Companies feature pet insurance in benefits packages

Though unemployment rates have climbed to their highest levels in over 15 years, competition remains fierce for growing business in the U.S. While standard benefits packages help companies draw and retain top talent within their field, some businesses are beginning to offer pet healthcare as an added incentive.

As many owners complain about the expenses of veterinary pet care, large corporations like Google, Disney, AOL, Home Depot and eBay are offering insurance plans for their employees’ dogs and cats, the Associated Press reports.

“We do offer voluntary pet insurance as one of our benefits,” Google spokesman Jordan Newman told the news source.

He added, “Google is committed to helping our employees lead healthier lives, and we try to support personal well-being in a number of ways.”

According to David Lummis, a market specialist at the research firm Packaged Facts, more than one million U.S. households currently have a pet insurance plan – a figure that is double the number in 2002.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that the average dog-owning household spent $356 on their pets in 2007.

Sick as a dog? Some vets say vaccine may help

Are vaccines necessary for sick pups?An Iowa cat and two Nebraska ferrets had Americans sweating last month after the animals’ owners and veterinarians reported that the pets had contracted the H1N1 virus. A stir of concern and activity pertaining to pet health recently resulted in debate over the use of a vaccine for H3N8, a new virus that has caused influenza in dogs.

Though the vaccine proved successful in 2004, when diseased horse meat was fed to a few greyhounds in Florida, some veterinarians are not recommending the preventative treatment, the North Platte Telegraph reports.

"We are simply not seeing this virus at all in the Midwest," Dr Craig Kelly, a veterinarian from the Westfield Small Animal Clinic told the news source.

"There have only been isolated breakouts in a few states, so we are not recommending something that is unnecessary at this time," he added.

However, Dr Ron Green from Heartland Animal Center in Nebraska believes that the canine flu is more widespread than just a few isolated cases. Green, who has already begun vaccinating dogs, told the news provider that 80 percent of all dogs in the Nebraska area are susceptible to the virus, which carries about a five percent mortality rate.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association says that veterinary pet insurance can be used to protect pet health and ensure the financial stability of its family.
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Florida man chooses pet pig over house

What's the price of owning a pig?Blinded by affection for their animals, owners may be able to overlook their pets’ faults when they occasionally dig into a flowerbed or stain a carpet. However, when town officials complain about the size, smell and danger of the pet, the protests may be difficult to neglect.

Rob Falk of Southwest Ranches, Florida was recently forced to choose between his 300-pound Yorkshire pig and his home, CBS affiliate Channel 4 reports.

Visitors to the rural town, known for its pastoral lifestyle, will see horses trotting on roads and chickens strolling across lawns.

Strawberry the pig, however, was too much for town officials to take. Last week Falk was asked to get rid of the pig or move out.

"They have big tusks that come out of the sides of their mouth. It’s not a pet," town councilman Freddy Fisikelli told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He added, "With that type of pig, the smell would be a problem and you’ve got the problem with danger," as well.

Falk, who considers Strawberry one of his children, told the news source that he and his family will keep their pet and move out of their rental home in Southwest Ranches.

Though considered a bizarre pet choice, pigs are known to be owned by celebrities including George Clooney, Jessica Simpson and Luke Perry.
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Pet ownership brings emotional, physical benefits

Dogs and cats may actually lower our blood pressuresAcross the country, pet owners collectively spend more than $45 billion and countless hours on pet care, and never get as much as a thank you from the beneficiaries of these expenses and efforts. But according to one author and pet-lover, it is the humans who should be thankful to household cats and dogs for all of their selfless services.

John Archer, author of Evolution and Human Behavior, insists that pets provide emotional, physical and therapeutic benefits which are well worth the money, PennLive reports.

As Archer acknowledges, pets commonly induce emotional reaction in owners that are similar to how parents respond to small children. "They make us feel valued and important, they offer unconditional affection," he told the news source. "They provide rhythm to our lives and give us vicarious pleasure in watching them play."

Additionally, a variety of studies has shown that lower levels of stress and depression, greater development of social skills in children as well as better physical health are linked to pet ownership.

Research by veterinary studies professor Johannes Odendaal has determined that blood pressure is commonly reduced by 5 to 10 percent after interacting with a dog or cat, the news provider reports.

While animals continue to look out for human health, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association says veterinary insurance can be used to protect pet health and ensure the financial stability of the animal’s family.
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Some health practitioners recommend pets over pills

Pets may be as effective as medications in some patientsDoctors, nurses and medical researchers are increasingly finding that the best prescription for some illnesses in older adults may be a dog. New studies have found that the presence of pets can help patients, especially those recovering from joint replacement surgery, minimize medication.

This development has resulted in a new sector of the pet industry, the Times of India reports. Julia Havey and Frances Vlasses have entered a fringe business of the healthcare industry by raising puppies to become assistance dogs.

"Evidence suggests that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) can have a positive effect on a patient’s psycho-social, emotional and physical well being," Julia Havey, a senior systems analyst at Loyola University Health Systems, told the news source.

She added, "Data further support the benefits and build a case for expanding the use of pet therapy in recovery."

Canine Companions for Independence, the nonprofit organization Havey and Vlasses founded, provides specially trained dogs to people with physical and developmental disabilities for free.

Focused on advancing the new AAT field, the National Institutes of Health have begun accepting proposals for studies which investigate how interactions between humans and animals affect development, especially in patients with autism.
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