Pet Insurance

what_is_pet_insurancePet Insurance is a frequent topic at the veterinarian’s office.  We are frequently asked by our clients if coverage for their pet is a good idea. They wonder, is it worth the cost?  How does it work? What does it cover?

If you have pet insurance, it is very comforting knowing that you are prepared to make decisions on your pet’s care that are not based on finances.  We have had many instances of clients being able to choose more costly diagnostics and treatments knowing they had insurance to help cover the costs.

Pet insurance is far less complicated than human health insurance.  While full payment to your veterinarian is due at the time of services, a simple claim form submitted to your insurance company will start your claim and reimbursement process (based on your policy coverage). Some companies even have smart phone apps to make it even easier! Most companies do very well in keeping you up to date as your claim moves forward.

There are many different pet insurance companies and each company offers policies in a range of cost and coverage. Our doctors encourage you to take some time and research the different companies and their policies to determine which is best for your budget and desired coverage.

Halloween Safety


Attention, animal lovers, it’s almost the spookiest night of the year! The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying “trick or treat!”

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.

3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you



Pain Awareness Month


September is Pain Awareness Month and here are several things you should know about your pet’s pain.

Pets are often stoic about pain.  As predators, cats are especially adept at masking their pain.  So as a pet owner, you need to keep a keen eye on your furry friends to uncover aches and pains early.

  1. Behavior changes may signal pain. This includes cats who don’t enjoy being petted anymore, dogs who become aggressive, or pets who stop jumping on the bed or climbing stairs.
  2. The medication your veterinarian prescribes is central to your pet’s health and comfort. It’s important to avoid missing doses or dosing improperly.
  3. There are various formulations and ways to administer your pet’s pain medication. Your veterinarian will help to find the right dosage and delivery method which increases the chance that your pet gets the medication it needs to be comfortable.
  4. Human medications are often dangerous for pets. Always ask your veterinarian before you give your pet any medication that isn’t prescribed.
  5. There are several ways to make your pet feel more comfortable. If you’re good with tools, you can build a ramp for better accessibility.  There are also all types of products available that make things easier for your pet, such as raised food and water dishes or a litter box with lowered sides.  Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
  6. Diet – especially to maintain an ideal weight – is key. For older pets with painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, helping them reach a healthy weight can help them manage pain and maintain mobility.



Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs



Xylitol can be found in certain peanut and nut butters.

The natural sweetener (also commonly found in sugarless gum) is known to cause hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis in dogs.

Jul 15, 2015

By Katie James


Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol sweetener popular for its low glycemic index but known to cause hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis in dogs, is now also found in several specialty peanut and nut butter brands. Nuts ‘n More, Krush Nutrition and P-28 Foods all make peanut butter and nut-based spreads containing the ingredient. Though xylitol has been popping up in all kinds of foods and dental products in the last several years, peanut butter is a special concern, says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT, associate director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline and SafetyCall International. “First, dogs fed straight peanut butter as a treat or fed treats baked with xylitol-containing peanut butter may certainly be at risk for harm,” she says. “Second, a dog that nabs the entire jar of xylitol-containing peanut butter and happily gorges on his or her treasure without anyone knowing could quickly become extremely ill. If this occurred during the day while the owners were not home, it’s possible the dog could die before people returned.”

So far, mainstream peanut butter brands haven’t started using xylitol—only the three specialty brands include it in their formulations.

Brutlag is urging pet owners to be vigilant about checking labels and looking for keywords that can indicate that a food contains xylitol. “The most obvious thing to look for is the word ‘xylitol’ itself. It may be prefaced or followed by clarifying words,” she says.

In some cases, xylitol’s position on the ingredient list can be helpful in estimating its quantity in the product. “In the United States, food products must list their ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight. This means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last,” Brutlag says.

Something else to check is whether the packaging says “sweetened naturally” or that it uses a “natural sweetener.” Brutlag says, “It’s a common misconception that xylitol is an artificial sweetener—but it’s not. It’s normally found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, so if you see those terms, look deeper to see if xylitol is listed. Chemically, xylitol is classified as a sugar alcohol, so this is another phrase to look for.”

Other sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, glycerol (also called glycerine), maltitol, mannitol and sorbitol are not known to be toxic to dogs; however, some food labels do not list the specific sugar alcohol used. “When in doubt, if you want to feed a product to your dog that lists ‘sugar alcohol’ as an ingredient, but doesn’t list which one, don’t use it,” Brutlag advises. Because xylitol and other sugar alcohols are not technically sugar, they may also be found in products labeled “sugar free” or “no sugar added.”

While it seems unlikely that xylitol will become so mainstream that it begins to replace sugar in most foods, it’s very likely that more products will contain it, which Brutlag says has been the trend for several years.

Hot Weather Safety


We’ve all seen the pictures of a dog wearing sunglasses in the summer sun. Hilarious, right? While that image may be amusing, the reality of summertime heat and sunshine is serious for our dogs and cats, which depend on us to keep them protected.

For example, did you know dogs and cats can get sunburned? Or that short-nosed dog breeds have more trouble cooling down through panting? Or that shaving your dog’s fur coat may be more harmful than not? Here are a few tips to consider to keep your pet comfortable in the summer heat.

  • Sunburn. Just like people, animals need sun protection on their sensitive areas such as ear tips, noses and other areas exposed to sunlight. Pets with pink skin or light-colored coats can be vulnerable. Staffordshire terriers, boxers, bull terriers, German shorthaired pointers and pit bulls are among the breeds prone to sunburn, as well as cats with white ears, eyelids and noses. Apply pet-friendly sunscreen — not zinc oxide-based treatments, which are toxic — about half an hour before exposure.
  • Panting is cooling. It’s well known that dogs and cats don’t sweat. They eliminate heat through their respiration. Short-nosed dog such as pugs and bulldogs tend to be more vulnerable to heat stroke. All that panting means your dog really needs to stay extra hydrated in warm weather. Concerned your pet might be overheating? Heat stroke signs include excessive or exaggerated panting, lethargy, weakness, drooling, high fever, dark red gums, rapid heartbeat, unresponsiveness to surroundings and vomiting.
  • Cars are hot boxes. A summer rarely passes without a story about a pet that dies inside a locked car. A Stanford University study showed that regardless of outside temperature, the temperature inside a car can rise 40 degrees in an hour. Don’t leave your pet in the car, even for a few minutes.
  • Avoid hot surfaces. Hot sidewalks, beaches and other surfaces can severely injure your pet’s paw pads. You might be surprised how often vets diagnose this injury — and the pet parents don’t believe it. Dogs love to hang around with you and where you lead, they will follow, so the rule of thumb is simple: If the surface is too hot for you to handle barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog.
  • No shaving. Believe it or not, your pet’s coat insulates him from the heat, so shaving his fur might not be the best strategy. In fact, it may have the opposite effect, so experts say to avoid shaving fur. But trimming a longhaired dog’s long fur, particularly the fur that hangs around his legs, is acceptable. Vets suggest that owners should brush their dogs and cats more often in the summertime as well, which can thin out the thick coat and get rid of fur that your pet is shedding.
  • Take it easy. Avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day, and be vigilant about finding shade to rest when the time comes.

Tips to Take Away

  • Don’t overdo the activity in the heat of the day.
  • Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink.
  • Don’t shave their fur. It’s an insulator.
  • Pets can get sunburned, too. Use pet-friendly sunscreen to protect them.