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The Truth About Low-Cost Clinics; How to Switch Vets

Posted on: January 10th, 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 Samantha, who writes, “Is there any difference between having your pet spayed or neutered at a regular vet’s office versus a low-cost spay/neuter specific clinic?”

I love this question. I think this is a great question because sometimes I think the general public doesn’t actually realize what you’re getting at a clinic and why it’s more expensive. The low-cost spay/neuter clinics may be subsidized with donations. If it’s a Humane Society, those are non-profit organizations so they have more money that they can put towards that procedure. That’s one way they can keep their costs down. Another way they keep their costs down is by volume. A regular veterinary hospital may do between three and five procedures on a typical surgery day, whereas a low-cost spay/neuter place may do up to 60.

You can see that it becomes much more of an assembly line type of clinic with the low-cost spay/neuters. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad medicine or that it doesn’t have its place. I think that low-cost spay/neuter clinics are a fantastic way to help reduce pet overpopulation. But definitely ask questions. If you’re considering using a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, ask why it’s so inexpensive. If it’s because they get donations, then that may be different than if their answer is that they do 60 a day and can keep the cost down that way.

Talk with your regular clinic as well. Ask, “Why are you more expensive than the low-cost spay/neuter clinic?” They’ll probably say things like, “We have state-of-the- art monitoring,” or, “Every pet gets an IV catheter and fluids, or “We include pain medications or blood work,” or things that your low-cost spay/neuter clinic may not include. Definitely communicate with your regular veterinarian and with the low-cost spay/neuter clinic before you make your decision.

The next question comes from Hilary, who writes, “I’m considering switching vets because I’m no longer happy with my current vet’s level of care. Is there any good way to break up with your vet? How do you ask for files to be transferred somewhere without it being awkward?”

This is a really great question and I think it’s great that you’re trying to be considerate. If you’re not comfortable with your veterinarian for whatever reason, you need to feel free to switch. I think most veterinarians are a sort of close-knit community and we want you to be happy.

If there’s something specific that you had a problem with, consider bringing it up with them. If they have a website with a ‘Comments’ section and you don’t feel comfortable naming yourself, you might comment anonymously. If you felt comfortable with it, you could even talk with the hospital manager and say you had a problem with some things. Most veterinary clinics really want to have that feedback so that they can be the best clinic that they can be for you.

If you are pretty set on switching to a new veterinarian, they don’t have to know why you’re switching. Typically what you’ll do is just call the office and say, “I need to have my records faxed to such and such a place”. It could be because you’ve moved or for any number of reasons. They are your files. They are your records so you’re allowed to do with them what you want. Most veterinary clinics will fax them wherever you want them to go.

If you have questions for me, feel free to post them at

January is National Train your Dog Month

Posted on: January 9th, 2012 by

A dog with pet health insurance learns how to do a trick.

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

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has named January “National Train Your Dog” month. This is not only a great time to look into pet insurance for your best friend, but also to learn more about dog behavior and get started on a good positive training program for your pet. Trained pets are more enjoyable to live with and are a true asset to any family.

Training is a very important aspect of living with your dog. Like humans, dogs continually learn throughout their lives. Yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks, and need to have their minds challenged with learning new things. Older dogs love to learn new behaviors and learning keeps them healthy, by challenging them mentally and physically.

When you first bring home a puppy, even before you start researching pet health insurance, you will need to consider training. House training is one of the first things most people teach their dogs, but do you know a puppy can even learn basic behaviors such as, “come,” “sit” and “down” at a very young age? Puppies are little knowledge sponges that soak up information quickly– which is why you should start training as soon as possible. I have personally consulted with several breeders regarding how they train their puppies before they go to live with their new families. Breeders should get puppies started on crate training, house training and even behaviors like sit, down, come and learning their names as soon as possible.

The key to any good training program is to keep it fun and reinforcing for the dog. Make training a game and your dog so they will enjoy the training and learn faster. Don’t make training a chore, but rather a fun-filled, happy activity for you and your dog. Remember, through positive training programs, you will build a great relationship and a strong bond with your dog.

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The APDT has set up a special website to help pet owners gain a better understanding of how to train their pets using training methods that are kind, gentle and force free. Throughout the month there are free webinars, and training discussions, to help with your training questions. In addition, many trainers offer specials during the month of January to celebrate National Train Your Dog Month.

So whether you decide to take a class, hire a trainer for private training instruction or just train your dog independently, National Train Your Dog Month, is a great time to get started.

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

Preventing Hemangiosarcomas and a Cat Who Chews Metal

Posted on: January 5th, 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 Yasmina, who says, “Is there a supplement or food that I can feed to prevent hemangiosarcoma? I lost a 10-year-old dog to this disease recently.”

I’m so sorry for your lose of your dog. Hemangiosarcoma is a really horrible cancer. Unfortunately, there’s not really a food or supplement, or anything that you can do, to prevent this disease. You might consider getting pet insurance so that finances aren’t a factor if your dog does get this horrible disease, so you can offer them the best possible treatment.

The next question comes from Ann Marie, who says, “My cat, Pickles, likes to chew on metal things; iron, silver, aluminum. Can cats need iron supplements? Can they crave it? I’m worried about his teeth.”

This is a great question. It’s possible that this is just behavioral. He likes shiny things or he likes the way they taste. It is a little bit worrying for me because cats can get certain toxicities from metal. For example, pennies and other things that have zinc in it can be really toxic to cats. I would try to discourage him from chewing on these metal objects.

There’s a possibility that there could be some sort of an underlying anemia. Sometimes cats can crave non-food objects. You might contact your veterinarian and have a blood work-up done. If everything comes back normal, you’re probably looking at a behavioral problem.

If you guys have pet health questions for me, feel free to post them at

Five ways to find a dog name you love

Posted on: January 5th, 2012 by

A puppy with pet insurance chews on a shoe.

By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

Congratulations, you’ve just come home with a brand new dog! Before you even look into a pet insurance plan for him, you’ll have to find the perfect name.

For some reason, people seem to have more trouble coming up with boy dog names than they do girl names. In fact, the top five male dog names on almost any list are cute but pretty ordinary. Chances are you want something more original than “Max”. (No offense to those who love classic names!) Here’s how to get some inspiration.

1. Remember the moment you adopted him
Think about when and where you found your dog. Was the street name interesting? Whether he was from a breeder, a shelter or running loose– would any of the associated names be a good fit? How was the weather that day? Was it on a holiday? Questions like these can lead you to unique or funny names with personal meaning, like Cole, Sunny or Turkey.

2. Think of your favorite cities
If you’ve traveled and found places you really love, consider using one of those names for your dog. Some of our Facebook friends have named their dogs Holbrook, Cutler, Brooklyn, Aspen and Dallas, after cities they love. One friend named her dogs after rivers in Ireland. London, Phoenix and Hamilton would also make proud dog names.

3. Name him after another animal
Does your new pup behave like another type of animal? Maybe he hops, hides, or makes funny squeaky noises. If so, consider names like Bunny, Turtle, Bear, Birdie or even Kitty.

4. Go through your Facebook lists
If you like giving pets people names, Facebook can be a great resource. Where else can you find thousands of names in just a couple of clicks? You may not want to name your dog after someone you already know, so poke around friends-of-friend’s lists and see if you find anything you really like. I’ll admit I found my dog’s name that way. I asked a friend to read through her friends list and when I heard “Jayda”, it immediately made my short list.

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5. Honor your favorite famous person …or beverage
Think about your favorite movies, TV shows, sporting events or historical figures. You could name your dog after a funny character (stage name or real name), or after an athlete you find impressive. One Facebook friend named her cats Monet and Picasso, and another named her dog Stoli Vanilla. There’s even an adorable Aldo Ray, named after the American actor of the ‘50s – ‘80s.

Once you’ve chosen a name, think through your family members’ names and make sure none are too similar sounding – that could cause problems when training your new dog. And if the day comes when you’re having second thoughts, check out our blog with great tips on how to change your pet’s name.

After you’ve decided on something that fits your pet perfectly, be sure to sign him up for dog insurance.

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

New Year, New Pet? 3 Factors to Consider Before Getting a Pet

Posted on: January 3rd, 2012 by

A dog with dog insurance wears a party hat.

By: Dr. Fiona, DVM
For Pets Best Insurance

The New Year not only brings resolutions, it often brings new four-legged members to our families.

Why add a pet to your family? Experts agree that families with pets are generally healthier. Animals have proven stress reducing capabilities that even children can benefit from. They provide companionship and in the case of dogs, they demand that you become more active, enforcing your family’s healthy New Year’s goals. But are you and your family ready for a cat or dog?

3 Important Factors to consider before adding a pet

 1)     Your Family’s Lifestyle

Be honest and realistic with your lifestyle.  For example, a border collie or other very intelligent, high energy breeds will not do well in a family that lives in a condo with no yard and/or spends a lot of time away. One of the biggest mistakes I see dog owners make is selecting a dog that is too active for their lifestyle, and then they become frustrated when the dog is destructive or unruly due to boredom. If your pet does become unruly, pet medical insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance offer limited reimbursement for behavioral issues. But before adopting, do breed research and take into account the needs and temperaments of different breeds. And don’t forget cats! Cats can provide companionship and an element of responsibility, but in general require less ‘work’ than dogs.

 2)     Your Children’s Ages 

If your family includes children, pets are a wonderful way to teach children responsibility, while providing a lifelong bond. However, consider your child’s age. For example, toddlers and puppies can potentially play too rough together because neither understands the injuries they can cause one another.  Additionally, a child less than 10 to 12 years old is likely too immature to be able to handle all the responsibilities of caring for a dog, no matter how much they plead their case. Understand that as an adult, you will invariably be required to supervise and enforce the caretaking, and fill in where they lack. Be cautious about selecting ‘pocket pets’ such as reptiles, rodents and other ‘exotic’ animals, thinking they will be less work for your child. These animals can often have very specific husbandry requirements and sometimes are more difficult to care for than cats or dogs. Also, fewer pet insurance companies will cover these kinds of animals.

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3)     Your Budget

This is very important; pet care can be really expensive!  Pet costs are more than just food and toys, pets need veterinary care, both preventative and sickness. The ASPCA estimates the average family spends about $1500 in the first year alone on a dog and about $1,000 on a cat. This doesn’t even include the possibility of your pet becoming ill or injured and requiring emergency veterinary care. Strongly consider dog insurance and cat insurance as a way for your family to defray these costs. Accidents and illnesses are a part of your pet’s life, so be prepared with pet insurance so that you don’t have to struggle to pay for necessary treatments and/or go into credit card debt to pay for treatments.

Keeping these guidelines in mind, the rewards of pet ownership far outweigh the ‘work’ and responsibility involved in caring for them. Having animals is a wonderful part of childhood, teaching important life lessons and providing companionship. Many adults fondly remember their first pet and the irreplaceable bond they shared.

Happy New Year!