Pet insurance special: How to change a pet’s name

A pet with pet health insurance eats from a bowl with the wrong name.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Years ago, before I work in the pet insurance industry, my friend Lauren adopted two female cats who she named Lily and Pumpkin. Imagine her surprise when the vet told her they couldn’t spay Lily because “she” was actually a “he”! Lauren opted not to change Lily’s name even though he was a big handsome tomcat, but I think many pet owners would have.

On a similar note, a quick poll on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page revealed that one of the first things new owners do (aside from purchase pet insurance) is changed their pets’ names. And I’ve done this as well. My dog Jayda’s shelter name was Caroline. It’s pretty, but it didn’t fit her personality and wasn’t good for quick, firm commands. Not to criticize – shelter workers are charged with naming hundreds of pets a year, and I’m sure coming up with names perfect to each personality isn’t high on their list of priorities. Still, most manage to be pretty cute. Simply Cats recently had an adorable litter of breakfast-themed kitties, including Syrup and Pancake.

So whether you’ve adopted a shelter pet or just regret the first name you chose, here are some tips on how to change your pet’s name without causing an identity crisis in your pet.

Let’s be honest – kittens aren’t likely to come when their names are called. Instead, they’ll run toward a crinkling food bag, a toy, a wiggling finger or the sing-song “kitty-kitty-kitty.” If you decide to change your kitten’s name, you can expect to do it without much hassle. Simply say your kitty’s new name while doing something that will attract her, then repeat her name, pet her and praise her when she comes. Be consistent and in time, Princess will forget she was ever called Gizmo.

Puppies, Cats and Dogs
There are two techniques to use when changing the name of a pet who already responds to one name.

Cold Turkey: Simply stop using the old name and switch exclusively to the new name. Use the same commands and tone of voice, and when you’re outside, keep your dog on leash until he or she has fully learned the new name and will come when called. You don’t want to revert to the old name in emergencies – this will only confuse your pet.

If you (and everyone in your household) can be consistent, cold turkey may work for you. This is also the better option if you’re going from “Mr. Snuggly Pup Woofle Pants” to “Spot”, since you won’t likely want to combine those names for any period of time.

Middle Name Game: Move your pet’s old name to the middle, and say the new name first. In my case, I could have used “Jayda Caroline”. Your pet will respond to the middle name for sure, and over time, will start to associate the first name with being called as well. When you see your pet is responding as soon as you start saying the first name, you should be able to drop the old name without any problems.

No matter how you choose to change, remember to give lots of praise every time the dog responds to being called, even if it’s just a look or an ear twitch at first.

Have you ever changed a pet’s name? Let us know about it in the comments. And remember that as a pet owner, you will need to ensure you’ve selected the name you want to keep for the duration of your pet’s life before enrolling your pet in a pet insurance policy.

National Veterinary Technician Week

A dog with pet insurance is cared for by a vet tech.

By: Ashley Porter
For Pets Best Insurance

The week of October 9-15, 2011 is National Veterinary Technician Week (NVTW), and this year pet insurance companies, pet related industries and vet hospitals will be celebrating the work of veterinary technicians everywhere. This year’s theme is “Pets and Vets Need Techs.”

NVTW was started 1993 by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) with a focus on celebratory activities. The goals of such activities are to:

– Educate the public about the work of veterinary technicians

– Emphasize the value of veterinary technicians

– Provide an opportunity for encouragement and team building among veterinary professionals

– Recognize the quality of relationships between veterinary technicians, veterinarians, and other veterinary professionals

This week is a great time to raise money for local animal charities, increase staff knowledge about issues in the field, and raise public awareness about veterinary technicians and veterinary services in general. Claims adjusters at Pets Best Insurance are all former vet techs. And to celebrate this week, Pets Best Insurance employees will be attending a special vet tech dinner.

You will want to publicize NVTW events a few weeks ahead of time at your clinic, pet supply stores, dog parks, and even the local newspaper. You could also ask for sponsorship funding for events from local veterinary suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, pet food companies, pet supply stores, and the state VMA.
Here are some ideas provided by NAVTA for both fundraising and awareness/education.

Fundraising Activities:
– Pet Parade – Pet owners and the veterinary staff can have community walk to raise funds for an animal charity.

– Dog Wash – Owners can bring their dogs to be shampooed and rinsed for a donation.

– Doggie Kissing Booth – Charge a small fee to smooch a pooch!

– Gift Baskets – Sell or raffle off gift baskets with products for different types of pets.

– Pet Fashion Show – Owners and pet can dress up in matching outfits or costumes and veterinary technicians can show off the latest in veterinary apparel.

– Animal Movie Night – Marley and Me, Paulie, and Babe are just a few of the many animal movies available to show. You could also serve snacks for the animals and pet-themed snacks, like puppy chow or goldfish, for their owners.

– Make a Community Pet Calendar –Have owners and veterinary staff send in pictures of their pets and pick the 12 best for a 2012 pet calendar.

– Have a Pet Look-a-like Contest – Have owners and veterinary staff send picture of themselves and their pets and post them in the waiting room to have clients vote for the winner.
Awareness/Education Activities

– Visit local schools and talk about being a veterinary technician.

– Offer to speak to humane societies.

– Have seminars on “How to Take Your Pet to the Vet” at local schools and community centers. Bring a friendly pet and offer advice on how to put the animal in a carrying crate, get it in the car, and take it to the office.

– Conduct seminars for veterinary clients to provide information about pet health and general pet issues.

– Hold an open house at the veterinary clinic with demonstrations of equipment and procedures.

– Have a seminar with other veterinary clinics in the area.

– Invite a knowledgeable speaker to come to your clinic and talk about advances in veterinary medicine

For more information and ideas, check out the National Veterinary Technician Week page on the NAVTA website at

Ashley Porter is a pet lover and pet insurance enthusiast who writes about various topics including pet health issues and is the owner of the site Veterinarian Technician.

Kevin and The Cat Doctor Part 4

Hello, I’m Dr. Jane Matheys with The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’ll be answering some questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

We are continuing our saga entitled “Kevin and the Cat Doctor”. Kevin’s question today is, “My cat keeps trying to eat my plants. Where can I get that grass that’s safe to eat and won’t cost me an arm and a leg to keep restocking?”

Some kitties really do like to chew on greens. We want to keep them away from lawn grass because most often that’s going to make them vomit. The grass that I recommend is just good old wheat grass. You can get this pre-grown from many stores. It’s typically organic, to stay away from pesticides. That’s really the easiest thing to do. If you’re concerned about cost, check your pet stores because they also have little packs that you can grow. Probably the most economical is to start from scratch and actually plant your own natural catnip or other grasses for your kitties to chew on.

The second question from Kevin today is, “How can I tell if my cat has a fever?”

A cat’s normal body temperature is a few degrees warmer than ours so the kitty is always going to feel a little bit warm to us, so that’s not a good way to tell. The only true way to tell is by taking the cat’s temperature. Unfortunately, the most common way to do that is with the rectal thermometer. Cats don’t appreciate it very much, but again, that will tell us for sure whether your kitty is running a fever and has a problem.

And finally from Kevin, “Cats seem to naturally know to use the litter box but can they be taught to hack up their hairballs onto an appropriate surface?”

That’s a good one, Kevin. I know exactly what you mean. I have a vomiter at home and she immediately heads for either the carpeting or a piece of furniture. I’ll tell you what. If you can figure out a way to train them to head for the linoleum, let me know. I could make a fortune on it. Thanks for your questions.

Bark Busters and Pets Best Insurance

A dog with pet health insurance works with a dog trainer.

By: Liam Crowe
Bark Busters CEO
Guest Blogger
For Pets Best Insurance

G’day! As a partner of Pets Best Insurance, I’m honored to represent Bark Busters USA, the world’s largest dog training company, as a dog behavior/training writer on their blog. Our companies have long shared a common mission: improving the lives of companion animals and their owners. Bark Busters Dog Behavioral Therapists across the nation help owners develop a lasting bond with their dogs based on respect and trust; pet health insurance through Pets Best is a good way to protect those relationships and make sure your beloved furry friends have the quality and quantity of life they deserve.

As a regular blogger, I’ll be providing training tips and advice on a wide range of topics, but in my first post, I’d like to introduce myself and share a little bit about Bark Busters’ dog training philosophy, methods and experience.

Our story begins with Sylvia Wilson, who, as the head of an RSPCA shelter in Australia, observed and analyzed the behavior and communication methods of dogs for 10 years. She was devastated at the number of dogs she saw being mistreated, abandoned and even euthanized for behavioral problems— problems that she knew could be resolved through consistent leadership on the part of owners.

In 1989, Sylvia and her husband, Danny, developed the Bark Busters training method— a system of natural training techniques that teaches owners how to train their dogs through consistent leadership, using a method of communication their dogs already know, based on voice tones and body language.

Fast forward to 1993, when my wife, Natalie, and I, as newlyweds, adopted “Buddy,” a Cattle Dog/Border Collie puppy. Cute as he was, his running away and barking at everything that moved had us at our wits’ end. We tried numerous training methods with no success—until a veterinarian recommended Bark Busters.

We were so impressed with the effectiveness of the training methods, the enthusiasm shown by the dog trainer, and the trainer’s obvious love of dogs (which we shared) that we decided to leave our current jobs to join the Bark Busters pack. After 12 months of intensive training, we took Bark Busters to New Zealand, where we set up seven offices. Ready for our next challenge in 2000, we relocated to Denver, Colorado, to co-found Bark Busters USA.

Now in 40 states, approximately 225 of Bark Busters’ Dog Behavioral Therapists in the U.S. are proud to use Bark Busters’ natural, dog-friendly training methods to help owners resolve behavioral issues and strengthen their emotional human-canine bonds. In training over 500,000 dogs worldwide, we’ve seen time and time again how much pets are a valued part of families today and consider it an honor to teach owners how to address their dogs’ mental, social and behavioral needs. And on this blog and beyond, we at Bark Busters look forward to a continued partnership with the caring pet insurance people at Pet’s Best Insurance, who complement our mission by helping owners care for their dogs’ physical well-being and health needs and protect these special relationships.

Distemper can kill: Vaccinate that kitty!

Three kittens with cat insurance are vaccinated against feline distemper.

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

We saw our first case of feline distemper in many years at our clinic this week. Personally, I had previously never seen distemper in all of my 21 years of practice. Many people have heard of feline distemper only because the distemper vaccine is part of the regular recommended core vaccines for all cats. Some cat insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, even help pay for a portion of this vaccine with their wellness plans.

Because the vaccine is highly effective, most cat owners do not have experience with the disease or even hear much about the actual feline distemper infection. The 4-month-old kitten that we saw was from a group of strays being fed and cared for by one of our kind-hearted clients. Kittens are especially susceptible to feline distemper because their immune systems are underdeveloped, and, despite our best efforts, the kitten declined very rapidly and died within 24 hours.

Distemper, also known as feline panleukopenia virus, is caused by a parvovirus and is seen worldwide in cats. It is closely related to the canine parvovirus, but does not harm dogs. The virus is extremely stable in the environment, and it can survive indoors at room temperature for a year. It is resistant to many disinfectants, but, fortunately, a 10 minute soak in bleach (diluted 1 part bleach in 32 parts water) exposure will kill it.

Feline distemper is spread through contact with an infected cat or an infected cat’s secretions such as feces, urine, vomit, or saliva. It can also be spread through contact with anything contaminated with an infected cat’s secretions including bedding, food and water dishes, and litter boxes. In addition, humans can infect a cat if their clothes or hands are contaminated with the fluids of an infected cat. Most free-roaming cats are exposed to the virus during their first year of life, so kittens can acquire immunity from their mothers, but the protection does not last long. Infection is largely limited to unvaccinated cats, usually kittens and young adults, living in groups. Barn cats and feral colonies, like the one that our kitten came from, are at high risk for outbreaks.

Symptoms typically show up within 10 days of infection. The first symptoms are usually a high fever and loss of appetite. The virus attacks the bone marrow which suppresses the production of white blood cells, hence the term “panleukopenia” (literally, “all-white-shortage”). White blood cells are immune cells needed to fight the infection, and without them the patient is completely vulnerable to the advance of the virus. In the intestine, the virus causes ulceration leading to diarrhea, life threatening dehydration and secondary bacterial infection.

A special syndrome occurs if infection happens during pregnancy. If the infection is in mid or early pregnancy, the kittens simply abort. If the kittens are fairly far along, the part of the brain called the cerebellum is involved resulting in cerebellar hypoplasia. The cerebellum controls unconscious balance and movement. Without a normal cerebellum, the kitten is born with marked intention tremors. Whenever the kitten focuses on purposeful movement like putting his head toward the food bowl to eat, the tremors are so much that normal movement is impossible. The head wobbles and shakes making eating and other activities difficult.

A diagnosis of distemper is based on compatible clinical signs and the presence of panleukopenia (very low white blood cell count). There are also special tests available that can be used in the clinic to show the presence of the virus in the feces.

Feline distemper requires aggressive treatment if the cat is to survive. There is little chance of survival without hospitalization. Treatment is through supportive care with antibiotics and aggressive fluid therapy to control dehydration. Other medications are added as necessary. If a cat is lucky enough to recover from infection, generally no permanent damage is retained and the cat goes on with lifetime immunity. Virus is shed for up to 6 weeks after recovery, so precautions still need to be taken to prevent spreading of the virus.

Vaccination is the most effective method of prevention. Excellent vaccines that provide solid, long-lasting immunity are available. I recommend starting vaccinations at 6-8 weeks of age with repeated doses every 3-4 weeks with the last dose given at or after age 16 weeks to avoid interference of immunity gained from the mother’s milk. The vaccine is repeated in one year and every 3 years thereafter.

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