Tag Archives: insurance

New Kitten Primer

Have you just adopted your first kitten, or maybe this is just the first cat you’ve had in a long time? There’s a lot to plan for and educate yourself about, and this article will guide you through it.

Where to Find a Kitten

Haven’t got your new kitty yet? Shelters and private rescue groups are bursting with kittens in the spring and summer. Check out petfinder.com for a start, or check out our page of local rescue and adoption groups. Ask the rescue group if their cats have been checked out by a veterinarian and vaccinated prior to adoption.

Considering a breeder? Make sure your breeder of choice has the breed’s (and each kitten’s) best interests in mind. A truly reputable breeder is likely to breed only a few litters per year, often restricts themselves to just one or two specific breeds overall, and will screen their adult cats for signs of breed-related conditions such as cardiac diseases, ocular diseases, and others. Optimally, a kitten would remain with its mother and littermates until it was 8-12 weeks old.

Diet

Kittens under one year of age should be fed a diet labeled for kittens or for “all life stages.” Kittens establish their lifelong food preferences when they are young, so if you plan on feeding both canned and dry food to your adult cat, you should offer both to a kitten as well. You may be interested in reading our blog post on feline nutrition for an extensive discussion of the dietary needs of cats.

Vaccinations

Your new kitten may come to you after he has had his first round of vaccines, but is likely to need at least a few additional vaccinations. Some are considered “core” or required by law, while others are lifestyle-dependent or optional. Here are the vaccines we consider for each new kitten:

  • Rabies – This is a core vaccination, and required by law. A kitten is old enough to receive this vaccine when they are 12 weeks of age.
  • Distemper & Respiratory Virus combination – This is a core vaccination, administered once every 3-4 weeks until a kitten is 16 weeks old. Distemper (also called Feline Panleukopenia) is a highly contagious and potentially deadly viral disease. Affected cats will become lethargic and lose their appetite. Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea are frequently seen, but some cats die suddenly with few clinical signs. The virus is shed in the feces of affected cats, and can survive for months to years in a household or outdoor environment. The virus is resistant to many disinfectants. You can see why vaccination is so important!! Thanks to vaccines, this is now considered an uncommon disease.  Feline herpesvirus and calicivirus are responsible for 80-90 percent of infectious feline upper respiratory infections. Sneezing, runny eyes, runny nose, and fever are the usual symptoms. Many kittens are exposed to one or both of these respiratory viruses before they are old enough to be vaccinated. Vaccination can still reduce severity of disease and help prevent future flare-ups.
  • Feline Leukemia Virus – As the name suggests, this is a virus than can cause leukemia. This virus is the most common cause of cancer in cats, it may cause various blood disorders, and it may lead to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. This vaccine is recommended only for cats who will be spending time outdoors, or who live with another cat who goes outdoors and/or is already known to have Feline Leukemia Virus.

Deworming

Your new kitten may have already been given a dewormer by the breeder or rescue group, but repeat treatments with a dewormer and/or testing a stool sample to check for parasites is recommended.

External Parasite Preventatives

Yes, cats can get heartworm too! Prevention of heartworm disease via a product such as Heartgard, Revolution, Advantage Multi, or others is strongly recommended. These therapies may exist as a soft-chew, pill, or topical drop.

Prevention of fleas is especially important for cats who go outdoors, or live with another pet who goes outdoors and may bring “hitchhikers” home with them. It is much easier to prevent a flea infestation from occurring than to resolve one that is already going on in your household. Fleas can cause anemia if they are present in large numbers, and ingestion of a single flea can introduce tapeworms to a cat’s intestine.

Prevention of ticks may be important for cats who spend a fair amount of time outdoors. Fortunately, cats do not commonly seem to become ill from tickborne diseases. Please note that most flea/tick products designed for use on dogs can be highly toxic to cats. Only a few cat-safe tick preventatives exist (we would recommend Revolution, Frontline, or the Seresto collar).

Visit our blog article on flea control for a discussion and comparison of several different flea and/or tick preventative products.

Pet Insurance

Whether you decide pet insurance is the right choice to help protect your new kitten, or if you would prefer to save up your own emergency fund, it is simply important to have a plan in case of an emergency medical expense. There is a complete discussion and comparison of pet insurance providers on our blog, too.

Microchip Identification

A microchip is the only completely secure and permanent way to identify your pet if they ever get lost. A microchip with a unique ID number is implanted under the skin, usually around the shoulders. It hurts a bit more than a vaccine, so while it can be done at any time, it is generally preferred to place a microchip while a pet is already under anesthesia for a spay or neuter. If your pet is found and scanned for a chip, the ID number will link them to your veterinarian, your home address, and any other information you register with the chip company.

Spaying and Neutering

Rescue kittens are sometimes already spayed or neutered before they are adopted, but in other cases we can plan for the ideal time to spay or neuter a pet. In general, it is best to wait until a cat is done growing to spay or neuter them; this may be from 5 to 8 months of age.

Why do we decide to spay or neuter? In addition to population control and reducing behaviors such as roaming off, urine-marking, and/or getting into fights with other cats, there are a handful of disease conditions that can be reduced or eliminated by spaying or neutering. Spaying reduces the incidence of mammary cancer later in life. It eliminates the chance of cancers of the reproductive tract, as well as the development of pyometra (an infection of the uterus). While infection or cancer of the male reproductive tract is not common in cats, neutering further reduces or eliminates this risk.

Socialization

“Socialization” doesn’t just mean social interaction with other pets. Help your kitten become accustomed to the things that will become daily life experiences: meeting new people, interacting with children, having their teeth brushed, having their nails clipped, learning not to be afraid of the vacuum cleaner, etc. And start early!! Kittens are most impressionable between 2 and 14 weeks of age.

Kittens can be a lot of trouble! Make sure your new kitten has opportunities to learn appropriate ways of burning off all that energy. Ideally, you should provide access to all of the following:

  1.  At least one more litter box than the number of cats in the home. For example, a household with two cats should have three litter boxes. This will help reduce the chances of inappropriate urination/defecation, and may help ease conflicts between cats.
  2. An appropriately sturdy, tall, and textured scratching post, to encourage appropriate scratching behavior and keep your furniture safe.
  3.  Opportunities to rest or hide in a few different places around the home, especially high-up vantage points, such as on top of a bookshelf. This helps cats feel secure in their surroundings, especially in a household with other pets.
  4. Toys that emulate hunting behavior, such as small objects that squeak, chirp, crinkle, and can be batted around. Some cats also enjoy feather “fishing pole” type toys, or laser pointers (but be careful about their eyes).

Safety Considerations

As an emergency hospital, we know all about the trouble that’s out there for a kitten to get into! Here are a few items to keep in mind when kitten-proofing your home:

  • Human medications: While some human medications are safe for cats at an appropriate dose, others can be quite toxic. Never let your pet have access to painkillers (even over-the-counter drugs like Advil, Motrin, Tylenol, Aleve, etc.), sleep aids, steroid pills or creams, or any human prescription medication.
  • Toxic foods and risky toys: Fortunately, cats seem to get into less trouble than dogs when it comes to eating things they shouldn’t. Keep chocolate, alcoholic beverages, sugar-free gum, onions, garlic, and anything especially greasy or fatty away from your cat. Cats may try to play with hair ties, pieces of string, etc., but be careful they do not try to swallow any of these playthings.
  • Interactions with other pets: Your other furry family members might not be as excited as you are about a new kitten! Make sure your pets’ interactions are closely supervised until you are sure they are getting along well together.
  • As mentioned earlier, many flea/tick products designed for use on dogs are quite toxic to cats. Read the product’s packaging, always use flea/tick products according to the label instructions, and if you’re not sure, call your vet.

Good luck with your new kitten and we’ll see you at your next visit!!

 

New Kitten Primer

New Puppy Primer

Have you just adopted your first puppy, or maybe this is just the first puppy you’ve had in a long time? There’s a lot to plan for and educate yourself about, and this article will guide you through it.

Where to Find a Puppy

Haven’t got your new puppy yet? Of course there are loads of happy, healthy young dogs looking for homes from rescue groups or shelters. Even if you’re looking for a specific breed or type of dog, with a little time and effort, you can probably still find a rescue or stray to adopt. Check out petfinder.com for a start, or check out our page of local rescue and adoption groups. Ask the rescue group how they find the dogs they offer for adoption, and if they have been checked out by a veterinarian and vaccinated prior to adoption.

Considering a breeder? Make sure your breeder of choice has the breed’s (and each puppy’s) best interests in mind. A truly reputable breeder is likely to breed only a few litters per year, often restricts themselves to just one or two specific breeds overall, and will screen their adult dogs for signs of breed-related conditions such as hip dysplasia, orthopedic disorders, cardiac diseases, ocular diseases, and others. It isn’t just a matter of the parents appearing healthy at that moment – many of these conditions do not become apparent until a dog is older (perhaps past breeding age), so it is important to screen dogs before breeding them to be sure they represent the best possible candidates for breeding. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals maintains a list of what health-related conditions each breed should be screened for (not only orthopedic issues). Check that your breeder is aware of this list!

Diet

There are many suitable choices of diets to feed a new puppy, and there is no single best choice for every dog. Puppies under one year of age should be fed a diet labeled for puppies or for “all life stages.” Dogs who are expected to grow to over 50 pounds should ideally be fed a “large breed puppy” formula, to assure they grow at a steady and even pace and help avoid future orthopedic problems. You might be interested in reading our blog post on what to feed your pet for more information on this topic.

Vaccinations

Your new puppy may come to you after he has had his first round of vaccines, but is likely to need at least a few additional vaccinations. Some are considered “core” or required by law, while others are lifestyle-dependent or optional. Here are the vaccines we consider for each new puppy:

  • Rabies – This is a core vaccination, and required by law. A puppy is old enough to receive this vaccine when they are 12 weeks of age.
  • Distemper/Parvo combination – This is a core vaccination, administered once every 3-4 weeks until a puppy is 16 weeks old. Distemper is a viral disease that can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurologic disease. The disease is often fatal, and if a puppy survives, they can still have long-term consequences of the illness. Parvovirus (“parvo” for short) is highly contagious and can cause life-threatening diarrhea and vomiting. The distemper/parvo combination is sometimes called a “four-way” or a “five-way” vaccine, and may include protection against a few other (milder) illnesses too.wyeth
  • Leptospirosis – This disease is caused by a bacteria shed in the urine of wild mammals. It can continue to survive and remain infectious in water or moist soil, and illness can cause liver and kidney failure. The disease is even contagious to people. A dog who is going to swim in a lake, may drink out of a puddle in a wooded area, or who lives in a yard that deer, raccoons, or other wild mammals wander through should probably be vaccinated against Leptospirosis.
  • Lyme DiseaseLyme is spread by a bacteria that can be introduced through tick bites. A dog who is at risk of exposure to ticks should certainly be protected via a flea/tick preventative, as ticks spread more diseases than just Lyme! The Lyme vaccination can be given as an additional measure of protection.
  • Bordetella – This is the most comment agent associated with Kennel Cough, a contagious respiratory infection that causes a cough that may last for weeks. It is not a very serious disease, but most kennels, doggie day care facilities, and many groomers will require that dogs who visit them must be vaccinated against Bordetella.

Deworming

Your new puppy may have already been given a dewormer by the breeder or rescue group, but repeat treatments with a dewormer and/or testing a stool sample to check for parasites is recommended.

External Parasite Preventatives

Prevention of heartworm disease via a product such as Heartgard, Iverhart, Tri-Heart, Revolution, Advantage Multi, Sentinel, Interceptor, or others is strongly recommended. Most therapies are a once-monthly soft-chew or pill, though a few are topical products (applied as a drop between the shoulders).

Prevention of fleas is important for most dogs, as even those who do not spend a lot of time outdoors may pick them up from another dog they meet out on a walk, while at the groomer’s, at the dog park, and so on. It is much easier to prevent a flea infestation from occurring than to resolve one that is already going on in your household. Fleas can cause anemia if they are present in large numbers, and ingestion of a single flea can introduce tapeworms to a dog’s intestine.

Prevention of ticks is important for dogs who spend a fair amount of time outdoors, live in a property bordering woods, will be hiking outside on trails, or even just live in an area where ticks and tickborne diseases are common. A vaccination can protect against Lyme, but not against any of the other diseases ticks carry (such as Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Babesia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and others).

Visit our blog article on flea control for a discussion and comparison of several different flea and/or tick preventative products.

Pet Insurance

Whether you decide pet insurance is the right choice to help protect your new puppy, or if you would prefer to save up your own emergency fund, it is simply important to have a plan in case of an emergency medical expense. There is a complete discussion and comparison of pet insurance providers on our blog, too.

Microchip Identification

A microchip is the only completely secure and permanent way to identify your pet if they ever get lost. A microchip with a unique ID number is implanted under the skin, usually around the shoulders. It hurts a bit more than a vaccine, so while it can be done at any time, it is generally preferred to place a microchip while a pet is already under anesthesia for a spay or neuter. If your pet is found and scanned for a chip, the ID number will link them to your veterinarian, your home address, and any other information you register with the chip company.

Spaying and Neutering

Rescue puppies are sometimes already spayed or neutered before they are adopted, but in other cases we can plan for the ideal time to spay or neuter a pet. In general, it is best to wait until a dog is done growing to spay or neuter them. Depending on breed and size, this may be from 8 to 12 months of age.

Why do we decide to spay or neuter? In addition to population control and reducing behaviors such as roaming off, urine-marking, and/or getting into fights with other dogs, there are a handful of disease conditions that can be reduced or eliminated by spaying or neutering. Spaying (especially before the first or second heat cycle) reduces the incidence of mammary cancer later in life. It eliminates the chance of cancers of the reproductive tract, as well as the development of pyometra (an infection of the uterus). While testicular cancers are not common in intact male dogs, infection or cancer of the prostate can be, and neutering substantially reduces this risk.

Training & Socialization

Training your puppy can include formal puppy socials, puppy kindergarten, and even private training lessons in addition to your own efforts at home. Bolton Vet hosts puppy socials as well as puppy kindergarten year-round. Locally, Mellow Mutt in Manchester, Tails-U-Win in Manchester, and other venues in our area also offer training classes. If you’re in search of a dog training book as a guide, check out the following:

How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Sophia Yin

Have you picked out a training treat yet? The ideal choice is something that comes in very small pieces (or can be broken up into very small pieces), tastes and smells REALLY good, and is not greasy or fatty (if it makes your hands slimy, it’s not a good choice). Many dog treats will be labeled especially as puppy training treats.

One aspect of training that most puppy owners are happy to accept some helpful tips on is housetraining. Extremely close supervision is essential to successful housetraining, and training your puppy to spend their resting time in a crate is a foundation for housetraining. A puppy can be expected to hold their bladder while awake for the same number of hours as they are aged in months (for example, a three month old puppy can hold it for three hours). If you are having trouble house-training, follow these guidelines:

  • Overnight, puppy sleeps in a crate.
  • First thing in the morning, take puppy QUICKLY and DIRECTLY outside to pee/poop.
  • Stand quietly outside waiting for puppy to do his business. No playing, no touring the yard, no distractions.
  • Once puppy goes, he “earns” some playtime (inside or outside).
  • Continue to closely watch puppy once you are back inside. Keep him on his leash indoors if needed to keep him from wandering away from you.
  • If you are not DIRECTLY supervising puppy, he should go back into his crate.
  • If more than 30 minutes of free-access playtime has gone by, either go outside until puppy urinates again, OR it is time to go back in the crate.
  • Every time puppy comes out of the crate, take him QUICKLY and DIRECTLY outside to pee/poop.

sx09“Socialization” doesn’t just mean social interaction with other dogs. Help your puppy become accustomed to the things that will become daily life experiences: meeting other dogs, meeting new people, interacting with children, having their teeth brushed, having their nails clipped, leaning not to be afraid of the vacuum cleaner, etc. And start early!! Puppies are most impressionable between 8 and 14 weeks of age. Ideally, doggie play-dates should be set up with other dogs who are known to be in good health and up-to-date on vaccinations. Formal puppy social classes often require that all participants have proof of up-to-date vaccinations and/or a recent wellness appointment.

Safety Considerations

As an emergency hospital, we know all about the trouble that’s out there for a puppy to get into! Here are a few items to keep in mind when puppy-proofing your home:

  • Human medications: While some human medications are safe for dogs at an appropriate dose, others can be quite toxic. Never let your pet have access to painkillers (even over-the-counter drugs like Advil, Motrin, Tylenol, Aleve, etc.), sleep aids, steroid pills or creams, or any human prescription medication.
  • Toxic foods: Keep chocolate, alcoholic beverages, sugar-free gum, grapes and raisins, onions, garlic, and anything especially greasy or fatty away from your dog.
  • Interactions with other pets: Your other furry family members might not be as excited as you are about a new puppy! Make sure your pets’ interactions are closely supervised until you are sure they are getting along well together.

Good luck with your new puppy and we’ll see you at your next visit!!

New Puppy Primer: View/Print as PDF

Considering Pet Insurance?

You may have heard of the concept of pet insurance and wondered if it is worthwhile for your pet… you might also have begun looking into it and become overwhelmed by all the companies offering it, and the lists of different plans and options. We’re here to help – and we’ll begin by telling you that this is an unbiased review of pet insurance. We promise you that any product or service we review in this blog is completely impartial, not influenced by sponsorship or advertising, and presented exclusively to help you decide what is best for your pet.

1. Pet insurance is like any other insurance: There is a monthly or yearly basic cost, and a co-pay and/or deductible paid per-event.
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Just as your own insurance costs you “X” dollars per year and if you see the doctor there is a co-pay, pet insurance requires a basic monthly cost as well as a co-pay and/or deductible for a vet visit. These costs vary depending on your pet’s age and breed, what area of the country you live in, and what kind of policy you choose. It is also possible that an annual or lifetime limit on payouts may be applied. Most companies have a website that can readily provide you with a price quote.

2. There are two basic types of pet insurance: Indemnity and Major Medical. Not all companies offer both.

Most pet insurance is meant to help a pet owner cover “indemnities” – the sudden and unexpected expenses of illnesses or injuries. Pet indemnity insurance is a lot like car insurance: if something goes wrong, a large portion of your bill is covered, but basic necessities are not accounted for. For a car, basic necessities are things like gas, oil changes, and routine maintenance. For a pet, basic necessities are things like annual wellness exams, vaccines, and flea control products.

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Major medical insurance for pets is much like human medical insurance. Whether you go to the people-doctor or the doggie-doctor for an annual physical or because you are sick, a large portion of the cost is covered by your insurance. Because major medical insurance covers more of your expenses, it generally costs more per month and/or has a higher deductible.

US-based companies that offer each type of insurance are listed at the end of this article.

3. Unlike human insurance, you will pay up-front and then be reimbursed by your insurer. 
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With human insurance, we are accustomed to walking out the door after paying a small co-pay. Pet insurance generally does not work this way. If your pet is hospitalized at a cost of $800, you will need to pay your veterinarian this amount at the time of hospitalization. Your veterinarian will then help you submit a claim form, and a little while later, your pet insurance company should reimburse you some portion (or all) of this cost. How much is reimbursed will vary with each company, and some have more straightforward rules than others.

4. There is NO pet insurance company that covers pre-existing conditions. bday

It makes sense, after all – You couldn’t crash your car into a ditch and then try to buy insurance to get it repaired the day after. Pet insurance is no different. If your vet finds out your pet has a heart murmur and recommends he be evaluated for heart disease, you cannot buy insurance to cover diagnostics and treatment after the murmur is discovered.

Some companies will also exclude certain conditions based upon breed. For example, bulldogs are prone to develop breathing problems due to the shape of their head and face. Given the high likelihood of any bulldog having breathing problems, a pet insurance company may exclude coverage of this type of condition for all bulldogs. Different insurance companies may have very different coverage as far as hereditary (breed-related) conditions – be sure to research this (or adopt a mutt!).

5. You can use any veterinarian with any insurance.

Veterinarians have no silly rules about which pet insurance they will accept. It’s all fine with us! It helps, though, if you bring a copy of your claim form with you so your veterinarian doesn’t have to puzzle out what kind of paperwork you need (they’re all different).

6. Your pet’s lifestyle may affect their likelihood of illness or injury, and therefore the type of insurance your pet should have (if any).

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An indoor-only cat doesn’t lead a very treacherous lifestyle; by keeping your cat safely indoors, you’ve ruled out scores of illness and injuries that might otherwise affect her. On the other hand, a labrador puppy is a furball of trouble on four legs, and you should probably plan for a lifetime of sock eating, ear infections, torn toenails, wildlife encounters, and maybe even a little jaunt out playing in traffic somewhere along the way (it happens!).

Some companies also offer coverage for exotic pets. Again, consider your pet’s lifestyle: Are they likely to be injured? An adventurous parrot whose flight feathers are not clipped can find himself in quite a lot of trouble, whereas a hamster’s life is generally far less perilous. Would the cost of treatment for an exotic pet affect your willingness to bring them to the vet if they become seriously ill?

7. You might be better served by saving up an “emergency fund” and skipping the insurance.

If you are a person who can stick with a budget and is generally responsible about your finances, the best course of action is to save up an emergency fund BEFORE you adopt a pet, so that you can proceed confidently knowing you are ready for anything. An emergency fund of $1000 – $2000 is a reasonable goal, and with over $3000 you can comfortably cover the initial cost of just about any trouble your pet may run into. Do these amounts sound terribly high? If that is the case, pet insurance may be a good choice for you, taking down your expenses to something along the lines of $20 – $50 per month. But hey – if you saved that $50 per month, you’d have a generous emergency fund all set in a few years.sx21

If this all sounds entirely out of reach, we hope you will honestly consider whether now is the right time for you to adopt a pet. When you adopt a pet, you take on a responsibility for their care, no matter what life brings. As veterinarians, we wish the question of money was never an issue, but for many pet owners, it becomes a deciding factor. We hope you never find yourself in that terribly difficult situation, because it’s one we don’t want to face either!

Still overwhelmed?

Call, email, or visit your vet – they can help you decide the best course of action. You may also find the links below helpful.

PetInsuranceReview.com – An unbiased review of US and Canadian pet insurance companies (see the left sidebar for links to a summary of each insurer)

PetPlan – The world’s largest pet insurance provider. Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions are covered.

Healthy Paws Insurance – Offers indemnity insurance only. Hereditary conditions are covered, except hip dysplasia in dogs who enroll after age six. No payout limits apply.

Pets Best – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions are covered.

Trupanion – Offers indemnity insurance only. Hereditary conditions are covered. Hip dysplasia is covered. No payout limits apply.
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AKC Pet HealthCare – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions are not covered.

Embrace – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions may be covered.

PetFirst Healthcare – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions may be covered. Addition of the chronic coverage rider is recommended.

VPI – The first and largest US-based pet insurance provider.  Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions may be covered.

24 PetWatch – Offers indemnity insurance only. Hereditary conditions may be covered.

PurinaCare – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance.

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions may be covered.

Protect Your Bubble – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions may be covered.

Pet Premium – Offers indemnity and major medical insurance. Hereditary conditions may be covered.

Considering Pet Insurance – View/Print as PDF