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Dr. Jack’s 10 reasons to spay/neuter

Posted on: March 11th, 2012 by

A dog with dog insurance visits the vet.

By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder
Pets Best Insurance

Spaying and neutering is as important for your pet’s health as it is your pocketbook. Some of the reasons why you should consider spaying or neutering include:

Females
1. Spaying eliminates the possibility of your pet being afflicted with pyometra. Pyometra is a quickly-developing infection in the uterus, secondary to abnormal lining of the uterus which will result in severe pet health issues or death if untreated. Emergency surgical removal of the uterus is required and once a pet has developed pyometra it is much more expensive to treat than the preventative spay.

2. Spaying eliminates false pregnancy– a condition that mimics pregnancy and can cause painful swollen breasts, vomiting, diarrhea and weight gain. Although not life threatening, false pregnancy does require medications and medical treatment.

3. Spaying eliminates the chance of ovarian and uterine cancer.

4. Spaying, when performed at an early age, can reduce the chance of breast tumors.

5. Spaying eliminates complications from pregnancy, such as eclampsia (milk fever), abortion, retained placenta and general difficulties giving birth which may require a C-section surgery.

6. Spaying eliminates the chance of developing uterine infections.

Males
1. Neutering eliminates the chances of developing testicular tumors or infection.

2. If done early, neutering can reduce objectionable behavior associated with hormones.

3. Neutering decrease the chances of males roaming for females in heat, which often results in fights with other males and/or being hit by a car.

4. Neutering can reduce aggression towards humans.

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Ultimately, spaying and neutering helps society by not adding to the pet overpopulation problems. Too many pets end up in shelters or are euthanized because there are simply not enough homes. Spaying and neutering can also save you money in the long-run by avoiding the many costly medical conditions listed above.

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

Spring break and your pet

Posted on: March 10th, 2012 by

A dog with dog insurance runs on a beach during spring break.

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

Spring break usually means a break from the normal daily grind and a chance to relax and maybe even travel somewhere warm. With some foresight and planning you can include the four-legged members of your family on vacation as well. Pet insurance provider, Pets Best Insurance even allows you to take your pet to any licensed veterinarian, anywhere in the world– so you can rest easy knowing you can travel with your four-legged friend and visit a vet in case of any accidents or illnesses on the road. Alternatively, if you have to leave your pet behind, being prepared prior to scheduling kenneling or a pet sitter can make the trip smoother for everyone.

Increasingly, more and more hotels and resorts are becoming pet friendly. Check websites such as petswelcome.com or officialpethotels.com in the area that you are traveling to find a place that will welcome your animals. Another option is to look into vacation rentals by owner at VRBO.com. These are condos and homes owned by people willing to rent them out for holidays and vacations. While you can probably expect a pet deposit fee, many will allow your pets to stay.

If you decide to bring Fido along, there are some considerations to make for his or her comfort and health. Ask your veterinarian what type of parasite prevention you might want to apply depending on the area you are traveling to. The United States is so large that different regions have very different endemic parasite borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and heartworm disease. Using a product to prevent parasites will help ensure good pet health.

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Traveling can be stressful for pets, especially cats. Acclimating your animal to an appropriately sized kennel with a comfortable blanket that smells like home can help to make the journey smoother, especially if you are driving with them. Consider bringing a toy from home, use the same food he or she usually eats to prevent stomach upset and try to stick to normal routines your pet is familiar with, such as afternoon walks. Products that contain calming pheromones have been shown to lessen anxiety as well. They are available for both dogs and cats; ask your veterinarian for additional information.

If you are flying with your pet, be sure to determine the airlines’ requirements prior to traveling, as each is slightly different. Most will require a veterinarian produced health certificate within 10 days of flying. The airlines typically require a dog crate that can bolt shut (not the plastic snap closures that some smaller kennels have). The animal must be able to stand and turn around comfortably. If he or she is flying cargo, tranquilizers or anti-anxiety medication are NOT recommended, as this can be sedating, causing the pet to be unable to regulate body temperature, or right itself if knocked over.

It your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin with you, you might discuss anti-anxiety medication with your veterinarian. He or she will likely have you try the medication prior to travel to ensure your pet tolerates it well. Never use over the counter medications, or your own medications on your pet without doctor supervision.

If your pet’s personality isn’t suitable to travel, or if you are traveling somewhere they are not invited, plan your care for them well in advance. Visit a local kennel and ask for a tour. Ask what their plan is if an illness occurs, or if there is a doctor on staff. Ensure their vaccinations are up to date, including bordetella or kennel cough. If leaving Fluffy in a kennel gives you anxiety, consider a pet sitter instead. Many pet sitters will even stay in your own home, or at least visit twice daily and perform walks and administer medication. This allows the least change in routine, which is especially nice for cats. Check out Fetchpetcare.com for local pet sitters in your area.

Spring break will be much more enjoyable if your only worries include what to order for dinner and remembering to applying sunscreen rather than stressing about Fido! With some planning and thoughtfulness, everyone in the family, including your pets, can return for spring break relaxed and happy.

For more information about pet health visit Pets Best Insurance.

CT scans save pet lives– if you can afford it

Posted on: March 8th, 2012 by

Torrey, a pet insurance enthusiast, stands in a pet MRI machine.

By: Dr. Jack Stephens
President and Founder
Pets Best Insurance

Last month Torrey, my Teacup Chihuahua, and I attend the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) in Las Vegas, a popular event for veterinarians’ continuing education. Vets keep up-to-date and meet their states’ continuing education requirements by attending such conferences.

Over 6,400 veterinarians and 2,000 technicians attended the annual conference this year to learn new treatments, surgeries, diagnostics and therapeutic agents for pets. They also visit a huge exhibition area to learn about pet health insurance, new technology, drugs, equipment and view a wide assortment of products and services that can be utilized by veterinary hospitals.

Pets Best Insurance exhibits at WVC each year to meet with veterinarians and their staff to help educate them about our pet health insurance and to answer any questions they have about how it works. We also like to get a perspective on how their clients, (our policyholders) view our coverage and service, and to inform them about any new plans, programs or benefits.

We know most veterinarians cannot take the time to fully research dog and cat insurance, but we do like for them to be comfortable with our pet insurance plans and with our company as a whole.

This was Torrey’s eighth WVC conference where she is always the smallest attendee. Torrey is always a hit with her diminutive size and fear-nothing bravado. Only a Chihuahua can bluff and intimate by sheer will, of which she is the queen. Torrey was much sweeter this year and was actually a good hostess in greeting attendees and getting her photo taken. Maybe she’s mellowing with age.

One piece of equipment now available for pets is a portable CT Scanner. This scanner, pictured with Torrey inside, is for the diagnosis of many diseases not detectable by other methods. This type of equipment, along with MRI units and Digital Radiography, can be very expensive. Despite the cost for some units in excess of $100,000, this technology can diagnose more quickly and efficiently, allowing for a much more effective prognosis and treatment.

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At one time this type of sophisticated equipment was only available for humans. The only pet use most veterinarians could get their hands on was after hours and on a very limited basis. This was obviously difficult at best. Now this technology is being used at some veterinary hospitals! However, the cost for a scan or MRI can run $800-1,200 for each diagnostic screening. And multiple screens are often necessary. You can probably see why having pet insurance is a good idea as soon as the tab comes. A good deal of the cost reflects the high cost of the equipment. However, unlike humans, pets must be placed under anesthesia to utilize the diagnostic ability of the equipment. Any patient, human or pet, must be perfectly still while being scanned. I know when I had my first MRI, it took all my will power to hold still and avoid having to be sedated. Otherwise the scans of the brain, spinal cord, muscle and other areas can be unreadable. Unlike the photo of Torrey standing in the unit, pets have to be positioned exactly over the suspect area of damage for several minutes or longer to develop the image necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

While the cost is high, the information provided by an MRI can help diagnose pets earlier and may reduce long-term treatment costs while saving lives. And of course, if you have a Pets Best Insurance pet health insurance plan like I do for Torrey, you won’t be facing the costs alone because Pets Best Insurance reimburses a high percentage of the actual vet bill.

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

Portable Multi-Detector CT pictured, by Universal Medical Systems

Kitty questions, kitty answers

Posted on: March 6th, 2012 by

A cat with cat insurance looks at the camera.

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

Q: My cat was diagnosed as being hyperthyroid not long ago. We decided to have radioactive iodine treatment for her which we did approximately 1 month ago. She has recently been having bad diarrhea and I wondered if that is normal after the iodine treatment?

A: When it is available, radioactive iodine therapy is quickly becoming the treatment of choice for most cats with hyperthyroidism(overactive thyroid gland). This is one of the many reasons it’s a good idea to have a pet health insurance policy in place. As During treatment, radioactive iodine is administered as an injection and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

The iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, but not by other body tissues. The quantity of radiation destroys the abnormal thyroid tissue but does not damage the surrounding tissues or the nearby parathyroid glands. The therapy is curative in greater than 95% of cats with hyperthyroidism.(1) The procedure has no serious side effects, so your cat’s diarrhea is likely due to some other problem. Your veterinarian can help determine what is causing the diarrhea and prescribe any necessary treatment.

Q: In your opinion, what is the safest, most effective flea control product for cats?

A: This is a difficult question as it often depends on individual circumstances. Flea prevention is always the best strategy. In general, I recommend the monthly flea control products. Specifically, I use Frontline, Advantage and Revolution. These are very safe products when used according to label directions. I caution my clients about using some of the other over-the-counter products as there have been reports of toxicities and side effects. The verdict is still out on some of the “generic” monthly flea products available on the market. Time will tell if they are as effective as the brand name product. There is also the possibility that some populations of fleas may be developing a resistance to some of the most commonly used flea control products. Certain geographic locations may be more affected by this problem than others. Cleaning and treating the environment is also imperative. Your veterinarian can make specific recommendations for your particular situation.

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Q: Why would a cat randomly pull his fur out?

A: There is actually nothing random about it! A cat pulls his fur out or overgrooms his fur for a variety of very specific reasons. Your veterinarian just has to figure out which reason it is, and that’s not always an easy task.

Some cats will overgroom due to stress or anxiety. In my experience, these cats are often “secret groomers”. The owners do not witness the overgrooming. The cats are chewing their fur when the owner is gone during the day or at night while the owner is asleep. These cats also tend to lick their fur off right down to the skin, but rarely cause self-trauma to the skin. The hair loss is commonly seen on the belly.

Occasionally cats will overgroom an area due to underlying pain. I once had a feline patient that licked all his fur off over his knee area. I diagnosed arthritis in his knee, and after his pain was treated, he stopped overgrooming and all his fur grew back.

The most common reason for a cat to overgroom is that the skin itches. Some cats can be so itchy that they will lick and chew their fur and skin so much that they cause raw or scabby areas along with the hair loss. Flea allergies are very common in cats, and typically they’re one of the first things I look for. Food allergies can also cause itching and scratching, especially around the head, face and neck. Inhalant allergies are another big cause of overgrooming and fur pulling in cats. Cats can react to inhaling indoor or outdoor allergens just like people do. Rather than the sneezing and runny eyes like seen in people with allergies, though, cats primarily get itchy skin. Having a cat insurance plan in place may help with costs associated with overgrooming when there is an underlying pet health issue.

Less common causes of itchy skin in cats include mites, fungus or bacterial skin infections.

(1) from the website of Advanced Veterinary Medical Imaging, Tustin, CA

For more information about cat health care or pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Do you have the Best Pet Story? Enter to win!

Posted on: March 5th, 2012 by

A pet insurance enthusiast writes a story about her pet.

Calling All Writers!

We here at Pets Best Insurance are unabashed animal lovers just like you. We love reading stories about heroic pets, funny, smart or jet-setting pets, and of course stories about how pet insurance helped your pet out. That’s why we want you to share your Best Pet Story with us!

If you have a heartfelt, interesting or completely hilarious story about your pet (remember that time Fido dragged your dirty laundry out in the middle of your family reunion?) we want to hear it!

If we think your Best Pet Story fits the overall pet-enthusiast vibe we have here at Pets Best Insurance, we’ll post your story on the Pets Best Insurance blog! Each month one Best Pet Story blog will be selected as a winner. In addition to being published, we’ll award the author a $25 Amazon.com gift card.

Authors of winning stories will also have access to our unique blogger badge, which can be posted on your own personal blog or site to let the world know you won the Best Pet Story contest!

To enter the Best Pet Story blogging contest email your submission to us. Please limit your entry to 500 words or less and check spelling and grammar before sending. Remember to include the following information:

Your full name
Your pet’s name and breed
Email address
Phone number
Two clear jpg. photos of you and/or your pet!

For official rules, see the Notes tab on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page. We look forward to reading your “tails.” Happy blogging!