Annual exams for purrfect pet health

A pet with cat insurance gets an annual exam.

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

The human-companion animal bond is stronger than ever, and pet ownership, pet spending and pet insurance is unquestionably on the rise. But the number of dog and cat visits to veterinary clinics is decreasing while the pet population is increasing. This is especially true for our feline companions. There are 82 million pet cats in the United States, compared with 72 million dogs, making cats the most popular pet. Yet studies show that the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year.

Sadly, many cats are not getting the veterinary care they need and deserve. A recent survey revealed that compared to dogs, almost three times as many cats had not received veterinary care in the past year. Thirty-six percent of pet owners surveyed said that were it not for vaccinations, they wouldn’ t take their pet to the veterinarian at all. And 24 percent said they thought routine checkups were unnecessary. Clients with “indoor pets” thought their pets needed less care than outdoor pets and were less likely to have visited the veterinarian the past year.

While an indoor cat is less likely to be hit by a car or involved in a fight that ends up with an abscess, it’s just as likely to get kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or another serious ailment– which is another reason pet insurance is a good idea. More surprising is the fact that pet owners with older animals were also less likely to have seen the veterinarian in the past year. Like humans, pet health problems increase as they age, so they need more care than the younger ones, not less care.

A recent analysis of veterinary patient data from 2006 to 2010 showed an increase in diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations and other common and preventable problems. There may be a correlation between the increase and prevalence of these diseases and the decreased visits to veterinarians. When pet owners don’t bring in their cats for regular exams, they miss the chance to have a veterinarian spot something like dental disease or kidney disease which can have serious consequences if left untreated. These cat owners also miss the opportunity to learn how to take better care of their cat at home-for example, feeding the best kind of diet to prevent obesity. Many cat owners simply don’t understand the need for routine care throughout their cats’ lives. Cats will live longer and be healthier if they visit their veterinarian at least annually.

People often associate clinic visits with shots or vaccinations, but the cornerstone of each visit is the complete physical examination that the veterinarian performs. The doctor is looking for any problems with the eyes, ears, teeth, skin, internal organs and other body systems. Cats, like people, can develop pet health conditions that, if undetected, can become chronic illnesses that are costly to treat and possibly even life threatening. Cats are naturally adept at hiding the signs of illness, so annual exams are especially important for early diagnosis and treatment of health problems. Because cats age much more quickly than humans, older cats or cats with chronic illnesses benefit even more by visiting the veterinarian twice a year.

Cats need regular veterinary care, including annual exams and vaccinations, just like dogs do. With cats, though, there is often the problem of what is called feline resistance: the hiding, aggression, vocalization, visible stress and fearful behavior cats may exhibit when crated and transported to unfamiliar surroundings. Choose a veterinary clinic that nurtures a cat friendly environment and has experience in compassionate handling and restraint of felines to try to reduce the anxiety associated with your cat’s visit. Ask the doctors and staff for tips on how to help acclimate your cat to her crate and condition her for the car ride to the clinic.

Understandably, cat owners may be unable or unwilling to spend money on veterinary care during the current economy and recession, but remember that regular exams can help your cat live longer, and prevent problems and expensive treatment later. Put plans into action to help budget for pet care, and check out the pet health insurance policies that are available. Prevention and early detection are keys to a healthy lifestyle for your cat. Take steps today to help maintain a state of wellness for your feline friend. Schedule annual exams and keep your cat purring happily for many years!

Elevated Dishes and A Puppy Who Won’t Be Held

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This one comes from Donna. “Do you recommend elevated dog food bowls during feeding?” This is a great question. Bigger breed dogs and taller dogs, like Great Danes and Labradors, may benefit from having their food bowls a little bit higher just to make it easier for them to get to their food and water. There used to be some thought that elevated food bowls would help prevent certain things like bloat, which can be a big deal in bigger dogs like Great Danes. It’s thought now that maybe that doesn’t help as much as we thought it once did, but there still may be some value in raising the food bowls off the floor.

Gastric bloat is a really serious medical condition where the stomach will actually turn on itself and block off the esophagus and therefore it begins to fill with air. This is definitely a veterinary emergency. Generally, it will look like unproductive retching. The dog will want to vomit but nothing will come up. They’ll pace, they’ll seem agitated, and sometimes you’ll even be able to feel that their stomach feels hard.

The next question comes from Sue. “Two weeks ago I adopted a puppy from the Humane Society. She had a vet check and appeared to be healthy. It is her behavior that alarms me. She doesn’t like to be held at all. When we do, she lunges, snaps, bites and growls. This is the only time she does this.” Sue mentions that this is probably a Lab mix puppy.

What I would probably recommend is just not holding her. She clearly doesn’t like to be held. If she’s a Lab mix, she’s likely going to eventually be a size where it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold her anyway. I would just engage in affection with her on the floor, petting her and that type of thing.

There is some concern for me, too, that if she’s developing a habit of biting and growling now and is getting away with it, this could turn into a really big problem when she’s a larger dog. I would recommend getting in touch with a behaviorist and going to some puppy classes now, while she’s still young and a smaller size, to try to discourage her from doing these things.

Teach your dog to come EVERY time you call

A dog with pet insurance comes when called.
By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

The most important behavior you can teach your dog is to come when called. Coming when called is a life saving behavior that should never be taken lightly, and should always be reinforced with praise and/or a food reinforcer. By habitually posting dog training lessons on this pet insurance company’s page, it is my hope you will use these tips and work with your dog to make her the best she can be!

In this article I am going to teach you how to train your dog to come to an emergency recall. This type of recall is used when the dog MUST come immediately when you call him. It is used in emergency situations, such as when your dog is about to run into the street with a car approaching, or other life and death situations.

Before I explain the emergency recall, let’s talk about why some dogs don’t come in the first place. Many of my clients tell me their dogs used to come when called, but now, for some reason, have stopped coming when called. Most often this is because we use the “come” to have the dog do something he doesn’t want to do. We call our dogs to “come” inside while they are playing in the yard, stopping the fun. We ask our dogs to “come” for a bath or nail trim. We ask them to “come” and put them into their crate so we can leave for work, etc. Soon the dog starts equating the word “come” with something undesirable. Of course, they don’t want to come when something bad may happen. Many dog insurance companies, behaviorists, and veterinarians alike will tell you that if a dog equates “coming” with something unenjoyable, she will likely ignore your request.

So let’s get started. First you will want to find a reinforcer that your dog loves. My dogs will work for just about any food treat, but I bring out the big guns for practicing the emergency recall. Yes, this means a trip to the grocery store for roast beef, grilled chicken pieces, or even steak. Cut your treats into small pieces, you will be using a lot of treats to do this type of training, so you do not want to be stingy.

Next, you will pick a word you will use to call your dog for the emergency recall. My cue word is “here,” one of my trainer friends uses “now” a student of mine uses the word “yippeee”. Pick any cue word you would like, just make sure it is a word you can say quickly and loud enough for the dog to hear from a distance. You will not use the word “come” for this exercise. The emergence recall is for emergencies only not the more casual come when called.

You are now ready to teach your dog to come to your emergency recall cue word.

Start inside your house. Wait until your dog is walking towards you, say your cue word in a happy voice, and when your dog comes to you, start treating him. Continue treating for 30 seconds. You are conditioning your dog that the cue word means good things are going to happen, in this case, yummy treats.

You will repeat this exercise 3 times a day, every day. Only call your dog using the “emergency recall” cue word when you are 100% positive she is going to come to you. Remember: this cue word should not be used for a casual come. Start building some distance between you and your dog when you call her.

Next, try calling her from another room. Continue to practice calling your dog from various locations in your home. Do not take this exercise outside until you have it perfected inside your house.

When you move this exercise outside you should reduce the distance between you and your dog. You want to set your dog up to succeed. As you increase the difficulty of the behavior such as practicing outside with lots of distractions, you will reduce other criteria of the exercise. As the dog is succeeding with the emergency recall outside, you will increase the distance between you and your dog.

Once your dog is reliably coming to your emergency recall cue word, you can reduce the number of times you practice. I still like to practice this exercise at least once a day.

If your dog has trouble with any of the steps of this exercise, go back to where your dog was successful and continue to practice.

Your goal is for your dog to immediately run to you anytime you use the emergency recall cue word.

To recap the emergency recall
1) Choose an easy to remember and say cue word. Avoid the word come.
2) Use a treat your dog LOVES. Not just some old stale dog biscuit.
3) Until learned, say the cue word only when you know your dog will come to you 100% of the time.
4) Practice 3 times a day
5) When rewarding the come, treat (or reinforce) your dog with the yummy treats for 30 seconds.

This technique really will save your dog’s life. One of my class room students recently shared a success story. While my student was in his front yard with his dog – off leash, the kids across the street came out to play. The dog (one of the doodle breeds) decided to say hello to the kids. “Doodle’s” owner could see a car coming down the street and his dog getting ready to cross. The doodle’s owner said he fumbled for his cue word for what seemed like an hour, then yelled in the happiest voice he could muster “BACK”! (as in come “back”). Of course Mr. Doodle turned and trotted happily back to his owner. Tail wagging the whole time. Oblivious to what could have happened.

Pet Health: Fun and Fit

A dog with pet insurance and his owner fish together.

One of the best ways to keep pet health in top shape, is to plan pet activities based on things you and your pet can enjoy together. Most healthy pets need lots of exercise to stay in good shape.

For cats, engaging in active play with various toys and games can help keep them mentally and emotionally stable as well as providing an outlet for excess energy. Dogs often enjoy a friendly romp in the back yard or impromptu games of fetch and catch– especially during the summer months, however, planning more elaborate pet activities can be fun for both you and your pet.

Dog Vacations
While many hotels accept pets on vacation trips, a few companies offer vacations designed specifically for dogs and owners to enjoy together. One example is Canine Club Getaway in Lake George, New York. This dog-centric vacation spot features organized dog sports classes with Frisbee, flyball, and three levels of agility training. Swimming sessions are also available and owners can attend relevant seminars on dog insurance, health and nutrition, all in a resort atmosphere that caters to dogs as well as humans.

New activities are in the works according to the owner and founder of Canine Club Getaway Janice Costaco, who stated that “Next year, we plan to incorporate Doga (doggie yoga) and possibly doggie Zumba into our class offerings!”

Dog Parks
For stay-cations closer to home, many communities now offer public dog parks for off-leash fun. While most pet health care experts recommend that cats be kept inside for their own safety, dogs can benefit greatly from supervised off-leash time at a public dog park.

Interacting with other dogs and owners can provide valuable socialization experience for younger dogs, while older dogs with established temperaments can simply enjoy the chance to run and play in a natural environment. Not all dogs react appropriately to off-leash time, however, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your pet to ensure the safety of all parties.

Cat Towers
These innovative indoor structures offer cats the chance to climb, hide and pounce all inside their own home. Even the simplest towers can provide hours of exercise for cats who can use it as home base for their playtime activities. Also, having pet insurance for your cat will help ensure that they will be protected if any play time accidents occur. By engaging in active play with cats and kittens and incorporating the tower into these activities, you and your cat will enjoy playtime even more. Kitty condos can be a new experience every day by:

• hiding treats in and around it
• sprinkling it with catnip
• pointing a laser at it and watching the cats climb
• moving the tower from window to window

Regardless of which activities you choose, pet health care professionals agree that staying healthy and spending quality time with your pet is the best way to ensure years of happiness and friendship for both of you.

Texas Pet Insurance

A dog with Texas pet insurance licks a child.

Pet owners across the U.S. have the same concerns: Keeping their beloved companions happy, safe and healthy. With that in mind, cat and dog owners are opting for pet insurance.

And pet owners who live in Texas are no different. They want Texas pet insurance policies that are affordable, flexible and user-friendly, offering inclusive coverage that will give them peace of mind when it comes to their precious family members.

Visit Any Vet in Texas
If you live in Texas, you want to know that your dog or cat can visit any properly licensed veterinarian in any part of the state. Be sure to choose a pet health insurance plan that allows for that. Remember, you may be traveling to another part of Texas with your pet. If he had an injury or illness, you wouldn’t want to waste precious time finding a vet in that city that was approved to see your pet.

Texas pet owners want to be sure that their pets can receive emergency and specialist veterinary care in addition to just routine services administered by a generalist veterinarian. When shopping for Texas pet insurance, pet owners will want to make sure the plan they are considering covers these “special circumstances.”

Rising Cost of Vet Care
With medical advances being discovered every day in veterinary science, the fees for quality care are increasing. Some statistics reflect that fees for veterinarian care are doubling every 13 years! But with comprehensive, lower-cost pet insurance coverage, you can expect to benefit from these advances when your furry family member needs care. Texas pet parents are choosing to offset the costs of pet care with their pet insurance plans.

Being Good Pet Parents
Texas, like other Southern states, has special concerns for pets. Hot climates, large insect populations and dangerous wildlife are just some of the Texas-specific threats to pets that Texans must be vigilant about.

Indemnity Insurance
Unlike most current health insurance plans for people, pet insurance plans are called “indemnity.” What this means is that you pay for the vet’s services up front and then submit claims to get reimbursed later.

Each state has different regulations regarding insurance. Pet insurance companies must comply by each state’s Department of Insurance guidelines. When choosing a plan to cover your pet, be sure to find out if there are particular aspects of pet insurance policies that are specific to Texas pets.

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