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Rock and a hard place: Kitty bladder stones

Posted on: April 18th, 2012 by

A cat with cat insurance is lost. Dr. Jane Matheys, is a veterinarian blogger for cat health insurance provider, Pets Best.

Urinary stones (also called uroliths) are rock-like deposits of minerals and organic material. Uroliths can form anywhere in the urinary tract, but they are most commonly found in the bladder. Stones vary in size and quantity ranging from a single, small stone to multiple little pebbles or even a large stone over an inch in diameter. Because these can occur in any cat, whether it lives indoors or out, it’s a good idea to consider cat insurance early on. Pet insurance may help pet owners more easily pay for unexpected pet ailments. Different conditions contribute to the formation of different types of bladder stones. The two most common types in cats are struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) and calcium oxalate. Struvite stones are becoming less common as most commercial diets are now formulated to reduce the likelihood of struvite formation by limiting the amount of dietary magnesium and promoting production of more acidic urine.

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Unfortunately, the percentage of stones composed of calcium oxalate has increased since these stones are more likely to form in urine with a lower pH (acidic). High calcium levels in the blood can also play a factor in some cases of calcium oxalate formation. Cats can develop bladder stones at any age. Females seem to be at a higher risk of struvite stones, and males are a bit more affected by oxalate stones. The risk of oxalate stones increases with age, and they seem to occur more frequently in Burmese, Himalayan and Persian breeds. If you think your cat may have bladder stones here are four things you should do:

1. Check for Symptoms First, and most importantly, if your cat is displaying symptoms you will want to take her to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Cats with bladder stones usually show symptoms typical of other lower urinary tract diseases: bloody urine (hematuria), painful urination, straining to urinate, frequent urination, urination outside the litterbox in unusual places, urine spraying and licking the genital area more frequently. Some cats with bladder stones may show no signs at all.

2. Act Fast Occasionally, a small bladder stone will get stuck in the urethra as it tries to pass out of the bladder causing a total blockage with little to no urine production at all. Urinary obstruction is a true medical emergency, and any cat suspected of suffering from this condition must receive immediate vet attention. If the obstruction is not relieved, the cat will eventually lose consciousness and die. A cat experiencing urethral obstruction shows the same symptoms listed above, but as time passes, an obstructed cat typically becomes much more distressed-often crying out in pain. If bladder stones are big enough, the veterinarian may be able to feel them through the cat’s abdominal wall. However, they are most commonly diagnosed with x-rays, ultrasound, urinalysis and urine culture. The treatment of a cat with urinary stones depends on the mineral composition of the stones. For cats with struvite stones, a special stone-dissolving diet may be prescribed to eliminate the stones. If the diet fails to dissolve the stone, then surgical removal may be necessary. Calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved with special diets, and most often surgery is required.

3. Consider your Options Treatment of urethral obstruction usually involves catheterization under anesthesia to try to flush the stone out of the urethra. Surgery is sometimes necessary in addition to hospitalization and supportive care. This can be an expensive proposition, so it is wise to purchase pet health insurance to help cover the costs of unexpected medical emergencies. Cats that have had a bladder stone are at risk for recurrences of this pet health issue. However, dietary management can help a great deal to prevent future formation of both struvite and oxalate stones. In addition, canned diets do a better job of preventing recurrences because they encourage more water consumption than dry diets.

4. Provide After Care After your cat has been diagnosed with bladder stones, you will want to keep a close eye on her, since they can reoccur. More frequent vet check ups may be necessary. Speak with your veterinarian to determine what the best after care will be for your pet.

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The three best ways to ID your pet

Posted on: April 15th, 2012 by

A dog with dog insurance is lost.

By Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

This week is National Pet ID Week, which is a great time to evaluate the best ways to keep your pet safe with identification! Nearly every cat or dog is capable of wandering off or running away when the mood strikes, so here are three best tips from Pets Best Insurance to ID your pet.

1. Update Your Pet’s Name Tag
Take a look at your pet’s name tag right now – there’s a good chance it’s outdated, worn down or maybe even missing completely. When we move or change cell phone numbers, pet tags often don’t get updated. And the surfaces get dinged up pretty quickly. Just a few months of scratching and playing can make the details on your pet’s name tag unreadable.

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When choosing a new tag, look for a high-quality style that includes a thin protective layer for the engraved surfaces. On most machines, the more info you engrave, the tinier the letters. So keep yours simple and easy to read by including only your pet’s name and your cell phone number.

2. Consider a Service Like Help 4 Pets
In addition to a standard name tag, services like Help 4 Pets can reconnect you and your pet in the event of an emergency. They provide a tag with an 800 number and a special code for your pet. If someone finds your pet, they can simply call the number, provide the code and get help 24 hours a day. Services like these are nice in addition to regular name tags because you can have more info than just name and phone number on record. Help 4 Pets even has a special offer for Pets Best Insurance readers.

3. Microchip Your Pet and Keep Your Info Current
Some pet owners still underestimate the power of a microchip ID. True, you can’t see it, you can’t read a phone number on it and you can’t even tell if a pet has one. But microchips are an absolute must for every cat and dog.

Think of how easy it is for your dog to back out of his collar when he doesn’t want to do something. And collars break or come apart – every pet owner has seen that happen. Cat collars are even less reliable, because they’re designed to break away if kitty gets tangled on a branch or a fence.

It has become quite standard for vet hospitals and shelters to scan pets thoroughly and check for microchips when they’re brought in as “strays”. If your pet has lost his collar, a microchip is possibly the only way you can be reunited before he is adopted to someone else, or worse.

Microchips are also becoming more affordable every day. Many shelters include them in their adoption fees, and non-profits and vet hospitals sometimes run specials as low as $12 per microchip, depending on where you live.

If your pet is microchipped, great! Do you remember the name of the company that keeps your information? Track it down and call or go online to make sure it’s current.

With these three layers of protection, you can feel better knowing that even in a worst-case scenario, the odds are good you’ll be reunited with your pet.

Learn how you can protect your pet with dog or cat insurance today!

Does your cat have acne?

Posted on: April 12th, 2012 by

A cat with cat insurance eats from a bowl.

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

One of my cats was outside under my supervision the other day enjoying the sunshine and mild spring temperatures. After he came in, I saw a couple of little black specks on his chin. My first thought was that he had chin acne that I hadn’t noticed before, but I was relieved to find that it was just a little dirt from rolling around on the dusty sidewalk.

Feline acne is a common skin condition seen in cats and can affect cats of any age, breed or sex. It is characterized by tiny black plugs in the skin on a cat’s lips and chin called blackheads or comedones. In many instances there are only a small number of blackheads which are benign and go unnoticed by the owner. However, some cases can evolve into serious, deep, painful infections, so chin acne should never be ignored. Having pet health insurance may help make the best health care more affordable for your cat, as it’s important to take your cat to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect feline acne.

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A blackhead forms when excess keratin (a protein which is the main component of hair) collects in a hair follicle. Associated sebaceous glands in the skin also produce an oily substance called sebum. Over time, a sufficient collection of keratin and sebaceous debris can plug the hair follicle causing a blackhead. If the plug traps bacteria or yeast down in the hair follicle, secondary infection may result which leads to inflammation (folliculitis) and pus-filled boils under the skin called furuncles. In these severe cases, cats can get very swollen chins with draining pustules that are tender and painful.

The specific cause or causes of feline acne are poorly understood, but there are several possible explanations. These include dirty, bacteria-laden food and water bowls, allergies, genetic predisposition, poor grooming habits, defects in keratin production and overproduction of sebum.

Plastic food bowls were once considered a possible culprit for causing feline acne. That idea has since been disputed, and it’s recommended that owners keep food bowls spotlessly clean regardless of what they’re made of. It was also thought that cats with sloppy eating habits were at higher risk of acne, but even the most fastidious cats get it. In addition, it has been suggested that stress can cause feline acne. If that was true, you would expect to see a cat that’s showing many other problems associated with chronic, intense stress, but that’s not the case.

Feline acne is most often diagnosed by simple veterinary examination. In severe or chronic, non-responsive cases, your doctor will want to rule out other possibilities such as mites, fungal and bacterial infections. Testing methods include fungal and bacterial cultures, skin scrapings and skin biopsies.

Treatment of feline acne depends on the severity of the condition. In very mild cases with only a few blackheads, sometimes “benign neglect” with simple monitoring is the best option. When blackheads are more numerous, emphasis is usually placed on good hygiene. Gentle cleansing with mild, antibacterial soap or special shampoos can help to remove blackheads and other debris. Topical application of prescription products or over-the-counter products for human use can be very effective.

Treatment of severe acne can be much more complicated. Your veterinarian may clip the fur around your cat’s chin to enable deep cleaning of the affected area and to allow any topical medications to be better absorbed. Oral antibiotics or oral antifungal medications may be used depending on the source of the infection. Small doses of steroids may also be used for severe inflammation. Always consult your veterinarian if you suspect feline acne, and never treat your cat at home with an anti-acne treatment designed for human use.

Learn more about cat health, behavior and cat or dog insurance today!

Cat Quandries – Heavy Breathing, Worming, Chewing Plastic

Posted on: April 11th, 2012 by

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Celebrate National Pet Day today!

Posted on: April 10th, 2012 by

Two dogs with dog insurance prepares enjoy the sunshine outside.

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

Most animal lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts know that April 10th is National Pet Day!

It’s estimated that two thirds of American households own at least one pet. More than 160 million pets are thought to exist nationwide.

National Pet Day is meant to encourage us to celebrate the many small joys pets bring to our daily lives and to also shed light on the ongoing problems of pet overpopulation and shelter crowding.

It is estimated that about 16,000 animals die in U.S shelters DAILY. Why not pause this April 10th to honor the unconditional love and companionship your pets offer to you every day? And maybe consider helping those in need, by donating, volunteering or adopting at your local shelter.

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Pets bring us joy in more ways than one! The benefits of pet companionship are well documented and established. There is compelling evidence that the emotional connections between us and our furry friends actually translate to positive health benefits as well. People are noted to handle stress better when a pet is around. They tend to be healthier and lead more active lifestyles. Pets can be especially beneficial to the elderly and the very young. Children can learn to develop empathy and a sense of responsibility from having pats, and elderly people can benefit from the companionship.

The beauty of animals is they ask for so little in return, and there are so many ways we can brighten their day and let them know we care. Try looking into a pet safe, healthy recipe for dog biscuits that you can make as a special treat, or organize a play-date with your dog-owning friends at the local dog park. Maybe an extra cuddle session or a few extra minutes with the Frisbee would be all your pet needs to let them know you love them. Pause on April 10th and ensure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and has had a wellness check-up. Consider a trip to the groomer’s for a special wash and cut so your pet is stylin’ for National Pet Day. And if you don’t already have cat or dog insurance for your pet, consider purchasing it!

Even if you don’t have a pet at home, you can help make National Pet Day a success by helping raise awareness about shelter overcrowding and encourage people to consider adopting a homeless animal from the humane society.

Pets come in many shapes, sizes, and types, from small with scales, to big with drool. One thing is universal, whatever form your pet takes, they are dependent on you for their care and can offer you so much pleasure and delight in return.