Our pets are our family. We all want the absolute best care possible for them- that care, however, comes at a price. Just like with people, as pets age so does the cost of their regular care. Imagine having the freedom to say “YES” to whatever your pet needs- Insurance allows for more opportunities to diagnose illnesses and obtain treatment — even expensive treatments like surgeries and cancer care. Like most insurance, pet insurance gives you peace of mind.
No matter how responsible we are, accidents and illnesses happen. Statistically speaking, 1 in every 3 pets will experience some kind of emergency during their lifetime. Dog bites, fractures, and object ingestion can cost thousands of dollars to treat. A ligament repair in dogs can cost $3,000 to $7,000, not including X-rays, anesthesia, and follow-up care (yes, physical therapy exists for pets!). For cats, a urinary obstruction (UO) often requires lab testing, antibiotics, and even surgery, which can cost up to $3,000. These events are unexpected and impossible to plan for. Pet insurance helps to alleviate some of the financial stress of these unexpected expenses.
How does pet insurance work?
Like people insurance, pet policies come with a variety of deductibles, co-payments, and premiums. You can pick a plan that insures costs due to accidents (such as injuries caused by motor vehicles), or accidents and illness (including arthritis, cancer, and colitis). Some providers also offer wellness coverage for certain routine care, like annual exams, flea and tick treatments, and vaccinations.
Is pet insurance worth the money?
Yes. You can’t predict when or how your pets will get sick, or how much it will cost. Unexpected veterinary costs can add up to thousands of dollars.
Even if you try to save up money in advance, you could come up short. Pet insurance prevents you from having to take on lasting debt or forgo veterinary care.
What is the average cost of pet insurance per month?
The average monthly premium for a dog is about $47 while the average monthly premium for a cat is about $29. However, the costs of insurance vary depending on the pet and your choices. If needed, you could opt for less coverage or a lower reimbursement rate to get a lower monthly premium.
Does pet insurance make sense?
Pet insurance makes good sense from a risk perspective, and it can give you peace of mind. You can expect your pets to need medical care at some point, just as you can expect to need medical yourself in the future.
Do vets recommend pet insurance?
We do! Pet insurance helps ensure your pet will receive the care they need and won’t be euthanized (or abandoned) for economic reasons. It also allows us and pet parents to focus on care during their consultations rather than finances.
Who should consider pet insurance?
Every pet owner should consider pet insurance. Even if you believe you have enough money to cover veterinary costs, pet insurance could still save you thousands of dollars if your pet gets sick or injured. Especially if you have multiple pets, your out-of-pocket costs could add up considerably without insurance.
Questions? For more information about Pet Insurance- check out Pumpkin! You can visit their website here and see exactly what they have to offer- or give them a call! Their team of experts can get you a quote and answer any questions you may have!
Does your dog play in the ponds and canals in our area? If so, you may want to re-consider….
In the past month, one of our patients came in with bloody, watery stool, vomiting, pain and lethargy. After several days of treatment and medications she was not improving and was transferred to the Internal Medicine Department at The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists. Following more aggressive diagnostics and treatments, they discovered that she had “Canine Schistosomiasis”.
What is Canine Schistosomiasis? It’s actually a disease caused by a parasite that lives in stagnant freshwater and can enter a dog’s bloodstream through their feet/pads. Most people have never even heard of this parasite. It can be a deadly parasite and difficult to diagnose and treat, but it isn’t all that uncommon- especially in the Southern regions of Texas. Here is an open-letter from our client regarding her recent experience with this parasite:
A warning to dog owners along the Gulf Coast (and southeastern US):
We had the unfortunate experience of learning all about a parasite that is endemic to the Gulf Coast, particularly Texas and Louisiana. It is called Heterobilharzia americana. Dogs are at risk if they swim/wade in water that contains a certain type of freshwater snail. The parasite penetrates the dog’s skin or mucous membranes and gets into the bloodstream. It then migrates to the liver then moves to the intestine. In the intestine, it invades the blood vessels and intestinal tissue causing a significant amount of inflammation. Eggs are passed in the feces. If the eggs contact freshwater, a form of the parasite is released that can penetrate a snail’s soft tissue. The parasite reproduces inside the snail and free-swimming forms of the parasite are released and the sequence starts over again.
Infected dogs have bloody vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and significant debility.
Often there is a significant delay in diagnosis because symptoms are usually attributed to other things. Too much of a delay can be deadly.
People will not be in infected with this parasite. However, humans exposed to the contaminated water may have “swimmers itch” because of skin penetration from the parasite. Once inside a human, the parasite is unable to complete its life cycle.
Raccoons are the natural definitive host, but apparently dogs and some other mammals work too. The snail and freshwater are required for transmission. There is no direct transmission between dogs, or between dogs and raccoons.
It takes about 10 weeks from the time of initial skin penetration to when eggs are shed in the dog’s feces.
Most cases are in Texas and Louisiana, but cases have been diagnosed in dogs throughout most of the southeastern US and as far north as Kansas.
Samples are sent to Texas A&M for diagnosis.
Treatment is not always effective, but a high dose of a combination of antiparasitic medications can result in resolution of the clinical signs in some dogs.
The recommendation for prevention is to not allow your dog to swim in canals or ponds.
Ripley had significant intestinal bleeding, intractable vomiting, was weak, miserable and in a significant amount of pain. She needed to be carried into the car because she was too weak to walk. Thanks to the wonderful people at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, she was able to come home after only three days in the Doggy ICU. She is doing much better now but is not 100% yet. She still has a long road ahead. She is just starting her treatment, which at such high doses has unpleasant side effects. Thankfully only two days now, then another two days in a month. Fingers crossed that it will be effective.
Of note to the people in this area, the only real pond she has splashed around in is the retention ponds (Sunrise Lake) in The Reserve. I do not know for certain but am concerned that this water may be contaminated. I would hate for other dogs to go through what ours has.“
Interestingly enough, our client shared this post on Next Door and a neighbor responded detailing their recent experience with this parasite. Their dog contracted the parasite from stagnant water towards the back of Sylvan Rodriguez Park and almost died during treatment. They too were completely unaware of the parasite and the risk of exposure by allowing their pup to play in the water at the park.
Prevention is key! Avoid allowing your dogs to play in stagnant bodies of freshwater in the area. Be sure to tell your vet if your dog has been playing in stagnant bodies of water- especially if they have had any sort of gi issues.
While it is entertaining & instinctual for your cat to be outside hunting like a regal panther, there are risks involved in letting your feline friend outdoors. Coyotes, stray dogs, hawks, parasites, cars… But what about other cats that are on the prowl?
First let’s talk about kitty communication; cats are pretty independent creatures. We joke about cats not really needing owners as long as they have food, water, & a place to go to the bathroom. If your cat is an outside adventurer, they can be protective of their territory (aka your yard). They may not be so friendly when some other strange cat decides to invade it. That is when we have to worry about diseases like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus & Feline Leukemia.
Now, what is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) & how do they contract it?
Similar to the human strain, HIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus that suppresses the immune system. Typically speaking, felines that contract this virus do not die from it but they are at a much higher risk of contracting other diseases & illnesses due to their compromised immune systems. Wounds from bites or scratches can take much longer to heal for FIV+ cats as well, making them more prone to abscesses & secondary infections.
FIV is primarily spread through bite wounds from an already infected cat. The infected cat’s saliva carries the virus & deep puncture wounds can allow the virus to take hold. It can also be spread through sex or transmitted to kittens through their mother’s milk if she is infected, but these methods are much are less common.
So, what about Feline Leukemia (FeLV) & how do they contract it?
Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a retrovirus that severely inhibits the immune system. Similar to FIV, FeLV+ cats are more susceptible for infections & diseases, but they are also more likely to develop kidney disease or cancer (lymphosarcoma) during their lifetime.
While FIV is spread primarily through bite wounds, FeLV is able to spread in multiple ways. This virus is spread through direct contact involving saliva, urine, feces, nasal discharge, & blood. So, not just bite wounds but scratches from an infected cat could possibly spread the virus as well. Other direct contact would include grooming, sharing litter boxes, or sharing food or water bowls. It can also be passed on to kittens through their mother’s milk if she is infected.
There are 4 different types of FeLV infection:
Abortive infections are those in which the exposed feline produces an effective & early immune response. This prevents viral replication & eliminates virus-infected cells. These cats are negative for the infection.
Returning infections are those in which viral replication is limited, but a small population of virus infected cells remain. These cats will test negative, but the virus can be detected in a small percentage of blood cells measured by a type of blood test called a PCR. These infected cats are not contagious, but may be infectious through blood.
Dormant infection refers to the cats in which a moderate amount of infected cells remain. These cats will test negative, but will produce a positive PCR test. The inactive infected cells do have the potential for the virus to reactivate, but the cats are not contagious as long as the infection remains dormant.
Progressive infections are those in which the virus has infected a majority of the cells. These cats are actively shedding the virus primarily in saliva & feces, they are likely to become ill with FeLV-related disease (lymphoma).
Oh NO! So how do you find out if your cat has contracted FIV or FeLV & how often should you test?
There is a simple blood test that can be performed at your cat’s next vet visit & results can be available in 10 minutes. This test is commonly called a “Combo Test” because it tests for both FIV & FeLV.
If your feline friend regularly goes outside, or there are other cats in your house that do so, it is recommended that this test be performed every 6 months to a year. If they are indoor only, typically we will perform an initial test at their first vet visit & recheck in 4-6 months for confirmation. Sometimes a “false positive” may happen, this can be from antibodies transferred to them from their mothers or from recent vaccination. Retesting for indoor only cats is usually not necessary unless they take an unexpected vacation outside. Combo tests should always be done any time you don’t know a cat’s history, especially if you’re considering adding this new kitty to your feline family.
Okay! So now that we know about these viruses, is there any way to prevent them?
Luckily, the incidence of FeLV disease has dramatically declined over the past several decades. This is likely due to a combination of screening tests, improved awareness of the disease, & vaccination of at-risk cats. Vaccination is recommended yearly for cats that are at higher risk, while indoor only cats can be vaccinated every two years.
While there are vaccines available for FIV, studies have shown these to not be as effective & can also lead to false test results for your cat. For these reasons, our doctors at TLC Animal Hospital have decided against carrying this vaccine in clinic.
Education is always important when it comes to preventing our furry friends from harm. Talk to your veterinarian & they can help you decide which vaccines are best for your cat based on their lifestyle.
While looking online or in pet stores for goodies for your furry children, you’ve probably come across some really, really weird things. Like that cat bed that looks like an over-sized fur-lined Croc shoe and the dog muzzle that looks like a duckbill. But let’s be real – it’s just a bed and it’s just a muzzle. Your pet doesn’t get more enjoyment out of it because of how it looks (that’s just for us because c’mon, those duckbill muzzles are hilarious).
Believe it or not, some of these goofy looking pet products have an actual purpose and benefits that your pet will actually be able to pick up on.
Dog owners are already familiar with treat dispensing toys. How many different types of KONGs are out there? Fill ’em up with treats, peanut butter, or even doggie toothpaste and let your pup have at it! Depending on the dog and the contents, this could mean hours of entertainment for your pup! KONGs aren’t the only ones, either. A quick search for “dog treat toys” brings up pages and pages of results. We even have some here in clinic from Planet Dog that our boarders love to use. Toys likes these are important for your pup. Not only can they help with separation anxiety when you’re away, but they offer mental stimulation and environmental enrichment as well.
That’s great for treats, but what about full meals? Slow Down Bowls and other slow down feeders take this same idea and apply to it meal time. How often does your dog inhale their dinner without even chewing it? Or maybe they eat it too fast and throw it up a few minutes later? Does one dog inhale their food and then try to take food from the other dog?
Making your dog take their time with their food is important for numerous reasons. They can choke or aspirate on the food, have other GI issues such as gas or vomiting, or they can bloat (which is an extremely dangerous condition and can be fatal). Going through their food too quickly can also leave them feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. And we all know how hard it is to ignore a pet that is begging for more food – just look at the statistics for obese animals in the United States.
Eating too fast can also keep them from receiving the full benefits of their diets. For example, the Royal Canin Dental Diet (for cats and dogs) is designed to be chewed multiple times before breaking, therefore “brushing” their teeth while they eat. Swallowing the food whole completely negates that benefit.
Wet food, dry food, raw diet, homemade… it doesn’t matter! Slow down bowls and feeders work for every kind of pet food. Of course, some may work better for wet food than others. With so many different shapes and sizes out there, you should be able to find one that works for you and your pet.
When looking for a slow down feeder for your pup – you need to consider a few things. 1) How large of a bowl do you need? – Pay attention to your pup’s portions and make sure you get a bowl that’s appropriately sized. One that’s too small isn’t going to help your dog much because the food will just cover the prongs or spill out and one that’s too big won’t be much of a challenge. Bowl size is also based off of what kind of dog you have. For example, a Pug wouldn’t use the same size bowl as a Boxer. 2) Does this shape work with my dog’s snout? – Dogs with longer snouts are going to need feeders with larger prongs for them to navigate. On the other hand, smooshed face dogs would need shorter prongs, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get the food out. 3) Can my dog flip it over and spill the food everywhere? – Most slow down bowls have non-slip bases. Be sure to get one if your pup likes to throw their bowls around! 4) Is it easy to clean? – With all of the nooks and crannies of these bowls and feeders, you need to be sure that you’re able to keep it clean. There are dishwasher safe ones, but be sure to check it afterwards for any leftovers. Especially if you’re feeding a wet diet – that stuff can be pretty stubborn when it dries! Clean them on a regular basis as well – leftover food can attract bugs and gives mold a place to hangout.
What about our feline friends?
Cats need to have the environmental enrichment with their toys, bedding, and scratching posts. Cats are also hunters. That is what they’re wired to do. You know that bobcats and mountain lions hunt, but our indoor cats have that instinct to hunt, too. Yes, even the lazy cats. We’ve all seen it – your cat is crouched down and doing that goofy butt wiggle, ready to get that mosquito hawk that made a grave mistake by coming into your cat’s domain. Maybe you’ve even received a “gift” from your cat in the form of a half-eaten lizard. Yes, it’s gross, but that just means that your cat loves you and doesn’t want you to starve because you’re terrible hunter.
There’s no shortage of interactive cat toys to help fulfill their need to hunt (seriously, just look up “automatic cat toys” online and you’ll have enough content to browse through to last for hours). But treat toys hit that need differently because they contain food. The hunt isn’t simply for fun now, they’re going to actually get something to eat out of it. There are so many different kinds out there, you should have no issue finding one that works for your cat. Depending on the size of the treat toy, you may be able to use it for full meals. Using this method can help your indoor kitty get some additional exercise, which is especially great for overweight cats.
However, if your house is prone to having ants or other bugs, moving treat toys may not be the best option since they can leave crumbs and small pieces of food all over your floors. Otherwise you need to be sure to sweep up after using them. Most moving treat toys work gets on hard floors, like wood or tile. They can work on carpet, but it depends on how thick it is. You would definitely need to vacuum afterwards if used in carpeted areas.
But what about with their real food? Maybe your cat is fine with having food simply presented to them in a bowl, or left out in an automatic feeder. Or maybe your cat is a complete pig and eats their food waaaaay to fast, only to throw it up a few minutes later. There are all sorts of ways to make meal time fun time for your feline friends.
Puzzle Feeders are meant for full meal portions and they provide a different kind of challenge for your cat. Your cat can’t just sick their head in the bowl and inhale the food (which can lead to vomiting or aspiration). Your cat will have to actually stop and think about how to get the food out. Some puzzle feeders have covered holes that the food goes in and your cat has to uncover the food before eating. Others have food that’s released when part of the puzzle is rotated from them pawing at it.
Know that your cat will refuse to do a puzzle to get to their food? Not to worry! There are smaller sized slow down bowls and feeders for cats, too. Similar to the dog ones, these have raised ridges or shapes to space the food out. You’ll find that some are better for wet food than others as well. The same tips above apply to finding the right bowl or feeder for your cat. For example, smooshy faced Persians would need a bowl or feeder with shorter prongs.
Not sure where to start? That’s fine! Ask your veterinarian or their staff for suggestions! Here at TLC, several staff members have used these methods with their own pets at home. We’ve even used some for our own Clinic Cats!
Otodectes Cynotis is actually the very fancy name for Ear Mites. What exactly are Ear Mites? They are part of the arachnid family (just like ticks and spiders). Their food of choice? Wax and oils from your beloved pet’s ear canals. They’re particularly fond of cats, but can also be found in dogs and ferrets. Yikes!
Ear Mites are more common in outdoor animals, but that doesn’t mean your indoor pets can’t get them. These mites, just like fleas, can travel on clothing and shoes. It only takes one mite to make it to your pet’s ear canal to start causing problems. These little buggers can also spread very quickly in multi-pet homes. Especially if your pets like to sleep next to each other, groom each other, or play together.
How Do I Know if My Pet Has Ear Mites? The most notable symptom you may see is your pet constantly scratching at their ears. You may notice a brown, slightly reddish discharge coming from your pet’s ears as well. Sometimes the discharge will look like ground coffee beans. Their ears may also become red, swollen, and painful. If you notice these symptoms, don’t wait too long to address them. Heavy scratching can lead to open wounds which can cause secondary infection of the skin. If a severe infestation is left untreated, it can eventually lead to hearing loss. Oi ve!
I Think My Pet Has Ear Mites! What Do I Do Now? Fret not! If you think your pet has Ear Mites, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get things checked out! Ear Mites are easily seen with a microscope, so a cytology will be performed to confirm the presence of Ear Mites. This cytology can also show if there is any secondary infection present in your pet’s ears, such as bacteria or yeast.
If there are wounds present from all of that scratching, your veterinarian may want to do a skin cytology as well to make sure that there isn’t any kind of skin infection going on.
Ugh, Ear Mites Sound Like the Worst! Are They Hard to Treat? Fortunately with a little ear cleaning and medication, Ear Mites are typically a simple problem to resolve. So ensure that all of the ear mites have been taken care of, treatment lasts anywhere from 3-4 weeks. Depending on the results of your pet’s exam, you may be given additional medications for pain and inflammation, or antibiotics if there are secondary infections present.
Because Ear Mites are easily spread, if you have more than one pet in your home you’ll most likely be asked to treat all of them at the same time.
Prevention is possible as well! Most monthly parasite preventatives (like Revolution Plus) have medication in them to help treat Ear Mites. Using these products every month as directed can help keep your pet’s ears mite free!