destroying team!

3. “Febreze/air-freshen in between each usage. – Jesse, Temple, TX
Many air fresheners available today will trap airborne particles that contain odors and reduce them on contact.

4. “Cover your litter box with a lid.” – Stacey, Newark, NJ
Covered litter boxes trap many of the odors that escape with open-air models. In fact, some manufacturers even include a lid with a built-in air filter!

5. “Place it in the bathroom or a laundry room, away from things like carpet or furniture that can absorb the smells.” – Cherol, San Francisco, CA
Cherol makes a great point here. Carpet, furniture, pillows and curtains can all absorb cat odors. Be careful if you hang clothing in your laundry room, however. You don’t want your clean clothes absorbing those smells!

Once odors are under control, the other thing cat-owners might worry about is the unsightliness of the litter box itself. Here are the top 5 ways to conceal a litter box:

1. “Place your litter box in a basement area.” – Jennifer, Somers, CT
As long as your basement is low-traffic/single-purpose, this is a great way to obscure your cat’s litter box. Remember, though, out of sight, out of mind: don’t let your litter box become overfull as pet health can be negatively affected.

2. “Use a litter cabinet to disguise your litter box.” – Teresa, city unknown
Many companies now make furniture specifically designed to hold litter boxes. Where visitors to your home might see an end table or small hutch; on the inside is kitty’s toilet.

3.“Build a ‘cat house’ that contains food, water, and a litter box all-in-one” –Shianne, city unknown
A similar idea as above, with the additional convenience of having all of your cat’s needs centralized in one disguised place. This is also handy for pet owners with dogs as well, who may try to steal kitty’s food or enjoy eating “kitty roca”.

4. “Place your litter box outside.” – Emily, Gary, IN
If hiding your cat’s litter box in your home or apartment is just simply not an option, there is always the great outdoors. Consider installing a cat door that your cat can escape through so they aren’t forced to rely solely on you—you’ll be glad you did to avoid those midnight interruptions!

5. “Don’t have one at all—toilet train your cat!” – Wesley, city unknown
Alright, you had to know that was coming! But it’s true; it is possible to toilet train your kitty. All you need is quite a few weeks, lots of patience and a toilet that can be off-limits to humans during the training period. Perhaps we’ll blog about it in further detail–or have Wesley–blog about it next time!
Add your ideas on our Facebook page, or learn more about Pets Best Insurance or cat insurance plans specifically.

How to compare cat insurance companies

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by

A woman holds her cat after purchasing cat insurance.

When choosing a cat insurance plan, it is important to ensure that you compare each part of the plan. Some companies may offer better rates, but they often lack in the coverage they provide.

Some companies have a per incident deductible. This is the amount of money that you will have to pay out of pocket before the cat insurance will begin coverage. Policies with lower per incident deductibles will usually have a higher monthly premium, and vice versa.

The next thing you will want to look at is whether the company has a per incident limit. This is the maximum amount the pet health insurance will cover per incident after the specified deductible is met.

The lifetime limit is the maximum amount the plan will cover for the lifetime of the pet. This is important to look at in the event that your pet becomes sick with an illness that will need treatment for the rest of the pet’s life.

Other services that plans may cover can include hereditary conditions, behavioral conditions, pregnancies, and even cremation. Other treatments can include acupuncture and chiropractic services.

When you compare pet insurance companies, you also want to consider how much of the actual bill they pay after the deductible. The amount a company pays can vary depending on the condition being treated. Pets Best Insurance covers 80% after the deductible, while some other companies operate on a benefit schedule or a “usual and customary fee schedule.”

Advantages of crate training new puppies

Posted on: January 7th, 2011 by

A dog sits in a crate.

Crate training both older as well as new born puppies offers several advantages to pet owners who are just beginning the puppy training process. When used properly, crates are a valuable training tool for both puppies and adult dogs.

When choosing a crate for your new born puppy, it is essential that the proper sized crate is used. Choose a crate that is just large enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around. If you have a puppy that will grow significantly larger, then you may need to get a larger sized crate later on. A great choice for crates are the ones that include a divider. The divider allows you to adjust the size as your puppy grows.

Crates become a haven for dogs. They provide a safe place where they can go when they need to rest. New puppies that are crate trained also house train faster than those that are not trained using a crate. In addition to helping with house training, crates provide a safe place for your puppy when they can’t be supervised, and are the ideal place for puppies to stay when you are away from home.

Remember to make the crate a positive place for your puppy. Crates should never be used as a place for punishment.

Facebook questions answered with Dr. Fiona Caldwell

Posted on: January 7th, 2011 by

Dr. Fiona Caldwell's photo.
Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

Pets Best Insurance solicited questions from our Facebook page fans relating to pet health, happiness and everything in between. Dr. Fiona Caldwell, a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital weighs in! Read on to see if your question was answered:

Question: We adopted my Mom’s female cat when Mom passed away a few months ago. Our two male cats have begun spraying all over the house. Please tell me how to get them to stop!!!

Dr. Caldwell: Inappropriate urination can be a very frustrating part of owning cats! The very first thing that needs to be done is to ensure there isn’t a medical reason, such as urinary tract infection or feline cystitis as a cause for the inappropriate urination. Do this by making an appointment to see your veterinarian. Some medical causes can be serious, including bladder stones. After your veterinarian has determined this is a behavioral problem, there are some things you can do to help.

First, ensure you have at least one litter box for each cat, even an additional one over that number can sometimes be helpful. If you have three cats, at least 3, if not 4 boxes are needed. You must keep the boxes extremely clean. Scoop daily. If your male cats are spraying vertical surfaces, such as walls, furniture, etc this means they are marking their territory, which could be due to some underlying anxiety. The addition of the new cat is likely responsible for this anxiety, but you can try to ease their transition to multi-cat household.

It sounds silly, but try making the litter boxes as private as possible. If a cat is shy about using it, or feels exposed, or if another cats gang up on it when it is using the box, the cat may develop an aversion to the box. Make sure the size, depth of litter and type of litter is one they like. Cats are incredibly picky about this. You may have to experiment with scented and unscented and clumping and non-clumping litter to determine the best one.

Also, it is VERY important to completely clean the soiled urine spot with an enzyme cleaner. If the cat can still smell the urine there, it will attract additional spraying. You may even consider a professional cleaner if the staining is severe. If you are still having problems, go back to your veterinarian. There are some anti-anxiety medications and feline pheromone sprays that might be beneficial for you.

Question: My 7 yr old Chihuahua is losing his teeth and it smells really bad he doesn’t let me near his mouth he cries when I try what can I do about the smell?

Dr. Caldwell: It is very important that you take your Chihuahua to a veterinarian for a complete oral examination. Undoubtedly he will need a complete profession dental cleaning, possibly with extractions of the diseased teeth. In addition to being smelly, the infected teeth can injure the liver, heart and ultimately short his life. Please do this as soon as you are able.

Question: What to do when a cat suddenly swallows a foreign object, like an elastic hair tie. I have a cat who gulps down little things that get dropped (instantly – no chewing or anything!), and is time I didn’t get to it before he did!

Dr. Caldwell: This can be a very serious medical emergency, especially with cats and string-type objects, like dental floss or sewing thread. The best thing to do in this situation is to contact your veterinarian if this happens. Some small objects can pass without harm, but the safest thing to do is seek medical advice.

Question: Appreciate any suggestions for resources we can check out to help us better care for a dog we recently adopted that has a neurological issue preventing him from walking very far before he spins and falls. Have seen vet specialists and xrays do not reveal much.

Dr. Caldwell: This sounds like a frustrating issue and I applaud your efforts to diagnose him thus far. If I can give you any advice, it is to continue to seek out new opinions, just because one veterinarian is stumped doesn’t mean that another one is. Keep trying! You might seek the nearest veterinary university setting in your area. Depending on where you live this may be quite far, even in another state. Most have research and teaching hospitals that handle referrals from all over the nation, as well as challenging and unusual cases.