Cancer in Goldens and Post-Pancreatitis Diets

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

The first question comes from Barbara, who says, “I would like so much to have another Golden Retriever but we’ve lost two at an early age to cancer. Any opinion?”

Barbara, I’m so sorry for your loss. Golden Retrievers can be really prone to cancer. I know they’re really sweet pets, so I can see the lure of wanting to get another one.

Some options for you might be to try a Golden Retriever mix, something that’s mixed with that Golden Retriever so you still get that sweet disposition but maybe less of those potentially inherited cancers. Another option for you, if you really want a purebred, is to do some really good research on breeders. See if you can find a breeder who follows their line and can give you a guarantee that as that line ages they have less cancers, since there is such a hereditary component.

The next question comes from Aidan, who asks, “What’s the best food for your dog after pancreatitis?”

This is a great question. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which is an organ that secretes digestive enzymes into the stomach. It’s actually a pretty common disease for dogs and it typically stems from eating something rich. Usually, but not always, the classic dog gets into the trash or there’s a barbecue and they’re getting gristle and steak and hot dogs, and then they’ll develop pancreatitis.

Some dogs will have chronic pancreatitis where it will intermittently come and go. These are the ones that really need to be closely regulated in terms of their food. The current thought it that the best food for dogs with chronic pancreatitis or that have had pancreatitis flare-ups is a low-fat food that’s high in fiber. A prescription diet would probably be the most recommended, so you want to talk to your veterinarian about specific brands and diets that you could use.

You could try a commercial low-fat/high fiber diet. Make sure no treats, real bones, Beggin’ Strips, and those kinds of thing; all the yummy things that a dog likes. You really want to stay off those because it’s those rich treats that can really give them a flare-up. No people food, either.

Sometimes it’s really hard to cut these things out but it’s going to be a lot healthier for your dog. Alternatives that you can use are things like apple slices or carrots, and ice cubes are the ultimate low-calorie treat. These types of things are low in fat and they’re going to be a lot safer for your dog.

All I want is a normal puppy

A Border Collie puppy with dog insurance bites at a cloth.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

As a pet health insurance enthusiast and certified professional trainer, I often get phone calls from pet owners complaining about their dog or puppy’s behavior.

Just last night I received a call from a woman who owns a 6-month-old Border Collie puppy. She complained that when she walks through the kitchen in the morning, her puppy bites at her robe and wants to tug on it. She said it was so bad she could not make coffee without the puppy hanging onto her robe, biting at her feet and even barking and growling at her. Her biggest fear was that the puppy was showing some signs of aggression.

After discussing this behavior with the pet owner, it was clear to me this puppy was just behaving like a normal puppy. My interpretation was that each morning the puppy, who has been sleeping all night, was just happy to see his owner and wanted to play.

After a long night, the puppy awakes full of energy, happy to see his family members, and is ready for a fun game of tug. When the tug game does not happen, he tries harder to engage his family in play, by doing what puppies do; he bites at his owners toes and starts barking. In a sense, he is just begging for someone to give him much desired attention and help him burn off some of his puppy energy. If the owner starts telling him to stop and dances around to avoid the little puppy teeth, the dog interprets this as the interaction and play he was looking for.

So what is a puppy owner to do? There are some very easy solutions to this playful puppy issue. First, before anything, take your puppy out for a potty break. Next, while the coffee is brewing, take a few minutes to give your puppy some much needed attention. Play with him for a few minutes. Next, fill a food-dispensing toy with your puppy’s breakfast. Give him this food-dispensing toy and let him enjoy his breakfast while burning some of that puppy energy. These types of toys give the puppy that much needed mental exercise.

Just like children, puppies need a lot of attention and playtime can be a very important learning experience. Because puppies are naturally curious and full of energy, it’s a good idea to look into dog insurance to help protect your pup from potential puppy accidents and illnesses. Good dog health care will be essential throughout your puppy’s life.

Play training games, hide and seek and crate games with him. These games will help your puppy learn that his crate is a fun place to go. Hide and seek can help teach that coming when he’s called is wonderful. All of these exercises will help your puppy to grow up to be a well-rounded adult dog.

Oh, and about the above mentioned client; her puppy WAS acting like a normal puppy. Now this puppy owner better understands how to control that excessive puppy energy and has reduced the early morning puppy antics!

For more information about dog health care and pet insurance visit

Pet health: Why is Cinnamon so sick?

A Chihuahua that could have benefitted from pet health insurance wears a collar.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Vet at Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Cinnamon’s family was excited; their 3-year-old seven pound Chihuahua had just given birth to 6 puppies! Cinnamon was a light chocolate brown color and her puppies looked just like her. It was her first litter and everything seemed to be going great. About two weeks after giving birth though, her family noticed something was terribly wrong. Cinnamon started to have a slight all over muscle tremor that quickly progressed through the day to almost seizure-like twitching and convulsing. Although they didn’t have pet health insurance for her, they were worried that she couldn’t even stand on her own, so her family called the clinic and brought her in for an emergency visit.

When Cinnamon arrived her temperature was getting dangerously high. It was close to 104 degrees due to her violent all-over body tremors and convulsions. After learning that she recently had six puppies, which is a BIG litter for a little Chihuahua and certainly a lot of puppies for a 7 pound dog to feed, we had a theory about what was wrong with her. Laboratory work was needed to confirm the diagnosis. Cinnamon’s owners would have greatly benefited from pet health insurance, as veterinary lab work and emergency care can be very costly.

Eclampsia or puerperal tetany is also called ‘milk fever.’ During pregnancy, especially in the last trimester and while nursing, the puppies’ nutritional demands are very high. The more puppies there are, the more nutrition the mother has to provide. One nutritional aspect that can become a problem is calcium. The growing skeletons of the fetuses, and subsequently, the puppies, have a high demand for calcium. The mother’s body will actually borrow from her own resources to keep calcium levels high in her milk, thus compromising herself. This dangerously low level of calcium is what causes milk fever.

Eclampsia is most common in small breed dogs with big litters. They generally have all-over muscle tremors and convulsions about 1 to 4 weeks after whelping. This is when the metabolic stress of lactation is at its highest. Early in the disease dogs may be restless, panting, whining, salivating or seem stiff. As the disease progresses, muscles will start to twitch and tremor. Severe cases can progress to seizures and even death. This is a medical emergency, as calcium is required for muscle function. The heart is a muscle, and without calcium, the heart can be compromised.

Cinnamon’s calcium level came back dangerously low and she was immediately given intravenous calcium slowly until she stopped convulsing. Treatment is very rewarding, and within about 10 minutes her body temperature had gone down and she could sit upright without jerking. She stayed in the hospital through the day and received repeated calcium injections until she went home on oral calcium supplements. Her pups were a little young to start being weaned, but typically as soon as possible the puppies should be on a milk replacer or solid food in order to lessen the nutritional demand on the mother if she suffers from this disease.

Prevention of this condition is with a high quality diet only. It seems counterintuitive, but supplementing calcium WITHOUT a diagnosis of eclampsia can actually cause the body to stop producing calcium, therefore creating an increased risk for the disease. Never supplement calcium without the supervision of a veterinarian.

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Cat insurance special: Get me to the vet

A kitten with cat insurance goes into the vet for a regular check up.

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

Even though there are more pet cats than dogs in the US, 40% of cats have not been to the veterinarian in the past year. There are also significantly less cats with pet insurance than dogs. One of the main reasons that cats are less frequently seen at vet clinics is because so many cats vehemently resist being put in a carrier and transported. It can be very stressful to the cats, and even more so to the owners. One way to diminish stess associated with costly vet bills is to look into cat insurance early on. Pet health insurance can make vet costs more afforable so you will be able to provide your kitty with the best care available.

A 2011 veterinary care usage study said that 37.6% of cat owners surveyed said just thinking about a veterinary visit was stressful! Don’t let this deter you from getting your cats the veterinary care they need and deserve. There are many things cat owners can do to make the trip to the vet easier for both you and your cats.

Cats are most comfortable in their own space and with people, places and situations they are familiar with. The visit to the veterinarian is often difficult because the carrier, car and clinic are unfamiliar. The goal is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with positive experiences and routinely enter it voluntarily. While this process is best started with kittens, carrier training is truly possible at any age, although it may take a bit more effort with older cats.

Begin by choosing a hard-sided carrier that opens from the top and the front, and can also easily be taken apart in the middle. This makes it possible for anxious, fearful cats to stay in the bottom half of the carrier for exams. Make the carrier your cat’s “home away from home.” Make it a comfortable resting, feeding or play location. Leave the carrier out in areas your cat likes to frequent, especially in favorite sunspots. Place fleece or other comfortable bedding that has the scent of your cat’s favorite person on it into the carrier along with a favorite toy.

Every day toss a favorite treat or kibble into the carrier so it becomes seen as an automatic treat dispenser by your cat. Feed your cat in the carrier. If your cat is afraid to enter, start by feeding right at the carrier door and gradually move the dish farther inside. Periodically use an interactive toy (a fishing pole-type with feather or fabric) to direct play to the carrier, encouraging your cat to jump in and out. It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier. Remain calm and patient, and reward desired behaviors with treats in the form of food, play or affection. The point of these exercises is to make the carrier a routine part of your cat’s life, not something that is associated with a dreaded experience.

When your cat is comfortable being in the carrier, close it up with the cat inside, calmly pick it up and walk for just a couple steps and then open it. Over time, take your cat on longer tours of your home inside the carrier. If your cat is anxious, you’ve done too much too fast. Back up to whatever point in training your cat had accepted, and then proceed slowly. Eventually you can even try teaching your cat to jump inside the carrier on cue with treats, toys or clicker training.

Once your cat is used to the carrier, take the cat on short car rides. The carrier should be placed somewhere in the car where it won’t slide or be jostled-that can frighten a cat. ome cats like the carrier to be covered with a towel or blanket, while others prefer to be able to see out. Try to make the trips as rewarding as possible with calming conversation, treats popped through the closed carrier door or even play. Keep the car windows closed, and avoid loud music on the radio and sharp turns. Mix in some fun trips or maybe a social visit to the veterinary office just to get a treat or two.

Another excellent way to reduce feline veterinary visit anxiety is to acclimate your cat to being handled as they would during an examination. Gently touch your cat’s paws, look into its ears, open its mouth, and run your hands over its legs and body similar to what your cat will encounter during the veterinary visit.

It takes time and patience, but you can be instrumental in helping your cat have more relaxed veterinary visits and improved healthcare.

For more information about pet health or pet health insurance, visit

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