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Get Fit With Your Dog

Posted on: June 18th, 2007 by

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

Say the word exercise and many people respond with one word: ugh. Or, they may come up with a half-dozen excuses why they can’t make it to the gym or reasons why their bike gathers cobwebs in the garage.

But the secret to improving your health is just a tail wag away. Your best workout buddy just may be your dog. For starters, replace the word, exercise with motion. Each time you lift, bend down, twist, turn, throw, walk, run, or even skip, you’re improving your digestion, melting away body fat, and fortifying your body against a host of medical woes.

Keeping your body in motion is like putting gold in the bank. A national study by the American Heart Association reported that burning 2,000 calories a week by performing a physical activity ­such as walking an hour a day for a week ­could increase life expectancy by two full years.

So, why not step into an exercise program with your dog? The payoffs: you and your dog can become fit and healthy together. You will enjoy happier, healthier years together, have improved strength and flexibility, be at reduced risks for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and other conditions, and save money on doctor and veterinary bills.

An added bonus: You may discover that you have much better behaved dog, adds Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, a veterinarian and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass.

“Quite often, the cause behind doggie destructiveness in the home is sheer boredom,” says Dr. Dodman, author of If Only They Could Speak. “A dog who doesn’t receive adequate exercise will find something to do to release that pent-up energy. That may mean chewing on the sofa or digging up the garden.”

Before you lace your sneakers and start getting serious about regular workouts, get a complete physical exam from your doctor. Then book an appointment with your veterinarian to give your dog a head-to-tail physical exam. Also, discuss the best optimal workout plan for your dog based on health, age, body shape, likes and dislikes.

Keep in mind that no two dogs are the same. What may work, exercise-wise, for one dog, may not work for another, even if they are the same breed, say experts. Generally, long-legged, light-framed dogs are best suited for jogging and leaping. Short-legged, stocky-framed dogs are built for short energy bursts and steady-paced walks. But, there are always the exceptions: the low-to-the-ground Dachshund who craves a spirited jog down the block or the Golden Retriever who prefers long, lopping walks over mile-long runs.

Begin major activities with a five-minute warm-up to stretch your dog’s muscles. Using a treat for motivation, have your dog jump up on you. Then instruct your dog to get into a “play bow,” (outstretched front legs, head down low, and rear end up in the air). If willing, have your dog do a figure-8 in between and around your legs.

Depending on your dog’s condition, start with a five-minute walk, gradually working up to 30 minutes or longer. Equally important: size up your dog. Dogs of extreme sizes—the gigantic (like Bull Mastiffs) or the itty-bitty (like Yorkshire Terriers) – usually require less exercise than mid-sized breeds (such as Labrador Retrievers).

Make a date with your dog daily ­even if you can only spare 10 undivided minutes with them. For starters, break up the monotony of the nightly walk, says Susan Greenbaum, a professional dog trainer who operates the Barking Hills Country Club in Milford, New Jersey. Don’t bring your dog back inside as soon as he goes to the bathroom. Vary your routes and stop occasionally to practice obedience commands and fun tricks. Have your dog sit or gimme paw. These actions reinforce your dog’s mental focus and provide him a good workout so that when it comes inside, he is ready to relax.

Avoid turning your dog into a weekend warrior by only working out with him on Saturdays and Sundays. Devoting some time each day to exercise – even 10 minutes – can reduce you ­and your dog’s ­risk for injuries to muscles and joints, say sports veterinarians.

Even a simple game of backyard ball can provide ample aerobic exercise for your dog. If your throwing arm is a bit achy, you can use a tennis racket to bounce the ball for greater distance in a game of fetch that will satisfy your dog’s natural instinct to chase and retrieve.

During hot weather days, scrutinize the walking surfaces. Always place your palm down on the sidewalk to test for its heat intensity on a sunny day before allowing your dog’s footpad to touch the asphalt or concrete surface. If it’s too warm to your touch, time your walks in the early morning or evening after the sun goes down to protect your dog’s footpads.

Bring a water bottle for you and a lightweight collapsible water bowl for your dog on your excursions beyond your neighborhood. On hot days, squirt a few jets of water into your dog’s mouth every 30 minutes.

With your dog as a workout partner, your choices of activities depend on where you live and your interests. Your choices may be swimming, hiking, or even canine musical freestyle (translation: dancing with your dog to choreographed steps).

Take the TV Test

Is your dog exercising too much – or too little? Try this test when you are watching television at night. A dog craving more exercise will often get in between you and the television show in an attempt for attention. A bone-tired dog will flop on the floor and barely move, even during a noisy TV show. A dog who received adequate exercise will lightly snooze or contently chew on a bone near you, says Suzanne Clothier, a professional dog trainer and breeder from St. Johnsville, New York.

Dog-Tired Signs

Be careful not to overexert your dog on walks and during activities. Stop the activity and allow your dog to rest if he displays any of these signs:

Drooping tongue
Rapid panting – an early sign of overheating
Hesitation – taking a few extra seconds before retrieving a tossed ball
Weight shifting – using different muscle groups to offset soreness
Staggered walking
Muscle tremors
Limping – check footpads for cuts and bruises and legs for sprains or muscle pulls

Who Is Actually Buying Pet Insurance?

Posted on: June 6th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Who Is Actually Buying Pet Insurance?

In one of my previous posts, I talked about the myths of pet insurance that we learned from our recent series of pet owner focus groups. The pet owner focus groups also told us in these sessions who they thought would buy pet insurance, and the results may or may not surprise you.

We found that:

The Pet Owner Perception of a Buyer Is Someone Who:

1. Considers the pet part of the family.
2. Sees the cost benefits of insurance.
3. Has had experience with the cost of veterinary care.
4. Is a first-time pet owner who is concerned with the unknown expenses of veterinary care.
5. Is a high-income, well-educated, sophisticated purchaser.

People Who Actually Purchase Insurance Are People Who:

1. Consider their pets part of the family.
2. Are professionals who see the value of insurance.
3. Are pet owners who want to budget for their pets’ care.
4. Are primarily women who make the actual purchase.
5. Purchase insurance for their puppies and kittens (which may or may not reflect first-time ownership).
6. Have previously experienced high veterinary costs for a pet.
7. Have a pet who already has a medical problem.

As you can see perceptions and reality were actually very similar regarding the value of obtaining pet insurance, that is, those who are buying and the core reasons they purchase insurance.

Typically a pet insurance policyholder lives in a household where the pet is a family member, the family has experienced a high veterinary expense in the past and now wants peace of mind and protection for their pocketbooks. Pet owners also want their coverage to be broad, yet reasonable in cost and payable monthly, so it fits into their budget.

Of course there are other factors that pet owners take into consideration before purchasing, such as the level of customer service of the company, few plan exclusions, how quickly claims are paid, and options that provide for routine care, to name a few, but these are usually a concern only after they have made the initial decision to buy pet health insurance.

Once a pet owner has made the decision that pet insurance may be right for them, then they begin to seek out information about pet insurance and the different types of plans available. Most pet owners will use the Internet for information, but many will turn to their veterinarian or the pet hospital staff regarding their final decision. If in doubt, ask your vet or their staff for their recommendation. They’ve heard all the stories and can direct you to a plan and company that’s right for you.

When You Want More Than Just Accident and Illness Coverage

Posted on: April 9th, 2007 by

With so many pet owners concerned for the health of their pets because of the recent pet food recalls, we thought we’d take a moment to share with you the benefits of our BestWellnessTM coverage.

In designing our Pets Best policies, flexibility, affordability and choice were important to us. Because of this, we chose to break out accident and illness coverage from wellness care, which includes check-ups, routine visits, specific routine tests, vaccinations and teeth cleaning, to name a few.

Many of you have elected to take advantage of this coverage, and it has been well received. We are glad to be able to help cover these expenses, because we know from experience that catching problems early leads to a higher rate of success when it comes to treatment. And while the cost of wellness care adds a few extra dollars per month to your premium—around $20—owners who take their pets to the vet regularly are recouping the cost of the premium and then some.

The recent pet food recall is a perfect example of how having BestWellnessTM can benefit pet owners and continue to provide that peace of mind we talk about so often. While the medical expenses of a pet who has become ill from the tainted pet food are covered at 100%, we are not able, because of insurance laws, to cover checkups for pets who aren’t ill, unless they have wellness coverage. Pets Best customers who have BestWellnessTM are able to submit claims for those tests and exams and be reimbursed for their expenses up to policy limits.

If you’re not sure whether or not you signed up for BestWellnessTM along with your accident and illness policy, or if you have any questions about what your policy does and does not cover, please call us at 1-877-738-7237 or visit us online at www.petsbest.com. A detailed explanation of benefits is also available online or by calling 1-877-738-7237.

Exceeding your expectations is one of our highest goals. Our hearts continue to go out to every family affected by the recall, and we would also like to thank everyone who took the time to write during this time. We are thankful that we are making a difference!

More Treats Added to Recall

Posted on: April 6th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

While the FDA is assuring pet owners that 99% of all pet food is still safe, Sunshine Mills joined the recent recall by pulling dog biscuits sold under five different brands, including Ol’ Roy, Lassie and Pet Life.

ABC reported in its “Pet Food Recall Expands to Include Biscuits” <> that Menu Foods has also once again expanded its recall by covering “cuts and gravy”-style products made between Nov. 8 and March 6, which is earlier than the original recall date of Dec. 3.

T.W. Enterprises of Ferndale, Wash., is also asking consumers not to use their American Bullie A.B. Bull Pizzle Puppy Chew and Dog Chew products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Pet Treats Recalled, Salmonella Found

Posted on: April 3rd, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

The Associated Press is now reporting that another company, not connected with Menu Foods, is recalling dog, cat and ferret treats that could be contaminated with salmonella. The announcement that came yesterday from Eight in One Inc., is unrelated to the more extensive recall of melamine-tainted dog and cat food that led to kidney failure in pets around the country.

Eight in One Inc., a division of United Pet Group Inc., is recalling all packages of Dingo Chick’N Jerky, Dingo Kitty Chicken Jerky and Dingo Ferret Chicken Jerky.

Salmonella can cause serious infections in pets and children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. In pets, salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and abdominal pain. Animals that do not get sick can infect other pets or humans.

The bacteria could also infect people handling the pet treats. Humans infected with the salmonella can experience fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. It could also cause more serious problems such as arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation and urinary tract problems.

Eight in One said they received a report of a dog infected by salmonella, which lead to further testing of this product. Some, but not all, of the samples tested were contaminated.

The treats were sold around the country at Target, PetSmart and other stores.

Speculation is that the Menu Foods recall and testing has led to more diligent testing of other brands and may have revealed the presence of salmonella in the Eight in One treats.