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Helping a Cat Lose Weight and Calming a Storm-Scared Dog

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 by

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. Today I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Kate. She writes, “Any suggestions on helping our kitty lose weight? She’s about 13 pounds.” She goes on to talk about some things that she’s done already to try to get her to lose some weight, such as interactive toys and encouraging her to exercise. She’s on a weight loss prescription diet. Kate has worked with her veterinarian and ruled out underlying diseases and that type of thing. The kitty has stopped gaining weight but isn’t really budging down

I definitely want to applaud you for your weight loss efforts for your cat. Cats can be really tricky to get to lose weight and recognizing that they’ll be healthier at a lower weight is fantastic.

Feeding the prescription reduced-calorie diet is a great place to start. What you’re probably going to need to do is use a simple formula of ‘calories in, calories out’. She’s just going to need less calories.

One thing you might do is actually measure how much she’s eating in 24 hours. Take more than you’ll think she’ll eat, measure it out and put it in the bowl. At the end of 24 hours, put what’s left in there and you can see how much she eats in 24 hours. Then reduce that by 20%. Sometimes that will help kind of jump start that weight loss and get her to lose some weight.

The next one comes from Joanna, who says, “My female Shepherd mix is terrified of storms and reverts back to pottying in the house for a week after the storm has passed. Anything I can do to change this behavior?”

This sounds like pretty classic storm phobia, which unfortunately can be common in dogs. It is not only debilitating for them, but also sort of annoying for you, having to clean up that mess and also deal with her fear at that time.

What I would recommend you do is try working with a behaviorist or consult a veterinarian. There are great anti-anxiety medications that can be used during the time of the storm and in the days that follow to try and keep her from having the anxiety that’s causing the accidents in the house.

An alternative to medication that you might try is called the Thunder Shirt. This is a product that just kind of applies pressure to their body and makes them feel a little bit more secure. Some dogs do really well with it and it helps to lessen their anxiety. What you would do is put the shirt on before the storm, leave it on for as long as you think her anxiety will last, and then take it off.

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Celebrate your kitty!

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 by

A newly adopted kitten with cat insurance sits in a bed.
By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Estimates show that approximately 4 million cats enter shelters every year, and 1 to 2 million of them are euthanized. This got me thinking about my own current four cats who were adopted from local animal shelters or rescued as strays. I had to euthanize my oldest one named Glory B. just this past weekend.

I got her from a shelter when she was 2 years old, and she shared her life with me for over 12 years. I spoiled her rotten, of course, and in her mind every day was a celebration! In return, though, she brought me much love and laughter. Like all of you, I could write a book on all the funny things that she did and experiences that we went through together. he was a wonderful companion, and I miss her terribly.

Cats enrich our lives in so many ways, and there’s so much to love about them– the soft, silky fur, the gentle purrs, the kneading paws, the quiet meows and little chirps. The list goes on and on! But did you know that there are also important health benefits to owning a cat?

Owning a cat can reduce your risk of heart disease. A recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that people who did not own a cat were 30-40% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, even if they owned dogs. Stroking a cat has been proven to lower blood pressure, and cat owners tend to have lower triglycerides, which reduces the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease.

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Cat ownership has also been shown to boost the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. As such, cats can reduce feelings of stress, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other negative states.

Elderly people are particularly likely to benefit from the health-protective effects of cat ownership. Those with cats are less inclined to suffer heart attacks, their blood pressure is lower on average, they report less tension and stress, and they live longer overall. With all the health benefits cats provide, it’s important that we give them something back. This is where pet health insurance comes in. Companies like Pets Best Insurance offer cat insurance plans that reimburse 80% of your kitty’s vet bill after a deductible.

Cats offer protection against a number of health problems. If adopted before or shortly after a child is born, they reduce the risk of developing animal allergies, asthma, and possibly other illnesses as well. Children who are in a home with cats tend to miss an average of 9 days less of school a year than children who do not live with cats. Children who own cats learn responsibility and show more empathy towards others and are more willing to help others. Cats teach children about body language and other non-verbal cues as well. Cats provide unconditional love and acceptance, which can help children through difficult times. Additionally, cats can provide therapeutic benefits for children with conditions such as autism.

If you have room in your heart and your home for a forever friend, consider adopting a cat. Please visit your local shelter to find a whole lot of love waiting for you inside! For more information about cat health care and cat insurance, visit www.petsbest.com.

Top 7 Halloween dog tips

Posted on: October 27th, 2011 by

Two puppies with dog insurance sniff Halloween candy.

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

While many of us revel in all the spooky and unusual events Halloween brings, these unfamiliar happenings can quickly become a real nightmare for our canine companions. It’s a great idea to have dog insurance for your pet in the event of a holiday mishap, but the below are some tips to make sure this Halloween is full of treats, not tricks, for your dog.

TRICK: Leaving your dog out in a fenced yard during trick-or-treat festivities. It is often a natural instinct for dogs to protect the family from strangers, and there will be plenty coming and going on Halloween.
TREAT: Bring your dog inside so you know he and visitors to your home will be safe. If your dog usually stays outside, bring him in a few times before the big fright night to get him used to being inside— sudden changes can put more stress on your dog.

TRICK: Allowing your timid or over-exuberant dog to help answer the door. Whether your dog is wary of newcomers or wants to cover everyone who rings the doorbell with kisses, this creates a potentially dangerous situation for your dog and your guests.
TREAT: Create a safe place you can direct your dog to go anytime he is overwhelmed by visitors or household hubbub, such as a crate, pillow or bed. During trick or treat hours, it is best to keep him in a separate room away from the front door to limit his excitability, aggression, and chance of running outside and becoming lost.

TRICK: Giving your dog an unusual amount of attention if he is stressed by Halloween activities.
TREAT: The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling unsettled is to act normally. By over-reassuring your dog, you can inadvertently communicate to him that because you are acting differently, there must be something to worry about.

TRICK: Showing off your family’s new costumes to your dog. He may see you as strangers if you don your costumes without warning.
TREAT: Before you or the kids put on your costumes, allow your dog to scent them. Keep any masks off when you are with your dog, as dogs can become confused and stressed when they can’t see our faces.

TRICK: Not leaving ID tags on your dog at all times.
TREAT: With all the extra commotion and comings and goings, be sure identification tags are secure on your dog’s collar—just in case. And pet health insurance is an option that can give you even more peace of mind, knowing that you will be able to take care of any injuries that could occur if your dog was to run away in fear.

TRICK: Placing lit jack o’ lanterns at dog-level.
TREAT: Excited or stressed dogs (and their swinging tails!) can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin. While you’ll want to avoid this altogether, it’s a good idea to have dog insurance in case of any holiday accidents. Be sure to keep all jack o’ lanterns out of your dog’s reach, or consider a battery-powered candle that does not burn. It is also a good idea to allow your dog to see and scent carved pumpkin decorations before dark, without the candles. Those ghoulish faces can look very scary, especially from a dog’s eye view in the dark.

TRICK: Forcing your dog to wear a Halloween costume.
TREAT: Experiment before Halloween to see if your dog likes being in a costume. If so, fine— he’ll most likely enjoy himself and the extra attention his new look brings! However, if he shows any resistance, don’t force him to spend an already stressful night in discomfort. Try a fancy collar or a bandana around his neck instead.

If you want to include your dog in Halloween festivities, just be sure you think first about his safety and emotional stress level—much like you would for a small child. Your dog does not instinctively understand Halloween, and he needs you to provide guidance and safety measures to keep it a night full of fun, not fright. For more training tips, visit Bark Busters.

For more pet health and behavior tips, visit www.petsbest.com.

Dog Chewing on Paws, Recurring Ear Infections in Dogs

Posted on: October 25th, 2011 by


Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page today.

The first question comes from Jerry, who says, “My dog has red, raw, and chewed-on paws. What do I do?”

This is probably likely due to allergies. This is a really common problem at this time of year. Dogs are, obviously, walking on their feet and they’re going through grass and pollens and dust, and things can get on the feet and cause some contact allergies. You’re probably going to need to make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out things like bacterial or fungal infections which can be a problem on those really red and irritated paws. Oftentimes, antibiotics are needed.

Things you can do at home to try to help would be to rinse those feet after you walk or go outside. Rinse the feet using a soothing shampoo, maybe something with oatmeal, to soothe the skin. This can sometimes be helpful. Work with your veterinarian on a treatment plan, whether it involves antibiotics, antihistamines or other things for underlying allergies.

The next question comes from Kim, who asks, “Could yeast be causing multi-ear infections and is there a home remedy that I can use?”

Absolutely. Yeast is a really common fungus that can live in the ear canal and sometimes cause some problems. It’s normal to have small amounts of yeast in the ear canal, but when it overgrows it can really be a problem.

Sometimes allergies can be an underlying cause. Dogs with floppy ears that tend to trap more moisture and heat in the ears seem to be predisposed as well. If you have a concern that your dog has a fungal infection, it’s really important that you get the correct medicine. You need to see your veterinarian and get prescribed medication.

If this is a chronic problem and you’re in the in-between where you don’t have an active infection but you just want to keep it from flaring up, there are some things that you can do at home. The number one best thing is going to be to use some type of an ear cleaner. What an ear cleaner will do is actually act as an astringent so it’s going to dry that canal out and make it a less nice place for yeast and fungus to live. I’m going to recommend that you buy a cleaner that’s meant for dogs with fungal infections from your veterinarian.

If you want to do something at home, acetic acid works really nicely as an anti-fungal. That’s just vinegar. A recipe that you could try is equal parts water and vinegar with a capful of rubbing alcohol. It’s really important, though, that the ear isn’t inflamed or red because alcohol is going to sting. If you think that you have an infection do not use this; go to your veterinarian. But if you’re just in between and need a cleaner, that might work for you.
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Boo! Pet health and safety this Halloween

Posted on: October 25th, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance is ready for Halloween in a festive sweater.

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

Halloween is a spooky fun time for the whole family– but there are some things to remeber when keeping your furry family members safe during this October holiday. Having a dog or cat insurance policy is one of the best things you can do for your little goblin– in the event of a Halloween mishap. Here are some tips for your pet’s safety:

While scary costumes and ringing doorbells door-to-door can be fun for kids and adults, this can be stressful for some dogs and cats. Stress related colitis can occur with continual ringing of the doorbell and strangers coming and going. Try to keep your pet in a quiet safe place during treat-or-treating hours.

Halloween pranksters can occasionally be cruel, so be sure to keep all pets inside during the festivities of Halloween day and night. Black cats tend to be targeted for mean pranks on Halloween night, so be sure to keep a close eye on your kitty. Some humane societies won’t even allow adoptions of black cats around Halloween for this exact reason.

Another thing to consider is your scary costume! While these are Halloween staples, pets may become frightened, or even fearfully aggressive if they don’t recognize you or your children when you’re wearing something unfamiliar. Never assume that your dog will be comfortable with disguises. Talk in a low soothing voice to let him know it’s you. Another idea is to allow your pet in the room while you change into your costume or put your mask on.

Pet costumes are universally adorable and can be very tempting to put your pet in. But it’s important to be cognitive that most pets won’t like these and costumes can be stressful or uncomfortable for them. In addition, if there are tassels, fringe or strings on the costume, these can be ingested and cause serious intestinal problems or even blockage, which can require surgery to correct. Investing in pet health insurance is one of the best ways to be sure you can give your pet the best care in the event of a Halloween accident. Some pets might chew on the costume and ingest parts of the fabric, also causing problems. Never leave your dog unattended in a Halloween costume.

Carving pumpkins is a time honored tradition, but it’s important to keep your pet from eating the pumpkin innards. While not poisonous or toxic to dogs, pumpkin seeds in excess can cause gastritis, and subsequent vomiting and diarrhea. This can be a spendy trip to the vet without pet health insurance. So be sure to watch that pup or kitty around the carved leftovers.

After the pumpkins are carved and displayed, be sure to protect animals from the candles inside, which can pose a fire hazard if knocked over, or can cause serious burns or stomach upset if ingested.

Trick-or-treating always results in yummy candy! Most pets love the taste of candy, but shouldn’t be allowed to eat it. As many pet owners know, chocolate candies can be toxic to dogs and too much candy can cause inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, which can require hospitalization and intensive treatment. Because there tend to be more accidents of this kind around the Halloween holidy, it’s important that you have pet insurance for your four-legged friend.

Some sugar-free candies and gum contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is very toxic to dogs and can cause dangerously low blood sugar. This can lead to seizing, coma and can even be fatal. Be sure to keep these kinds of candies out of reach from your pet.

If your dog is comfortable in a costume and will go trick-or-treating with you, consider reflective collars or reflective additions to the costume in order to provide more visibility on busier streets in the dark.

With just a little extra forethought, Halloween can be a fun time for the whole family. If you are concerned that your pet has eaten candy it shouldn’t, or part of its costume, call your veterinarian immediately. Please watch out for animal cruelty as well, and contact the local authorities, or shelter if you suspect this.

Happy Halloween!