Boundary Training: No fence, no problem

A dog with pet insurance knows his boundaries.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

I make no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of electric fences. But many communities and subdivisions do not allow “visible” fences. So while there are many things you can do to protect pet health and safety, like signing them up for pet insurance, what is a dog owner to do if they can’t have a fence?

Boundary training is a great way to keep your dog in its yard without the use of electric fencing or even an actual fence. I also use boundary training to teach dogs to stay out of areas where they should not go, like flower beds and swimming pools. Many pet health insurance companies report injuries or illnesses stemming from dogs getting into areas or things they should stay away from. Boundary training can help keep your dog safe and healthy.

Training your dog to stay inside a boundary is quite simple. To get started you will need to purchase marker flags from your local hardware store. These are generally found in the garden section. You will also need high value treats for your dog. I like to use grilled chicken, roast beef, or cheese cut into very small pieces. Look for a treat your dog will go crazy over, and only use this special treat for boundary training. I prefer to use a clicker as a marker for training this behavior. The clicker is a reward marker communicating to your dog that she did the right thing and will get a reward.

You will start inside your house with your dog. Show your dog the flag, when she touches it with her nose click the clicker and give her a treat. This will teach her that touching the flag is what gets her the reward or treat. Next, place the flag a few feet away from you. Have your dog touch the flag; when she does this again you will click. She should then return to you to get her treat. Move the flag further way and practice having your dog go to the flag, click and give her a treat when she returns to you. By doing this, you will be conditioning your dog to move away from the flag.

Before moving the training outside, I like to work with my dogs for about a week to make sure they understand they are to move away from the flags. Remember to always use a clicker and a treat to reinforce this.

Once your dog understands they get rewarded for moving away from the flags, it is time to take the training outside. Place flags along your boundary line every 8-10 feet.

Using a 15 to 20 foot long line, walk your dog around the boundary of your yard. She should go to the flags and touch them. After this happens you will click and your dog should return to you for her treat. Remember to continue to use your clicker and click and dispense a treat every time she touches the flags. For the best success practice this several times a day.

You are classically conditioning your dog to return to you when she sees the flags. The flag become the cue to return to you, this becomes an involuntary response to the dog.

Practice as often as you can, 8 to 10 weeks of practice will help make this a very solid behavior. The more you practice the more solid the behavior will be.

As your dog gets better at returning to you, increase the length of the long line to 40 or 50 feet. You can also introduce some low level distractions to the training. This increases the difficulty of the behavior so make sure your dog gets a lot of praise and reinforcement for returning to you. Gradually increase the level of the distractions. If your dog is having trouble with this part of the training, make sure your distractions are not too high level.

The last step is working with your dog off-leash. Make sure you are supervising your dog during this part of the training. Reinforce your dog often during the off lead sessions. Be aware of what is going on outside your yard and if you feel the distractions are too much for your dog to handle put her back on the lead.

You will also want to make sure your yard is a fun environment for your dog. The yard should be a place where your dog feels safe and happy.

One last tip; Do not punish your dog if she goes out of her boundary. Simply call her back and praise her when she returns. This will teach her that being inside the boundary is always rewarding and good things happen whenever she is inside the boundary.

In the next blog we will learn how boundary training can keep your dog out of the flower beds, away from the pool, out of specific rooms in your home, etc.

Cat health: Feline Allergies

A cat with cat insurance eats a meal from a dish.

Like dogs, cats can also have allergies. There are several different causes for cat allergies including flea bites, food allergies, atopy (inhaling something like pollen or dust) and immune-response allergies, which can be very serious. Many pet insurance companies will cover allergies so long as they are not preexisting conditions.

Food Allergy
Cats can have allergic reactions to foods that cause similar responses in humans—soy, dairy products, wheat, or meats. To determine if a cat is allergic to a substance, they must be exposed at least twice. If a reaction happens after only one exposure, it could be an isolated incident.

• Symptoms: These can include itchy rashes on cats’ heads, necks and backs. Often hair loss and sores will result from scratching. Less common is redness and a discharge from the ears.

• Treatment: After it’s determined that a food is causing the allergic reaction, treatment starts with changing the food to a hypoallergenic type.

Inhalant Allergy (Atopic Dermatitis)
Sometimes you will see an inhalant allergy as the seasons change and pollen gets in the air. But mold, dust, and other irritants can cause the reaction as well. You may see itching and rashes on the cat’s head, neck. Excessive licking can cause hair loss.

This type of allergy is hard to differentiate from allergic reactions caused by insect bites. Diagnosis is often made after skin tests. Because quality veterinary care can be expensive, looking for the best pet insurance for your cat is a good idea.

• Treatment: As with foods, try to identify the allergen and remove it from the cat’s environment. The cat can also be treated with antihistamines, but this will not cure the allergy.

Immune-Related Skin Allergies
These are a group of diseases that come from the body’s autoimmune system “attacking” the skins. It’s the most common allergy seen in cats and results in itching and small pustules. In severe cases, symptoms include a fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

• Treatment: This can include corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs.

Watch for symptoms and signs of allergies in your cat. Because cat health care can be expensive, be sure to find a pet insurance company that will provide coverage for allergies.

Xylitol: Bad for pet health

A dog with pet insurance recovers.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that was first discovered in the late 19th century and first was used as a safer alternative to sugar for diabetic patients.

In the 1970s its benefits in oral health was discovered and since then it has been used to sweeten dental products such as toothpaste and mouthwashes, in addition to sugar-free gum and candy. It tastes and looks like sugar and in people has very little side effects. In dogs, however, xylitol can be very dangerous, and even fatal. Just one or two sticks of sugar free gum could cause severe pet health problems in even a 20 pound dog.

In dogs, xylitol encourages the release of insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin, in turn, moves glucose (sugar) into the cells, causing the glucose levels in the bloodstream to drop. The result can be severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypogylcemia can cause tremors, weakness, collapse, seizures and even death. High doses of Xylitol can also damage the liver causing necrosis and can be fatal.

If you suspect your dog has ingested sugar-free gum or other product containing xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately. While there is no antidote or reversal for this toxicity, vomiting, which can remove the toxin from the stomach, can be encouraged if caught soon enough. Your veterinarian will want to run a blood panel to determine if your dog is hypoglycemic or having indications that the liver has been affected.

Treatment typically involves administering dextrose, or sugar, through an IV catheter, and intensive supportive care and close monitoring over several days. The effects of Xylitol generally wear off in several days. If liver damage has occurred, additional treatment is likely necessary and may be quite involved. Pet insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance, often cover toxicity.

Pet health insurance can help with some of the costs accrued from accidental toxicities.

Older Pet Health – Incontinence and Weight Loss

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

The first question comes from Amy. She asks, “Is there anything that can be done for older dogs that start having accidents during the night? We’ve been letting our dog sleep with us for 11 years and now we keep waking up to accidents. We’re unaware that she needs to be let out because she’s doing this in her sleep.”

This is a great question and there are some things that you can do. There are three things that come to mind that can cause this. First is that older dogs, especially females, can start to lose some of the tone in their urethra. This can cause them, without knowing it, to void their urine while they’re sleeping. There are some drugs that can be taken to help treat and prevent this but you would need to see your veterinarian for it.

In addition to that, urinary tract infections and some things that can sometimes make older dogs drink more water and therefore have more urine in their bladder can possibly cause this. I would say a great place to start would be to take your older pet to the veterinarian, have them look at a urine sample, and they can help you go from there.

The next question comes from Cindy. She says, “What do I do when my older cat is slowly losing weight for no known reason? How much does she have to lose before I get concerned about things like fatty liver? In her case, they ran blood tests and everything was fine. Changing her food is difficult as she free-feeds dry food and the other cat is overweight. Neither cat likes canned food.”

This is really common in old cats. They tend to start to lose some weight. Generally, it’s related to an underlying problem. I can’t comment on the blood work that was done beforehand, but make sure that your older cat is tested for thyroid disease and that a really good screening panel is done.

In older cats, there are three things that come to mind for me as specific diseases that can cause weight loss; an overactive thyroid, diabetes, and kidney disease, although there are other things that can do this, too. Make sure that the blood work that they’re running screens for these diseases. If you’re still unhappy, you can consider going to another veterinarian and getting another opinion, or you can go back to your veterinarian and tell them that your pet is still losing weight and see what tests can be done to make sure they recognize any underlying cause.

Top 4 tips for good cat parenting

A kitten with pet insurance sits in a food dish.

Posted by: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

In the U.S., there are 16 million more pet cats than pet dogs, according to the Humane Society of the United States. While 39% of households have dogs and only 33% of households have cats, most cat owners have two or more cats while most dog owners have just one dog. Less than 1% of all all cats and dogs in the US have pet insurance.

Cats are popular pets for many reasons. For many, it’s their ease of care. Their independence means owners needn’t worry when away from home. Most cats are just as content with company as without most of the day. As long as they have all the necessary cat essentials within paw’s reach, cats are mostly self sufficient. More and more cat owners are also starting to see the benefit of pet health insurance for their cats– and with pet health insurance cat owners can ensure their cats are in best possible health they can be in.

Attention and Affection
May 30 is Hug Your Cat Day, but that doesn’t mean you should refrain any other day of the year. While many cats are independent, many are not, and almost all cats love affection sometimes. Like a child, any pet can become destructive out of boredom if not paid attention and shown appreciation.

Toys, Toys, Toys
Cats have a deep-seeded desire to hunt, which equals play and exercise inside the home. According to a publication by the University of Maine, “Even when fed regularly by people, a cat’s urge to hunt remains strong.” Cats instinctively chase almost anything that moves, be it a real or play mouse, a fly, or their owner’s shoestrings and feather dusters. While almost anything can be used as a cat toy, from a sock to an empty paper towel roll, pet safety should always be of concern. Like dogs, cats often ingest things they are attracted to, and this can lead to an emergency vet visit or worse.

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Proper Pet Health Care
The fact that cats have an easy-care reputation doesn’t mean they are a “get it and forget it” pet. Annual vet visits and pet health insurance can help with the plethora of health concerns that can arise for cats, from spaying and neutering, to that emergency visit for an ingested piece of string, to potential issues like diabetes or periodontal disease. Pet insurance cost is also at its lowest if attained early in the cat’s life.

Perches and Scratching Posts
Cats love to scratch; it’s another instinctive and natural behavior. According to a video by the veterinary experts at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cats scratch to mark their territory, groom their claws, and to stretch and build their muscles. Declawing is an elective surgery that is not covered by pet plan insurance, and diverting scratching to posts is a more humane and cost-effective solution. Scratching posts that are also perches—cat trees and condos—offer exercise and a place where cats can climb to and feel safe.

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