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Top 4 tips to help get clients to say “yes”

Posted on: November 7th, 2011 by

A mother and child take their dog with pet insurance to the vet.

Posted by: H.M.
For Pets Best Insurance

In today’s tough economy where many consumers are not spending as freely, it can sometimes be a challenge to get clients to say “yes” to veterinary services that your practice offers.

Now more than ever, you and your staff need to communicate the value of your services. If your clients don’t fully understand the value, they may not accept treatment recommendations for their pets. Here are four tips that can help:

1) Maximize the client experience.
Clients make decisions regarding purchases based on a variety of influences. Your practice environment is a situational influence you can control. Creating a comfortable atmosphere for clients can positively affect their purchasing behavior. Hire the right staff, people who are enthusiastic about helping others, and pay close attention to the people who manage your front desk. Offer free coffee and make sure your waiting area is clean.

2) Use stories to show value.
If a client is concerned about the cost of a service, share a story about another pet you have treated for the same health issue, the care that pet received, and the positive results that can come from such care. Doing this lets your client envision having the service for their own pet — an important step in getting them closer to saying “yes”.

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3) Knowledge is power; empower your clients with information you provide.
The amount of information a client has about a particular product or service can influence purchasing behavior. A client whose pet already takes heartworm prevention medication is more likely to buy it again, whereas a client considering pet dental cleaning for the first time may need to know more before saying “yes.” Use staff meetings to train your team so they can easily describe services and convey at least one or two benefits of the services to clients in layman terms. And keep in mind, while many pet owners go online for information about pet healthcare, you can provide the experience and personal interaction that an online article can’t.

4) Use print and online materials to communicate value, too.
Do you have any brochures developed for your own practice? What about a website? Make sure your website is user-friendly and has pictures of your staff and facility, pet “success stories”, client testimonials, and contact information (address, telephone number, hours of operation). Consider adding an online survey to gather client feedback and use the suggestions to continually improve on client service.

For more suggestions like these that can help you promote the value of the services your practice provides, see “6 Ways to Toot Your Practice Horn” in Veterinary Economics, September 2011, www.dvm360.com.

Pet health: Chronic problems due to cat food?

Posted on: November 4th, 2011 by

A cat with pet health insurance eats a dish of food.

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

Vomiting an occasional hairball can be a normal occurrence in cats, but more frequent vomiting than that should always be brought to your veterinarian’s attention as it may be a sign of a serious underlying pet health problem. Let’s look at how food problems can cause vomiting in cats.

If a cat is bright, alert, and active with no weight loss despite a history of chronic vomiting, I will often spend some time trying to determine if an underlying food sensitivity is involved. Sometimes the cat may be reacting to chemicals in the diet such as artificial flavorings or colorings. Switching to a “natural“ food that avoids any such ingredients may be beneficial. Chemical preservatives in dry foods are typically not a problem, as all brands of dry food that I’ve checked out use natural vitamin E as a preservative.

Each pet food company has it’s own proprietary formulas for its diets, and in some cases there may be some unknown factor that makes your cat able to digest some brands better than others. It’s good to try a few different brands, but it’s best to blend in the new diet over a few days for better acceptance by your cat.

I like there to be some canned food in all cats’ diets. I believe that it’s more like what the cats would be eating out in the wild. In other words, it’s more like canned mouse-high protein, low carbohydrate, and a good source of water for them. Some cats vomit less on canned food and that can give some clues as to what may be causing the vomiting.

Cats are obligate carnivores, so I especially like grain free diets for them. Most cats have adapted to digesting grains like corn, and it can be a good, inexpensive source of energy. But some cats have trouble digesting the grains, and vomiting may stop after switching to grain free food. My preference is grain free canned food. Be aware that grain free dry food is very high in calories, and you have to feed controlled amounts only or weight gain could easily occur. To be sure that your cat can receive the best healthcare possible, in the event of an unexpected accident or illness, it’s a good idea to have a cat insurance policy.

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Cats can develop food allergies too. Because these kinds of a diagnosis can be spendy for cat owners, I recommend cat insurance to my clients. A cat with classic food allergies has itchy skin problems, especially around the head and neck, but some cats will present with gastrointestinal problems instead.

Many clients think that food allergies are related to recent food changes, but in reality it takes a long time to develop a food allergy, so it’s more likely to be seen with something the cat has been eating for a long time. Most often the offending allergen is a protein in the food. I use prescription medical hypoallergenic diets to help diagnose this condition. The food should have a single protein source and a single carbohydrate source that the cat’s body has never seen before. Most food companies use green peas as the carbohydrates and the proteins are meats such as venison, duck or rabbit. Cats stay on these diets for 6-8 weeks and then are challenged with the old diet to see if symptoms return.

Hydrolyzed protein diets are also available to help diagnose food allergies. These are still poultry based, but the proteins have been broken down so small that they should not be able to cause an allergic reaction. While this sounds good in theory, I’m not totally convinced these work well in the real world. I prefer to try the true hypoallergenic diets first.

Prescription gastrointestinal diets are also available. These have highly digestible proteins and seem to be a little more bland and easier on the stomach though still very palatable. Fiber diets can also be helpful in some cases. There are different types of fiber and cats can respond differently to each, so your veterinarian can determine which would be best for your cat.

If diet changes do not improve or resolve your cat’s vomiting, then it is time to get a little more aggressive in looking for answers. I will usually recommend baseline bloodwork and a urinalysis followed by further diagnostics as indicated. Hopefully, you will have checked into pet health insurance for your cat to help cover these expenses. I’ll talk about inflammatory bowel disease, one of the most common causes of chronic vomiting in cats, in future blogs.

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

National Cat Week: A time to celebrate a ditch kitten named Autumn and others

Posted on: November 2nd, 2011 by

A kitten in need of pet health insurance is held in the palm of a vets hand.

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

The first week of Novemeber is National Cat Week! Setting aside a week to recognize the intelligence and personalities our feline friends offer is a small way to give thanks and to raise awareness about the scores of kitties that don’t have people to love. If you happen to already be a kitty owner, it’s a great time to look into cat health insurance for your furry companion. Cat insurance can help you afford the best care for your pet in the event of an illness or unexpected accident. Additionally, National Animal Shelter Appreciation week will be upon us soon– November 5th through the 11th, so after adopting your new best friend, make sure to start looking into the best cat or dog health insurance you can find. Companies like Pets Best Insurance reimburse 80% of the actual vet bill!

Local animal shelters are a haven for thousands of homeless animals and work closely with communities to ensure pet health and well-being. While this particular story is about a stray kitten that was lucky enough to never end up in a shelter, her story can still highlights the effort put forth by humane societies to connect homeless pets with petless homes.

A family recently came to my clinic and their story is perfect for National Cat week, and also resonates with National Shelter Animal Appreciation week. Autumn was a tiny 2 pound Calico bundle of skinny fur and whiskers. A couple found her in a drainage ditch, shivering. Unwilling to leave her there, they scooped her up and took her home. She was bathed and fed and within hours of being warmed and fed she became a playful 8 week old kitten. Before allowing her to interact with the other cats at home, the family recognized the importance of scheduling a visit with their veterinarian to ensure she was healthy.

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From the outside Autumn looked like she was in great pet health although she was slightly skinny. It was recommended that she start receiving kitten vaccines and that she be tested for infectious viral diseases; two such diseases are Feline immunodeficiency virus and Feline Leukemia virus. If Autumn had either of these disease, she could spread it to the healthy cats at home. The couple agreed that she should be tested. Unfortunately, the blood test was positive for Feline Leukemia virus.

Feline leukemia virus is a retrovirus that is spread from cat to cat by saliva of the infected to cat to eyes, mouth or nose of non-infected cats through grooming, biting, during pregnancy or nursing from mom to kitten and rarely from sharing bowls and toys. The virus spreads from the infected tissue to adjacent lymph nodes and eventually invades the bone marrow, causing leukemia, a cancer of lymphocytes. The virus can compromise the immune system, leaving the cat susceptible to a variety of other illnesses, thus clinical signs of the disease can be varied. If the cat’s immune system can’t clear the virus, the disease can be fatal. There is no cure.

There is a vaccine available against FeLV; most experts agree that cats with risk of exposure to other stray cats be vaccinated. Less than 1% of cats as pets are persistently infected with FeLV in the United States, but well over a third have specific antibodies which indicate prior exposure and subsequent development of immunity instead of infection. Experts agree there is strong evidence kittens under 4 months of age, such as Autumn are susceptible to infection, but as their immune system matures, they are able to ‘clear’ the virus from their bodies. There are three outcomes for cats infected with this virus, the cat can fight off the infection and become totally immune, it can become a healthy carrier that never gets sick itself but can infect other cats, or it can develop the disease and become immunocompromised. Pet insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance even offer a limited reimbursement for this vaccine.

The kind-hearted couple were faced with a huge dilemma. Do they open their home to this little kitten, segregating her from the other cats in the house, potentially for months, and retest her, knowing there was a risk she might get sick before then? Or do they give her up now, protecting their other cats at home from infection and hope someone else would give her the chance to clear the disease? Lastly, they considered putting her down now, and sparing her the suffering that would occur should she develop symptoms of leukemia.

The couple decided to sleep on it; they left Autumn at the clinic for a night so that they could go home and discuss the best option. To my delight, they decided to give her a chance! They brought their other cats in immediately to be FeLV vaccinated as an extra precaution, and kept Autumn in a separate part of the house for 8 weeks. Two months seemed to fly by, and soon Autumn was on my schedule to be re-tested. Everybody held their breath and crossed their fingers as we waited the agonizing ten minutes in takes to run the test. And she was negative! She had cleared the disease, just as we had hoped, and therefore was no longer a carrier and could live a normal life with her new family.

Autumn was lucky to have found a family to care for her; We encourage you to take a moment November 5 through 11 to appreciate the work that your local shelter does to help kittens like Autumn every day and take time this week to give your feline friend an extra kiss to recognize National Cat week!

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

Kevin and The Cat Doctor Part III

Posted on: November 1st, 2011 by

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Today I’m going to be answering some questions from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance, and we are continuing the series that we call “Kevin and the Cat Doctor”.

Kevin asks me, “My female cat has suddenly taken to spraying the walls and other items such as clothing. Is she just trying to mark her territory or is there a deeper issue to this?”

First of all, Kevin, I’d ask you if you kitty-cat is spayed. Some females who are not spayed will mark their territory, urinating on articles or spraying walls and such, when they’re in heat. So make sure that she is spayed. If she has already has been spayed, then it’s always best that we rule out a medical problem. Some cats, when they have urinary issues, will spray rather than urinating on items on the floor. It’s best that you take your kitty to your veterinarian, have the doctor run a urinalysis and give the kitty a good physical to rule out any medical problems, rather than just assuming that she’s having behavioral issues and just acting up.

Next, Kevin asks, “I’ve been told cats which have been declawed have peculiar habits atypical of normal cats, such as urinating upon furniture. How true is this?”

It is not true. Declawing can be a very controversial subject but I’m happy to report that there have been no studies that have shown that cats that are declawed have any type of elimination problems or any other behavioral problems. So it is okay to declaw your kitties in certain situations.

And finally, Kevin asks, “I’ve been told kidney failure is the great equalizer among cats, so what should I do to reduce this likelihood?”

Unfortunately, we do see a large amount of chronic kidney disease in our older kitty-cats and we’re not entirely sure why this happens. The best way to try to prevent it is by making sure your cat sees your veterinarian for an annual physical, or perhaps even visiting the veterinarian twice a year. At some point as the kitty gets older, your veterinarian will recommend that some blood work and a urinalysis be done. This is very important because that way you can identify kidney disease as soon as possible and there are steps that can be taken to help your kitty’s kidneys work for as long as possible.

Kevin and The Cat Doctor Part I

Posted on: November 1st, 2011 by

Hi. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’ll be answering some questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

This particular segment is called “Kevin and the Cat Doctor”. Kevin was a very busy boy and had lots of questions for us, but I do appreciate that, Kevin, because honestly, the more you know about your kitties, the better you’ll be able to keep your kitties healthy and happy for a long time.

Let’s start off on Kevin’s questions. The first one here is, “If I get a kitten, should I teach it to use the toilet or is that a novel behavior best left alone?”

I’m always amazed at those people that can actually teach their kitties to use the toilet. I don’t know how they do it and I don’t know where they get the patience from. But hey, if you want to try that, I’d say go for it. My only concern is that as a kitty gets older, they may have some problems jumping up onto the toilet if they get arthritis and things of that sort. For younger kitties, give it a try. For most cats, though, in general it’s best to use the old natural method and let them do what comes naturally to them by using a litter box.

Second question. “I recently heard feeding only dry food can lead to kidney problems. Is there a good ratio of dry to canned food?”

Feeding dry food only will not cause kidney problems. We do, unfortunately, see a lot of chronic kidney disease, mostly in our older kitty-cats, and we don’t fully understand why this happens. However, once your kitty is diagnosed with kidney problems, it’s really best to get your cat on a canned food diet. The increased moisture content of the canned food will help the kidneys last a little bit longer. There is no specific ratio. I tell my clients to maximize the amount of canned food fed to those kitties with kidney disease.

Next question. “How does the flea and tick medicine that is applied to the back of the cat’s neck work?” There are several products of this sort and they all basically work about the same. The medication is applied topically on the kitty’s skin. It’s absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream of the cat. It then affects the fleas and ticks by interfering with and damaging their nervous system and that’s how they are killed. They’re a great product, very convenient to use, and I do highly recommend them.