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Predator or Prey?

Posted on: March 11th, 2011 by

Arden Moore, a pet insurance advocate, author of the Cat Behavior Answer Book.

Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance

Q. My three cats seem to enjoy batting around toy mice and chasing the feathers on a wand toy. Why is their hunting instinct so strong after they have been domesticated for thousands of years?

A. While we usually think of cats as mighty hunters, they actually fill the role of both prey and predator, depending on the other species involved. Let’s start with the predator part. All cats, from a mighty lion to that sweet kitty on your lap, are genetically programmed to hunt. In keeping with their size, cats focus on small mammals and birds. Interestingly, most biologists regard cats as small mammal experts and bird opportunists because cats tend not to be very good at catching birds unless the birds are sick, young or ground nesting.

Predator behavior is mostly innate, and kittens early on show a tendency to chase moving objects and to pound on littermates. Just like us, they learn through trial and error, and their play sessions help them increase their speed and refine their leaping abilities.

Their moms also teach them by example. Outdoor cats often bring home a dead mouse or bird to their litter and eat it in front of the kittens to demonstrated needed behaviors. She will then present a dead animal to the kittens to eat themselves, and finally, will bring home a nearly dead creature for the kittens to finish off. These experiences hone their hunting and killing skills. For indoor cats, the prey happens to be a store-bought toy or perhaps your pink slipper. But the lessons learned are the same, and many cats who never see a mouse or a bird until adulthood quickly figure out how to catch and kill their prey.

When the tables are turned and cats become the prey, they tap into their survival skills and the fight-or-flight mind-set. Outdoor cats are at risk not only from neighborhood dogs; even in suburban areas they often fall victim to coyotes, hawks, and other predators. Their first response is usually to flee if at all possible, either diving into a hiding place or scooting up a tree. A cornered cat can fight fiercely, however, as many a startled (and scratched) dog has discovered. The very tools that make them effective predators become their best defense. That must be where the phrase, “to fight tooth and claw” comes from!

Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”

Arden Moore, a pet insurance advocate, sits with her pets.

On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Moore, who hosts the “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio ( – the No. 1 pet podcast in the world — by visiting her Four Legged Life website (

Pet health: When your pup’s breath isn’t so sweet

Posted on: March 10th, 2011 by

Posted by: HR
For Pets Best Insurance
A puppy with dog insurance lifts a paw.

Do you sometimes joke about your dog’s “puppy breath?” It’s fun to joke about, but proper pet health care should include dental health, too. Remember how your dog’s breath smelled when he was a puppy?

One of my favorite quotes about dogs is from Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM (better known as Dr. Tom Cat), a veterinary consultant who practiced all over the world: “Of all the things I miss from veterinary practice, puppy breath is one of the most fond memories!”

Despite all the treats and kibble that claim to clean our dog’s teeth, after a few years puppy breath can still go from sweet to sour. This odor can signify potential bigger problems, like periodontal disease and an infection that can travel through the bloodstream from the gums to other areas of the body. But cleaning a dog’s teeth doesn’t need to be difficult!

Having dog insurance can make annual or bi-annual vet visits and teeth cleanings more affordable when routine care coverage is added. In between those visits, yummy doggie toothpaste often means brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t hard. Watch the video by Dr. Fiona Caldwell for a quick doggie tooth brushing demonstration.

Teeth cleanings performed by your vet can often begin with an appointment for a simple scraping and polish, and then become a surgical extraction of bad teeth performed under anesthesia. This surgery may be necessary to keep your dog healthy, but pet insurance with wellness coverage can help keep costs down and tails wagging.

Making the Switch from Puppy Food and Dog Soft Spots

Posted on: March 9th, 2011 by

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

The first question is, “At what age should I switch my young dog from puppy food to dog food?” I like this question because every dog is a little bit different. If you’ve got a bigger breed dog, like a Great Dane or a Labrador, or something that grows really quickly, it’s pretty important that they be switched earlier than you might think.

Growing too fast with rich puppy food can sometimes cause some orthopedic problems in these bigger dogs so switching as early as four, five, or six months of age in the really fast growing breeds can be safe. A smaller breed dog, like a Chihuahua or Shih Tzu, can typically stay on puppy food longer, but remember that they stop growing quicker than big dogs do and so will likely need to be switched to adult food before one year of age.

The next question is, “My Chihuahua has a soft spot on the top of her head. She’s almost four years old and it doesn’t seem to bother her. Is this common and can it be problematic?” This is really common in Chihuahuas. We’ve bred them to have this sort of cute, domed forehead. Unfortunately, that makes them predisposed for the plates of the skull to not come together 100%. Most of the time it doesn’t cause a problem. If it’s small it should be fine, but do know that the soft spot is basically an area where there’s a little less bone covering the brain so it is important to make sure it’s protected as best you can that from trauma or anything like that.

Dog Heartworm Prevention and Cat Hair Loss

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by

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

The first question is, “What’s the best defense against heartworm for those living in the South?” This is a great question because heartworm disease is really prevalent in the South or anyplace that has a lot of mosquitoes. The best defense is going to be going to your veterinarian and get a prescription heartworm medication. Generally, these medications are given once a month and are really quite effective at preventing heartworm disease. Over-the-counter products or mosquito repellents are not going to be as effective.

The next question comes from Sarah. She asks, “My 13½-year-old cat had his teeth cleaned last weekend and now he has lost hair above his right eyebrow. He still has his lashes but I thought this was odd. Should I be concerned?”

It’s hard to say without seeing your cat, but I would bring it up to your veterinarian. Sometimes when there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the mouth, the head may be positioned in such a way that it possibly rubbed on the table or came in contact with something. Call your veterinarian and see if they’ll do a follow-up. A lot of times veterinarians are happy to follow up after a procedure to make sure everything went smoothly.

Pet health: Brush their teeth to keep them healthy

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance gets his teeth brushed.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is an important step in maintaining proper pet health. A daily tooth brushing is the first line of defense against dental disease. Dental disease is a common health concern with an estimated 80% of dogs and 70% of cats having some form by the age of 2.

Take the steps to help your pet avoid this common health issue by including pet dental care into your daily routine. Some pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, will even help with the costs of annual teeth cleaning with their wellness plans.

You may be thinking that brushing your pet’s teeth is impossible. At first, your pet may not like having their teeth brushed, but you can make it a tolerable experience. The key to success in dog and cat dental care is having the right tools for the job and taking your time when brushing.

Make sure that you have the appropriate sized toothbrush. If you have a cat or small dog you will want to choose a small sized toothbrush. Choose toothpaste formulated for pets. Pet toothpaste comes in many flavors such as bacon or liver—choose a flavor that you think your pet will enjoy.

Once you have your pet’s toothbrush and toothpaste, you are ready to brush their teeth. If this is the first time, take it slowly. Begin by brushing their teeth in circular motion until you have brushed the entire surface of each tooth. Take breaks if your pet needs them. Keep the experience a positive one by offering treats and praise when you are finished.