Pet Insurance Blog – Pets Best Insurance
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What caused kitty’s eye to fill with blood?

Posted on: November 10th, 2011 by

A black cat without pet health insurance waits to be seen by the vet.

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

During my years as a vet and a pet insurance enthusiast, I’ve seen many handsome cats– but “Joe” was among one of the most handsome. Joe was a black 9-year-old who came to see me because his owner noticed his eye was bloodshot. It had been going on for 3 or 4 days, but Joe seemed to be eating well and acted fine otherwise.

Upon examination, I did indeed see blood in Joe’s right eye, but not in the way the owner had described it. The blood was inside the eye, not in the white part of the eye that we refer to as being bloodshot. The blood was actually behind the cornea, sitting on the iris, or colored part of the eye. There was also a moderate amount of pus floating in the eye next to the blood. The abnormal pressure was distorting the size and shape of the pupil and pushing it toward the inner corner of the eye.

These changes indicated a cat health condition called uveitis which is inflammation of the inner pigmented structures of the eye. The eyes are often referred to as a window to the soul, and likewise, they can often be a window into what is going on medically elsewhere in the body. Uveitis is most often caused by some underlying infection or systemic illness.

I had a hunch as to what illness was causing Joe’s uveitis, and blood tests confirmed my suspicions. Joe was infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

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FIV belongs to the same family of viruses as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). However, FIV is not transmissible from cats to people, and HIV is not transmissible from people to cats. The primary mode of transmission of FIV is through bite wounds. Therefore outdoor cats, especially territorial tomcats, are at greatest risk of infection. The virus is only rarely spread through casual contact. However, female cats infected with FIV during their pregnancy can pass the virus to their unborn kittens.

Infected cats may appear normal for years. The virus slowly depresses the function of the cat’s immune system, leading to chronic pet health problems and opportunistic infections. Many FIV-positive cats have chronic inflammatory conditions of the teeth and mouth. Other chronic problems include diarrhea, pneumonia, skin disease, weight loss and wasting, eye diseases (like with Joe), neurological problems, and cancer.

FIV is diagnosed by using a blood test that detects antibodies against the virus in the bloodstream of the cat. A confirmatory test called a Western Blot test is recommended to be sure of the diagnosis. I recommend testing all cats being introduced into a household to prevent exposing any existing cats to the virus. Kittens under 6 months of age may carry antibodies to FIV acquired from their mother without having the virus itself. Therefore, any kitten under this age that tests positive should be retested when it is over 6 months old.

There is no cure for FIV infection. Although the disease is considered fatal, many cats with the infection can live for many months or years with relatively few pet health issues. With proper health care aimed at recognizing and treating FIV-associated problems early, patients can enjoy good quality of life. All efforts should be taken to preserve their health by protecting them against other disease and injury. This is best accomplished by requiring FIV-positive cats to live indoors. This also helps prevent spread of the disease.

Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection are available. However, not all vaccinated cats will be protected by the vaccine, so preventing exposure will remain important, even for vaccinated pets. In addition, vaccination may have an impact on future FIV test results.

Joe’s blood work showed that his immune system was still functioning well. He was treated with antibiotics and topical steroids in his eye and he is responding nicely. I’m not sure when Joe was infected with FIV, so his long term prognosis is unclear. He is currently feeling well and enjoying life, so that’s what matters most to his owners. I will continue to closely monitor Joe’s health and hope that he has many good days ahead.

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

Flea Med Reaction, Dog Won’t Pee in Rain

Posted on: November 8th, 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 one comes from Patricia, who asks, “Can applying flea and tick medicine like Advantage make my Labrador ill?”

Absolutely. Sometimes these flea and tick medications, which are oftentimes insecticides, can make animals ill, especially if it’s not used correctly. Always make sure that you’re getting the right dosage strength for the right animal. For example, cats can’t tolerate a lot of those topical flea and tick medications.

If you’re seeing a reaction to one, it really could be a problem. Use something like Dawn dish soap to wash the area where you applied it really well, and then rinse really well. If it continues to be a problem, you probably need to see your veterinarian.

In the meantime, if you want to use some type of a flea and tick medication, contact your veterinarian. There are a ton of products out there, ones that are taken orally so you don’t have to necessarily be doing anything on the skin, or prescription ones that aren’t insecticides that are actually absorbed through the skin and work a little bit differently, so you can figure out a product that works well for you.

The next one is from Tara. She writes, “My dog will not pee in the rain. She’ll hold it until it stops raining. Is this bad for her?”

Sometimes dogs won’t like to urinate when it’s inclement weather. This actually happens with some frequency. In snow, rain, cold or wind, typically little dogs especially can sometimes really not like this. It’s not great for her to hold it for a really long time so if you could find a covered area or somewhere that’s a little bit drier, that’s going to be better. She won’t hold it to a point that’s going to damage her, but obviously it can be uncomfortable.

One alternative that you might consider, and this works okay especially for small dogs, is using a litter pan or piddle pads. You can just train them to use that and then quickly clean up so they don’t have to go outside, especially if you live in an area that has snow or rain for a lot of the year. That might be something to try.
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Pet health insurance: Why more clients don’t enroll

Posted on: November 7th, 2011 by

Pet insurance pioneer and founder Dr. Stephens sits with his dog.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Founder and President
Pets Best Insurance

Veterinarians often ask me why more of their clients don’t enroll, considering the financial power pet health insurance can provide. The acceptance of pet insurance is affected by the following:

• Client confusion
With an abundance of pet insurance companies to choose from, pet owners don’t know where to start. Because of this, they may not take the time to research, and therefore, won’t take action. Our non-buyer surveys demonstrate that CONFUSION over companies is the primary factor for not buying pet insurance. Surveys also demonstrate it’s not the price or coverage that is confusing, but uncertainty over which will be the best option for them. Unlike homeowners, life or auto insurance there is no agent involved—so pet owners may feel like they’re on their own when it comes time to make a choice.

• Clients need a strong recommendation from a veterinarian, staff or friends
Many veterinarians and staff do not understand pet insurance enough to provide a strong recommendation. Many simply display several companies’ literature in their lobbies— as a result, the confusion is perpetuated. Either no recommendation is provided, or there are too many options, leaving the client with no clear choice.

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• Clients need predictable reimbursements
If all companies’ plans paid a flat percentage of actual veterinary charges, as Pets Best Insurance does, the enrollments would be much higher. Clients who receive less reimbursement than they expect hurts the companies that pay a flat percentage of costs.

• Clients still have the option of euthanasia or ignoring medical problems
Yet some veterinary hospitals have several hundred clients enrolled in pet health insurance and are very pleased with the positive impact on their practice. Those practices that have high numbers of insured clients do the following:

1. Recommend one pet health insurer with confidence to their clients.
2. Educate their staff of the value proposition to clients, pets and the practice. We provide a 60 minute staff training via webinar to help answer staff questions. Contact us at vetservices@petsbest.com or 1-888-349-2520 to schedule a live web session to learn more.
3. Make sure every client is informed about pet insurance, given literature and told about the 5% hospital web link discount.
4. Assist clients with claims when needed and develop a rapport with their recommended pet insurer.

We know from recent industry surveys that veterinary visits are plummeting, especially with cats. Simply put, there is a limit to client spending, and putting off a visit is the easiest solution when it comes to saving money. However, clients who insure their pets will visit more, spend more and have increased compliance with your treatment recommendations. After all, with Pets Best Insurance they are being reimbursed 80% after the deductible.

The market for pet insurance is growing at a healthy 20-25% annually despite the economic downturn. With these simple steps, it can grow even faster and you can help even more clients help their pets.

Understanding that they will have nearly 5x the spending power with pet insurance will ultimately help clients considering their only other alternative might be reducing visits, restricting care or even euthanasia due to cost of care. Having cat and dog insurance is a win-win for the client, the pet and the practice.

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.