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Cat insurance special: National Cat Health Month

Posted on: February 13th, 2012 by

A cat with cat insurance is held by her owner.

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

February is National Cat Health Month! It’s time to honor and celebrate the cats that you love so much, and to make sure that you are taking the necessary steps to keep them healthy. If you’re like many cat owners who are lax about regular check ups for their feline companions, it’s time to get them in for a veterinary visit.

Americans love cats! According to the 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, there are approximately 86 million cats in the United States, compared to approximately 78 million dogs. That makes cats the most popular pet here in the US– which is one of the reasons why cat insurance is so important. Despite the fact that cats are such a popular pet, many cats are not getting the veterinary care they deserve and need. A survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed that cats don’t visit veterinarians as often as dogs. The average dog sees a veterinarian 1.5 times a year, whereas cats average less than once a year. This is especially bad news for cats because they tend to hide pain and illness so they often don’t see a doctor until they are seriously sick.

Prevention and early detection of medical problems are the keys to a healthy lifestyle for your cat. Cats need routine veterinary care just like dogs do. Your cat should be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year, even if he or she is an indoor pet. While an indoor cat is less likely to hit by a car or get a cat bite abscess from fighting, it’s just as likely to get kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or another serious ailment. Because cats age much more quickly than humans, older cats or cats with chronic illnesses benefit even more by visiting the veterinarian twice a year.

The cornerstone of each visit is the physical examination that the veterinarian performs. The doctor will then develop an individual wellness plan, including vaccinations and parasite prevention, that is based on your cat’s specific lifestyle. Regular medical check ups for your cat can help to identify pet health conditions before they become costly to treat and possibly even life-threatening.

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Pet health insurance is a cost effective way to provide your cat with the necessary veterinary care. Pet health plans are available that cover both preventative care and unexpected illness or emergency medical treatment. It’s always best to enroll in cat insurance while your cat is young and healthy with no pre-existing medical conditions.

Annual exams are the best way to prevent future medical problems, provide a longer life for your cat, and have a happier, healthier cat now. Take time this month to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for your feline friend.

Pet health special: Top 5 doggy tips

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by

A dog with pet health insurance is ready to play

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

By now, unfortunately, most people have given up on their new year resolutions. But this is a great time to focus on pet health instead! Here are some good habits to develop and keep for your dog.

# 1 Resolve to keep up with your dogs’ veterinary care
Regular visits to the veterinarian are incredibly important to help your dog live a long healthy life and having pet health insurance may help you afford the best care. Some pets are not so keen on going to the vet. You can help your pet enjoy it by showing your dog the vet office is a fun place to visit. Take plenty of yummy treats and ask the vet staff to give them to your dog. This will help your pet make a good association with their vet. Take your dog to the vet just to visit, have him hop on the scale for a quick weigh in, get a treat from the receptionist, etc. Make these trips short and stress free for our pet.

#2 Establish a daily exercise plan for your dog or puppy
Take your dog for daily walks to ensure great pet health! You can play ball and use interactive toys. Set aside some time each day to spend quality time with your pet. Just letting your dog hang out in the yard doesn’t count. You and your dog need to spend time having fun together. And you will also benefit from extra exercise! Playing with your dog not only build a great bond between you and your pet, but it also mentally stimulates your dog.

# 3 Train your dog
Regular training sessions help to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Dogs can learn at any age, so whether you have a puppy, an adult or a senior dog, keep up the training. Many trainers offer fun, unique classes, including canine good citizen, tricks, frisbee, agility and K9 nose work just to name a few. Remember always use positive, force-free training methods.

#4 Educate yourself about dog food
Feed your dog the best quality food you can. High quality food will help extend your dogs’ life and keep him healthy. Visit www.wholedogjournal.com to learn more about pet foods and treats.

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# 5 Adopt your next pet from a shelter or rescue group
There are many wonderful pets waiting for a family to adopt them. If you are not ready to adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue, consider fostering a pet. Giving a pet a warm happy home while they await their permanent home, will help it adjust to a new home easier and reduce shelter-induced stress and anxiety.

These a simple tips should continue for the life of your pet. Your dog will thank you because you will give him a great life, and you will have a happy family pet.

For more information about pet health or to learn more about cat and dog insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Pet health special: Cat bite abscesses

Posted on: February 6th, 2012 by

Cat bites are a pet health concern for these two fighting kittens.

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

As a veterinarian, there’s no pet health condition I love treating more than cat bite abscesses, and we see a lot of these in our practice. In fact, it’s a standing joke around our clinic that every Saturday that I work I seem to end the day by treating an abscess!

Many of these abscesses are fairly superficial and easy to cure, but in other cases the cat can become seriously ill and may need extensive surgery to clean up the abscess. Here are some things you need to know about cat bite abscesses.

Cats are highly territorial and often fight when they encounter other cats outdoors. When a tooth from another cat punctures the skin, it injects bacteria deep into the underlying tissues. A cat’s skin has the ability to heal very quickly, so the bacteria become trapped under the skin in a warm, moist environment where they thrive and multiply. The body sends out many white blood cells to help fight this infection, and the white blood cells and bacteria accumulate to form a painful pocket of pus just beneath the skin. This collection of pus is an abscess, and it generally appears about two to five days after the initial bite.

Cat bite wounds are almost always sustained when cats face off or when they run. Consequently, puncture wounds and abscesses are commonly found on the face, neck and forelimbs, or on the tail, rump and backside. Detecting bites can be difficult because cats often appear to look fine after a fight, and their fur often hides the bite wounds.

Apart from local soreness, your cat may not show ill effects from the bite wound for several days. However, as the cat health condition worsens, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy may be noticeable as the bite becomes infected. Many cats are taken to the veterinarian at this stage, where the abscess typically appears as a soft, painful swelling. In most of these cases, lancing and flushing the abscess plus antibiotics may be all that is required.

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If not discovered in this early stage, the abscess will continue to swell and the infection can begin to do significant damage to the tissue beneath the skin. The abscess may spontaneously rupture, leaking foul-smelling pus onto the fur. These types of wounds almost always need surgical management in addition to antibiotics. Under anesthesia, the wound is trimmed of the dead flesh (debrided), and the infection is flushed out with copious amounts if disinfectant solution. If the wound is large, sutures may be required to partially close it. Typically, a small portion of the wound is left open to allow continued drainage for a couple of days. In the most severe cases, a temporary drain needs to be placed at the bottom part of the wound to allow any future pus or fluid to escape. Drains are removed after 2 or 3 days and the wound is allowed to continue healing on its own. Surgeries like this can cost around $400-$500, so investing in pet health insurance while your cat is young and healthy can help you afford excellent medical and surgical care for your cat with these unexpected emergencies.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and rabies can all be spread by bites. If your cat goes outside, he or she should be vaccinated against FeLV and Rabies. Follow-up testing for FeLV and FIV should be done about 8 weeks following a bite to be sure transmission has not taken place.

The best prevention of cat bite abscesses is to keep cats indoors and prevent them from roaming and fighting. Supervise outdoor access by teaching cats to tolerate a harness and walk on a leash or provide them with a safe and sturdy outdoor enclosure. If cats insist on going outside, make sure they’re back in the house before nightfall since so many more fights seem to take place after dark. Neutering will also reduce a male cat’s desire to roam and get into fights.

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

Your top pet dental questions answered

Posted on: February 3rd, 2012 by

A dog with pet insurance holds a toothbrush in his mouth.

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

Pets need their teeth cleaned too and February is pet dental month! Are Fido’s kisses getting a little stinky? In addition to causing stinky breath, periodontal disease in pets can cause more serious underlying problems, even heart disease or infections of internal organs. That’s why veterinarians and pet health care workers team up every month of February to remind us to have our pet’s teeth examined by a veterinarian.

Here are some of the more common questions regarding your pet’s teeth:

Why should I brush my cat’s or dog’s teeth?
Removing plaque daily is important, as it is the precursor to tartar or calculus. Plaque is basically a film of bacteria that can irritate the gums. Tartar can’t be brushed off once it forms, and will eventually lead to further infection, loosening the tooth and eventually destroying it. In addition to loose teeth, infection under the gumline can spread to the liver, kidneys, and heart.

How can I possibly brush Fido’s teeth?
With a little patience, creativity and praise, teeth brushing can become a regular part of your pet’s routine. Use a soft-bristled, or finger toothbrush. Use animal specific tooth paste (Don’t use human toothpaste! It can be toxic to animals). Be patient and go slowly.

How often does my pet need to have teeth professionally cleaned by the veterinarian?
This depends completely on the degree of plaque and tartar accumulation. Try examining your pet’s teeth monthly; look for an accumulation of yellow or brown material at the area where the tooth meets the gumline. If you are uncertain, call and schedule an appointment for your veterinarian to examine.

The intervals between professional teeth cleaning procedures will depend on how often you can brush your pet’s teeth. Once or twice daily cleaning is optimum for good pet health, but anything is better than none!

Can I just take my fingernail and scrape off the calculus? Or can I have the groomer do a good brushing without anesthesia?
No! Dental disease occurs below the gum line as well. Pets need to be asleep in order for the insides and backs of the molars to be adequately addressed. Even the nicest dog won’t sit still enough for a thorough periodontal treatment. Also, if the tooth surface is scraped, this can leave small defects in the enamel that will exacerbate the problem, causing more plaque and tartar to form.

Does my pet have to anesthetized?
Yes, anesthesia is completely necessary when performing a proper teeth cleaning. Anesthesia provides three important functions: immobilization in order to clean below the gum line, pain control if a tooth needs to be extracted, and the ability to place a tube into the windpipe, to protect the respiratory system from bacteria.

Is anesthesia safe though?
Veterinarians will always take every precaution to provide safe anesthesia. Make sure your veterinarian runs a blood panel prior to anesthesia and uses up-to-date monitoring equipment. Most veterinary clinics should have the ability to monitor blood pressure, respiration, heart rate and rhythm, and oxygenation status, similar to a human hospital.

How much does a tooth cleaning procedure cost?
It is nearly impossible to determine how much the procedure will cost since most pets will not allow a thorough oral exam and certainly won’t allow for dental radiographs to examine the health of tooth roots.

Are there things other than brushing that I can do at home?
In a word, YES!

-Formulated dental diets typically will have ingredients that help repel plaque, and a crunchy texture that can help scrape the teeth as your pet chews. Diet alone will not control plaque, but it will help.
-Bones, hoofs and ears are not recommended. If the object is harder than teeth, they can lead to fractures. Bones in generally can cause GI problems, even dangerous obstruction and perforation of the bowel and are not recommended. But dental formulated chews with ingredients to help fight plaque can be helpful!
-Dental rinses can disinfect plaque, much like doggie mouthwash, and are sometimes more tolerated that brushing.
-Water additives can also help stop plaque from forming, and can be a part of a complete dental health program.

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How can I tell if my pet is suffering from periodontal disease?
The most common sign is halitosis, or bad breath. Dogs and cats should not give stinky kisses… Bad breath comes from infection. If your pet’s breath does not smell like roses, have a veterinarian create a treatment plan for you.

When should I start worrying about dental problems with my pet?
As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, it’s time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, the puppy or kitten gets used to the brushing procedure as a part of its normal routine, which should continue for life.

What can be done if my pet has periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease occurs when tooth support structures are affected by infection. In advanced cases, either periodontal surgery or extractions are generally necessary. Veterinary dental specialists are available to perform root canals and crowns, but generally if the tooth is diseased, it will need to be removed.

My pet had to have lots of teeth extracted, can she still eat her normal food?
Yes! Most pets will do great when the infection causing tooth pain is cured by removing the diseased tooth. Some pets will even eat better than they did before.

Let’s have the month of February be a friendly reminder to take care of our pet’s teeth too. Just think how much more enjoyable those sloppy doggy kisses will be!

For more information about pet health or to learn about pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Pet insurance comparison sites: What to ask

Posted on: February 2nd, 2012 by

A cat with pet health insurance plays with a computer.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

At Pets Best Insurance, we understand that most pet owners will do quite a bit of research before choosing the best plan for themselves and their pets. Perhaps for this reason, pet insurance comparison websites are growing in popularity. Shoppers can compare pet insurance plans, fill out a form and receive quotes from multiple pet insurance companies at once. It sounds easy, but are they too good to be true? Maybe.

One concern for us has been the inaccurate Pets Best Insurance information we’ve seen on some third party websites. It can take weeks or months to get our information corrected, and meanwhile, pet owners see incorrect information that we can’t control. If it’s happening to us, it’s probably happening to other pet insurance companies you’d like to compare.

If you’re thinking about using a website to get multiple pet insurance quotes at once, here are 5 things you must ask before you proceed.

1. Will you receive actual pet insurance quotes?
Many comparison sites simply share your information with pet insurance companies who will then send you a link to get a dog insurance quote or cat insurance quote. So, you still have to enter all your pet’s information in multiple places before knowing your pricing options. If this is the case, it may be faster to compare pet insurance by visiting individual company websites.

2. How accurate is the information?
We offer a variety of deductible levels, plan levels and optional routine care coverage. Most of the comparison sites we’ve seen, however, show only a fraction of what we really offer. If they’re shorting you on Pets Best Insurance info, you’re most likely not getting the full picture when it comes to our competitors.

Here’s one way to check the accuracy of the site you’re using: visit www.petsbest.com in one browser window, and compare the third party site’s info in another window. If the information doesn’t align, move on. Here’s another: look for publication dates on the website’s content. If the content is more than 90 days old or there’s no date shown, choose another site.

3. Is the website maintained by an active webmaster?
The truth is, most websites exist to make money. Some entrepreneurs build websites, create spaces for ads, then walk away. Look for the site’s Contact Us section and send a quick email to see if you receive a response. If you can’t find contact information or are redirected to a different site, you may want to steer clear. You should only do business with a company that is easy to contact and will stand behind the information it provides.

4. Who else will receive your personal information?
Always read the website’s Privacy Policy to make sure your info won’t be sold to other companies. Otherwise you could be bombarded with offers from companies selling everything from chop-o-matics to tile roofing.

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5. Are the discounts legitimate?
Pet insurance pricing and discounting is heavily regulated by state laws – not just anyone can offer a discount. If a third party site is promising special pricing, go directly to the company you’re considering to verify the availability of the deal.

And finally, don’t waste your time with downloadable “free quote” coupons – we don’t know of any company that charges for a quote, and dog and cat insurance quotes are always instant and free at www.petsbest.com.