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Aging Gracefully and Pet Insurance Plans

Posted on: May 12th, 2011 by

An older dog with a pet insurance plan sits by his owner.

It is common knowledge that as pets age, more pet health issues are likely to arise. Many pet insurance companies counter this fact by putting age limits on their pet insurance plans. This puts the owners of many healthy older dogs and cats at a disadvantage, and could increase the likelihood of further pet health complications.

According to an article written for the Cherokee Chronicle Times, an estimated 75 percent of U.S. households own aging pets. These numbers are startling, considering older pets need proper preventative care, just as young pet do– but may be unable to receive it because some pet insurance companies won’t cover them.

Routine tests and services are essential to keeping dogs and cats in great health. Routine care can also prevent more serious problems from arising in the later stages of a pet’s life. Simple pet health care services such as teeth cleaning, heartworm testing, or urinalysis could improve the quality of a pet’s life, and ultimately leave more money in an owner’s pocket.

Luckily, there are pet insurance plans out there, like those offered by Pets Best Insurance, that do not have upper age limitations. Though usual limitations apply (such as pre-existing conditions and preventable diseases), no pet is turned away based on its age, so long as the pet enrolling is at least seven weeks old.

Just as you would take the necessary steps to ensure proper pet health care for anyone in your family, securing the proper pet insurance plan for your four-legged friend is equally important—at any age

Cat Health Issues: Limping and Hair Loss

Posted on: May 11th, 2011 by

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

The first question is from Crystal who asks, “My 13-year-old male cat, Jake, is limping and holding his paw in the air. It’s a little sensitive to the touch but he doesn’t like to be touched anyway. Any ideas, and what do I need to look for? Thank you.”

You’re going to have to go to a veterinarian for this one. There are a lot of things that could cause a paw to be sensitive. It could be something serious, like a broken bone, or a thorn in there or an infected nail bed. If it’s sensitive and he’s limping on it, it probably needs to be evaluated.

The next question comes from Tannan [SP] who asks, “I have a 6-year-old Persian cat that I adopted last December. She has recently, since I came back from a long vacation, been losing hair around her neck. What could be causing this?”

There are some stress-related conditions in cats that can make them lose their hair. For example, we leave for awhile and come back, or something changes in their routine. Usually they don’t really lose the hair. Instead, they’re licking that area and causing the hair to come out.

This is generally cosmetic and goes away when the stressful situation goes away. There are some other things that can cause hair loss, like ringworm or parasites, or you put flea medication on there and it’s causing a reaction. These would need to be diagnosed by your veterinarian.

The Dos and Don’ts of Breaking Up a Cat Fight

Posted on: May 11th, 2011 by

A cat with pet insurance prepares to fight.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

One evening last spring as I was leaving the house, my dog barked and scared my indoor cat Luisa outside where she came face-to-face with the neighbor’s cat. They both frizzed out and started yowling, and I knew I needed to stop the fight before it started.

I grabbed Luisa by the scruff with my right hand and planned to put her back into the house, but before I could, she turned her head and chomped down on my left hand. The next morning, I found myself in urgent care with a painfully swollen hand and a doctor who wanted me to go to the ER for intravenous antibiotics.

Most cat owners know the feeling: you find your cat face-to-face with a strange feline and the fur is about to fly. While having cat insurance can help alleviate vet bills if your cat is injured, in that crucial moment, you need to know what to do and what not to do in order to avoid a serious cat fight with potentially dire cat health implications.

DO remember that cats will make lots of noise before they’re actually fighting. All that caterwauling serves as a warning to get the other cat to back off before a physical fight starts. This phase will usually buy you some time to follow the tips below.

DO get all other pets and kids out of the area and prevent them from coming to see the action. If you have a dog, make sure it’s safely inside and close the doors so other pets can’t come out to investigate.

DON’T reach for the cats – not even your own. You absolutely will not be successful trying to swat them or break up a fight with your bare hands.

DO grab the nearest squirt bottle, water gun, watering can or hose. A good dose of water will separate most cats within a few seconds. Even if you have to run back into the house to get a pot of water, it’s probably the most surefire way to stop a cat fight.

DON’T hit the animals. Cat health can be seriously jeopardized with even the slightest whap of a stick or broom.

DON’T try to pick up your cat even when you think the fight is over – your cat will still be agitated and feeling defensive. If you absolutely must move her, grab a thick blanket, gently toss it over your cat and calmly carry her back into your house. The familiar scent and darkness created by the blanket will help calm her down.

DO check your cat carefully once she’s calmed down, and seek veterinary care if any contact was made between the two cats or if you see any injuries. Pet insurance for cats can help defray the costs of veterinary expenses due to cat fights.

DO consider spaying or neutering your cat if you haven’t already. Altered cats are less likely to be territorial and are less likely to roam and get into fights on other cats’ turf. Routine care coverage added to your pet insurance plan can often help pay for spaying and neutering.

Most cat fights only last a few seconds, yet can feel like an eternity when you’re standing there helpless. Keep these tips in mind and you could help avert disaster the next time your cat comes face-to-face with another.

Pet health: Seizures can be scary

Posted on: May 10th, 2011 by

A small dog with vet insurance recovers from a seizure.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Watching your beloved pet have a seizure can be a terrifying thing. Animals may jerk and convulse, lose control of their bladder or vocalize. Some studies suggests as many as 5% of the overall canine population suffers from some type of seizure disorder, people are probably closer to 1%. Becuase there are some breeds that can be more prone to seizures, lending a hereditary component in some cases, it may be a good idea to research vet insurance for your pet. While frightening, many seizure disorders can be effectively managed, and there are some RIGHT and WRONG things for you, the pet owner to do while this happens.

Abnormal brain activity is responsible for the sudden and uncontrolled movements that characterize a seizure. Because the brain is complex organ seizures can vary in severity and portions of the body affected. Grand Mal seizures are generally severe and affect all of the pet’s body, but petit or partial seizures may only affect a portion of the pet. For example, ‘fly biting’ or ‘chewing gum’ seizures cause a pet to snap their jaw, while nothing else is affected.

It can sometimes be difficult to determine if your pet’s episode is a true seizure. One of the hallmark characteristics of a true seizure is called the post-ictal phase. This is characterized by a period of time after the incident where the dog will act ‘off’ or disoriented. The post-ictal phase can last from minutes to hours, to the greater part of a day after seizure activity and can manifest as lethargy, depression, pacing, anxiety, vocalizing, even dementia or hyperactivity. This is not part of the seizure itself, but helps to confirm the seizure diagnosis. Some dogs will even have a short pre-ictal phase before seizing, where the animal can sense that something is coming on. Having pet insurance for your pet, can help to alleviate stress that may come from financial worries.

Seizures can have very serious consequences for an animal. Seizing for longer than 3 to 5 minutes can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs or in the brain, in addition to causing a dramatic rise in body temperature, which can damage organs. “Cluster” seizures, where a pet will fall into another seizure, just as they are coming out of the last one, can also be dangerous.

Causes for seizures can include epilepsy, or idiopathic seizures, where the cause is due to abnormal brain activity, but no other external factors. This is the most common cause for repeated seizures in dogs. Other reasons include exposure to toxins, low blood sugar, brain tumors, trauma, some organ dysfunctions such as a portosystemic shunt, and infectious or inflammatory conditions. Some conditions can be treated. For example, a pet with low blood sugar can be treated and never have another seizure, as long as their blood sugar doesn’t drop. Other conditions such as epilepsy can not be cured, but only managed. Having vet insurance can give pet owners piece of mind, knowing that vet bills can be significantly lower.

It is important to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian to determine if the seizures are triggered by an underlying treatable disorder, or if epilepsy is the likely cause. Your veterinarian will likely want to perform some laboratory blood work in addition to performing a good general exam. In an older dog, or in a dog where a brain disorder such as tumor or hydrocephalus (water on the brain) is suspected, advanced imaging such as MRI or CT scan might be recommended. Pet insurance can help defray these costs, allowing your pet the best possible diagnostic testing and treatment.

There are some things you should and shouldn’t do during a seizure episode. Do try to protect yourself from getting bitten, NEVER place your hands near your pet’s mouth. Do not try to comfort or hold a seizuring animal. Do not try to startle your dog ‘out of it’ by slapping, yelling, or throwing water on them. This will not work.

It is a good idea to try to clear the area of objects that a pet might injure themselves on, especially water or swimming pools. Keep your other pets away, some dogs might become aggressive towards the seizing animal. Notice the time, or start a timer; it can be difficult to estimate exactly how long the episode lasts when you are scared. If the seizure lasts longer than 3 to 5 minutes, or the pet has more than one in a 24 hour period, or if it is the first time your pet has ever seized, seek veterinary attention. Consider vet insurance as an important part of keeping your pets healthy as well.

What to consider when buying pet insurance

Posted on: May 7th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance sits in his master's lap.

By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Pets Best Insurance President and Founder

1. How are you reimbursed?
I mention this area because reimbursement issues can become your biggest area of discontent if you receive less than you anticipate for your pet’s medical cost.

Some pet insurance companies reimburse or pay claims based on a “set” benefit schedule. The problem with this is the schedule may not reflect what you are actually charged for veterinary care. For instance, if your pet had a broken leg that cost you $3,000; the pet health insurance company that operates from a benefit scheduled may reimburse a lesser amount after the deductible. This can be considerably less; leaving you with the balance. Pick a plan that pays a flat percentage (such as 80%) of your cost for pet health care and avoid this pitfall.

2. How long will it take to be reimbursed?
This is another important facet of cat or dog insurance that you may not initially understand why it matters. After all, with human health insurance, you go to your doctor and they submit the bills to the insurance company. The length of time this process takes is probably of little concern to you because your doctor or hospital is waiting for the funds, not you.

In contrast, with pet health insurance, you pay the veterinary cost upfront and then submit your claim to the pet insurance company, who will then pay you back. With pet insurance you are out-of-pocket for the cost up front and you may incur interest expenses on your credit card if your reimbursement is not timely from the pet insurance company.

It’s a good idea to ask what the average time is from receipt of a claim until payment is rendered by your pet insurer. If the company acts evasive, you have your answer; you will likely be waiting for your money for some time. Seek pet insurance companies that have a good history of paying their claims quickly. In addition, ask if they offer direct deposit, which can expedite your reimbursement.

3. How easy is it to file a pet insurance claim?
Another pitfall to avoid are the companies that make it difficult for you to file a claim and track your claims status. You should seek a pet insurance company that allows your claim to be filed electronically (email) for faster service. Also seek a company that will provide you with an email confirmation once they received your claim. And better yet, do a pet insurance comparison to find a company that will directly deposit your funds quickly.