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Ensuring your health is as important as insuring your pets’

Posted on: January 27th, 2012 by

A couple, who own a dog with pet insurance, hold him on the couch.

By: Steve Anderson, Editor
Health Insurance Resource Center
For Pets Best Insurance

Americans love their pets in a big way, but is it possible they love their pets even more than themselves? It appears true in many cases and oddly enough, it can have a tragic outcome for pets.

In 2011, pet owners were projected to spend more than $50 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association’s annual review. Pet owners are buying everything from pet toys and food to veterinary care pet health insurance.

But for as much as human companions do to care for their pets, they often neglect to care adequately for themselves – and that can end up dramatically affecting a pet’s future.

Each month, the Washington Humane Society in the nation’s capital sees a dozen or so pets relinquished to its open-access shelter by their owners or the owners’ families. The pets are usually healthy, but the owners were not.

“The majority of animals that come to us are in excellent condition. They’ve obviously had happy lives and have been well cared for,” says Stephanie Shain, COO of the Washington, DC, Humane Society. “So [the pet relinquishment] has nothing to do with the animal’s health, but instead with the health of the owner,” Shain said.

It’s heartbreaking, Shain says. “We’ll see an owner go into the hospital and there’s no plan in place for the pet.” Often, if the owner is unable to make provisions for his or her pet, family members will resort to dropping off the pet at the shelter.

Having to relinquish a pet to the Humane Society or animal control agency is not only heartbreaking; it’s often deadly. A recent study by the National Council on Pet Populations Study & Policy showed that 57 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats relinquished to surveyed shelters were not adopted – and ultimately euthanized.

So even the most caring of pet owners need to take better care of themselves to ensure their pets’ survival, says Charles Smith-Dewey, founder of the Health Insurance Resource Center and the owner of two dogs and a pair of cats.

“It’s great that the number of pet owners purchasing pet policies is on the rise,” says Smith-Dewey, “it’s our duty as pet owners to do everything to ensure that our pets are well cared for. And we, as the people who love them most, need to ensure our own health.”

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That includes not only staying physically fit and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, but maintaining some level of health insurance coverage. “A health insurance policy doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Smith-Dewey, “but it has to be sufficient to minimize a hospital stay and stave off catastrophic medical costs that could leave a pet neglected … or worse.”

Fortunately, even for those who don’t have coverage through an employer, finding a policy that covers big-ticket medical expenses is not impossible. In fact, it’s now faster and more convenient than ever to find an affordable plan by seeking an online health insurance quote from a reputable site.

“Definitely insure your pets,” says Smith-Dewey, “but at the same time, do everything you can to ensure that you’ll be there for them as long as possible.”

For more information about how to get pet insurance for your best friend, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Dogs: Unsocialized and Want to Play; Waking up Early on Weekends

Posted on: January 26th, 2012 by

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Dog Park Etiquette Part I

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by

A dog with pet insurance runs in a dog park.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

For many dog owners, dog parks are a necessary part of life. They’re a great way to let your dog burn energy, socialize and get a change of scenery. But what happens when your favorite park starts to go south? We recently asked pet insurance enthusiasts to share their biggest dog park pet peeves on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page. Read and take heed, so you can avoid being “that guy”, so to speak.

1. Follow Park Rules
Most parks have posted rules that cover the basics – no smoking, clean up after your dog, use a leash when coming and going, etc. But some have additional requirements that your dog be current on vaccinations or even spayed or neutered. Respect these rules for the comfort of all dog owners, and to prevent yourself and your pup from getting the boot.

Oh, and clean up after your dog! It was the #1 complaint we heard from fellow dog owners. Many parks even provide plastic bag dispensers for your convenience.

2. Check Park Safety
When you first arrive, make sure the fences are fully intact so your dog can’t leave the premises. If there are playground or agility toys, make sure they’re not too hot in the summer, or covered with ice in the winter. Check any community Frisbees or tennis balls to ensure they’re not breaking into pieces that could get lodged in a dog’s throat. Because accidents can happen no matter what, it’s always a good idea to have dog insurance for your four-legged friend.

3. Know What’s Fair Play
Normal play between dogs of all sizes includes parallel running, pouncing, chasing, nipping, tug-of-war and even light growling. Unless one dog is yelping or trying to escape or hide, there’s generally no reason for concern and no need to scold another dog or pet owner.

If a situation does escalate, use a leash to remove your dog and ask the other dog’s owner to do the same. NEVER pick up a dog that’s agitated or in a fight, no matter how small he or she might be.

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4. Expect from Your Dog What You Expect from Others
Snarling, aggressive growling, lunging and biting are inappropriate behaviors, whether your dog is a 3-pound Chihuahua or a 70-pound Rottie. If your dog exhibits these behaviors, remove him or her from the park (on-leash) and opt for a less stimulating setting.

5. Be in the Moment
When the dog is occupied and there’s a nice shady bench nearby, it can be tempting to reach for your smartphone to answer emails and check your Facebook page. But distracted pet owners are a big no-no in dog parks. You need to be alert in case your dog tries to escape, harasses another dog, or makes a mess that requires attention. Besides, disconnecting for a few minutes can make the experience a relaxing break for you as well.

Check back next week for Dog Part Etiquette Part II – our Facebook friends were full of advice!

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

Dog Pees on Couch; Eating Squirrel Food

Posted on: January 23rd, 2012 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Kineen who writes, “My older male Weimaraner urinates inside our house almost every day when we’re not home, most often on the back of the couch. I notice this doesn’t happen when the other dog at home is gone. He’s been cleared of any medical issues that might be causing the problem and I have a dog walker that comes out at noon to let the dogs out. We’ve tried a belly band, animal communication, and crate training, and nothing has worked. Anything else we can try to do to stop this behavior?”

Sounds like you’ve done a great job working it up. I definitely applaud that you’ve gone to the veterinarian and made sure it wasn’t something silly like a urinary tract infection or something else that’s treatable.

Because you’ve ruled out the medical issues, it indicates that this truly is a behavioral problem. You’re definitely going to benefit from speaking with a behaviorist, so consider finding a local behaviorist to ask this question.

There are some other things you might try at home. If he doesn’t do it when the other dog is at doggy daycare, you could have the other dog at doggy daycare. If you don’t mind having him there, that would potentially solve the problem. You could also have the dog that’s doing the urinating go to daycare, too, and be supervised all day.

You might try to continue working with the crating. Some dogs will be self-destructive and should not be crated if they react really poorly to it, but if he’s just a whiner or it’s sort of a mild aversion, you could certainly work with it to try and make it a more fun place. Feed him in there. Keep his toys in there. Encourage him to go in when you’re not actually going to close the door and leave him there for the day.

Those might be some things that you could try. You can also talk with your veterinarian about certain anxiety medications or behavioral medications that can sometimes help with inappropriate urination.

The next question comes from Hannah who writes, “We live near a restaurant and squirrels constantly drop food remnants in our yard. We’ve found everything from bread bowls to pizza to hamburger buns and rolls. I try to ensure my dog doesn’t eat any of the food items while she’s outside but she sometimes does. Can any of this food be harmful to her and are there any diseases she could catch from the squirrels?”

This sounds like a really tough problem to deal with. I do think that there is some possibility that some of this food could be harmful to your dog, especially if it’s spoiled, since it was in their trash. There probably aren’t a lot of diseases that she’s going to get from the squirrels, just from them eating the food and then her eating the food that they dropped. Squirrels can have mites and parasites and that type of thing, but she would have to be in pretty close contact to have that happen.

I think you’re probably going to be in a position where you’re going to have to monitor the yard pretty well to keep her from getting hold of this food. You might try talking to the restaurant and see if they can do a little bit better job of disposing their garbage or maybe keeping it covered.

If you guys have pet health questions for me, feel free to post them at Facebook.com/PetsBestInsurance.

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Do you go to the vet often enough?

Posted on: January 23rd, 2012 by

A dog with dog insurance sits on a table at the veterinarian office.

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

Dogs and cats are increasingly becoming part of the family, and are being treated as such. Dogs are no longer just outside animals, and are now sharing the bed and the couch with us. About two thirds of US homes have a dog or a cat, and the majority of people seem to agree that their animals are members of the family. However, despite the increase in the roles pets are playing in our family lives, there has been a disturbing negative trend in pet health. Veterinarians are reporting in the past several years fewer pets are coming into veterinary clinics and preventable disease seem to be on the rise.

There seem to be several reasons veterinary visits are declining in the US:

1. The economic impact of the recession and the cost of veterinary care
Money is tighter for a lot of families and the cost of veterinary medicine is on the rise. Most people have health insurance for themselves but may not have considered their pets ought to have pet health insurance too. It is well documented that people with dog and cat insurance tend to visit the vet’s office more frequently, and sooner when a problem occurs. This is likely due to the fact that the cost associated with veterinary care is defrayed with pet health insurance. Most veterinarians agree that pet health insurance is extremely beneficial to the owners, and subsequently the patients benefit as well.

2. Fragmentation of veterinary services
Low cost vaccine clinics and spay/neutering clinics have their place in the community, but they are not substitutes for a routine wellness exam. Vaccinations clinics are just that, only for vaccines. Most of the time the doctor at the low-cost clinic is not able to take the time to fully examine the insides of the ears, palpate the abdomen, or carefully auscultate the heart to screen for other problems. The doctor will often not have the time to ask and answer important pet health questions, such as changes in water consumption or limping, which can indicate an underlying problem.

3. Consumers substituting internet research for office visits and the perception that regular medical check-ups are unnecessary
A recent study by Bayer showed 15 percent of owners said that by using the Internet, they believe they have less need to visit veterinarians. While it is true some websites are credible sources of background information, an alarming number of pet owners take online blogs written by non-experts as infallible.

A wellness exam is an important time for a veterinarian to examine all parts of your pet so that disease, such as obesity, periodontal disease and even diabetes can be prevented. Animals can be skillful at disguising their illness, and veterinarians are trained to recognize early signs of some preventable or manageable diseases. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure in veterinary medicine, which can be expensive. As we take on the responsibility of adding pets into the family, we take on the responsibility of keeping them healthy as well.

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Most manufacturers of vaccines have altered the vaccination recommendations, and veterinarians have adopted these new regulations, which tend to require fewer vaccines and more years in between vaccines. This may equate to less vet visits, but vaccines are only a very small part of keeping your pet healthy. A regular yearly wellness exam is crucial to maintaining health, even if vaccines aren’t due, and even if the pet is primarily indoors.

4. Pet resistance, especially cats
Veterinarians understand it is hard to get your pets into our offices. Especially cats, which tend to vocalize, hide, and become aggressive or scared. It is thought that this may contribute to the falling numbers of vet visits, especially in cats. If you have issues getting your cat to the vet, you might consider a house-call veterinarian who will come to the house to perform wellness exams there. There are products, such as Feli-way, a pheromone spray that can also help calm cats and dogs for stressful trips to the vet.

By taking in a pet as a member of your family, you are making a commitment to a lifetime responsibility for their care. They are completely dependent on us and offer so much in return. Always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for frequency of visits and consider pet health insurance as a way to help in case of an emergency or unforeseen illness.