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The 5 surprising truths about senior pets

Posted on: November 22nd, 2011 by

A cat, that would benefit from cat insurance, sits on a table.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

No one can deny the joy puppies and kittens bring. Even before I started working for a pet insurance company, I always loved animals. I can’t think of anything cuter than a tiny ball of fur running like crazy around the house and falling asleep in your arms. But most pet owners know how much work a young pet can be, and that’s why some adopt older pets instead.

When you hear the term “senior pet”, you may think of a frail pet who is half blind and can hardly walk. But that’s not the case! In fact, cats and small breed dogs are considered seniors at just 9 years old, and larger breed dogs become seniors as early as age 6. My mother-daughter cats are 9 and 8, and they run, play, chase toys and snooze in the sun just like when they were younger.

Furthermore, there’s no reason to assume an older pet is damaged or defective in any way. They typically end up in shelters because their owners passed away, moved to a non-pet friendly rental, were deployed overseas, welcomed a new baby into the family, or even developed pet allergies.

Before Adopt a Senior Pet Month comes to an end, I encourage you to consider adopting an older pet the next time you’re looking to add to your family. Here are some advantages to doing so:

1. They’re Housebroken and Litter Box Trained
When you adopt an older pet, you almost never have to worry about housebreaking or litter box training. You’ll have fewer accidents to clean up and fewer lunch breaks demanding you to run home.

2. No Size Surprises
When you adopt a puppy, especially a mixed breed, it can be anyone’s guess how big he or she will get. With senior pets, what you see is what you get. There’s no chance that Lab mix you wanted for hunting will only grow to 20 pounds or that supposed Boxer mix will turn out to be a Mastiff mix.

3. They Let You Sleep
Kittens love to run through the house at night and wake you at 2 AM to play. Puppies being crate trained can whimper for hours and sometimes need a potty break in the middle of the night. All this can lead to quite a few sleepless weeks – even more if your kitten is extra active or your puppy’s bladder takes a while to catch up with his body.

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4. The Dangerous Curious Phase has Passed
Puppies and kittens explore their worlds and cure boredom with their mouths. This can mean frequent trips to the vet for things like foreign object ingestion and accidental poisoning, and both puppies and kittens have been known to destroy furniture, electrical cables and clothing by chewing. While pet health insurance can help with the costs of these vet trips, the number will likely be diminished if you adopt a more mature pet who is less curious.

5. They’re Less Demanding
Mature cats and dogs who have already bonded with humans are more likely to be content just hanging around the house with you. Senior dogs don’t need hours of play every day like younger dogs, and senior cats may be perfectly happy staying indoors and out of trouble.

As with any pet adoption, look into dog and cat insurance as soon as possible. The earlier coverage begins, the better the odds your pet will be protected before developing a pre-existing condition. Pets Best Insurance is one of the only pet insurance companies with no upper age limits for pets, and no canceled or reduced coverage based your pet’s age.

For more information about pet health and pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Eggs and Dewclaws – What’s Normal for Dogs?

Posted on: November 21st, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first one comes from Hannah, who says, “My dog goes nuts for eggs, whether they’re hardboiled or scrambled. Is it okay for her to have some once in a while?”

Absolutely. In moderation, that’s a fine treat for dogs to have. I would prefer that the eggs be cooked. Dogs can get salmonella, just like people can, from raw eggs, so cooking them is probably better. As with any people food, definitely in moderation.

The next one comes from Natalie, who says, “Our dog keeps chewing on her dewclaws and tearing the hair off around them. She does this every year. Is there any treatment other than making her wear an E-collar all the time?”

It sounds to me like this is seasonal if it’s happening every year. Chances are she’s got some type of seasonal allergies that coincide with the time of year. Because it’s on her feet, you might try rinsing off her feet after she’s outside or using a hypoallergenic shampoo on the feet.

If she’s actually causing damage to the skin or there’s an infection, you’re going to need to see a veterinarian so you can get her on the appropriate antibiotics. At that time it would probably be a good idea to talk about things that you can do to prevent this when that time of year comes around. This might include antihistamines, special prescribed topical shampoos, or topical sprays that can go on the feet and give her some relief.
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Top 12 things I’m thankful for as a vet

Posted on: November 21st, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance gets ready to eat a turkey dinner.

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

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means it’s the time of the year to pause (or paws) and be grateful for the joys and priviledges pets bring into our lives. Why not take a moment this year to think of all the things you’re thankful for, aside from having pet health insurance, of course. As a vet, I like to reflect on and be thankful for the pets in both my professional life and within my own family. Pets ask us for so little and have so much to give in return. Here are the top 12 things I’m thankful for as a vet:

1. Unconditional love
If our pets misbehave and we’re forced to use our scary “stern” voice, our pets will forgive us instantly. They’re happy to curl up in our laps or give us a loving lick just moments after.

2. Unlimited kisses
There is always a sweet, wet tongue waiting to meet our faces– whether it’s a 5 am wake-up kiss on a Satuday morning, or a “just because” kiss at the end of the day.

3. Companionship
Fido is there for us anytime of the day or night, and happy to give us love and attention whether we’ve had the worst or the best day of our lives.

4. Exercise
Our pets give us a reason to get some fresh air at the dog park, or throwing a frisbee in the yard. By doing activities like these with our pets, they keep us healthy and we keep them healthy.

5. Stress relief
It’s actually been proven that having, holding and petting your pet physically reduces stress levels and keeps us healthier.

6. Always a tail wag and a happy face to greet you after a long day of work.
After a long day at the vet hospital, I’m always thankful to be greeted by my two dogs when I return home. No one will ever be as excited to see you as your pet.

7. Constant source of entertainment
Pets really do the darndest things! Whether it’s pawing at your leg for a bite of breakfast eggs and sighing defeatedly when you won’t give in, or chasing their tail, pets provide laughter and happiness to their owners.

8. Protection
Nobody likes to mess with man’s best friend. Having a dog alert you if someone’s at the door, or letting you know if he hears a funny noise can be the best kind of protection.

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9. Having a cute dog on a leash is a great way to encourage people to come say hello and introduce themselves!
Your pet may just give you that extra push you need to make a new (human) friend.

10. Puppy breath and puppy hiccups
Another thing I’m thankful for is puppy breath and little huccups. There is truly nothing sweeter.

11. Owners who take their pets in for routine care
As a vet, I’m very thankful for owners who bring their pets in for wellness check-ups. Bringing pets in at least once a year for a visit may help detect health problems before they become an even bigger problem. My dogs actually love going to the vet!

12. Pet insurance!
Of course one of the things I’m most thankful for as a vet is pet insurance! Companies like Pets Best Insurance help pet owners afford the best possible care and treatment options. Cat and dog insurance can often mean the difference between providing treatment to your pet, and the alternative no pet owner wants to think about. Get a free quote today! Your pet will be thankful you did.

Cat health: What’s wrong with Grace the kitty?

Posted on: November 19th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance and IBD is held by his owner.

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

My 4-year-old cat Grace started vomiting sporadically when she was only around 1 ½ years old. I didn’t get too excited about it since it was so infrequent and she was showing no other signs of illness. As time went on, though, the vomiting became more frequent, so I knew she had a serious cat health problem. Then the diarrhea started. Eventually, Grace was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and she’s been a challenge to treat ever since.

IBD is actually a group of gastrointestinal disorders, usually chronic in nature, which are characterized by an increase in the number of inflammatory cells in the lining of the digestive tract. If the inflammation predominates in the stomach or small intestine, chronic vomiting is typically the main symptom. Inflammation in the large intestine usually causes chronic loose stool or diarrhea. Some unfortunate cats, like my Grace, have inflammation in all areas resulting in both vomiting and diarrhea. In my experience, chronic vomiting is most common.

The cause of IBD is unknown. Genetics, nutrition, infectious agents, and abnormalities of the immune system may all play a role. It is interesting to note that two of Grace’s littermates have vomiting issues, although not officially diagnosed with IBD yet.

Most cats with IBD appear perfectly healthy otherwise, so owners may not realize their cat is sick. Many people buy into the myth that it’s normal for cats to vomit. It’s not unusual for me to diagnose a cat with IBD that has been a “vomiter” its whole life. That’s why it’s important to tell your veterinarian about any vomiting than is more than an occasional hairball, before it becomes serious for your cat. Being sure to invest in cat insurance prior to these kinds of issues can also help you afford the best care for your kitty. Severe IBD can cause weight loss and change of appetite, and in some cases can even progress to cancer of the intestines.

To rule out other causes of gastrointestinal disease, your veterinarian will perform blood tests, stool examinations, x-rays and possibly other tests. Because diagnosis can be expensive, it’s important to research pet health insurance early on. Common diseases such as chronic kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and pancreatitis can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. A definitive diagnosis of IBD is only possible by intestinal biopsy, which is best accomplished using minimally invasive endoscopy under short anesthesia.

A combination of dietary management and medical therapy will successfully manage IBD in most cats. The realistic goal is control, not cure, and treatment tends to be life long. The costs can add up for chronic medical conditions like IBD, so pet health insurance plans purchased in the younger, healthy years can really be a benefit later on in life.

Sensitivity to food antigens contributes to the gastrointestinal inflammation in some cats, so a change in diet often provides symptomatic relief. A hypoallergenic diet is usually one of the first steps in the initial treatment. Grain free diets, highly digestible diets or fiber diets may also be helpful. Your veterinarian can help guide you to the best diet for your cat’s particular situation.

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Many medications can be used to control IBD. Corticosteroids are the treatment of choice in most cases. These have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties with relatively few side effects in cats. Oral prednisolone is the steroid I use most frequently to treat IBD in cats, and it has literally been a life saver in many cases. Antibiotics such as metronidazole or tylosin can be used in combination with steroids for better control. B vitamins and probiotics may also be helpful additions. Severe or non-responsive cases may require more potent immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine or chlorambucil. A newer drug called Cerenia may also be effective in combination with steroids.

I have used all of these dietary therapies and medications for Grace’s IBD without full success. She is very sensitive to drugs, and several of them made her diarrhea worse. Her vomiting is fairly well controlled on steroids, but she stills flares up with loose stool. I continue to experiment with different treatments for her. Fortunately, she is the exception. The majority of cats respond fully and rapidly to basic medications with only occasional recurrence. If you think your kitty might have IBD, make an appointment with your vet right away.

For more information about pet health and cat health insurance visit Pets Best Insurance: www.petsbest.com.

Beat your dog’s winter boredom with interactive toys

Posted on: November 17th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance enjoys playing with an interactive toy.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

Winter is just around the corner and all too soon much of the country will be experiencing the frigid winter weather. Even though winter brings less-than-desirable weather, our dogs and puppies still require just as much physical exercise as any other time of the year to maintain their good dog health.

There are times when a winter walk is not possible. In our area, for instance, we often have ice storms or frigid temperatures that make dog walking dangerous, even if you have pet insurance. That’s why we bring the exercise indoors!

So what is a dog owner to do with that excess canine energy? My solution, and favorite way to keep my dog entertained is to give him a food dispensing toy. Food dispensing toys are an important tool to burn some of your dogs mental energy and also to teach him to problem solve. As a side benefit, food dispensing toys also slow down a fast eater, lessening their chance of bloat– which can be a very costly dog health ailment to treat.

One of the first things I do when I begin working with dogs that have behavior issues, is recommend the owners get rid of their standard food bowls, and instead, feed their dogs ALL of their meals out of food dispensing toys. As a result, we tend to see unwanted behaviors decrease, and the dogs become easier and even more pleasant to live with.

There are many food dispensing toys on the market to choose from today. One of my favorites is the Kong Wobbler. This toy comes in two sizes and is great for both puppies and adult dogs. Put your dog’s dinner in the Wobbler and watch as he pushes it around to dispense his meal.

Dog toy manufacturers realize the behavioral benefits of interactive of toys, and there are many options available commercially. Jolly Pet Products, Ruff Dog, Kong, Kyjen and many other companies have developed food dispensing toys that your dog may enjoy.

Another option is to make your own food dispenser. Save your paper towel rolls, fold down one end, fill it with kibble and fold the other end down. Then toss it to your dog! (Be sure to keep a close eye on him so he doesn’t accidentally ingest any of the cardboard.) Another option is to put your dog’s food in a paper bag, fold down the top of the bag, and let your dog tear into the bag to get his food. Once he gets good at this, you can make the puzzle harder by putting the food in a paper bag and then put the paper bag inside a cardboard box. While you will probably have to sweep up pieces of torn cardboard tube, paper bags and boxes, the enjoyment your dog will get from “hunting” for his food will be well worth your time sweeping up!

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Whether you make your own food dispensing toy or buy a commercial toy, your dog will reap many benefits from eating from one of these toys, so give it a try.

For more information about pet health and pet insurance visit www.petsbest.com.