Pet Insurance Blog – Pets Best Insurance
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Dog Skin Conditions and Reverse Sneezing

Posted on: February 8th, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I’d like to take a chance to answer some questions from our Facebook page.

The first question is, “My dog has dark brown staining on the insides of her legs that’s been there since I adopted her. Now there’s a small dark patch developing in the middle of her belly. The skin is discolored and the fur has a strange texture. She doesn’t lick it and the area is never damp. She isn’t in pain and it doesn’t itch. What could be causing it?”

This is a great question. It’s really a common change on skin and fur of dogs and it’s generally related to moisture on the skin. Places that this can accumulate are between the toes, in facial folds, in the center of the belly where there’s a kind of belly button. The moisture, just normal moisture from your dog’s skin, can create an environment that a very non- harmful yeast organism, a fungal organism, can actually live there.

It’s cosmetic and it usually doesn’t cause a problem. If it’s itchy or if it’s bothering your dog, it could be related to something else and you might want to bring it up with your veterinarian.

This question says, “My Chihuahua reverse sneezes frequently. I know it’s not a cause for too much concern but it sure sounds awful when she’s doing it. What causes this and is there anything I can do to help her?” This is great question. If you’ve never heard a reverse sneeze, the first time you do it sure does look terrifying. The majority of the time it’s not related to any sort of problem. It doesn’t mean your dog is gasping for air and it’s not an asthma attack.

There are a couple of things that can sometimes predispose dogs to it. One is size, so smaller breed dogs tend to do it more than bigger dogs. Occasionally it can be caused by allergies, so you may find that in the spring or in the fall when there’s a lot of pollens, your pet might do this more frequently. In certain areas of the nation, nasal mites can actually cause this. Another common cause of reverse sneezing is excitement, so oftentimes feeding a treat or a meal can predispose them to having these attacks.

If this is happening suddenly and your pet has never done it before, you might want to contact your veterinarian.

Do I need pet insurance?

Posted on: February 8th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance is tended to by a veterinarian.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder, Pets Best Insurance

Some people advocate a “pet savings account,” instead of pet insurance. For example, they recommend putting away $50 per month in a special account that is only to be used in the event of a pet health emergency.

On the surface this may seem logical until you realize your pet may have a costly medical event well before you save enough to pay for it. What if your pet had an accident only two months into your savings? Then you would only be able to pay $100 on a vet bill that could be upwards in the thousands—and that’s only if you hadn’t already used the funds for something else.

On the flip side, your pet may have no serious or costly medical events other than routine care for several years. If this is the case, then would you keep the savings in the delegated pet account?

As with our own health, much depends on luck, which is usually out of our control. Your pets’ current health will be a strong indicator of future health, although this doesn’t necessarily take accidents and injuries into account.

Some breeds are much more susceptible to illness. Exposure to viruses and bacteria are unpredictable, as is cancer. And of course environmental causes, such as toxins, poisons and household chemicals can influence pet health. With pet insurance, a pet owner is always prepared. Preparation for pet illnesses and accidents comes down to risk tolerance and the level of importance peace-of-mind is to a pet owner. With pet health insurance owners know they will be able to afford nearly any expense incurred by their pet.

Many people wonder how insurance ultimately works—in the case of pet insurance, large pools of the insured’s premiums are collected and used to help pay medical bills for those pets who have an accident, illness or injury.

Some pets will have a few pet health problems, others may have one large, costly expense, and some might have multiple costly medical episodes. The conundrum is that no one knows in advance which pets will have pet health problems and which will not.

As a real life example, take my nine family pets over a four year period; one (Obie) had over $12,000 in medical cost for three separate gastric torsion surgeries and bone cancer. Four other pets had medical care in the $240-500 range and the others had just a few veterinary expenses. For me, the premium for all 9 pets was offset just by Obie.

The other pets I could have covered well enough, but with my pet insurance paying a high percentage after the deductible, I didn’t have to dip into savings or rack up any credit card debt. I may now go years before I have another costly pet expense. And I hope I do. The point is no one knows the fate of their pet’s health and pet insurance allows pet owners to pay an affordable monthly premium while knowing that a portion of any future pet medical costs may be covered by their pet insurance policy.

February is pet dental health month

Posted on: February 7th, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance prepares to have his teeth brushed.

Pet owners understand the benefits of giving their pets quality food, annual checkups, and the best pet insurance coverage. But if their pet’s dental care is neglected, optimum pet health may be compromised.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that most pets show signs of oral disease by age two: 80% of dogs and 70% of cats.

These statistics are alarming, because poor cat and dog dental care can cause periodontal disease, which leads to tooth loss and unhealthy bacteria entering the bloodstream. This can cause infection in vital organs like the heart and kidneys.

February is Pet Dental Health Month, the perfect time for pet owners to look into dog and cat dental insurance. The best pet insurance companies often include dental coverage for pets, or offer it as an additional option.

Pets Best Insurance covers routine dental cleanings as part of the BestWellness routine care coverage. Professional cleanings, performed annually by a veterinarian, will not only help prevent tooth loss, but will also prevent other pet health issues that can occur when plaque and tartar ravage a pet’s gums.

In between professional cleanings, pet owners can brush their pet’s teeth with specially formulated pet toothpaste. Pets love the taste, and it is free of fluoride and other ingredients that can be harmful.

Other tools are also available to keep pet mouths healthy, including tartar control treats, water additives, and gels. These products are available from pet stores and veterinary clinics. When treated with professional pet dental care and pet insurance, periodontal disease is preventable. No pet should have to suffer from painful, bleeding gums, tooth loss, or other potential diseases.

Benji and the unlucky penny

Posted on: February 4th, 2011 by

Benji's X-ray shows some remaining pocket change he ingested.
By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Benji is a sweet, spunky little 3-year-old mixed breed dog weighing just 12 pounds. He really does look like Benji from the old TV movies! He was presented to me for an unusual problem that ended up being very serious.

Unbeknownst to his owners, Benji ate about thirty one cents in change; a nickel, a penny and a quarter. Who knows why he thought it was a tasty treat, but this turned out to be a big pet health problem.

While nickels and quarters are less toxic to dogs, pennies can cause serious illness. We think of pennies being made from copper, but in fact, the composition of the penny has changed many times since the 1700’s. Traditionally pennies were made from copper, but since 1983, all pennies have been made of 97% zinc with a copper coating, to help with manufacturing costs. Zinc is extremely toxic to dogs and can cause a condition called hemolytic anemia, an illness that causes the body to destroy its own red blood cells.

When the penny sits in the acidic stomach, the zinc is released from the penny and absorbed into the blood stream. It is also irritating to the GI tract and can cause vomiting and diarrhea within hours of ingestion. The most serious side effect is the hemolytic anemia that can occur after 24 to 48 hours in the stomach. The exact mechanism of red blood cell destruction is unclear, but the zinc makes the body burst the red blood cells and can dramatically reduce their numbers.

When Benji came to me he had already thrown up the penny and a nickel, but the damage was done. Normally a dog’s blood is made up of about 50% red blood cells. Benji came to me with only 14% red blood cells. When the cell numbers are this low it is hard for the blood to deliver oxygen to the body. Benji received a blood transfusion and improved to 20% red blood cells and felt much better. Radiographs revealed he still had a quarter in his stomach, but he was too sick for surgery to remove it.

If the penny stays in the stomach long enough, the zinc can also start to cause organ failure. The most common organs to be affected are the kidneys. A blood panel can reveal dangerously high renal (kidney) values and this was the case for Benji. In cases of acute renal failure, time and IV fluids can help the kidney to regain some function. Benji received IV fluids and medication. Over several days he slowly improved, gaining strength. After 24 hours in my care he threw up again, but this time the quarter came up too! The owners had never been so excited about their dog throwing up; things were starting to look up for Benji. It looked like he wouldn’t need surgery after all!

In addition to organ failure and low red blood cell numbers, zinc can also cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and even cardiac arrest. Other sources of dangerous zinc include some older toys, nails and hardware, staples, zippers and jewelry, and some human creams, such as sunblock, calamine lotion and Desitin.

Overall Benji was lucky, even though his penny wasn’t! He ended up staying in the hospital with intensive care for 10 days before he finally went home to his grateful owners. The whole ordeal ended up costing Benji’s owner’s around $2,100– had they had a pet insurance policy with Pets Best Insurance for Benji, they could have only had to pay $400 out-of-pocket if they had selected a policy with a $100 deductible.

If your dog eats something it shouldn’t, it is important to contact your veterinarian to determine how serious it is.

Pet health: Outdoor cats

Posted on: February 3rd, 2011 by

A cat with pet insurance keeps warm outside.
Cat pet care should be at the top of your priority list, along with pet insurance and your cat’s overall health. If your cat must stay outdoors, make sure to take the proper precautions to ensure he stays safe.

Cats that live outside are at risk for a number of potentially dangerous conditions, which is another reason cat insurance should be a consideration.

It is important to make sure that your cat has a safe shelter from all of the elements. Cats should have a place where they can go to escape the cold and wind. The shelter also serves as a place to keep your cat warm and dry. The shelter should just be large enough for the cat to turn around and stand in. The cat’s body heat will help to keep the shelter warm.

Cats should have access to plenty of fresh food and water. Cats will tend to eat more during the winter due to burning more calories in order to keep themselves warm. Place food and water in plastic bowls to prevent tongue injuries. Metal bowls can cause their tongue to stick to them which may lead to injuries. Check water bowls daily to make sure the water hasn’t frozen. If you suspect there has been an incident that may have hurt your pet, take him to the veterinarian. Pet insurance can help keep veterinary costs, like these, down.

Cat health insurance will allow you to take your cat in for a check-ups whenever you need to, to ensure your cat is healthy. Cats that are sick can have a more difficult time dealing with the elements than a healthy cat.