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Service Dogs

Posted on: February 18th, 2011 by

A service dog waits for a command.
By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

I met an inspirational canine the other day named Maggie*, a 14 year old german shepherd. She came to me unable to walk due to a degenerative nerve disease common in older German Shepherd dogs and couldn’t use her back legs. She also had a serious heart problem called A-V block, where her atria (the top chambers of the heart) don’t communicate with her ventricles (the bottom chambers of the heart), causing a dangerously low heart rate.

The owner knew Maggie’s days were numbered, but was having a hard time letting her go. Maggie was a highly trained search and rescue dog, and a cadaver dog, meaning she visited scenes of crimes helping people to locate missing bodies. She was top notch in her day and was even sent to New York on 9/11 to assist rescue crews. She had retired a number of years ago, and her owner considered her family.

Search and rescue dogs aren’t the only time of ‘working’ dogs out there. A ‘working dog’ refers to a dog that isn’t just a companion, but also performs some other job. One well known example includes dogs trained to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. Service dogs can actually help with a variety of human handicaps in addition to the blind. Service dogs also assist hearing impaired people, people with mobility limitations by opening doors or bringing objects, and can even be trained to detect seizures in people, warning them before the seizures occurs. This allows the person to take precautions, such as sitting down, prior to seizuring.

Dogs have been given jobs for hundreds of years, as long as they have been domesticated. Herding dogs are still invaluable to sheep and cattle handlers around the world. Modern herding dogs help control cattle and wild geese in parks or goats used for weed control. A well trained herding dog can learn to control many domestic and wild animals alike. Turnspit dogs were used as a source of power; they turned a treadmill connected to a roasting spit, or could help with other household duties, such as churning butter.

Another type of ‘working dog’ are the many trained therapy dogs that visit incapacitated people, either in hospitals, retirement homes or other facilities with limited freedoms. These dogs bring joy and entertainment to people, bring a smile to their faces. There are prison programs for inmates that pair an inmate with a shelter dog to be trained and eventually adopted out. This gives inmates a sense of purpose and responsibility, as well as companionship. This program also helps with overcrowding in humane societies and helps rehabilitate dogs that might otherwise be unadoptable.

Often the trainer or handler that works with these highly trained dogs becomes extremely attached. The bond between service dog and its owner is usually deep. Even after the dog is ‘retired’ from their job, they continue to provide love and joy. Maggie hadn’t worked for years, but her owner was just as committed to her as when she was highly sought after for her services. Maybe she felt that now was her time to give back to Maggie, who had given so much when she was younger. By helping Maggie through this time she was able to say thank you for all she had done for others earlier in life.

If you are interested in becoming a service dog trainer, or want to learn more information, visit Canine Companions for Independence or Canine Assistants on the web.

*Names have been changed

Human Glucosamine for Dogs and TPLO Failure

Posted on: February 15th, 2011 by

Hello, my name is Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I want to answer some Facebook questions at home for you

The first question I have is, “Can I give my dog human glucosamine?” This is a great question. Glucosamine is a supplement that’s meant to help with arthritis conditions in dogs. The dog-formulated and people-formulated glucosamines are basically the same, so the answer is yes, you can, but it’s important that you contact your veterinarian to know what dose is appropriate for your dog before you just purchase it over-the-counter.

The next question is, “Can a TPLO fail after the bone has healed?” A TPLO is a specific type of surgery that’s meant to correct a cruciate tear in a dog’s knee, just like an ACL tear in a person.

TPLOs typically have a pretty good success rate. After the bone is healed, there’s probably less incidence of failure versus when the bone is actually healing and the dog is a little bit more vulnerable at that time. But if your dog is acting differently after the surgery or starting to favor the leg, it could be a cause for concern and you should contact your veterinarian.

If you have a question for me, head to the Pets Best Facebook page and post your questions there.

Pet health tips for first time owners

Posted on: February 15th, 2011 by

A puppy gets pet health insurance from his owner.
Now that you have decided to add a new pet to your family, there are a few things you will need to do. You’ll want to be sure that you have covered all the bases when it comes to the health and well being of your new pet.

One of the first things you want to do after you research pet health insurance, is find a veterinarian. Ask friends, neighbors and family with pets which veterinarians they use—always choose one with a good reputation. Since healthcare for your pet can be expensive, pet insurance can help you save on the costs of pet health care.

If you are buying a pet from a breeder, you should also make sure that the pet is checked out within the guidelines of your breeder contract.

When you pick up your new pet, obtain copies of their pet health record from the previous owners. This information will include any vaccines that your pet has received and help the veterinarian know which vaccines your pet will need. Now is also a good time to get your pet started on heartworm and flea preventatives. Also, spay or neuter your pet if they are not already altered.

Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Posted on: February 15th, 2011 by

Diane's cat Tarzan hides in the bushes.

By: Diane Ayres
SNIP for Pets Best Insurance

Whether you’ve recently adopted a pet or you’re considering it, one of the most important health decisions you’ll make is to spay or neuter your cat or dog. Not convinced yet? Check out our handy-and persuasive-list of the top 10 reasons to spay or neuter your dog/ cat.

1. Spaying and neutering saves lives! An unspayed female cat, her mate and all of their offspring, producing 2 litters per year, with 2.8 surviving kittens per litter can total 67 cats in just 2 years. Some cats are having 3 to 4 litters of kittens a year and kittens are getting pregnant as early as 3 months old. An unspayed female dog, her mate and all of their puppies and their puppies‘ puppies, if none are ever neutered or spayed, add up to 128 in just 2 years.

2. Spaying your female cat or dog will help prevent breast cancer. A female dog has 0.05% chance of getting breast cancer if it is spayed before its first heat, 18% chance if spayed after its first heat and 26% chance of getting breast cancer after the second heat cycle.

3. Neutering male dogs or cats prevents testicular cancer.

4. A spayed female will not go into heat. There will be no yowling or frequent urination of your un spayed cat looking for a mate and no discharge from your unsprayed dog in heat.

5. Neutering dogs makes them less likely to roam. An un neutered male will go to extremes in searching for a mate, including jumping the fence or digging his way out of the yard. Once out, he is at risk of getting lost, getting hit by a car, causing an accident or getting into a fight. A dog who roams is also more likely to get external and internal parasites.

6. Neutered males are better behaved. They are less likely to be aggressive (statistically most dog bites are inflicted by intact males), less likely to mark their territory with strong smelling urine and less likely to mount when stimulated. Spayed and neutered dogs and catsare more affectionate and more focused on their owner.

7. Spaying or neutering your dog or cat will not make them fat! Pets become obese from lack of exercise and overfeeding. The myth that spaying and neutering your pet makes them fat is medically and factually indefensible.

8. Spaying and neutering your dog or cat helps create a safer neighborhood. Stray animals can cause problems in the community. They can prey on wildlife, cause traffic accidents, scare children etc.

9. There are no benefits of letting your female have “just one litter.” Research shows the whole pet population virtually stems from “just one litter.” Many pet owners think their dog is special and unique and that is why they should breed their dog. The shelters are full of special and unique dogs. Letting your children witness your dog giving birth to a litter that you do not intend to keep does not teach them about birth, it teaches them to be irresponsible. There are several videos on the computer for children to watch a cat or dog have kittens or puppies. Finding homes for the litter is not enough. An equal number of animals will then die in shelters. Furthermore what happens when the new owner doesn’t spay or neuter the puppy? What if they can no longer keep the puppy? Every time an animal dies in a shelter, someone somewhere is responsible. Don’t be that person.

10. Just because your dog is a purebred doesn’t mean it should be bred. 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred not including those in rescue groups.

Each day 70,000 puppies/ kittens are born in the United States, while only 10,000 people are born. Thats 7 dogs/ cats are born for every human born in the United States. Please be a part of the solution, spay and neuter! Thank you.

Pets Best Insurance: Why are fewer cats insured than dogs?

Posted on: February 14th, 2011 by

Three kittens with pet health insurance sit in a basket.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Pets Best Insurance President and Founder

For years there has been speculation as to why more dogs have pet insurance than cats. After all, it would seem that cat owners are just as attached to their felines as canine owners are. Yet, of the total number of insured pets, only 15-20% overall are felines. Why the difference?

A major factor is the misconception by cat owners that cats don’t need pet health insurance as much as dogs, because dogs tend to be more accident prone. While there is truth that cats have less veterinary medical visits than dogs, cats still have costly medical conditions just the same as dogs.

By nature, cats disguise their ailments. In fact, cats often hide their symptoms so well, it may cause medical conditions to become more severe when they are finally diagnosed. Adult cats are also more sedentary than dogs, which causes symptoms to go unnoticed early on. As pet owners, we expect our dogs to be running, fetching or following us around, and when they are not we become concerned. Because our expectations for cats tend to differ, we are often not as alert to early symptoms they display.

Kittens have accidents due to their inquisitive nature, but they will likely have fewer accidents than puppies will. Both kittens and puppies have an immature immune system, making them more susceptible to disease. Kittens have more viral conditions, such as upper respiratory conditions, than adult cats which are usually vaccinated and have also developed some immunity.

Feline Leukemia prevalence is highest from 1-6 years of age. Cystitis (bladder infections) is always one of our most frequent claims; while diabetes, kidney failure and cancer are some of the most costly conditions. The most common endocrine (hormonal) condition for cats is hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid.

This condition is more common in adult and older cats (4-20 years of age). There are literally thousands of medical conditions that cats can acquire. A few of the more common conditions are: cystitis, dermatitis, kidney failure, leukemia, numerous types of skin tumors, oral tumors, feline infectious peritonitis, abscess, liver disease, heart disease, various poisons, mammary tumors (most are malignant), lymphosarcoma and asthma to name a few.

With cats, an early diagnosis is important to restoring pet health. Watch for symptoms such as lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, difficulty breathing, not playing, or drinking more or less than usual. Weigh your cat at least twice a year to check for weight loss and have your cat checked at least once a year by your veterinarian. Twice-a-year visits are recommended for older cats and kittens.

Consider getting cat insurance for your feline, so that you will have financial help and peace-of-mind in knowing you can afford veterinary care. Feline pet insurance rates are typically less dogs’ and if you happen to have more than one pet, ask about multiple pet insurance discounts to save on your monthly premiums.