Pet Insurance Blog – Pets Best Insurance
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Dogs Who Eat Poop, Mast Cell Tumor Info

Posted on: February 1st, 2011 by

Hi. My name is Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I’m at home answering some of the questions posted on our Facebook page.

“How do I get my Chiweenie to stop eating poop?”

First of all, for those of you who don’t know what a “Chiweenie” is, it’s a cross between a Dachshund and a Chihuahua. This is actually a really common problem, especially in puppies and younger dogs, and it can be really disconcerting and kind of gross.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is really make sure you’re feeding appropriate food. A good quality dog food is really important. You’re going to want to make sure your pet is dewormed pretty regularly because this is one way that internal parasites can be spread.

You can try negative reinforcement and tell them “no” when they do this. Be sure to keep your yard really, really clean as well, so it’s less of a temptation. There are also some prescribed medications that can help deter pets from this nasty habit. Contact your veterinarian for more information.

The second question is, “Where are mast cell tumors found? Are they found internally as well as externally?”

The mast cell tumor is a specific type of cancer that dogs can get. It really can be a devastating cancer. Typically, it’s found on the skin, and that means anywhere. It can be on the limbs, the torso, or the head.

Generally, mast cell tumors first present on the skin but they can spread internally to lungs and lymph nodes and other organs. If you find a mass or a tumor on your dog’s skin that has you concerned, contact your veterinarian.

Not all pet insurance companies are equal, part 2

Posted on: January 31st, 2011 by

A dog and cat with pet insurance look over a white wall.
By: Dr. Jack L. Stephens
Pets Best Insurance President and Founder

To help assist pet owners in choosing a pet insurance provider and in selecting the best coverage, I am initiating the new “What to look for in pet insurance” series.

Once you decide pet insurance is right for you, then you must decide which company, what type of coverage and which benefits are best. I will not provide company names or plan types, but provide you with fundamental information that is important in the selection process for your pet and your pocketbook.

Pet insurance is licensed by your state
Pet health insurance is required to be regulated by each state under the property or miscellaneous class of insurance. Pets are considered property and as such, fall under that broad category of regulation the same as home owners, auto and other forms of property insurance. The benefits provided by the insurance contract and services rendered by the insurance provider are however very similar to our own health insurance. Unlike human health insurance, you pay the premiums, not your employer. And the premiums are not tax deductible (yet). Also, unlike human health care, in most situations, you pay for the veterinary services and submit your claims seeking reimbursement for those expenses from the insurance company. This may change over time, but for now this is the predominant method, since veterinarians do not typically bill for services or have the staff for billing.

Submitting pet insurance claims
Look for a pet insurance company that allows you to submit claims online by downloading your receipts and signed claim form or by faxing in your documents. Mailing your claim can add one or two weeks to receiving payment. Even more important, with some companies you can elect to have your payment deposited directly into your bank account the night your claim is adjusted and approved! We’ve receive compliments from our policyholders relating they received their funds before their credit card was debited!

Because you are paying the veterinary care upfront and then seeking reimbursement it becomes more important that you understand your pet’s coverage and “how it works.” Otherwise you can find yourself not being reimbursed for pet expenses you had assumed would be covered. In addition, you still have to make some provisions for payment until you’re reimbursed, which makes the turnaround time from when you submit a claim until paid very important.

The first part of a cat or dog insurance policy is the Declarations Page, which describes the insured pet, the policy term, the insured and type of coverage. Be sure to review this page for accuracy. The next part is the “Insuring Agreement” of the insurance contract which defines what is covered. Most companies offer “Accident Only”, “Accident & Illness” and optional “Wellness/routine care” benefits which can be added to the policy. There are special Cancer only, Surgical, Hereditary and Behavioral riders available with some.

And a few even offer vacation interruption, boarding of pet for policyholder illness, pet death and lost pet benefits as added coverage. Use care in selecting added coverage, because the value proposition may not be worth the added cost.

How pet insurance claims are adjusted
Part of the insuring agreement section gives an overview of how coverage is paid or reimbursed (this may be in another section on some policies). This part is critical because it tells you how much of your pet’s actual charges may be allowed. Some companies do not pay claims based on actual cost but on a predetermined schedule of cost. Your payment may be based on a benefit or fee schedule which has specific payment allowances, despite the charges you may incur. Or payment may be made on what is normal for your area. This is called “usual & customary”. How much your veterinarian charges, or your pets cost due to severity, complications, response to treatment or other factors may be considerably higher. Be sure to determine before your purchase whether the policy you select will pay a flat percentage of your cost. Otherwise, you may have a huge shock at being reimbursed considerably lower than you expected when an accident or illness occurs to your pet.

A dog or cat insurance policy literally covers thousands of medical conditions that can occur in pets. Insurance is not for ongoing medical conditions or for recently developed medical conditions prior to the policy effect date. It is for future unknown medical events that may happen. Pet insurance policies will also have waiting periods, and benefits will not be eligible until after the waiting period is over. Waiting periods vary by company and by type of coverage. For instance, accident coverage usually starts in 1 to 3 days, while illness coverage may take 14 to 30 days to be effective, depending on the company.

If your pet has a medical condition, whether diagnosed or treated prior to enrollment, you may want to ask when and if the condition will ever be covered by the policy before your purchase. I will discuss this more under “exclusions” in another series.

The following are things your pet insurance policy should allow or provide:

• Ability for you to use any veterinarian of your choice, an emergency clinic or veterinary specialist for your pet.

• A policy that does not set fees for services, diagnostics or treatments (benefit schedule). Good veterinary care should not be limited by a benefit or fee schedule that dictates reimbursements to you.

• Easy-to-read and understandable policy available to you for online review before buying. Use the internet to shop, but enroll only after you ask questions before you enroll. Call the company and ask your questions, if they are evasive, it likely will not be better after you buy.

• Ability to customize your plan from basic coverage to broader coverage providing you with options to better evaluate price to benefits.

(Next: Benefits you need, Exclusions and Benefits you may not need)

Pet health: Cat box training kittens

Posted on: January 28th, 2011 by

Two new born kittens play.

Kittens are born with the instinct to dig around before and after they eliminate. This instinct allows you to easily litter box train your cat or kitten. Cat box training should begin once you bring your new kitten home.

Before you bring home your new cat or kitten, you need to decide where you are going to put the litter box. It is best to put it in a quiet area where the kitten won’t be disturbed.

Areas with an easy to clean floor are ideal as this allows you to be able to easily clean up any litter that may be tracked outside of the box. If you have other cats in the house, you will want to get a separate litter box for your new cat.

There should be one litter box for each cat in the house, plus one additional. Some cats can be very finicky when it comes to their litter box. You also want to have a litter box on each level of the house. This will help ensure your kitten can make it to the litter box in time.

Once you are home you will want to begin kitten training. One of the first things you should do is show your kitten where the litter box is located. Place the kitten inside the box so that they will know that it is the litter box. Take the kitten to the litter box throughout the day until they go to the box on their own. Kitten training requires patience and repetition until they understand.

Pet health and behavior: Keeping your puppy happy

Posted on: January 27th, 2011 by

A puppy with pet insurance is in good pet health.

Puppies are naturally playful creatures and in order to keep them healthy and happy, you need to put in adequate effort. Unhappy new born puppies can easily turn into frustrated dogs with behavior problems. A happy puppy is one that is well balanced.

Enrolling your puppy in pet behavior training is an important step in ensuring your puppy is happy. Puppies need to learn that you are the leader. Following a confident leader will make the puppy more confident. A dog obedience training class also serves as a socialization class. Allowing puppies to socialize with others helps ensure happiness.

Crate training a puppy can also aid in their contentment. Puppies love to have a safe place they can sleep in, as it provides them comfort and reduces stress.

A final way to ensure your puppy remains happy is to exercise them daily. A long walk can help mentally and physically stimulate your dog. Puppies that are not mentally and physically stimulated can become frustrated. Frustration leads to behavioral problems like puppy barking and chewing.

Keep your puppy healthy and happy by keeping them up-to-date on their vaccines. In addition, ensure that they have regular check-ups. Keeping your puppy healthy will help them live a long and happy life.

With Pets Best Insurance you know the coverage you will receive. There are no hidden surprises, just great coverage at affordable prices.

Pet Health: Dog Alzheimer’s

Posted on: January 26th, 2011 by

An old dog with pet insurance displays symptoms of Alzheimers.Dr. Fiona is a guest veterinarian blogger for pet insurance provider, Pets Best.

It is an unfortunate fact that our pets age faster than we do. Even with pet insurance and the best care, Fido will likely reach his or her senior years before you, or will eventually surpass you.

In addition to common medical problems such as dental disease and arthritis, canine cognitive dysfunction is also a common occurrence in senior dogs. Recognizing its symptoms can allow you to help your dog to age gracefully.

Dementia is taken from the Latin roots ‘de’ meaning without, and ‘ment’ meaning mind, literally a lack of mind. Older dogs and cats, for that matter, can absolutely suffer from this debilitating syndrome just like older people. The accepted term in veterinary medicine is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CDS. It refers to the gradual onset of behavioral changes that cannot be explained by other illness, medical conditions, or sensory or motor impairment. Many experts liken the disease to Alzheimer’s disease in people.

The progression of clinical signs can be so gradual that often owners don’t recognize it is happening. The many behavior changes that manifest in this disease include disorientation and confusion; pets will wander, stare, or get ‘lost’ in familiar places. There may be a change in learning, or a change in previously learned behaviors, such as being house trained; a dog with CDS might start house soiling. There may be a change in your pet’s activity, s/he might be much less active, or might engage in repetitive behaviors like barking. There may be a change in sleeping patterns, including restlessness and irritability. There may be a decrease in your dog’s responsiveness to your voice, or other stimuli, which can appear as ‘selective hearing.’

Many older dogs suffer from this syndrome. Some studies suggest two thirds of dogs over the age of 11 show at least one sign of CDS. About half of owners with dogs older than 8 reported their dogs showed at least one clinical sign of CDS in one survey by Pfizer animal health. Only 17% reported these to their veterinarian. There have been no differences in susceptibility and dogs seem equally affected regardless of breed or whether they are spayed or neutered.

The reason behind CDS isn’t precisely understood, but we know that the brain atrophies, just like an unused muscle, as the animal ages. Research has demonstrated the formation of plaques, made up of a neurotoxic protein, can form in an older animal’s brain. This seems to compromise the brain’s function. In addition, neurotransmitters are altered during aging, making them less effective.

There are some things you can do to help prevent this disease from occurring, and even to help reverse some of the clinical signs as they occur. Be mindful of these changes; report them to your veterinarian. Enrich your older dog’s environment by providing new toys and play games with them. You might add a younger dog to the household to keep your older dog active. Take the dog new places and encourage them to be social. In one laboratory study, environmental enrichment over a two year period was demonstrated to be an effective tool for learning tasks.

There has been some promise of certain prescription medications, as well as a diet rich in antioxidants for helping pets with CDS. If you are concerned that your dog might be suffering from doggie Alzheimer’s, or if you have any other questions for your veterinarian, contact him or her for more information.