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How to throw a dog birthday party

Posted on: January 17th, 2012 by

Sookie and Roxy, two dogs that are pet insurance enthusiasts, celebrate their birthday.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Even though I work in the pet insurance industry, on occasion, I still forget one of my pet’s birthdays. And boy, do I feel guilty about it! Not that they know any different, but it makes me happy to show up after work with a new bed or special treat.

If you want a sure-fire way to remember your pet’s birthday, plan a birthday party! Pet parties have grown in popularity over the years, so you won’t get nearly as many funny looks today as you would have in the 80s.

Let’s be honest – parties are for the dogs. Inviting cats will only result in the fur flying, so this pet insurance blog goes over the basics of throwing a doggie birthday party.

Step 1: Make the guest list
This is one time you definitely want an A-list of guests. Invite only pooches you know to be good with other dogs and strangers. And consider the time of year. If you have a large yard for a July party, invite the neighborhood. If you have a small living room for a December party, trim the guest list to a best bud or two. And unless you want to dogsit and poop-scoop by yourself all afternoon, make sure the pet parents know they’re invited (expected) to stay for the fun.

Step 2: Safety counts
Doggy-proof all areas of your home. Don’t leave shoes, food or other temptations around, and make sure your fenced yard doesn’t have any loose or missing boards. Close doors to off-limit rooms, and if you have young children, make other arrangements for them during the party. Even if they’re used to being around dogs, not all dogs will know how to play with small children.

Step 3: Prep for playtime
Dogs don’t need much help playing! Have plenty of Frisbees and other fetch toys on hand so there’s no squabbling and everyone gets lots of turns. Keep large bowls of fresh water available for rehydration.

Step 4: Plan the menu
If you want to offer a doggy birthday cake, make sure it’s specifically made for dogs and comes from a reputable pet food bakery. Or, you may want to skip it considering how sensitive some dogs’ digestive systems can be. In that case, offer a little pouch of kibble or a simple treat or toy for each pup to take home. Treat your human guests to light hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

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Step 5: Know What to Skip
For many, our pets are our children and we want to treat them accordingly. But party goods like plastic favors and candles have no place at a dog’s party. The favors aren’t designed to withstand doggy chewing, and we’ve heard of pets singeing their whiskers (or swallowing lit candles altogether) when they get too close to decorated treats.

Step 6: Take Great Photos
Dog eyes can appear white, gray and even aqua in photos taken with a flash. Your computer’s red eye removal tool can’t help, since it’s only designed to remove red. To get great photos, turn your camera flash off and make sure there’s plenty of natural light in front of your pet. Then you can capture her beautiful face the way it looks in real life.

Step 7: Give a Gift
Top off your pup’s big day with dog insurance from the best pet insurance company, if he doesn’t already have it. While it can’t really be wrapped, you could always print “pet insurance” on a slip of paper and wrap it up with a rawhide or another treat – we’re sure he’ll tear right into it.

Have fun, and be sure to share your pet’s birthday pictures on our Facebook wall!

Thanks to Rayna for sharing this picture of her dogs, Sookie and Roxy, celebrating their first birthday!

January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day!

Posted on: January 14th, 2012 by

A dog with pet insurance wears a frog costume.

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

January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet day! This fun day is for animal lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts everywhere! This day allows pets and theit owners to have fun and show off their fashion sense! Of course, you will want to be sure to do this in a responsible way, as not every pet likes to be dressed up.

Since they can’t verbally express to you their humiliation, if your pet doesn’t seem to like wearing clothes, or if she hides or cowers, don’t force the cutesy clothing issue. If your pet is a little shy about showing off, try something a little more reserved, like a colorful bandana or fancy collar instead.

If you do choose to try a costume, here are some common sense rules to keep your pet safe and happy:

1. Avoid any costume with parts that can be ingested easily. Strings and ribbons pose a particular risk for causing potentially serious side effects if ingested.

2. Never leave the costume on your pet while unattended, or for long periods of time.

3. Use an outfit that has velcro enclosures so if need be, the outfit can be quickly removed.

4. Consider your pet’s comfort and body temperature. Anything tight or constricting will not be comfortable for long periods of time. Pets can also easily overheat if they become too warm in the clothing, especially indooors.

5. Keep the celebration fun by pairing outfits with praise, attention and treats!

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6. Seeing that January is one of the coldest months of the year, try using this day as an excuse to bundle your pet up before a long walk in the park or a hike.

Let’s admit it, there are some really cute ways to make your dog (or cat) catwalk ready, but just be sure everyone is having fun, not just the two legged ones!

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

Top 10 resolutions for a healthier cat

Posted on: January 13th, 2012 by

A cat with pet health insurance is held by her owner.

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

Now that we’re a few weeks into the new year, in addition to making some healthy resolutions for yourself, you should consider making some for your cats! Aside from investing in pet health insurance for your kitty, here are some other ways you can help keep your cats happy and healthy through 2012 and beyond.

1. Examination/Wellness Visit
The importance of a yearly physical examination and preventative care for your cat cannot be overemphasized. Semiannual exams, especially for older cats, are even better. This is analogous to recommending an examination every two to three years for an adult human. Sensible, right? Cats age much more quickly than people do, and changes in pet health status may occur rapidly. Cats are also very good at hiding signs of their illness until it has greatly progressed. More frequent evaluation allows earlier identification of illness, improved quality of life, and reduces long-term costs related to your cat’s healthcare.

2. Dental Care
Dental disease is very common in cats, although owners are often not aware of it until their cat’s breath smells so bad that they can’t ignore it any longer. Dental disease can be very painful, and can threaten your cat’s health and welfare. Tooth brushing is extremely valuable in cats, and is best started during kittenhood when cats are most receptive. Tooth brushing can be encouraged with older cats, too, using positive interactions, rewards and patience! In addition to tooth brushing, a variety of dental products for homecare are available, including diets, treats, and chews.

3. Nutrition and Weight Management
Obesity is on the rise in our pet cats along with diabetes. It is far better and easier to prevent weight gain than it is to get an overweight cat to lose weight. Each cat’s food intake and feeding regimen needs to be individualized to sustain proper body and muscle condition scores. Your veterinarian can give you guidelines to help your flabby tabby drops pounds.

4. Behavior and Environmental Enrichment
Appropriate resources should be available throughout your home: food, water, litterboxes, scratching posts, hiding places, and elevated resting spots. The more cats in the household, the more resources that are needed. This will help eliminate undesirable behaviors like urine marking. Environmental enrichment is especially important for indoor cats. Physical and mental stimulation is necessary to prevent stress and illness associated with boredom and inactivity. See The Indoor Pet Initiative at indoorpet.osu.edu/cats for additional information.

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5. Retrovirus Testing
Retroviruses include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). It is important to know the status of these two fatal immunosuppressive diseases in your cats. FIV is primarily spread through cat bites, so it is especially important to have your cat tested about 2 months after receiving a bite in a cat fight.

6. Parasite Control
All cats, including indoor cats, are at risk for both internal parasites(roundworms, hookworms, heartworm) and external parasites (fleas) and should receive preventatives against these. Check with your veterinarian as to which parasites are prevalent in your area.

7. Vaccination
Keep your cats updated on their vaccinations to prevent illness. Vaccinations are no longer given as frequently as they were in the past due to increased knowledge about their duration of immunity. However, even if your cat is not due for vaccinations in a particular year, it is still necessary that he/she receives a physical examination. The exam is the most important part of the veterinary visit! Some pet insurance companies even offer an additional wellness plan to help with the cost of routine care, like vaccinations.

8. Identification/Microchip
It is a sad fact that many of the pet cats that get lost each year never make it back home because they are not wearing any form of identification. A microchip is a permanent identification that is easily placed under your cat’s skin near the shoulder blades. In addition, have your cat wear a collar and tags with current identification and contact information.

9. Recognize Signs of Illness
Cats are masters at hiding their illnesses, and early signs of sickness, stress and pain can be subtle and difficult to detect. Watch for vomiting, bad breath, lethargic behavior, difficulty urinating, changes in grooming habits, or changes in food consumption.

10. Pet Insurance and Financial Planning
Pet ownership requires responsibility! Budget in the cost of your cat’s daily care, and consider purchasing cat insurance for even greater peace of mind. Companies like Pets Best Insurance reimburse a flat percentage of the actual vet bill!

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

Indoor games to play with your pet

Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by

A dog with pet health insurance plays indoors with his owner.

By: Liam Crowe
Bark Busters CEO
Guest Blogger
For Pets Best Insurance

If the weather outside is still frightful and chilly where you are, you might be looking for ways to keep your dog or cat entertained inside. For those days that you miss your morning walk or just don’t feel like going outside, the following indoor games will help work out your pet both mentally and physically, which is good for overall pet health. And just like training him, playing games with your dog enhances your bond and helps keep him focused on you.

Change these games to reward your dog in the way he is best motivated: praise, belly rubs, favorite toys, balls to fetch, or treats. To keep your dog from gaining weight from too many snacks, use some of his mealtime kibble for the games. Make sure each session is short and fun! It’s better to stop any game before your dog gets overly excited or bored.

Name that Toy
Get a group of your dog’s toys that are noticeably different (for example, a stuffed goose, rabbit and bear). Hold a toy up for your dog to sniff and see, get him excited, and toss it, saying “Where’s your bear?” When he comes back with it, give him lots of praise, then do the same with the rabbit, then with the goose, etc. Repeat over and over, and be consistent with the names you choose. Once he has mastered a few, spread out multiple toys and tell him which to get.

Find it!
Put your dog in a sit/stay position and show him a toy or treat. Put it on the floor where he can see it, and say “Find it!” Make the next prize a bit more difficult to find by placing it under a table or behind a chair. For a bigger challenge, set up a whole room of hidden rewards. Watch as your dog searches, and tap your foot and give an “Oh” or gasp to help him find the ones he’s missed.

Where’s the Treat?
Start with 3 or 4 plastic cups or old, cleaned out butter tubs. Show your dog a treat or a favorite small toy. Put your dog in a sit/stay or down/stay position about 10 feet away, and make sure he can see you as you place his reward under one of the makeshift buckets. Then say “Where’s the treat?” and encourage him to come smell the buckets. Praise him when he paws, sits beside, or barks next to the right bucket, and then lift it up so he can get to his prize! Make it harder for him by changing the order of the buckets after you place the reward, or pretending to put them under multiple buckets.

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Clean Up!
Teach your dog to clean up his toys after playtime. First, have your dog pick up a toy while you hold a box for the toys up to him. Tell him “drop it.” When he does, give him lots of praise. Repeat with the next toy. Once he starts to figure it out, put the toy box on the floor, guide your dog over to it, and repeat “drop it.” Be sure to use the same words each time for every command.

Work for your Dinner
Dogs use about the same amount of energy when they are challenged mentally as physically! Treat-rewarding puzzles, such as the Buster® Food Cube or the Wobbler by KONG®, make your dog work for his treats— you can even use kibble (instead of treats) and feed your dog his entire meal this way.

Remember that basic obedience is the foundation for having fun with your dog—games should be a fun and rewarding bonding experience, not a stressful time, for you and your dog.

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

Why everyone should microchip their pets

Posted on: January 11th, 2012 by

A dog with pet health insurance sits.
By: McKensee Shakespeare-Thomas
For Pets Best Insurance

Before I began working for a pet health insurance company, just over a year ago, my sister became one of the many unfortunate victims of the economy. Her husband lost his job and her child ended up with some very expensive medical issues; subsequently, they lost their home.

Although they were fortunate to find a family member to move in with, my sister was unable to take her two Shih Tzus to their new living situation.

Heartbroken, she posted them on Craigslist, hoping to find a new loving home. Shortly after, a “very nice” family came to visit the dogs and it seemed like a perfect fit. Feeling reassured by this familiy’s expressed commitment to the two dogs, my sister gave them away at no cost to the new owners.

Two weeks later as I was perusing Craigslist, I found a listing for two Shih Tzus with an asking price of $500. Upon further investigation, I realized the dogs were actually my sister’s and the “nice family” was actually making a profit by selling dogs they got for free. When I told her, my sister contacted the family and requested her dogs back so she could re-home them. They told her if she wanted them back, it would cost her $500.

Because the Nampa authorities wouldn’t intervene, my sister was unable to get them back and had no way of knowing what happened to her former dogs. Additionally, through outreach on Craigslist, we found out this was a habitual scam operated by the “nice family.” Eight other people contacted my sister indicating this very same family had done this to their pets as well– they were basically flipping the animals for cash.

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About two months later a stranger found the male Shih Tzu, Chester, in field emaciated and with multiple leg fractures. Thankfully they called the Humane Society. Because Chester had a microchip, my sister was contacted and ended up paying for the fracture repair and was able to re-homed him to an awesome family. But unfortunately, Bailey – the female was nowhere to be found, that is, until just recently (almost 12 months later!) Both animals were returned to my sister only because they had microchips.

Bailey is doing great, although sadly, my sister is still not in a position where she can keep her. But we’re just happy she’s safe and with a new family who loves her. I cannot reiterate the importance of having identification on your pets– whether it’s in the form of an ID tag or a microchip.

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

*Pets Best Insurance does not cover the cost of microchips.