Slick Mick feeling sick from a…

A Bicho who could benefit from pet health insurance sits and waits.

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

Slick Mick wasn’t feeling so slick, in fact, his owners were pretty sure he was feeling sick… Slick is a 5-year-old Bichon with thick curly white hair and a spunky disposition. But after camping with his family the previous week, he began acting strangely. He wouldn’t jump up on the couch and he was reluctant to go through the doggie door.

Initially the family thought he might just be sore from all the hiking and outdoor activity earlier. Through the weekend Slick went from seeming sore to being weak and wobbly in the hind legs. Although his owners didn’t have dog insurance for Slick, they thought it was time to take him into the vet, so they made him an appointment for that Monday.

Slick Mick had trouble placing both hind feet right side up when the veterinarian put them upside down. And he was very weak in his hind legs, close to paralysis. These symptoms indicated a neurologic problem, and the veterinarian diagnosed disc disease and prescribed medication. Relieved, Mick’s family went home, but that night something troubling occurred; now Mick couldn’t use his front legs either.

Alarmed, the family returned to veterinarian’s office, it was agreed that disc disease couldn’t explain progressive paralysis, especially in the front legs. The recommendation was that Mick should be hospitalized until his disease was determined. Pet Health Insurance would have been helpful in Mick’s case, as hospitalization is generally expensive, and it was unclear how Long Mick would have to stay.

Progressive paralysis can be very serious, as muscles slowly lose their ability to function. The muscles used in the diaphragm, for example, are essential for breathing, and thus, for life.

As the veterinarian was taking Mick’s temperature, something that was overlooked before, surfaced. Mick had a tiny tick attached under his tail. While this may seem trivial, this was a huge clue to Mick’s paralysis disease. Slick Mick was diagnosed with Tick Paralysis, a potentially fatal disease carried by the common ticks in North America.

Tick Paralysis is characterized by a sudden onset of progressive muscle paralysis. It is caused by neurotoxins in the saliva of certain female ticks. Not all animals will develop the disease if bitten, and not all female ticks carry the toxin. There are four species of ticks in the US that can secrete this neurotoxin, and they are found throughout the United States.

Slick Mick had been camping just one week prior; clinical signs of the disease generally occur 5 to 9 days after the animal has been bitten. The toxin interferes with the nerves’ ability to communicate to muscles, thus the muscles receive no signals and are flaccid. Typically rear leg weakness is noticed first, which will rapidly progress to involve the front limbs as well. Eventually, within days the patient will be completely paralyzed. Occasionally nerves that control facial muscles, swallowing, barking or vocalizing can be involved. If the muscles involved in breathing are affected the patient will die unless on a respirator.

Removal of the tick generally allows resolution of clinical signs and paralysis within hours and complete recovery is achieved in days. It was quite miraculous to see Slick Mick regain the use of his legs within the day after the tick was found on his bottom. It is easy to overlook or miss a small tick attached to your pet, but the use of flea and tick preventatives in the spring, summer and fall can prevent this disease. Some pet insurance companies will even help to cover a portion of flea and tick medication.

Slick Mick’s recovery was complete and he went home the next day, feeling as slick as ever, sans tick.

Hairballs in Older Cats, Vitamin C for Joint Health

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

This question is from Sarah. She writes, “My cat, Sid, is almost 14 and he keeps vomiting hairballs. I know he’s getting old. He’s on KD and boiled chicken only, but is there anything else I can do to help him? He’s purring all the time and loves life.”

KD is a special diet that’s formulated for kidney disease in cats so I’d imagine Sid’s probably suffering some kidney disease. I would make sure that his vomiting isn’t actually related to progression of his kidney disease and really is related to hairballs. If he hasn’t been looked over by your veterinarian recently, you might want to look into that.

If it truly is hairballs, you can try grooming him. Brush him daily. That will help get some of the hair off so that he’s ingesting less and therefore throwing up less hairballs. Depending on how long his coat is and what his temperament is, you could consider shaving him as well. Some cats hate it and shouldn’t be shaved; other cats don’t mind it. It could be a way to keep his hairballs down.

The next one comes from Joyce. “I know that glucosamine is a good choice for a mild luxating patella in my Yorkie. Should I give vitamin C as well?”

Luxating patella is a condition that Yorkies and other small dogs can be prone to, where the knee cap will pop out. It can predispose them to arthritis, so glucosamine is a great idea to help keep the joints as comfortable as possible.

Vitamin C probably wouldn’t necessarily help with arthritis. There has been some evidence that things like omega fatty acids and other antioxidants can be good in general. It’s not going to hurt to give vitamin C, but it’s not necessarily going to help with a luxating patella.

Case of the yellow cat

A sick cat in need of pet insurance visits a vet.

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

Thai is a handsome 7-year-old seal point Siamese cat who was presented to our clinic several months ago for lethargy and anorexia of three days duration. A physical examination showed that he was moderately dehydrated, painful in his belly and most importantly, his skin was yellow. Because his owners had purchased pet insurance early on, they were prepared for Thai’s health care costs.

This yellow color to the skin and mucous membranes is called jaundice, and in cats it usually indicates liver disease. Less commonly, it can be seen in diseases involving anemia where the body is destroying red blood cells and the waste products build up causing the yellow color. Jaundice always points to a serious illness, and as a veterinarian, I cringe when I see it because I know the cat is potentially in big trouble.

Thai was hospitalized and started on intravenous fluids. Blood samples were obtained, and a pain patch was placed on his back foot. Test results ruled out anemia, but pointed directly to problems with the liver and gall bladder. One of the main liver enzymes in the cat is called ALT and it should measure less than 100.

Thai’s value was elevated at over 1000! It was mostly likely caused by liver inflammation with possible infection. He also had bilirubin levels almost 25 times normal. Bilirubin is a break-down product of bile that is normally made in the liver and released from the gall bladder into the intestine to help with digestion. If the bile is prevented from leaving the gall bladder, too much bilirubin can remain in the blood eventually leading to jaundice as with Thai. He was started on antibiotics to help with possible infection in the liver and gallbladder which are connected.

Thai was continued on supportive care the next day. He ate a small amount of food, but still had belly pain, jaundice and mild dehydration. An abdominal ultrasound was performed on day 3, and Thai was found to have an obstructed bile duct. It was planned to transfer him to the local 24 hour emergency and referral center the next day for an expensive, but potentially life-saving, exploratory surgery and treatment of the obstructed bile duct.

Thai must have been listening to our conversations about surgery, because by the next morning he was eating and feeling better, and his ALT and bilirubin values had decreased by half. Surgery was postponed, and new medications were added to his regimen to help the liver and gall bladder heal. Thai continued to improve, his jaundice color began to fade, and he was released from the hospital on day 5. He continued on antibiotics and gall bladder medications at home , and 2 weeks later his liver and bilirubin values were almost back to normal and he was doing great.

We’ll never know for sure what caused the bile duct obstruction, but Thai’s owners were thrilled to have their talkative boy back to good health and part of their family again. They were even happier that they had made the decision to purchase pet insurance for Thai with Pets Best Insurance. It gave them great peace of mind that cost was never a major factor in making medical decisions for their beloved pet.

I remember the owners mentioning to me how pleased they were with the benefits, coverage and quick turn-around time on claims. This was before I even knew about Pets Best Insurance and before I started writing blogs for the company, so be assured that this is an unbiased, true testimony! I encourage pet owners to check out the facts to see if pet insurance can help their furry friends enjoy longer, healthier lives too.

Cats Won’t Eat Wet Food; Cat Who Bites

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys with The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Today I’m going to be answering a couple questions from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

First we have a question from Katie. She writes, “My two cats will not, under any circumstances, eat wet cat food, regardless of brand or flavor. One will drink the water from canned tuna but neither will touch the tuna itself. We let them free-feed dry food. Is that okay? One of them is a bit overweight but the other one is fine.”

I see the most problems with cats being overweight and obese in cats that are fed strictly dry food on a free choice basis, meaning the owner just puts the bowl out and they eat as much as they want during the day. The dry food is higher in calories because of the higher carbohydrate content and we’ve made it so great tasting that many cats will just overeat and gain weigh. I prefer feeding twice daily with canned food, especially the grain-free varieties, but as you found out, a lot of cats don’t really like the canned food, especially if they’ve eaten nothing but dry food since they were little kittens.

Cats can definitely become carbohydrate addicts and they tend to like that crunchy texture of the dry food, too. One of the best websites that I know of has a really nice section that talks about how to transition your cat from the dry foods to the canned foods. That website is Check that out. It’s written by a veterinarian and it can be very helpful to get your kitties to like the canned food.

The second question is from Linda. She writes, “Five months ago I adopted a cat who had been in and out of the Humane Society. She’s bitten me a few times recently and shows jealousy around my other pet. I recently started giving her less food to control her weight. Could this be why she bites me?”

Decreasing her food probably does not really have much to do with her biting. It sounds like she has a long history of having gone through a lot of trauma in different homes and things of that sort, so probably the aggressiveness arises from something like that rather than her having less food to eat.

Cat bites can sometimes be very dangerous. People certainly do occasionally end up in the hospital from a cat bite, so her behavior is not something that we want to take too lightly. I encourage you to talk to your veterinarian about this behavior issue with her. Try and get that under control so that she doesn’t cause damage to you. Once that is under control, continue to work with her diet and her weight loss because that’s going to be very good for her in the long term, too.

Mast Cell Tumor Info and OTC Pain Meds for Dogs

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

The first question comes from Maria. She asks, “What’s the typical prognosis for a dog with a mast cell tumor on his snout that is oozing blood?”

Unfortunately, mast cell tumors are pretty aggressive tumors, especially ones that are near the mouth. Prognosis without surgery typically isn’t great. Mast cell tumors can be surgically removed and there are some new chemotherapy drugs that have a lot of promise. Contact your veterinarian and see what options you have.

The next question comes from Susan. “Is there a good over-the-counter pain reliever to give a Doberman?”

Not really. The over-the-counter things that you can get at the pet stores typically have aspirin in them, which can be safe in small doses for some dogs, but Dobermans tend to be prone to certain bleeding disorders. I would recommend that you get a prescription pain reliever for your Doberman.

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