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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.

Gifts for your pet that won’t cost you a dime

Posted on: December 16th, 2011 by

A dog with pet health insurance licks his owner.

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

With the holiday season in full swing, it is a good time to think about the perfect gift for your pet. While there are many great gifts you could purchase for your pet, like pet insurance, toys or treats, the following are some suggestions that your pets will love but won’t cost you anything.

1. Love and attention
Pets need human interactions and interaction with their human family members. It is important to spend quality time with your pets, whether you are walking them or playing an energetic game of catch or tug. You should spend time every day interacting with your pet and reinforcing your bond.

2. Exercise
All pets benefit from physical exercise, and exercise is crucial to your pets’ physical and mental health. Dogs should receive daily walks off their property. Simply playing in the yard is not sufficient exercise for most dogs. Like humans, dogs get bored with the same old exercise routines, so vary the location and route as often as possible, to keep their walks interesting and fun.

3. A warm cozy bed
Your pet needs a comfortable place to rest. During these winter months, invite your pet into your bed for a good cuddle. If you don’t typically allow your pet in your bed, they will appreciate it all-the-more.

4. Training
All pets benefit from training. Like humans, pets learn throughout their lives, and do best when they have the opportunity to learn new things. Even old dogs can learn new things that will stimulate their brains. There are many simple training methods you can do at home. Just do a search for “dog training” online. Remeber, it should be a fun experience for your pet and positive training methods result in positive results. Do not use punishment or force based training methods, which can be harmful to your pet.

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5. At home grooming and pampering
All pets require grooming, even if they’re short haired. Run a warm bath for your pet and give him a good rub-a-dub. End the spa day by throwing a blanket into the dryer and wrapping your pup or kitty up for a cozy cuddle up after their bath. Grooming will be a necessity for the life of your pet, so you want to make it an enjoyable experience.

If you do decide to splurge on one thing for your pet this season, it should be pet insurance! You never know when your pet will need unexpected medical care. Whether it is an emergency, injury or a disease, pet health insurance will make caring for your pet more affordable and will help you make those important medical decisions easier. Companies like Pets Best Insurance are great because they reimburse a flat percentage of the actual vet bill—which can make a huge difference for you and your bank account. For more information about cat and dog insurance, visit www.petsbest.com.

Check for cancer in your pet

Posted on: December 14th, 2011 by

Chase, a with dog insurance was diagnosed with K9 Cancer.

By: Cera Reusser
Guest Blogger
For Pets Best Insurance

My name is Cera Reusser and this story is about my dog “Chase” and the importance of pet insurance. One evening when I was giving her and my other dogs their night time loving, I found a lump under Chase’s chin. In just ten short days, I went from finding out the lump was cancerous to losing her to Nasal Carcinoma. And she was just six years old.

I knew it was possible for dogs to get cancer because six months prior to losing Chase, two of my good friends also lost their dogs to cancer. One was only two years old and the other was 10. But I never thought it would happen to me or my girl Chase.

In those 10 short days I learned more about cancer than I ever wanted to. I also learned that fighting cancer can be less costly if it’s found early. Sadly we didn’t find Chase’s cancer in the early stage. Our bill quickly reached $3,000 before we’d even really had a chance to start fighting. One of the only good things about Chase’s story is that through all of this I did have pet insurance. Losing my girl left me heartbroken but it would have been worse if we were without pet health insurance because we would have lost our girl, and still be expected to pay a huge bill– that would serve as a sad reminder.

Right after the loss of my girl, with the support of friends, I was able to put my heart back into my work. That is when I started the “Chase Away K9 Cancer” fund. In just over five years, nearly half a million dollars has been raised by volunteers across the US and Canada to help fund K9 cancer studies and to raise K9 cancer awareness. To date ten studies have been funded through these efforts with more fundings on the horizon.

One of the most important things that we promote at Chase Away K9 Cancer is our “Check Your Dog Day” campaign. On the 14th of every month we ask everyone to give their dog that special night time loving, which is a complete nose to tail exam. Go over them thoroughly, look in their mouths and their ears, feel all over their bodies for any lumps and bumps and if you find anything out of the norm please, please go and see your vet. If detected early, cancer is treatable.

I’m happy to report that since we started the “Check Your Dog Day” campaign we receive notes and calls from people letting us know they found lumps– but in most cases, because it was found early, their dogs can be treated. From time to time, we do still get word that yet another wonderful dog has been lost to cancer.

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Currently the odds of a dog getting cancer are 1 in 3. If the dog is over age 10, those odds go to 1 out of every 2. Our goal is that someday those odds will be none in 3.

Please join us in our fight to help our dogs live longer and healthier live. Visit chaseawayk9cancer.org to make a donation. We are completely volunteer-run and all donations go to fund K9 cancer studies and to raise K9 cancer awareness. Please also purchase pet insurance. So many of my friends and myself have found it to be one of the most important insurances that we have. My girls mean the world to me and pet health insurance will help me provide the best pet health care to them so that I get the chance to see them enjoy their old age.

Something that keeps you cozy can hurt pets

Posted on: December 12th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance who has ingested antifreeze is cared for by a vet.

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

Winter is in full swing and thermostats are being turned up in order to keep everyone warm. The winter season can be a great time to get cozy with the family, but there are some winter pet health dangers that should be considered in order to keep your pets safe this year. Exposure to the cold is an easy danger to recognize, but some are less obvious. One of the most lethal dangers to pets that veterinarians see in the wintertime is antifreeze toxicity. Since emergency treatment isn’t always rewarding, prevention is the key. Because accidents like these abound in the winter months, it’s a good idea to be prepared with pet health insurance.

Antifreeze is used to keep your car running smoothly in the wintertime. It contains ethyl glycol, which has a very low freezing point, meaning at normal winter temperatures it won’t freeze. The problem is that antifreeze tastes sweet, so when animals are exposed to it, they are likely to drink it. The amount needed to harm an animal is also very little, especially in cats. The average ten pound cat could die with as little as one teaspoon of antifreeze ingestion, and a 20 pound dog could suffer severe consequences and possibly death after drinking as little as 3.5 tablespoons.

Once in the body, ethylene glycol is metabolized into formic or oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can combine with normal amounts of calcium in the bloodstream, causing calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are large and hard, and get stuck in the small tubules of the kidneys, blocking them and causing acute kidney failure. In effect, the kidneys crystallize, which is an impossible process to reverse. Treatment is aimed at preventing the ethylene glycol from forming oxalic acid, and therefore preventing calcium oxalate crystals from forming in the first place. Once the crystals are there, damage has been done. Therefore, if you see you pet come across antifreeze, or know they were exposed to it, don’t wait until they act sick to seek veterinary care, it might be too late. Having dog and cat insurance is a good way to defray costs around the holidays when your normal vet may be closed and sometimes-costly emergency clinics are your only option.

Pets that have ingested antifreeze will often act ‘drunk.’ Ethylene glycol is an alcohol and works on the brain in a similar manner to cause stumbling, incoordination and stupor. This can happen within 1 to 12 hours after ingestion. As the kidneys stop doing their job, pets will often become very thirsty and will drink excessive amounts of water. After 12 to 24 hours the pet will become significantly more sick as the kidneys begin to fail, severe electrolyte imbalance will cause cardiac and respiratory signs, including fast breathing and a fast, weak heartbeat. By 2 to 3 days after ingestion, the pet is usually gravely ill, and might seizure and have severe vomiting episodes.

If you suspect your pet has ingested anti-freeze, you veterinarian will likely want to perform a blood chemistry, a blood gas profile and a urinalysis. These tests can become quite costly, which is why cat and dog insurance can help owners afford the best care without worrying about finances. The smaller calcium oxalate crystals forming in the kidneys can be flushed into the urine and visualized under a microscope. The presence of a certain form of these classically shaped urine crystals is a strong indicator of exposure to ethylene glycol. There is a blood test that will look specifically for the presence of ethylene glycol in the blood, but not all veterinary clinics have access to this test.

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Some commercial antifreeze solutions have added sodium fluorescein dye to help detect leaks in the car’s coolant system. The dye fluoresces under a black light and may be excreted in the urine for up to 6 hours, and may be present on the paws, fur or mouth.

Successful treatment must begin before the ethylene glycol is metabolized into the toxic oxalic acid. Patients typically require intensive hospitalization and aggressive treatment. Veterinary care can be expensive, and having pet insurance can be a crucial asset to allowing your pet the emergency care they need. Animals that start treatment 8 to 12 hours after ingestion typically have a poor to grave prognosis.

Some preventative measures you can take to help keep your pet from exposure to this deadly toxin include:

1.) Not allowing your pet access to the garage or other places where antifreeze is used or stored. Store antifreeze with appropriately marked containers.

2.) Immediately clean up any antifreeze spills appropriately and check your car regularly for leaks.

3.) Use antifreeze solutions that have an additive to make it taste less appealing to pets.

4.) Don’t allow your pets outside unsupervised.

Antifreeze toxicity is a devastating illness, but with some foresight and common sense it can be prevented. Always consider pet insurance as a way to ensure your pet can receive the care they need in a time of crisis. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Top 6 Holiday Hazards for Your Cat

Posted on: December 9th, 2011 by

A cat with cat insurance bites a snowflake decoration.

By Dr. Jane Matheys, a Veterinarian and a writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance agency

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose track of where your cats are and what trouble they might be getting into. Having pet insurance as a backup is always a good idea— but here are some holiday health tips to keep your kitty safe this season.

1. Decadent Food
Be careful not to overdo it by giving your cat foods that may cause digestive upset. Avoid feeding table scraps indiscriminately during the festivities, and remind guests not to sneak tidbits to your cats either. Also remember that chocolate can be toxic or even fatal to dogs and cats, especially unsweetened cocoa or baking chocolate. Theobromine, the toxic compound found in chocolate frequently causes poisoning in dogs, but cats are also susceptible. Between 1 to 4 hours of eating chocolate you may notice your pet showing signs of: vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, weakness, difficulty keeping balance, hyperexcitability, muscle spasm, seizures, coma, or death from an abnormal heart rhythm.

2. The Christmas Tree
There’s always something enticing to cats about a novel source of water like that in the Christmas tree stand. Do not let them drink from it. Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers which can cause stomach upset if ingested. The stagnant water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Try to keep the water covered or use a heavy tree skirt. Cats may also try to climb the tree, so make sure it is anchored well and away from things like glass tables.

3. Décor
Many cats cannot resist tinsel. Although the sight of your cat pawing at the tree may be cute, the ingestion of tinsel can be deadly. Because pets can easily get a hold of something like Christmas décor, it’s a good idea to have a dog or cat insurance plan—especially around the holidays.

Eating tinsel or other string-like items such as ribbon can cause serious damage to the intestine. One end can get stuck while the rest is pulled into the intestine as it contracts. The contractions may cause the ribbon or tinsel to saw through the intestine. If not caught in time, infection of the belly cavity develops and the prognosis for recovery becomes poor. If your cat has eaten something like this, signs might include: vomiting, diarrhea, depression, belly pain, and sometimes fever.

4. Lights
Decorative lights are another attraction for cats to chew on. Electrical shock can cause burns, especially in the mouth, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, loss of consciousness and death. Call your veterinarian immediately if your cat has been injured by electrical shock. Treatment will be most effective if begun soon after the shock. Curious cats have also been known to knock down candles causing house fires. Never, ever leave candles unattended with a cat in the house. Having pet health insurance can help defray costs, especially around the holidays when many vet offices are closed and sometimes expensive emergency care is your only option.

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5. Potpourri
Liquid potpourri makes your house smell festive but may be another attraction for cats to drink. I once treated a cat that had tongue ulcers from drinking potpourri. Fortunately, the kitty recovered well with supportive care and a gruel-type diet for several days. Keep potpourri pots covered or otherwise inaccessible.

6. Plants
Probably the most important plant to worry about is the fragrant lily (such as tiger, Asiatic and Stargazer) which is commonly found in holiday arrangements and is highly toxic to cats. Just one chewed leaf can result in severe, acute kidney failure.

Mistletoe can also be very toxic to cats and you should consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat has potentially ingested any part of the plant. It’s accidents like ingestion of Mistletoe that having cat insurance can be a life saver. Holly can also be a problem, although signs of poisonings are generally mild and include vomiting, belly pain and diarrhea.

Poinsettias have received bad publicity in the past whereas, in fact, they are not very toxic to cats. They do, however, contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth, but signs are usually mild.

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