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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.

Neutering male dogs: Debate or debacle?

Posted on: January 6th, 2011 by

A neutered male dog waits for his owner.
Does it seem like spaying and neutering dogs and cats is a more “heated” debate when it comes to male dogs?

Ask the owner of an unaltered male dog why the dog is not neutered, and chances are you will hear a response that is more reflective of the owner’s feelings on macho pride than the dog’s health or well-being.

Every day in the United States, nearly 20,000 animals are euthanized in our shelters due to a lack of homes. Northeast Arkansas for Animals makes a good point on their web site: “At least 50% of the overpopulation problem is non-neutered males. Females can’t do it alone.”

Many people worry that neutering male dogs is a painful process or claim it makes the dog “less manly.” The truth of the matter is that unaltered male dogs tend to be more aggressive, more likely to run away from home, and more likely to develop life threatening diseases. It is estimated that over 60% of male dogs that are left intact develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives; a condition that is life-threatening and costly to treat, especially for those without dog insurance. Spaying and neutering dogs not only improves the quality of your best friend’s life, but can also add years to a dog’s life span.

Neutering dogs requires a simple surgery (much simpler than spaying a female) that heals quickly. Most dogs will only be in mild discomfort for a day or two following the surgery, and many owners report no difference in their dog’s energy levels post-surgery. In fact, my own male puppies were just as playful only hours after being neutered as they were prior.

In an effort to help prevent the costly medical problems that can arise with intact dogs, many pet health insurance plans include the cost of spaying and neutering in the policy price. Most consider the surgery a necessary part of a puppy health care plan. For more information about pet insurance visit

A pet insurance lesson

Posted on: January 6th, 2011 by

A cat without pet insurance is examined by a veterinarian.
Posted by: H.R.
For Pets Best Insurance

One of the biggest reasons why cat insurance can be life-saving: an unexpected incident can leave even well cared for pets in danger.

On a cold, snowy, day in January of 2004, Jenny Brandhorst was traveling from Iowa to Chicago with her kitten Wrigley in tow. Jenny had no control over the weather, but the one mistake she made was letting Wrigley roam free in her car during the drive.

After losing control of her Jeep, Jenny and Wrigley were trapped on a horrific ride as the spinning, rolling vehicle eventually slammed into a stone embankment. Jenny was rescued, but Wrigley was nowhere to be seen. Thirty hours later, despite being in terrible pain, a battered Jenny returned to the scene of the accident to search for her beloved cat.

“I’m overjoyed to say that after a grueling search in the wind, snow, and cold, I found the little guy after mistaking him for a cluster of oddly shaped rocks in the distance,” said Jenny. “He was half-frozen and his face was bloody.”

Jenny fell to the ground and clutched him in her arms. Wrigley purred, the one mechanism he still had left to relieve pet stress.

At the time, Jenny didn’t have pet health insurance. Wrigley only survived thanks to the kindness of her parents, who had the means and cared enough to pay for the vet bills.

The cost of Wrigley’s care grew exorbitantly during a month-long stay at the veterinary hospital. His front left leg was broken; a metal rod was inserted to set the bone straight. Frostbite had damaged his tail and left ear so badly, portions of both needed to be amputated.

Jenny had a new appreciation for driving, crate, and leash safety, and has begun pet insurance company research. Many pets aren’t as lucky as Wrigley after 30 hours in the snow, but thankfully, he and Jenny have both recovered and share a beautiful bond today.

Cat insurance: What you need to know

Posted on: January 5th, 2011 by

A cat snuggles with her master after purchasing pet insurance.

If you have new born kittens, be sure to get them covered with a cat insurance plan. Cat insurance will not only provide you peace of mind, but it can help you avoid costly medical bills. Pet health insurance can help you afford to keep your cat healthy.

Choosing a cat insurance company can seem overwhelming. You can find a number of pet insurance companies by typing “online pet insurance” into your favorite search engine.

Once you have a list of companies, be sure to compare them closely. You want to compare how much they will reimburse you after your deductible is met. It will either be a percentage of the bill or an allotted dollar amount based on the terms of the contract.

The next thing that you will want to look at and compare is the deductible and monthly premium. The deductible is the amount you must pay before the pet insurance will cover any treatments or services. If you choose to go with a lower deductible, then you will most likely have to pay a higher monthly premium.

Higher deductible plans are a good choice if you are looking for coverage in case of a serious illness or injury. This type of coverage can save you from the enormous costs of care for major accidents or illnesses.
For more information about Pets Best Insurance and to get a quote call 866-440-2020 or visit

Purebred Dog Cancer

Posted on: January 5th, 2011 by

A Golden Retriever, who is prone to purebred cancer, would benefit from pet insurance.

Dr. Fiona is a guest veterinarian blogger for the highly rated pet insurance provider, Pets Best.

Cancer is epidemic in the human population, with millions of dollars set aside annually for research to help treatment and diagnostic efforts. Most people have been touched by this disease in some way, either themselves, or by a loved one. But did you know that the cancer rate in dogs is similar to that of people?

One in three dogs will contract cancer in their lifetimes. This statistic cites the overall dog population, the statistic for cancer in pure bred dogs is even higher.

Uncovering this genetic predisposition towards cancer has the promise of providing a tool for researchers to better understand how genes affect cancer rates. The canine genome has already been decoded; scientists are hopeful that learning how traits in purebred dogs relate to cancer can help aid the diagnosis and treatment of human cancers.

In breeds most susceptible to cancer, this rate of cancer is generally found across most lines and pedigrees. This indicates that the genes that code for cancer were present in the earliest start of that breed’s creation. Most purebreds are essentially inbred, thus their genes are concentrated over time. Specific desirable characteristics are bred for again and again, perfecting the breed.

Golden Retrievers are a great example of a cancer prone breed with a very specific genealogical lineage. A Scottish Land Baron in the 1860’s crossed a yellow flat coated retriever with a water spaniel in the 1860’s to create the Golden Retriever. The breed was recognized by the UK’s Kennel Club in 1911, and ALL purebred goldens are theoretically descended from this line.

There are some undesirable genetic or inherited problems in dogs that have been successfully reduced by careful breeding. For example, early detection of orthopedic issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and certain eye abnormalities have helped breeders deselect these dogs. Cancer is a difficult disease to deselect for, because most dogs obtain cancer after their most reproductive years and have may already birthed many litters prior to becoming ill, thus inadvertently passing these genes onto their offspring.

While in general pure breeds are most prone to cancer, some breeds are even more susceptible than others. Some studies indicate that about 60% of Golden Retrievers, for example, will die from some type of cancer. Other susceptible breeds include the Boxer, Rottweiler and Bernese Mountain Dog. Breeds with some of the lowest risks of cancer include the Beagle, Miniature and Standard Poodle, Collie and Dachshund.

The most common dogs cancer include osteosarcoma; a bone cancer, lymphoma; a disease of white blood cells, mast cell tumors; a cancer that generally manifests as a tumor on the skin and hemangiosarcoma; a cancer of blood vessels. There are many new promising treatments in the field of veterinary oncology, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Some cancers can be managed giving pets additional months or even years of time.

There are some things you can do to help keep your dog healthy. Experts generally agree that mixed breed dogs, while not exempt from cancer, live about 10% longer than there purebred counterparts. Adopting a mixed breed dog can be one way of lessening your pet’s chance of developing cancer. In addition, keeping your pet fit and lean is very important. Obesity has been linked as a predisposition to a whole slew of health problems in dogs, including some cancers. It’s also a good idea to bring your pet in to your veterinarian for annual wellness and routine care exams. Some dog insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, will even help to pay for a portion of wellness care if the optional Wellness plan has been added to the policy.

The field of veterinary oncology and genealogy is in a position to prove of great value, not only for the benefit of companion animals, but for human cancer studies as well. Learning to better treat, prevent cancer and extend the lifespan of our canine counterparts has the exciting possibility of translating into better human medicine as well.

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