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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Take a look at your pet’s name tag right now – there’s a good chance it’s outdated, worn down or maybe even missing completely.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.

Jack’s View: Keeping your pets’ ears squeaky clean

Posted on: April 8th, 2012 by

Two dogs with dog insurance prepares enjoy the sunshine outside.

By Dr. Jack Stephens
Pets Best Insurance President and Founder

Most pets don’t require much, if any, ear cleaning as they are usually able to keep their ears clean naturally. Pets that are routinely groomed will also have their ears cleaned by groomers as a part of the grooming process.

Floppy-eared pets, like Cocker Spaniels, will likely have more ear infections and problems than dogs with erect ears. It’s thought that “pinna” or floppy ears cover the ear canal which allows moisture and bacteria to accumulate. The lack of air flow and the inability to shake out normal accumulations of wax may be why these types of dogs typically have more problems.

On a routine basis, usually when you bathe your dog or cat, you should monitor pet health by inspecting your pet’s ears as far as you can see inside the ear opening. Take a cotton ball and wipe the ear clear of wax and dirt that has accumulated. You can use alcohol on the cotton swab to help in the cleaning process but be sure not to use alcohol if there are any open sores, wounds or infection, as this will cause a painful stinging sensation to your pet. Also, a mixture of boric acid or other commercially available ear cleaner can be used on the cotton ball. For dogs with a history of infections, your veterinarian can provide you better cleansers to use on a routine basis as a preventative measure.

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Look for Foxtails (grass awns) around or in the ear after walks. Foxtails are those nasty things that get stuck in your socks when you walk through vacant fields with unkempt grass. Foxtails are especially prone to get into dogs ears and occasionally cats. Once in the ear canal, Foxtails cause ear infections and can only be removed by a veterinarian after sedating or anesthetizing the animal. Symptoms are usually sudden and the animal will generally repeatedly shake their head to try and rid themselves of the irritant.

Foxtails can also get lodged in the nose, between the toes and even the skin, causing infection and often resulting in removal surgery. These are a huge problem for pets in the summer months, causing many emergency visits. After your pet has been in a field where there are grass awns, give them a good brushing and inspection, especially near the ears. Early detection and removal may prevent an infection from forming.

If your pet’s ears have an accumulation of crusty reddish brown material in the ear, have a bad odor or there is repeated shaking of the head (ear flopping) you need to have their ears examined by your veterinarian. Unlike human ears, dogs and cats ear are vertical downward and then have a bend to a horizontal section leading to the ear drum. This anatomy makes dogs and cats much more prone to ear infections than humans. In fact ear infections (otitis externa) are one of the most common causes for a veterinary visit. Only dermatitis has a higher incidence of claims for pet health insurance than ear infections.

It is important to desensitize your pet to ear, foot and mouth inspections by starting your pet off at an early age with gentle manual handling. Open your pet’s mouth, pull the ear flap back on floppy eared pets and place your finger in the outer ear area and then one at a time, hold each of your pet’s feet, while inspecting between the toes. After each inspection, provide your pet with a treat and praise. Do so at least weekly with older pets and more often with pets less than six months old. The more you handle your pet at an early age, the better they will allow inspection by you or your veterinarian when needed.

If conditioned with positive reinforcement (treats) they will also experience less stress and better tolerance when treatments are needed. This can save you money by them allowing you to inspect at home and perhaps avoiding the need for sedation or anesthesia when a problem develops. Prevention, by inspecting your pet for Foxtails in the summer and regular monthly cleaning of the outer ear (our ear lobe) may go a long way to avoiding a costly veterinary visit.

Learn more about pet health or dog or cat insurance today!