Cat health: What’s wrong with Grace the kitty?

A cat with cat insurance and IBD is held by his owner.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

My 4-year-old cat Grace started vomiting sporadically when she was only around 1 ½ years old. I didn’t get too excited about it since it was so infrequent and she was showing no other signs of illness. As time went on, though, the vomiting became more frequent, so I knew she had a serious cat health problem. Then the diarrhea started. Eventually, Grace was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and she’s been a challenge to treat ever since.

IBD is actually a group of gastrointestinal disorders, usually chronic in nature, which are characterized by an increase in the number of inflammatory cells in the lining of the digestive tract. If the inflammation predominates in the stomach or small intestine, chronic vomiting is typically the main symptom. Inflammation in the large intestine usually causes chronic loose stool or diarrhea. Some unfortunate cats, like my Grace, have inflammation in all areas resulting in both vomiting and diarrhea. In my experience, chronic vomiting is most common.

The cause of IBD is unknown. Genetics, nutrition, infectious agents, and abnormalities of the immune system may all play a role. It is interesting to note that two of Grace’s littermates have vomiting issues, although not officially diagnosed with IBD yet.

Most cats with IBD appear perfectly healthy otherwise, so owners may not realize their cat is sick. Many people buy into the myth that it’s normal for cats to vomit. It’s not unusual for me to diagnose a cat with IBD that has been a “vomiter” its whole life. That’s why it’s important to tell your veterinarian about any vomiting than is more than an occasional hairball, before it becomes serious for your cat. Being sure to invest in cat insurance prior to these kinds of issues can also help you afford the best care for your kitty. Severe IBD can cause weight loss and change of appetite, and in some cases can even progress to cancer of the intestines.

To rule out other causes of gastrointestinal disease, your veterinarian will perform blood tests, stool examinations, x-rays and possibly other tests. Because diagnosis can be expensive, it’s important to research pet health insurance early on. Common diseases such as chronic kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and pancreatitis can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. A definitive diagnosis of IBD is only possible by intestinal biopsy, which is best accomplished using minimally invasive endoscopy under short anesthesia.

A combination of dietary management and medical therapy will successfully manage IBD in most cats. The realistic goal is control, not cure, and treatment tends to be life long. The costs can add up for chronic medical conditions like IBD, so pet health insurance plans purchased in the younger, healthy years can really be a benefit later on in life.

Sensitivity to food antigens contributes to the gastrointestinal inflammation in some cats, so a change in diet often provides symptomatic relief. A hypoallergenic diet is usually one of the first steps in the initial treatment. Grain free diets, highly digestible diets or fiber diets may also be helpful. Your veterinarian can help guide you to the best diet for your cat’s particular situation.

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Many medications can be used to control IBD. Corticosteroids are the treatment of choice in most cases. These have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties with relatively few side effects in cats. Oral prednisolone is the steroid I use most frequently to treat IBD in cats, and it has literally been a life saver in many cases. Antibiotics such as metronidazole or tylosin can be used in combination with steroids for better control. B vitamins and probiotics may also be helpful additions. Severe or non-responsive cases may require more potent immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine or chlorambucil. A newer drug called Cerenia may also be effective in combination with steroids.

I have used all of these dietary therapies and medications for Grace’s IBD without full success. She is very sensitive to drugs, and several of them made her diarrhea worse. Her vomiting is fairly well controlled on steroids, but she stills flares up with loose stool. I continue to experiment with different treatments for her. Fortunately, she is the exception. The majority of cats respond fully and rapidly to basic medications with only occasional recurrence. If you think your kitty might have IBD, make an appointment with your vet right away.

For more information about pet health and cat health insurance visit Pets Best Insurance:

Interactive Dog Toys to Cure Winter Boredom

A dog with dog insurance enjoys playing with an interactive toy.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

Winter is just around the corner and all too soon much of the country will be experiencing the frigid winter weather. Even though winter brings less-than-desirable weather, our dogs and puppies still require just as much physical exercise as any other time of the year to maintain their good dog health.

There are times when a winter walk is not possible. In our area, for instance, we often have ice storms or frigid temperatures that make dog walking dangerous, even if you have pet insurance. That’s why we bring the exercise indoors!

1. Commercial Food Dispensing Toys

One solution, and my favorite way to keep my dog entertained is to give them a food dispensing toy. Food dispensing toys are an important tool to burn some of your dogs mental energy and also to teach him to problem solve. As a side benefit, food dispensing toys slow down dogs that eat fast, lessening their chance of bloat.

There are many food dispensing toys on the market to choose from today. One of my favorites is the Kong Wobbler. This toy comes in two sizes and is great for both puppies and adult dogs. Put your dog’s dinner in the Wobbler and watch as he pushes it around to dispense his meal.

Dog toy manufacturers realize the behavioral benefits of interactive of toys, and there are many options available commercially. Jolly Pet Products, Ruff Dog, Kong, Kyjen and many other companies have developed food dispensing toys that your dog may enjoy.

2. DIY Food Dispensing Toys

Another option is to make your own food dispenser. Save your paper towel rolls, fold down one end, fill it with kibble and fold the other end down. Then toss it to your dog! (Be sure to keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t accidentally ingest any of the cardboard.) Another option is to put your dog’s food in a paper bag, fold down the top of the bag, and let your dog tear into the bag to get his food. Once he gets good at this, you can make the puzzle harder by putting the food in a paper bag and then put the paper bag inside a cardboard box. While you will probably have to sweep up pieces of torn cardboard tube, paper bags and boxes, the enjoyment your dog will get from “hunting” for his food will be well worth your time sweeping up!

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Whether you make your own food dispensing toy or buy a commercial toy, your dog will reap many benefits from eating from one of these toys, so give it a try.

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How Angel’s story could save your dog’s life

Angel, a dog with pet insurance looks at the camera.

By: Kristie Sullens
Save-An-Angel Founder
For Pets Best Insurance

Did you know that for a lot less than you’d think, you can insure your fur baby for up to $14,000 of lymphoma coverage? It could be less than a few hundred dollars per year to protect your precious family member from this deadly disease and provide them a long and healthy life with qualified treatments. I cannot stress the importance of pet insurance enough.

Let me tell you a story about a beautiful Dingo dog named Angel. She wandered out of the woods and into our hearts when she was just a pup. My husband Johnny brought Angel in the house, where we already shared a home with our first “son” Romeo, a handsome Rottie mix. They had an instant connection and in that moment we promised to love her forever. Over the next five years we carved out a beautiful life together. Romeo and Angel were there for all our relocations, job changes, and growing pains. And of course, they were in our wedding. Romeo was the ring bearer and Angel was our flower girl. We could not have imagined a more meaningful experience. Life was perfect!

Two weeks after our wedding, my new husband Johnny discovered a lump on Angel’s abdomen while giving her a belly rub. As you can imagine we were shocked, confused and very concerned. We called our vet to get the lump tested immediately and held our breath until our vet called to give us the worst news any pet parent could hear. “The tests came back and Angel tested positive for cancer. Angel has lymphoma and she needs to begin chemotherapy ASAP!”

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We scheduled an appointment with the specialist who explained that because survival rates with chemotherapy alone are less than 4%, Angel only had between 6 months to 1 year to live. We were broken hearted, terrified and determined to do whatever it took to save Angel’s life, so we asked our vet if there was a cure. After several hours of consulting with veterinarians from across the country, Angel’s doctor came back with one option, one chance. Angel’s only hope was to receive a Canine Bone Marrow Transplant at North Carolina State University. Angel’s chances of survival instantly shot up to over 40% and the room swelled with relief. That is until we heard Angel’s Specialist say, “The BMT costs $16,000 and you need to make a decision by next week.” We had only 7 months to raise the money or risk losing Angel forever. One hundred percent of transplants are tested on dogs first, so they knew it would work on Angel.

At this point, we contacted our dog insurance provider. Angel was covered for the basics, but since we’d never been personally affected by cancer, an additional plan to cover the disease had never been purchased. Because preexisting conditions aren’t covered by pet insurance, Angel was left completely vulnerable. Had there not been money for chemotherapy from our personal income, she would have died within 2 months.

What followed next was a whirlwind of fundraising, educating and visualizing. All that mattered was that Angel received the cure, because we couldn’t live without her. We were able to raise the money in time, and Angel received the transplant in May 2010. Angel is still 100% cancer free without medication!

If you take anything away from this, please make a promise to your own pet to purchase an all inclusive pet insurance plan, like that from Pets Best Insurance, which would have covered the canine bone marrow transplant for Angel. Pets insurance plans can literally be the difference between your pets’ life and death. If you’re still not convinced, the following is another reason you need cat or dog insurance from Pets Best Insurance.

After Angel was cured, the business office at NC State confirmed that Pets Best Insurance covered $14,000 on a $16,000 BMT claim. That’s amazing! For much less than $50 a month, pet insurance lets you rest easy knowing that if your dog does get diagnosed with lymphoma, they will have the opportunity to receive the only possible cure for this deadly disease.

We believe Angel’s journey happened so that we as a community of people who love our pets like children, can learn how to better protect them. Please consider how you would feel if put in this position. One in three dogs are diagnosed with cancer each year. Now you know that the Pets Best Insurance Plans cover the canine bone marrow transplant. If only one dog is saved because of this knowledge, then Angel’s journey has been well worth it. Please consider covering your pets if you haven’t already, and please share it forward! Knowledge is power and being prepared could be the difference between life and death for your best friend.

For more information about the organization Angel inspired, visit

Siamese Cat Markings and Enlarged Livers

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

The first question comes from Samantha, who asks, “Are Siamese cats supposed to have an ‘M’ on their forehead?”

The answer is no, not really. The typical Siamese coloration is a tan base, and they usually have some type of darker points, points being their nose, their ears, and their tails. There can be some different variations in their coloring, but true Siamese kitties typically don’t have any linear markages on them.

The next one comes from Cynthia, who asks, “What causes an enlarged liver?”

This is a really difficult question to answer because there are a lot of things that can cause a big liver. Some of them are really, really serious. If you’ve had your veterinarian tell you that your pet’s liver is enlarged, you might ask them to elaborate on why they think that is. It could be anything from infections to the way that they were born, or inflammation, or something serious like cancer.

What caused kitty’s eye to fill with blood?

A black cat without pet health insurance waits to be seen by the vet.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

During my years as a vet and a pet insurance enthusiast, I’ve seen many handsome cats– but “Joe” was among one of the most handsome. Joe was a black 9-year-old who came to see me because his owner noticed his eye was bloodshot. It had been going on for 3 or 4 days, but Joe seemed to be eating well and acted fine otherwise.

Upon examination, I did indeed see blood in Joe’s right eye, but not in the way the owner had described it. The blood was inside the eye, not in the white part of the eye that we refer to as being bloodshot. The blood was actually behind the cornea, sitting on the iris, or colored part of the eye. There was also a moderate amount of pus floating in the eye next to the blood. The abnormal pressure was distorting the size and shape of the pupil and pushing it toward the inner corner of the eye.

These changes indicated a cat health condition called uveitis which is inflammation of the inner pigmented structures of the eye. The eyes are often referred to as a window to the soul, and likewise, they can often be a window into what is going on medically elsewhere in the body. Uveitis is most often caused by some underlying infection or systemic illness.

I had a hunch as to what illness was causing Joe’s uveitis, and blood tests confirmed my suspicions. Joe was infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

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FIV belongs to the same family of viruses as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). However, FIV is not transmissible from cats to people, and HIV is not transmissible from people to cats. The primary mode of transmission of FIV is through bite wounds. Therefore outdoor cats, especially territorial tomcats, are at greatest risk of infection. The virus is only rarely spread through casual contact. However, female cats infected with FIV during their pregnancy can pass the virus to their unborn kittens.

Infected cats may appear normal for years. The virus slowly depresses the function of the cat’s immune system, leading to chronic pet health problems and opportunistic infections. Many FIV-positive cats have chronic inflammatory conditions of the teeth and mouth. Other chronic problems include diarrhea, pneumonia, skin disease, weight loss and wasting, eye diseases (like with Joe), neurological problems, and cancer.

FIV is diagnosed by using a blood test that detects antibodies against the virus in the bloodstream of the cat. A confirmatory test called a Western Blot test is recommended to be sure of the diagnosis. I recommend testing all cats being introduced into a household to prevent exposing any existing cats to the virus. Kittens under 6 months of age may carry antibodies to FIV acquired from their mother without having the virus itself. Therefore, any kitten under this age that tests positive should be retested when it is over 6 months old.

There is no cure for FIV infection. Although the disease is considered fatal, many cats with the infection can live for many months or years with relatively few pet health issues. With proper health care aimed at recognizing and treating FIV-associated problems early, patients can enjoy good quality of life. All efforts should be taken to preserve their health by protecting them against other disease and injury. This is best accomplished by requiring FIV-positive cats to live indoors. This also helps prevent spread of the disease.

Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection are available. However, not all vaccinated cats will be protected by the vaccine, so preventing exposure will remain important, even for vaccinated pets. In addition, vaccination may have an impact on future FIV test results.

Joe’s blood work showed that his immune system was still functioning well. He was treated with antibiotics and topical steroids in his eye and he is responding nicely. I’m not sure when Joe was infected with FIV, so his long term prognosis is unclear. He is currently feeling well and enjoying life, so that’s what matters most to his owners. I will continue to closely monitor Joe’s health and hope that he has many good days ahead.

For more information about cat health care and pet insurance visit Pets Best Insurance.

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