Pet health: Why is Cinnamon so sick?

A Chihuahua that could have benefitted from pet health insurance wears a collar.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Vet at Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Cinnamon’s family was excited; their 3-year-old seven pound Chihuahua had just given birth to 6 puppies! Cinnamon was a light chocolate brown color and her puppies looked just like her. It was her first litter and everything seemed to be going great. About two weeks after giving birth though, her family noticed something was terribly wrong. Cinnamon started to have a slight all over muscle tremor that quickly progressed through the day to almost seizure-like twitching and convulsing. Although they didn’t have pet health insurance for her, they were worried that she couldn’t even stand on her own, so her family called the clinic and brought her in for an emergency visit.

When Cinnamon arrived her temperature was getting dangerously high. It was close to 104 degrees due to her violent all-over body tremors and convulsions. After learning that she recently had six puppies, which is a BIG litter for a little Chihuahua and certainly a lot of puppies for a 7 pound dog to feed, we had a theory about what was wrong with her. Laboratory work was needed to confirm the diagnosis. Cinnamon’s owners would have greatly benefited from pet health insurance, as veterinary lab work and emergency care can be very costly.

Eclampsia or puerperal tetany is also called ‘milk fever.’ During pregnancy, especially in the last trimester and while nursing, the puppies’ nutritional demands are very high. The more puppies there are, the more nutrition the mother has to provide. One nutritional aspect that can become a problem is calcium. The growing skeletons of the fetuses, and subsequently, the puppies, have a high demand for calcium. The mother’s body will actually borrow from her own resources to keep calcium levels high in her milk, thus compromising herself. This dangerously low level of calcium is what causes milk fever.

Eclampsia is most common in small breed dogs with big litters. They generally have all-over muscle tremors and convulsions about 1 to 4 weeks after whelping. This is when the metabolic stress of lactation is at its highest. Early in the disease dogs may be restless, panting, whining, salivating or seem stiff. As the disease progresses, muscles will start to twitch and tremor. Severe cases can progress to seizures and even death. This is a medical emergency, as calcium is required for muscle function. The heart is a muscle, and without calcium, the heart can be compromised.

Cinnamon’s calcium level came back dangerously low and she was immediately given intravenous calcium slowly until she stopped convulsing. Treatment is very rewarding, and within about 10 minutes her body temperature had gone down and she could sit upright without jerking. She stayed in the hospital through the day and received repeated calcium injections until she went home on oral calcium supplements. Her pups were a little young to start being weaned, but typically as soon as possible the puppies should be on a milk replacer or solid food in order to lessen the nutritional demand on the mother if she suffers from this disease.

Prevention of this condition is with a high quality diet only. It seems counterintuitive, but supplementing calcium WITHOUT a diagnosis of eclampsia can actually cause the body to stop producing calcium, therefore creating an increased risk for the disease. Never supplement calcium without the supervision of a veterinarian.

For more information about pet health and pet insurance, visit

Cat insurance special: Get me to the vet

A kitten with cat insurance goes into the vet for a regular check up.

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

Even though there are more pet cats than dogs in the US, 40% of cats have not been to the veterinarian in the past year. There are also significantly less cats with pet insurance than dogs. One of the main reasons that cats are less frequently seen at vet clinics is because so many cats vehemently resist being put in a carrier and transported. It can be very stressful to the cats, and even more so to the owners. One way to diminish stess associated with costly vet bills is to look into cat insurance early on. Pet health insurance can make vet costs more afforable so you will be able to provide your kitty with the best care available.

A 2011 veterinary care usage study said that 37.6% of cat owners surveyed said just thinking about a veterinary visit was stressful! Don’t let this deter you from getting your cats the veterinary care they need and deserve. There are many things cat owners can do to make the trip to the vet easier for both you and your cats.

Cats are most comfortable in their own space and with people, places and situations they are familiar with. The visit to the veterinarian is often difficult because the carrier, car and clinic are unfamiliar. The goal is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with positive experiences and routinely enter it voluntarily. While this process is best started with kittens, carrier training is truly possible at any age, although it may take a bit more effort with older cats.

Begin by choosing a hard-sided carrier that opens from the top and the front, and can also easily be taken apart in the middle. This makes it possible for anxious, fearful cats to stay in the bottom half of the carrier for exams. Make the carrier your cat’s “home away from home.” Make it a comfortable resting, feeding or play location. Leave the carrier out in areas your cat likes to frequent, especially in favorite sunspots. Place fleece or other comfortable bedding that has the scent of your cat’s favorite person on it into the carrier along with a favorite toy.

Every day toss a favorite treat or kibble into the carrier so it becomes seen as an automatic treat dispenser by your cat. Feed your cat in the carrier. If your cat is afraid to enter, start by feeding right at the carrier door and gradually move the dish farther inside. Periodically use an interactive toy (a fishing pole-type with feather or fabric) to direct play to the carrier, encouraging your cat to jump in and out. It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier. Remain calm and patient, and reward desired behaviors with treats in the form of food, play or affection. The point of these exercises is to make the carrier a routine part of your cat’s life, not something that is associated with a dreaded experience.

When your cat is comfortable being in the carrier, close it up with the cat inside, calmly pick it up and walk for just a couple steps and then open it. Over time, take your cat on longer tours of your home inside the carrier. If your cat is anxious, you’ve done too much too fast. Back up to whatever point in training your cat had accepted, and then proceed slowly. Eventually you can even try teaching your cat to jump inside the carrier on cue with treats, toys or clicker training.

Once your cat is used to the carrier, take the cat on short car rides. The carrier should be placed somewhere in the car where it won’t slide or be jostled-that can frighten a cat. ome cats like the carrier to be covered with a towel or blanket, while others prefer to be able to see out. Try to make the trips as rewarding as possible with calming conversation, treats popped through the closed carrier door or even play. Keep the car windows closed, and avoid loud music on the radio and sharp turns. Mix in some fun trips or maybe a social visit to the veterinary office just to get a treat or two.

Another excellent way to reduce feline veterinary visit anxiety is to acclimate your cat to being handled as they would during an examination. Gently touch your cat’s paws, look into its ears, open its mouth, and run your hands over its legs and body similar to what your cat will encounter during the veterinary visit.

It takes time and patience, but you can be instrumental in helping your cat have more relaxed veterinary visits and improved healthcare.

For more information about pet health or pet health insurance, visit

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.

1 138 139 140 141 142 325