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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!

How to teach your dog to use doggie stairs

Posted on: March 2nd, 2012 by

Five small Chihuahuas learn how to use doggie stairs.

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

One of the best inventions for small breed or older dogs are doggie stairs! Because pet health and joint health can decline in aging pets, I highly recommend these steps to help pets get on and off furniture safely!

Not only are they a great, convenient item for the pet owner, but they also keep your dog safe from injury while struggling to ascend or as a result of jumping off the furniture.

Training your dog to use the steps is much easier than you would think and it can be a fun learning game for your dog. There are actually two behaviors you will be teaching your dog. The first behavior is going up the steps, and the next behavior, of course, is going down the steps.

First, find a yummy treat that your dog loves. Sit on the floor next to the steps. Place a treat on the ground at the base of the first step. Your dog should come up and eat the treat. Next, show your dog another treat and put it on the first step. Praise your dog when he approaches the step and eats the treat from the first step. If your dog was uncomfortable approaching the steps you may want to give him teats on the first step several times until he is more comfortable.

Next you will show your dog another treat and put it on the second step. If your dog steps up on the first step to reach the treat located on the second step, great you are almost there. Next you will show your dog the treat and lure him up the steps. Go slowly, you don’t want to rush this step and scare your dog. Take small steps until you can lure your dog all the way from the floor to the top step and onto the furniture.

Now it is time to teach your dog how to go down the steps. Start once again at the bottom of the steps. Put your dog on the bottom step and using a food lure, lure him to the ground. Repeat this several times until your dog is comfortable going down the step. Next, you will put your dog on the second step and lure him down to the ground. When your dog is comfortable you can place him on the next step up. Soon he will be going down the steps comfortably.

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While it’s always a good idea to have a dog insurance policy in place in case of accidental slips or falls, doggie stairs can help your pet remain mobile in your home– even if he’s older or a small-sized breed. Here are some more training tips:

Training Tips
1. Take your time teaching these behaviors. Break the behaviors into small steps.

2. Stay close to your dog, so you can give him gentle support as needed. You want him to feel secure on the steps.

3. Make sure your dog does not rush up and down the steps, safety is priority.

4. If you don’t have a carpeted floor, place a small rug at the bottom of the steps so your dog does not slip on slick floors.

5. Be patient. Some dogs will progress quicker than others at this.

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

Take a deep breath, kitty

Posted on: February 29th, 2012 by

A cat with feline asthma, who would benefit from cat insurance, is held by his owner.

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

Last week, a client brought in a 3-year-old, female, Siamese mixed breed cat who had a severe pet health issue. The cat had been coughing for 5 months. The coughing started out randomly, but had now progressed to multiple coughing attacks daily. She was coughing during her examination, and her abdominal muscles where heaving in and out in an effort to breathe. I diagnosed her with feline asthma, and with proper medications she is now breathing easily.

Feline asthma is a disorder that causes decreased airflow in the small airways of the lungs called bronchi and bronchioles. This airflow limitation generally is the result of some combination of airway inflammation, accumulated airway mucus, and airway smooth muscle contraction. Asthma in cats is sometimes also called feline bronchitis, but these are actually two separate disorders. However, the distinction between asthma and bronchitis is not made easily, and many times it is not possible to distinguish bronchitis from asthma in cats. They do share a common finding of chronic airway inflammation and hyper-responsive (over-reactive) airways.

Asthma affects about 1% of cats* and Siamese cats seem to be more susceptible. It usually starts between the ages of 2-8 years old. The most common symptoms in cats with asthma are wheezing and coughing. The coughing has been described as a dry, hacking cough that can be confused with retching or gagging. Many cats assume a squatting position with the neck held low and extended during these coughing episodes.

Mildly affected cats may cough only occasionally and appear to be normal otherwise. These early signs are often overlooked or are mistaken for hairballs. The frequency of coughing will increase with time in many cats, and the most severely affected cats have daily bouts of coughing and wheezing with severe airway constriction leading to open-mouth breathing and respiratory distress that can be life-threatening. Like humans with asthma, cats can die from an acute asthma attack.

The exact cause of the underlying airway inflammation and airway hyper-responsiveness in cats with asthma remains under investigation. It does appear that when the airway of the cat is sensitive to certain stimuli, exposure to these agents leads to a narrowing of the airways. The inciting agents are usually direct irritants to the airways or things that provoke an allergic response in the respiratory tract.

These agents can include inhaled allergens (dust from cat litter, cigarette smoke, perfume, hairspray, deodorizers), pollens or mold, infectious agents (viruses, bacteria), and parasites (heartworms, lungworms). Regardless of the irritating agent, the end result is the same: muscle spasm and constriction of the airways, build-up of mucus and airway inflammation.

Because feline asthma could occur in any cat, it’s a good idea to be prepared with cat insurance. After a thorough physical examination of your cat, your veterinarian will take chest x-rays to help diagnose asthma. Characteristic changes in the lungs are common on x-rays. Bloodwork may be run to help provide clues as to the underlying cause and to rule out other possible diseases like heartworm. In some cases, bronchoscopy and airway flushing are performed under anesthesia to visually examine the airways and obtain cell samples from deep in the lungs for microscopic examination and testing.

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Asthma in cats can be treated successfully but not cured. The most important drug for treating feline asthma is a corticosteroid to reduce the chronic airway inflammation. The traditional method is to utilize oral corticosteroids which are given at a higher dose for about 10-14 days and then slowly tapered down to an every other day dosing regimen. Cats are much more resistant to the side effects of steroids than are dogs or humans, and most cats do quite well with low-dose, long-term steroid use. Bronchodilators may also be used to open the airways and allow the cat to move air more freely.

In recent years, veterinarians have found that the most effective cat health therapy for feline asthma may be to use inhalers like human asthmatics use. A mask and spacer system has been designed for use in cats similar to those used for babies and small children. Both corticosteroid and bronchodilator inhalers are available for cats. The advantages of inhalers are that the medication is delivered directly to the airways where it is needed, and they are associated with fewer long-term side effects than oral systemic steroids. The downside of inhaler therapy is that it can be expensive. Your veterinarian will help determine which treatment is best for your cat.

Any factors known to trigger or aggravate breathing problems should be avoided. This may include trying different brands of cat litter, eliminating cigarette smoke from the home, and discontinuing use of any aerosols or sprays in the home or using them well away from the affected cat. Air purifiers may also be helpful. In addition, obese cats with asthma will benefit from weight reduction.

1. Padrid, Philip. Asthma. In August, JR, editor: Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, vol 6, St. Louis, 2010, Saunders, p 449.

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

Dog’s runny nose may be life threatening

Posted on: February 27th, 2012 by

A German Short Hair Pointer with pet insurance looks at the camera.

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

Duke is a sweet-as-pie male German Shorthaired Pointer. In his nine years he has been his owner’s faithful hunting companion, flushing out birds and doing his breed-trademark pointing. He had always been healthy until this last fall, when he seemed to catch a cold and had a snotty nose with mucus discharge and sneezing. Concerned about his depleting pet health, his owners made an appointment with the veterinarian to determine what was wrong.

Dogs don’t typically get sinusitis, or infection of the sinus cavity, without an underlying condition. Usually they get a sinus infection due to some other problem, such as snorting up a grass seed, for example. Duke was an active outside dog; it was possible he could have gotten something stuck up one nostril. In fact, the list of possible underlying causes was relatively short: allergies, foreign body (seed or other plant material most likely), mites, fungal infection, bacterial infection, tooth root infection, and lastly, cancer had to be included.

We decided to tackle the list systematically and treated him for allergies and nasal mites first. When he didn’t respond, we tested for fungal infection by looking for antibodies in his blood to the most common nasal fungi, and treated for bacterial infection. In the meantime Duke seemed happy despite his snotty nose and sneezing.

The fungal test was negative. Duke partially responded to antibiotics, which made him go from having discharge from both nostrils, to only the right nostril. The only causes left on his list of differentials were foreign body, tooth root infection and cancer. Duke’s owners agreed it was time to perform a rhinoscopy and skull and nose radiographs. Because procedures like these can be expensive, it’s always a good idea to have a pet health insurance policy in place. Dog insurance can help make the best pet health care more affordable.

A rhinoscopy is a procedure where a very small camera on the end of a rigid scope is used to examine inside of small cavities, like nostrils, while the patient is asleep. We were hoping to find a grass seed or some other foreign body there, as this would be quite treatable. There was none. Duke’s X-rays showed no tooth root infections that could be communicating with the sinus cavity and no other boney changes in the skull.

Unfortunately, this left cancer as the sole remaining possible reason for Duke’s chronic nasal discharge. His owners loved him and were determined to find the answer, and agreed to advanced imaging, and ordered an MRI of his nose and head. An MRI uses advanced technology to provide a much more detailed image of body tissues, allowing the clinician to visualize soft tissue as well as bone. It also will take the images in ‘slices’ allowing the clinician to visualize small sections of the body part, from the tip of Duke’s nose, through the back of his head.

Much to all of our dismay, Duke’s MRI revealed unequivocally he had a nasal tumor in his right nostril. The most common neoplastic condition in the nose of the dog is an adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is a malignant neoplasm that can occur in a variety of different tissues. Nasal adenocarcinomas generally carry a poor prognosis without treatment. Duke wouldn’t have long if the owners decided not to go forward with the recommended treatment.

Radiation therapy is the treatment of choice for intranasal carcinomas. About 50% of treated dogs will live longer than 12 to 18 months with a good quality of life. Most dogs tolerate radiation very well, with minimal side effects. Side effects that can occur are usually mild superficial burns secondary to radiation on the skin.

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Duke’s pet health condition isn’t uncommon. Cancer occurs in about 50% of dogs and a third of cats. Veterinary oncology is becoming more and more advanced, keeping up with human medicine, in terms of treating cancer. The biggest road block veterinarians often face, is the acceptance of owners to be financially responsible for costly cancer treatment, and the stigma that radiation and chemotherapy will somehow be cruel. Animals very rarely have the serious side effects of chemotherapy like people do; they don’t lose their hair or their appetites. In fact, owners often can’t tell anything has changed! As more people recognize the value of pet health insurance, hopefully this will allow more people access to lifesaving treatment options for cancer.

Duke’s owners were put in a difficult position. They didn’t have dog insurance for Duke and they had already spent a significant amount of money diagnosing him. Radiation therapy would be an additional $4,000.

Throughout the whole ordeal Duke has been a stellar patient. He never complains, is always happy to be examined, doesn’t mind being poked and prodded. It is unclear how Duke will do long term; his owners are still on the fence about pursuing additional treatment. It is clear Duke is a special part of his family, and he’ll love them either way.

Show your puppy some love with home-baked biscuits

Posted on: February 23rd, 2012 by

A pet with dog insurance helps his owner bake some treats.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Animal lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts everywhere will be excited to learn that today is National Dog Biscuit Day! And while it might be easy to swing by the store on your way home from work, why not bake some dog biscuits in your own kitchen? It’s easier than you might think!

Even if you don’t consider yourself a baker, don’t worry. The best recipes only require a few easy-to-find ingredients, which won’t take a toll on pet health if given in moderation. They’re also much easier to make than people treats. And of course, we pretty much guarantee your dog will scarf them right up.

Peanut Butter Bones
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. natural peanut butter (no added sugar, salt, etc.)
1 c. water
2 tbsp. oil

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine oil, peanut butter and water. Add flour gradually until dough is formed. Knead it and roll it out to about 1/4″ inch thick. Cut into shapes with a bone-shaped cookie cutter and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 18 minutes. Keep a close eye on them because they’ll burn fast once they’re done baking!

Savory Snaps
3 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. finely diced carrots
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. bran
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 to 1 c. water

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine parsley, carrots, cheese and oil. Mix dry ingredients separately and add to the veggie/cheese mix. Add water little by little until dough forms. Knead for one minute, then roll out to 1/2″ thick. Cut into pieces with a cookie cutter. Bake for about 20 minutes until they’ve browned. They might feel soft at first, but will harden as they cool.

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Bonus Tips:
No cookie cutter? Use the top of a glass to cut out perfect circles, or a knife to cut squares.

Share the love: Double the recipe, allow the biscuits to cool and then package them up for your pup’s friends. Goodie bags and pawprint ribbon can be found at most arts-and-crafts or dollar stores.

Everything in moderation: Remember to calculate your dog’s treat intake at meal time. If it’s been a special day with lots of extra treats, you may want to cut back a bit on dinner for optimal pet health.
If you must go the store-bought route, seek out high-quality products with short ingredients lists. And be sure they were made in the United States – imported treats have been recalled after compromising pet health.

Happy baking!

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

Pets Best Insurance assumes no obligation or liability, and makes no warranties, with respect to these recipes.