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Pet health: Dental disease

Posted on: March 24th, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance waits for a teeth cleaning.

Dental disease is the most common issue affecting dog and cat health. Dental disease is caused by the buildup of bacteria and food particles on the teeth and along the gum line. The condition progresses when the plaque turns into tarter or calculus that forms a bond with the teeth.

Regular pet dental care is required for proper pet health and dental hygiene. Many pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, offer wellness and routine care packages that can help with the costs of teeth cleaning.

There are several factors that contribute to the formation of plaque and tarter on the teeth and gums. Older pets are more prone to dental disease due to having a longer amount of time for the plaque and calculus to form. The size of the pet and their breed also play a large role. Small dogs and cats are at higher risk of getting dental disease due to the small size of their mouths.

Dental exams shouldn’t just occur at your pet’s annual checkup. You should be examining your pets’ teeth and gums when you are brushing them. Signs of dental disease can include: difficulty eating or chewing, drooling, loose or missing teeth, red or inflamed gums, sensitivity around the mouth area, bleeding gums, bad breath, and pus around the tooth. Take note of any growths seen in the mouth as this can be a sign of oral cancer.

Be sure to research the best pet insurance options for your cat or dog to help with the costs of routine care. If you have any concerns about your dog or cat’s dental health, talk to your veterinarian.

It’s National Puppy Day!

Posted on: March 23rd, 2011 by

A puppy with dog insurance from pets best insurance sits in the grass.

Puppies are cute, fluffy, cuddly creatures that everyone wants to hold and play with. But they eventually grow into dogs and as puppies grow, their needs change, which is why it’s important to get pet insurance early.

“Puppies are a cross between a wayward bowling ball and a grasshopper…just add fur.” That’s animal behaviorist, “pet lifestyle expert,” and author Colleen Paiges’ apt description of a puppy. Anyone who’s been in the presence of puppyhood can attest to it. Paige is the founder of National Puppy Day, which falls on March 23, 2011.

Colleen Paige founded National Puppy Day in 2006 as a celebration of the joy that puppies bring to our lives. But it’s also to remind us of all the orphaned puppies that need adoption and the continued existence of abhorrent puppy mills. This holiday and others, like National Cat Day, are part of Paige’s Animal Miracle Foundation & Network that helps educate people and fund programs for pet health, safety, and awareness.

Puppy Facts
Newborn puppies are blind and deaf
• During their first week, about 90% of a puppy’s day is sleeping and the other 10% eating
• Puppy’s eyes open between one and two weeks old
• Puppies learn basic behaviors and discipline from their mother

A healthy dog depends on getting good puppy healthcare as they grow. Be sure and discuss your puppy’s health requirements, such as immunizations, with your vet. Celebrate a puppy on National Puppy Day!

Pet health: Cat nutrition

Posted on: March 23rd, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance eats a meal.

Posted by: HR
For Pets Best Insurance

As cat owners, you’ll hear a lot of debate about what to feed them. There are “dry vs. wet” food, “raw vs. cooked,” and “store-bought vs. homemade” debates going on. But probably the biggest discussion between cat owners and vets has been how much to feed your cat.
How much should you feed your pet to ensure proper pet health?

Overfeeding is one of the biggest contributors to pet health issues. Obesity in cats and dogs shortens life spans and is the cause of serious health problems.

According to Joe Bartges, DVM, PhD, DAVIM, DACVN, professor of medicine and nutrition at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, “Obesity is the most common nutritional disease seen in cats.” Bartges says pet health issues, including diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract and heart disease can result from obesity.

So how much should your cat eat every day and how often should he be fed?

• Check with your vet: Your vet is the best person to determine what’s right for your cat’s breed, body type, age, etc.

• Most recommendations say 24 to 35 calories a day per pound of the cat’s weight: This should keep the cat in a healthy range.

• Cats do better with feeding twice a day: Older cats often do best with their food provided in several small meals a day.

As a responsible cat owner, provide good cat health by keeping your cat’s weight within normal range. Cat insurance can help defray your vet bills, but good preventative care can also help keep those costs down.

Dog Health Questions, Answered

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by

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

The first question comes from Tina and she asks, “Will neutering my male dog help with his marking issues? In the last six months he’s begun lifting his leg on various outdoor items and he never used to do this. Could it be jealousy over our toddler getting more attention or territorial? Will neutering help, and if not, what do you suggest I try?”

This is a tricky one. Absolutely, neutering may help because marking territories is often a testosterone-driven behavior. I think it would be important for you to be prepared for this to not go away completely. Behavioral modification might be helpful for you; maybe disciplining him when he marks things that he’s not supposed to or making it less desirable for him to approach those objects and mark on them.

Know that this is a frustrating behavior and consulting with a behaviorist might be helpful as well. In addition to potentially helping with his marking issue, neutering is going to be helpful in general for him, not only to prevent unwanted puppies but it will decrease his risk of certain types of testicular cancer.

The next question comes from Amy and she asks, “I have a 9-year-old Great Dane and he needs a dental cleaning. I’m wondering if it’s safe for a Dane his age to go under anesthesia.” This is a terrific question and I think it’s a really common concern for people with older pets. Great Danes have a shorter life span, so 9 is pretty old for a Great Dane. Obviously you’d want to have an exam by your veterinarian, but if he has no underlying heart issues and his blood work screens for any underlying disease, anesthesia should be just as safe for him as for a younger Great Dane.

Oftentimes the amount of disease in the mouth is more harmful to the pet than the risks of anesthesia. If you have an exam with your veterinarian and you find underlying problems, such as maybe a heart murmur, or blood work shows that there’s some elevations in certain of the enzymes associated with organ dysfunction, you probably want to talk with your veterinarian in depth about whether the risks of undergoing anesthesia are worth cleaning up the amount of disease that’s in the mouth. It’s not always straightforward but your veterinarian should help you make that decision.

Idiopathic Vestibular Disease

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance is treated for Idiopathic Vestibular Disease.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Idiopathic vestibular disease is a pet health condition that can initially be terrifying to any pet owner. Imagine one day your older dog is fine, then the next she is falling down to one side, sometimes even rolling because she can’t keep her balance and her eyes are jerking back and forth.

Owners often fear the worst, thinking that their pet can’t possibly recover from such a horrible disease. We often think of it like a ‘stroke’, which can cause one sided symptoms in people, but the disease is actually very different, and when appropriately diagnosed, generally has a much better outcome. And if you have Pet insurance through a company like Pets Best Insurance, you can rest easy knowing 80% of the vet bill will be reimbursed to you.

The vestibular apparatus controls our sense of balance. It allows us to orient our bodies in relation to our world. If the floor were tilted, you could lean to compensate for this and still maintain your balance. There is a left and a right side which each gathers information from our world to transmits this to the brain. If all of a sudden one side isn’t working anymore, this one sided information wreaks havoc on the brain, which thinks its world is spinning or lopsided. The patient will tilt their head, jerk their eyes or fall to one side, thinking their world is off balance.

Part of the vestibular system is located in the middle ear, and the vestibular nerve exits from a specific location on the brainstem. The three most common reasons for vestibular disease include an ear infection, a brain lesion and idiopathic, meaning nobody knows exactly why it occurred. Clinical signs of vestibular disease include ataxia, or incoordination, head tilting or turning to one side, and nystagmus, or jerky eye movements. Patients will often feel intense dizziness or even vertigo, which can lead to motion sickness and nausea, thus many animals will vomit as well.

Vestibular disease is often mistakenly referred to as a ‘stroke.’ A stroke is a vascular accident that cuts off blood flow to a certain portion of the brain. While this is a rare cause of vestibular disease, generally this isn’t a true stroke, as there has been no vascular accident in most cases.

A central brain lesion causing vestibular disease can be a very serious, and often pets won’t recover well from this. Advanced imagining, such as MRI or CT scan is often needed to diagnose exactly where the brain has been affected, how serious it is, and whether it can be treated. Although these diagnostic tools can be expensive, many pet insurance companies will cover them. Ear infection causing vestibular disease has a much more favorable prognosis, treating the ear infection generally leads to recovery. Idiopathic vestibular disease, or “old dog vestibular disease” is the most common vestibular disease seen in cats and dogs. Interestingly, cats in the northeast united states are most likely to get this disease in the late summer and early fall.

It is important to immediately take your pet to the veterinarian if he or she is having symptoms of this disease so that it can be determined if there is central lesion, or an ear infection. Since this disease affects almost exclusively older pets, it is a good idea to have screening blood work performed to ensure there are no other underlying diseases. Once idiopathic disease is confirmed, treatment generally involves controlling nausea and letting the disease take its course. Usually there is noticeable improvement in balance within 72 hours. Most pets are nearly normal within weeks.

There will be intensive nursing care in the beginning, as your pet will have trouble going outside to potty and getting to the food dish. It is important to protect them from stairs or slippery surfaces where the pet could potentially harm themselves. It is also equally important to challenge them too! They have to re-learn to use their bodies. Provide sure footing, like carpet or grass and encourage them to try to get around. After recovery, most pets can return to their normal lifestyles.

While this disease is frightening and terrifying in the beginning, your veterinarian can help assure you that idiopathic vestibular disease carries a great prognosis. It’s one of the few diseases where you really can relax and know that things will improve and your pet will get better.