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Pets are good for our health

Posted on: December 30th, 2011 by

A cat with pet health insurance rings in the new year.

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

It’s that time of the year again– the month that we all decide we’re going to be healthier, more fit and turn our lives around! Perhaps your resolution will be to lose weight, get your blood pressure in check, or sign up your furry friend for a pet insurance policy. But doctor visits and medications aside, did you know there is a more simple way to get your health in order that involves your pet?

Think of how much you look forward to interacting with your pet or how fast you hurry home to play with them at the end of the day. Think of all the things you do for them that you might not do or even allow from your spouse! It may be ok for your dog to “hog” the bed– but not your significant other!

The reason we have such affection for our pets is biological. Interacting with our pets releases hormones that make you feel good, increases neurotransmitters, reduces your blood pressure and reduces stress hormones– all of which have positive biological impacts to us. Pets not only play important roles in our lives, but they make us feel better too.

Overall, pet owners tend to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem and are more social than non pet owners. Studies have shown that pet owners recover from illnesses faster and are discharged from hospitals sooner than non pet owners.

Studies have also shown that pet-owning patients experience less pain than those who don’t own pets. Additionally, people with pets end up getting more exercise, likely because they incorporate their dog into their exercise program.

I have personally recommended pets to people who were on anti-depressants due to life changes. Shortly after obtaining a pet, many of the pet owners determined they no longer had a need for their prescription medications. Though I advise they talk with their doctor before making any such change, it’s interesting to think that interacting with pets can help people manage their health.

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These were people who had either recently lost a long-time spouse or had anxiety about an upcoming surgery. Even something as non interactive as fish tanks in senior care facilities, especially Alzheimer units, have been shown to greatly reduce anxiety. Aquariums have also been shown to improved patients’ eating habits and help them maintain their weight, which tends to be an issue for those afflicted with Alzheimers. Staff have even reported less “incidents” by patients when a pets are present in the facility.

Doctors are increasingly harnessing the power of pets to make a positive difference. They now understand that pets keep people happy and healthy and provide positive biological benefits– something us pet owners have known all along. For more information about how pets can benefit you and how you can help keep them healthy in return, visit Pets Best Insurance.

Top 14 most funny kitty names

Posted on: December 28th, 2011 by

A kitten with cat insurance looks at the camera.

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

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and as a practicing veterinarian and pet insurance enthusiast, I know this this true! So here’s a dose of laughter that is sure to keep you healthy. I’ve always been amused by the funny names people choose for their cats. Here are some of the best that I’ve come across in my time as a vet.

1. Bird Dog
It’s what the owner really wanted to get, but a cat fit his lifestyle better. The poor kitty has to bear the brunt of the owner’s wishful thinking.

2. Mousetrap
Technically that’s what a cat is, so I can’t argue with this one.

3. Dog Food
A cat could be this too, I suppose. But I hope not! Unfortunately, we’ve seen our share of cats that have been chewed on or bitten by dogs. It’s instances like these where cat insurance can come in handy.

4. Boogyman
My colleague examined this cat. But his demeanor wasn’t as scary as his name implies.

5. Albus Percival Peanut
He started out as just Peanut, but that was too plain and his owners thought his name needed more bling! I’d say they achieved this goal.

6. Buttsey Wiggle
This is one of my all time favorites! It’s descriptive and cute. I always laugh when I see my own cats do their impression of “buttsey wiggle” when they’re about to pounce on an object.

7. Chunky Butt
There’s just something about those big, fluffy, kitty posteriors that captures owners’ imaginations!

8. Monk E. Buht
Of course, a guy came up with this one! Need I say more?

9. Skimbleshanks and Grizabella
They’re both from the T. S. Eliot poem and Broadway play “CATS”, but the first one is much harder to roll off the tongue.

10. Leonardo DiCatrio
There’ s plenty of famous people to play off their names.

11. Harley Davidson
If you have a cool last name, why not take advantage of it?

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12. Nickat Knight
Another last name you can work with. This refers to Nick at Night on the Nickelodeon channel, I belileve.

13. NBC
Also known as “Not Bill’s Cat.” When this stray was found, Bill said “This is not going to be my cat.” The cat had other ideas. Sorry Bill.

14. Very Delicious Omelet
This wins my category of most bizarre. This kitty suddenly appeared on the back deck one morning when the owners were cooking an omelet. Apparently they were good cooks, too. So what else could they call her, right?

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

Top 5 reasons to help needy animals this holiday season

Posted on: December 23rd, 2011 by

A dog in need of a home and pet insurance waits to be adopted in a shelter.

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

The holidays are upon us and ‘tis the season to help those less fortunate. The Salvation Army bell ringers are on every corner reminding us to be generous and while we’ve probably purchased gifts for everyone in our families (including a new pet insurance policy for Rover) it’s time to give a little back.

While holiday soup kitchens and secret Santas are a wonderful way to show the holiday spirit, this time of year also gives us the opportunity to remember the many animals in non-ideal living situations. Shelters across the nation chronically suffer from overcrowding due thousands of homeless animals. Donations and volunteering your time at animal related organizations are wonderful ways to make a positive impact in your community. Many animal related organizations and pet insurance companies do volunteer work for animals in need during this time of the year– but you can lend a hand too!

Here are 5 fantastic reasons to donate your time with an animal welfare organization this Holiday Season:

1. By volunteering, you are helping to raise awareness and become part of the solution to pet overpopulation, neglect and abuse.

2. You’re guaranteed to make new friends, both fuzzy and two-legged.

3. Volunteering could lead to a new career in an animal-related field.

4. You’ll undoubtedly gain new skills as well as a personal sense of achievement.

5. You’ll probably never meet a more unconditional gratefulness than that displayed by the animals you’ll be helping.

Some volunteering ideas include: walking dogs at a local shelter, teaming up with a rescue organization to foster kittens, doing clerical work like stuffing envelopes for an organization with a good cause, helping with fundraising or organizing events benefiting local animal charities, and participating in local events aimed towards raising awareness about animal welfare– just to name a few!

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If you are short on time, but still want to help, consider donating your old towels and bedding to rescue organizations or the humane society. The shelter animals are always in need of cozy bedding. If your children no longer use their baby blankets, a puppy or kitten might find comfort nestling up in them. Rescue organizations and humane societies can always use cat and dog food, kitty litter, leashes and collars and toys as well.

The holidays are an amazing time of year to stop and think of those less fortunate than us. Animals are often forgotten, but assisting when able can have a big impact on your community. When you get into the giving spirit this year, consider including local animal welfare organizations on your list! Happy howl-idays!

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

Holiday travel tips for you and your furry friend

Posted on: December 21st, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance sits in a packed car.

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

The holidays are a time for getting together with family and friends. This often includes Fido or fluffy, but travelling can be a little tricky with a furry family member. It’s always a good idea to research and invest in pet insurance well before you take off travelling with your pet. But there are some things to consider before toting your pet wherever you go, and some consideration to help make travelling less stressful for your pet and you.

When driving in the car, always ensure your pet is in a carrier that is large enough for them to stand and turn around. Never let your animals free in the car without restraint. A well behaved animal might tolerate a canine seatbelt, which is like a harness that attaches to the car’s seatbelt. A grate designed for your car, blocking off the hatchback might also be useful for larger dogs. Never leave your pet unattended in the back of a pick-up bed; always secure a carrier or use a harness that is specifically designed for pickups. This is important because just a leash tie in a pick-up can be a death sentence if your dog is able to jump or fall out, but is still attached by the collar. Because accidents can happed with even the most cautious of pet owners, it’s always a good idea to have dog insurance as a backup.

And don’t forget cats! Car travelling is possible with cats. I highly recommend placing kitty in a carrier over allowing your cat to roam free in the car. Cats can be quite vocal when riding, but will usually quiet down over time. Feline calming pheromones, such as Feliway sprays are very helpful to calm a stressed kitty. Prior to your trip, allowing your cat to acclimate to the carrier is a good idea too. Put her food and water and toys in it, and allow her to come and go and get used to the carrier

I only ever recommend sedatives for car travel if the pet is likely to hurt themselves, you or your property. The biggest reason for this is that if your pet has a reaction to a sedative while you are on the road, your access to veterinary care will be undoubtedly limited and while driving, you many not notice if there is even a problem. If your veterinarian agrees that your pet would benefit from a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication such as xanax, discuss with your vet trying the medication prior to your trip. By “experimenting” before you go, you can see how your pet reacts, what doses work for them, and you’ll have access to veterinary care should your pet have a reaction to it. Many pet health insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance will even help cover a portion of medications such as these.

Pets can get motion sickness, just like people. Especially puppies, which will not uncommonly vomit during car rides. Most will out grow this, but you can try withholding a meal right before to help ease nausea (be cautious withholding meals in small breed young puppies, who need access to food often to prevent low blood sugar). Most anti-nausea medications such as Dramamine and Benadryl are safe to use in dogs, but always talk to your veterinarian regarding dosing and to ensure the dose is correct and your pet is a good candidate for this medication prior to administering any drug to your pet.

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When travelling across country borders, such as Mexico and Canada by car, a veterinarian-signed official health certificate current within 10 days is required. This health certificate ensures your pet isn’t carrying any communicable diseases, is up to date on rabies vaccines and is healthy enough to be travelling. An official veterinarian signed health certificate is required for interstate travel as well.

Travelling by plane can be a little more stressful for you and your pet, but with some planning and foresight, this can go smoothly as well. It is very important to communicate with your airline carrier for details and specifics, since every airline company is different. The requirements will vary depending on whether your pet is small enough to fly with you in the cabin, or will be flying cargo.

All airlines will require a health certificate; this usually has to be current from your veterinarian within 10 days, but this timing can vary. All will require a carrier that your pet can stand and turn around in. When flying cargo, most will require that the carrier frame be bolted shut, not shut with the easy access plastic clips. Access to food and water is required as well. Many airlines won’t fly pets in extremely cold winter temperatures, so plan your flight at a time of day which will be warmer. Dog and cat insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance accept claims from any licensed vet, anywhere. So if you’re traveling in another state or country, you can visit any vet of your choice.

Most airlines will NOT allow your pet to be sedated for the trip, especially when flying cargo. The reason for this is that sedatives can compromise the pet’s ability to thermoregulate, and their ability to right themselves if they fall over.

Allow PLENTY of time if you are travelling to a foreign country or to Hawaii. Occasionally paperwork, permits and testing can take MONTHS. Do not expect to be able to get your pet into a foreign country without some significant preparation in advance. You can contact the state veterinarian, usually through the USDA for the regulations for the particular country you are travelling to. Your regular veterinarian should have access to those phone numbers and might be able to assist you.

The holidays are a joyous time and excluding those furry family members who give us the most unconditional love and kisses can be disheartening. It is easy to include your pets with a little planning, and have the whole family together for the holidays. Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

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

Your top 6 kitty questions answered

Posted on: December 19th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance snuggles in a blanket.

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

Pet insurance company Pets Best Insurance asked Facebook friends what kitty questions they have! Dr. Jane Matheys, a practicing vet at The Cat Doctor in Boise, Idaho weighs in!

Q: Can hairballs actually be a dangerous thing for cats? Should I give my cat hairball treatment on a regular basis?

A: On rare occasions, hairballs can create a potentially life-threatening blockage in the intestines which may require surgery to remove. If your cat is vomiting up hairballs more than once or twice a month, it’s time to take preventative action. Start with a trip to your veterinarian. This is just one of the many instances where pet health insurance can come in handy. The doctor can help determine if your cat truly has hairballs or if the vomiting is caused by something more serious. Besides regular grooming, the easiest option to help prevent hairballs is to feed your cat a commercial high fiber hairball diet. The fiber helps to move the hair out of the stomach and into the intestines to be eliminated in the feces. If hairball diets are not effective, you may need to use one of the commercial hairball remedies. The most common one is flavored petroleum jelly in a tube which can help lubricate or coat the hairball to encourage passage through the digestive tract. Check with your veterinarian for proper dosage and administration instructions.

Q: Is it possible for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) to be transferred by touching objects such as door handles at the veterinary clinic that an owner of a FeLV positive cat touched immediately before you and then you touch your cat?

A: Transmission of FeLV requires intimate contact with an infected cat’s secretions (saliva, urine, and feces). In addition, FeLV is a fragile virus that does not survive very long in the environment. Ordinary household detergents and bleach effectively kill the virus. Therefore, there is no danger that cats can be exposed to FeLV in veterinary clinic waiting rooms or exam rooms unless direct contact is made with a positive cat that is shedding the virus.

Q: My indoor cat has become an outdoor cat. How do I get him to become an indoor cat again without stressing him?

A: It is essential that you make his indoor environment as physically and mentally stimulating as his outdoor one. Think about what he does outside, and then try to simulate that in your home. This is called environmental enrichment. Make sure he has plenty of high perches and vertical spaces to jump up to and climb on, including sunny windowsills. Provide entertainment around your window areas-bird/squirrel feeders, bird baths, plants to attract butterflies, etc. Hide his food around the house so he has to “hunt” for it. Give him inexpensive toys to play in like paper grocery bags or boxes. Rotate them weekly, so he doesn’t get bored. Keep greens around for him to munch on. Organic wheatgrass is available at many local stores. Play a cat video on the TV or keep soft music on. And give him plenty of interactive playtime when you’re home. You can even try taking him outside on a harness and leash or build an outdoor enclosure. Check out this Ohio State website for more information on indoor cat environmental enrichment: www.indoorpet.osu.edu.

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Another thing you can do is use Feliway diffusers around the house. This is a synthetic pheromone that can help calm cats down in many stressful situations. There are also herbal/nutraceutical supplements available to aid in calming your cat. Sometimes an antianxiety medication needs to be used short term. Your veterinarian can recommend one that might be best for your cat and cat insurance can help defray the expense.

Q: My cat has a really sensitive stomach and will often vomit after eating treats (dry and even “moist” jerky) and even after eating dry food if she hasn’t eaten canned food right before. What can I give her as a treat that is good for cats with sensitive stomachs?

A: Vomiting in cats is not normal other than an occasional hairball. It sounds like your cat is able to digest canned food better than dry food. The question is “Why?” Forget about giving any treats, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination. The doctor can help determine if anything serious is causing the vomiting.

Q: I got married and combined my two 4-year-old Devon Rex cats with my husband’s two 4-year-old domestic long-haired cats. Now his female cat constantly bullies and attacks my sweet male cat. We separate them as much as possible and use Feliway. The female visits her veterinarian minimally since she turns into a cougar when we take her there. What do we do about this mean cat?

A: It’s always uncertain what will happen when you introduce older cats to each other. There are three possible outcomes. They will bond with each other, they will tolerate each other, or the hostilities will continue. Introduction must take place very slowly for it to be successful. I recommend that you start back at square one and totally separate the two cats involved. The resident cat gets to stay in the main part of the house, while the newcomer should be put in a spare room that has litterboxes, food and water bowls, blankets and toys. Let the cats get reacquainted again by smell only. Switch blankets and toys between the two cats and even switch rooms- resident cat goes in the spare room and newcomer gets the run of the house. Feliway diffusers should help decrease stress during this process so continue to use them. It may take several weeks or more until the cats settle down. Then it’s best if you can devise some sort of screen in the door so that the cats can see each other but not contact each other. This phase may take several more weeks. Then you can slowly start letting the newcomer out under supervision. Use positive reinforcement techniques. When the newcomer is around, everyone gets yummy food or treats or other favorite things. You may need to give one or both cats short term antianxiety medications during this process to make them more amenable to the changes in the household. Seek advice from your veterinarian. There are also board certified veterinary behaviorists that may be able to provide a consultation. Many pet health insurance companies will also cover a portion of behavioral issues and medication.

Q: Does renal disease cause my kitty’s fur to mat so much? She is nearly 18 years old and was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. Since she was diagnosed, she has a tendency to mat so badly where she never did before. She still grooms herself, and I brush her daily, but it doesn’t seem to help. What is causing this?

A: It’s common for older cats to have duller, drier hair coats that are prone to matting. Most often matting occurs because the cats do not groom themselves as well as in their younger years. hronic illness can decrease their desire to groom. Arthritis along the spine can decrease flexibility and can make it harder for older cats to twist around to reach those body parts on the hind end. They usually concentrate on cleaning their faces and front legs. If your cat is still grooming her entire body, she’s just not effective at it anymore and you need to help her. Daily brushing should prevent matting, so make sure you are using the proper grooming tools. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which ones will work best on your cat’s coat type.

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