Pet Insurance Blog – Pets Best Insurance
Get a Pet Insurance Quoteor call 877-738-7237

Callie’s Healthy Vacation

Posted on: August 2nd, 2007 by

By: Arden Moore

Indoor cats – guaranteed to be free of risks from illness and injury, right? Wrong. For 12 years, I have jokingly regarded my calico cat, Callie, as a “cheap date.” The reason? For a dozen years, all I’ve need to spend on her was routine needs – food, treats, bedding, toys and annual veterinary exams. She was the poster cat for feline health.

She has spent her life indoors since I adopted her as a tiny kitten found running the streets of Miami. She goes outside to my fenced backyard, supervised by me, and she strolls back into the house when I say, “Callie, inside.”

For the past few years, however, her belly has grown and I nicknamed her “Calorie.” I knew she wasn’t to blame for the added weight. She wasn’t raiding the refrigerator at night while I was asleep or pilfering food from the dogs’ bowls. The blame belonged to me because I wasn’t paying attention to her food portions.

But a couple months ago, I noticed that Callie was slimming down. It’s natural to take credit for this fit feline look, but I knew unexplained weight loss often signals a silent health condition.

My veterinarian confirmed my thoughts: Callie was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a silent disease that strikes middle-aged and senior cats. It is caused by a benign tumor in one or both of a cat’s thyroid glands, which in turn, causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Unchecked, it can trigger hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a disease that causes a thickening of the heart) and damage the kidneys and eyes.

The best option for curing this condition is a pricey radioactive iodine injection. The total cost for this procedure, necessary tests, medications and hospitalization tops $1,400. Ouch. But this is one feline disease that has a real cure.

Callie is definitely worth this investment, and she recently returned from a week’s stay at a veterinary imaging center. During that week, I received daily updates on her recovery and was able to “tune in” and see her through a Web cam accessible on my computer.

It turns out that only one of her thyroids was affected by this disease and now she is happy being back at home. She is displaying renewed kitten-like energy and purrs longer and louder.

That hefty veterinary bill reminded me of the importance of getting pet insurance. At the time, I only had policies covering my two dogs. Callie’s pricey “vacation” convinced me to obtain insurance for my cat, Murphy, age 7. Due to Callie’s senior status and the hyperthyroidism diagnosis, the only insurance available for her would cover in case of an accident – not an illness.

Please learn from my experience and obtain insurance policies on your cats. As I’ve learned, even indoor cats are not insulated from disease.

Meet Cleo: My $500 Free Dog

Posted on: July 18th, 2007 by

By: Arden Moore

It is never easy to admit that you have a bias. But when you do and can work on overcoming it, the results can be amazing.

I guess that is why a tiny mixed breed dog came into my life about a year ago. For years, I declared that I was more comfortable around dogs medium size and larger. I used to joke that I never wanted a dog smaller than my cats.

Then Cleo showed up. She arrived in the backyard of my elderly neighbor, Flo, at night. Flo’s dog, Buddy, a vocal mini-Schnauzer, sounded the bark-bark-bark alert that something was shaking and whimpering on the back porch. Flo saw this small, frightened dog and was not certain how Buddy would react if she brought in this dog, so she called me.

My dog, Chipper, a 60-pound Golden retriever/Husky mix, is a former shelter mascot who is used to dogs and cats of all sizes and attitudes. She, like my two cats, Callie and Murphy, also know what it is like to be without a home and then to be rescued. My three pets welcomed Cleo without a growl or a hiss.

Cleo weighed barely 10 pounds when she arrived. Her coat was matted and dry and her teeth were nearly brown. I could feel and see her ribs. She sported a collar that was too tight bearing her name and a phone number from an area two counties away. I tried calling the number, but it was disconnected. I also left word with that county’s animal shelter as well as those in my area. I posted signs. I alerted neighbors.

No calls. Something told me that this little dog either ran away or was dumped. What was certain was that she was in dire need of good nutrition, a bath and a complete physical exam by my veterinarian. Within a month, I had spent $500 plus to provide her with the necessary vaccination, dental cleaning, food, grooming, bedding, leash, collar, cool toys – and most importantly, pet insurance.

Cleo has taught me that little dogs sport big hearts. She now weighs 12 pounds and her once too-skinny body is toned and muscular. She easily trots next to Chipper on our daily 40-minute walks and cuddles with my cats during afternoon naps. She races to greet me when I come home and is learning tricks to earn healthy treats.

Like many of you, I didn’t plan on adopting a second dog. It just happened. But something told me that she deserved a second chance in a caring home. On June 27, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of her arrival into Flo’s backyard and my home. For Cleo, June 27 marked a new beginning — and for me, it marked the end of a bias toward dogs smaller than cats.

Fighting To Cure Canine Cancer

Posted on: July 11th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Recently Pets Best joined the Morris Animal Foundation’s campaign to find a cure for cancer in dogs. Pets Best made a multi-year $1 million pledge to the Morris Animal Foundation for their quest to fund research that could find a cure for cancer. This effort by the Morris Animal Foundation is notable even for non-pet owners, because finding a cure for dogs will be a shortcut to finding a cure for human cancer. I will speak to their efforts and progress in future communications, as well as in our newsletters.

As you may know from previous blogs, my wife and I love our dogs. They are truly family members. The following photo was taken in our car as we drove to Colorado to be acknowledged by Morris Animal Foundation for our pledge. Four of our little guys went with us on the three-day, 1,600-mile round trip from Idaho through the middle of beautiful Colorado.

The return trip was not as leisurely, and we drove eleven hours straight through in order for me to be back at the office on Monday. Torrey, Skeeter and Cooper are seasoned travelers both by car and air, and Pepper, our new addition, fit right in. They had two beds, a pillow and, of course, our laps from which to choose their round-robin siestas for the long drive. Torrey, however, seldom relinquished my lap during the trip.

One night we had to drive an extra sixty miles in order to find a hotel that accepted pets. But I must say, both my wife and I marvel at how much more relaxing a long road trip is with our pets than in the days when our human children were young. Two years ago we took a 4,000-mile trip with six of our dogs and thoroughly enjoyed the entire time! Each night was a chore, with the kennels and taking turns to “do their business,” but they enjoyed the experience and all the new smells and places to pee. Dogs simply accept their circumstances and do not have any great expectations, other than the simple pleasure of our company and some attention.

Finding a cure for canine cancer is special to me, not only because of my own prior cancer, but because I lost a special pet to its devastating affects. Treatments are much better now, but costly and cost-prohibitive for many pet families. As a resource, we will be sharing with you in the near future how you can find the best treatment options and expected outcomes for all the many types of cancer.

I will also be sharing with you the many other things that Morris Animal Foundation does for animals and how you can help also. They are truly working in many diverse ways to help animals throughout the world.

Do Dogs Really Laugh?

Posted on: June 18th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 6/18/2007 in Dog Behavior

Patricia Simonet says she found a way to calm down the raucous barkers at her animal shelter: For several hours a day, she plays a recording of dogs “laughing” – a pronounced breathy exhalation through the mouth, sort of like excited panting.

“It sounds like pigs snorting,” some tell Simonet, a cognitive ethnologist at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service in Spokane, Wash. She likens it to the human “hah hah hah” without the “a.” (Hear a one-second clip at www.laughing-dog.org.)

Which prompts the question: Do dogs really laugh?

Yes, Simonet says.

While researching dogs at play, she came to realize they make at least four distinct sound patterns during play time: barks, growls, whines and “dog-laugh” – that breathy forced exhalation used to initiate play.

“Only the laugh appears to be exclusively produced during play and friendly greetings, and not during other encounters,” reports Simonet. “So powerful is this stimulus, that humans can initiate play with dogs by using an imitation dog-laugh.”

This is not just a laughing matter. In fact, it’s serious enough that Simonet and her co-authors reported on their research at the Proceedings of 7th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment held in New York in 2005.

Give it a try. Just by hearing you make the breathy sound, your dog may respond by doing a “play bow” – extending his front legs and hoisting his back end in the air – to display the universal canine signal for, “Let’s play!”

(Tip: Another way you can initiate play is by whispering. It works about half the time. To improve your odds, whisper while you’re down on the floor doing a play bow yourself.)

“Perhaps the whisper is a close approximation to the dog-laugh,” Simonet says. “When humans whisper, they produce a pronounced forced, breathy exhalation through the mouth.”

Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, a veterinarian and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Mass., agrees that dogs laugh, but they do it inwardly, he says – not as Simonet proposes.

“Inwardly, they’re thinking: ‘This is wicked good fun. I’m having the time of my life. Tee hee hee, ho ho ho.’ They just don’t open their mouths,” says Dr. Dodman, author of If Only They Could Speak: Stories about Pets and Their People (W.W. Norton).

Makes you wonder: who really is enjoying the final laugh – you or your dog?

Laughter Learning

Curious about canine comedians? Check out these references:

* Don’t Look Now, but is That Dog Laughing?

www.sciencenews.org/20010728/fob9.asp

* Dog-laughter: Recorded Playback Reduces Stress-Related Behavior in Shelter Dogs”

www.petalk.org/LaughingDog.pdf

* Compare dog laughter with the sound of dogs panting at www.laughing-dog.org

By Sally Deneen, a freelance writer from Seattle and co-author of The Dog Lover’s Companion to Florida (Avalon Travel Publishing).

Dishing Up Nutritional Advice

Posted on: June 18th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 6/18/2007 in Nutrition

Listen in as Pets Best correspondent Kim Campbell Thornton chats with nutritional expert Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian who lives in Jamestown, Colo.

Q. Good morning, Dr. Hofve. Thank you for talking with us today. To begin, many pet owners have been asking what’s new in pet nutrition?
Dr. Hofve: The biggest news is in feline nutrition. Most pet nutritionists have woken up to the fact that it’s unwise to feed excessive carbohydrates to our carnivorous cats. They’re now recommending more canned food for cats to prevent obesity and a wide variety of health problems.

Q. What about dogs?
Dr. Hofve: Taurine, which was a big deal in the 1980s when it was discovered to be essential for heart and eye function in cats, now appears to be important for certain dog breeds, too, including Dobermans and Newfoundlands. Taurine is naturally found only in meat. As the trend toward less meat in dog foods has become more pronounced, some dogs are also developing heart disease—the same dilated cardiomyopathy as cats—from lack of taurine. Look for increasing taurine supplementation in dog food in the near future.

Q. There are a lot of myths about pet food. Can you address some common ones?
Dr. Hofve: Dry food does not clean the teeth. If it did, you and I could floss with toast. At best, dry food produces a little less tartar than canned food. Regular vet checkups and proper dental care are essential, no matter what your pet eats.

* High protein diets do not cause kidney disease. In humans and dogs, a reduced phosphorus diet helps manage symptoms when kidney disease is already present. This effect is less clear in cats. Protein and phosphorus are found together in meat, so in order to reduce phosphorus, protein also has to be limited. However, many experts feel that—especially for cats—it is much more important for the cat to eat and maintain body weight than to try to feed any particular food. If the cat doesn’t like a food and won’t eat it, the resulting loss of weight and body condition can be as deadly as kidney disease itself.

* Lamb and rice foods don’t prevent allergies. Lamb and rice foods were initially created to address common food allergies to proteins like chicken and beef. The reason such diets worked was not due to any particular properties of lamb or rice, but simply because most animals had never been exposed to them; they were “novel” ingredients. It takes exposure over time to develop a food allergy. A dog or cat who develops a food allergy in the first place is apt to become allergic to any food if they eat it over a long period of time.

Q. What are the most common food allergens facing pets?
Dr. Hofve: Chicken, beef, fish, corn, wheat and dairy products.

Q. We learned during the recent pet food recall that one company was making many different pet foods. Does that mean they’re all basically the same?
Dr. Hofve: You can have a company that makes cake and you can buy just a plain cake from that company. But if you’re Brand X Cake, you might ask for nuts in your cake and butter cream frosting and swirls and marbling.

Q. So different companies have different recipes and ingredients?
Dr. Hofve: Yes. Some companies provide the ingredients and then the manufacturer makes the food.

Q. Can you give some tips on reading pet food labels?
Dr. Hofve: Make sure the top ingredients are high-quality protein sources, such as chicken, lamb, turkey, etc. Beware of foods that list by-products or other meat substitutes first or as the top three ingredients. Don’t buy it. Avoid foods containing corn, corn gluten, corn gluten meal and soybean products. Soy and corn gluten are often substituted for animal protein. Dogs and cats are carnivores and although dogs can do well on vegetarian or even vegan diets, cats need meat, not meat substitutes, for optimal health. Corn and rice have a very high glycemic index—a measure of the body’s insulin response—about the same as a chocolate bar. Starchy grain carbs are a big contributor to obesity and diabetes, especially in cats. Corn and soy are also common allergens in pets.

Q. With all the concern about what’s in pet food, is it a good idea for people to prepare homemade or raw diets for their pets?
Dr. Hofve: Homemade diets are definitely on the rise, as are raw diets. There are even complete frozen diets on the market that make feeding a raw diet very easy. The advantages of homemade diets include known ingredient quality; fresh, whole ingredients; ability to fine-tune the diet to the animal’s particular needs and tastes; and the presence of natural enzymes.

Q. Are there any disadvantages?
Dr. Hofve: Disadvantages include possible severe dietary imbalances if using a poorly constructed recipe or failing to include all needed supplements; a tendency to use the same ingredients all the time—variety is important—and possible contamination of raw meat. A bad homemade diet is more dangerous than poor quality commercial food. It must be done right.

Q. What are some of the concerns about feeding raw meat?
Dr. Hofve: The contamination issue is the most common argument against raw diets. Healthy dogs and cats are relatively resistant to most food-borne bacteria and rarely become ill from them, but when switching a sick animal to a homemade or raw diet, caution is warranted. Raw meat can contain parasites. When feeding raw, it’s a good idea to have your pet’s stool checked periodically and treat for parasites if necessary. Feeding organic meat may help minimize contamination, and freezing can eliminate some parasites. It’s crucial to do enough research so you understand how and what to feed and why. Work with your veterinarian or find a holistic vet who can guide you.