Celebrating the top posts for the Embrace Pet Insurance blog

Ruby_visits_the_office Hard to believe but it was 3 years ago today that I wrote the first pet insurance blog entry. Time flies, as they say, but boy, has a lot ever happened in that time.

So, in honor of our big day, I thought I'd share the top viewed posts from the blog:

  1. Saddle Thrombus in Cats - a description of this awful and mostly terminal condition. This blog post also has the most comments, most of which are heart rending. Get out the Kleenex's when reading this one.
  2. My Dog or Cat is Limping - what could that limp be? Post describes a number of different scenarios.
  3. Dog or Cat Protective Head Cone - could it be those great pictures on this post? What a strange one to be in the top 6
  4. Toe Amputations for Cats and Dogs - an odd but strangely interesting post on loosing a toe to illness or accident
  5. Perineal Urethrostomy: Description and Costs - an altogether ouchy topic for male cats but costly too
  6. Repairing a Tracheal Collapse in Dogs - another costly procedure for smaller dogs

Wonder what the next year's top posts will be - any suggestions for topics you'd like me to cover?

PS. That's Ruby, Jonathan's new dog, who came to visit the office this morning. Nice to have our puppy therapy so early in the week.



The Cat Atlas - add your kittehs to the mix

Here's something a little fun - add your cat to the world map of cats over at Platial The People's Atlas. Not sure why I like this but I do!

Hat tip to Anita for forwarding this on to me. Took me a while to get to it but now it's up.



How much did you say a ruptured cruciate ligament cost to treat in my dog?

Anywhere from $1,200 to $4,600 a knee - ouch!

Here's an example of TPLO surgery performed on a 7 year old mixed breed dog in Nashville, Tennessee, February 2008.

Total cost for the surgery is $2,765 - yes, that's really over two and a half thousand dollars.

ITEM BILLED AMOUNT
Pre-op View X-Ray 144.00
Post-op View X-Ray 96.00
Radiographic Interpretation 15.00
H4 Serum Profile (IRMA) 45.00
Packed Cell Volume 14.00
Total Protein 10.00
IV Cephalic Catheter w/ Placement 21.00
IV Infusion Pump/Set/Monitor 34.00
Lactated Ringers Solution (Liter) 50.00
Surgical Prep Fee 40.00
Operating Room 80.00
Orthopedic Setup and Equipment 56.00
Disposables 41.00
Anesthesia Inhalent, Isoflourane 360.00
Anesthesia Monitoring Equipment Bundle 76.00
ACL Repair - TPLO LG 650.00
Plate TPLO (L) - LG 210.00
3.5m Bone Screw 126.00
Bandage - Pressure Wrap (LG) 24.00
Antibiotics 208.00
Analgesic 84.00
Misc In Hospital Meds 80.00
Elizabethan Collar 17.00
Antibiotics - Oral Dispensed 48.00
Acepromazine 30.00
Hospitalization  50.00
24 Hr Nursing Care Level 3 156.00
$2,765.00

There were some items not covered by the pet parent's Embrace Pet Insurance policy - she did not select the Drugs and Dental Extension for example so the take-home antibiotics and Acepromazine were not covered - but the total Embrace payout in this case was $2,322.90.

As you can see, this treatment is not inexpensive. And you just know you've probably already spent $300 on your first visit to the vet and then a follow up visit just to make sure the surgery went well.

And just to rub salt into the wound, once one knee goes, the other is 40% more likely to go as well. That's why most pet insurance companies treat the second cruciate ligament tear as a continuation of the first. Something to consider if your insurance has per incident limits (which Embrace Pet Insurance does not.)

If you are in the mood for some feisty reading, check out Terrier Man on his opinion of cruciate ligament injuries. He doesn't hold back on his view that surgery is not necessary for smaller dogs and for partial tears. I don't feel qualified enough to opine on his perspective. Just something else to consider when facing a cruciate ligament injury.

Related posts:
What happens when my dog's cruciate ligament tears?
Ski - a dog who recovered from a cruciate ligament injury without surgery
My dog or cat is limping



What happens when my dog's cruciate ligament tears?

It's that awful nightmare that can happen to any dog owner. You are both out for your evening constitutional, doing the usual rounds of the neighborhood, when Max lunges on the leash at a chirping squirrel and wham, he suddenly pulls up short, limping severely. Poor old Max has likely torn a cruciate ligament in his knee. 

What are Cruciate Ligaments?

Cranial_cruciate_ligament_diagramCruciate ligaments are found in the stifle (knee) joint of dogs and cats. Surprisingly, dog and cat knees are very similar to human knees - who knew!

Cruciate ligaments are large and strong ligaments in the knee, keeping it stable and prevents inappropriate movements within the knee joint including hyperextension and excessive internal rotation.

What Happens When a Cruciate Ligament Tears?

When a cruciate ligament tears, the dog experiences sudden pain and often holds his leg up. The dog may put the leg down and start using the leg again within a day or so, but will continue to limp for several weeks. Normally, at the end of several weeks, the initial pain subsides and the dog is willing to use its leg more; however, the joint will stay unstable.

Longer term, when your dog puts his weight on the leg, the tibia (shin bone) slides forward in relationship to the femur (thigh bone). As you can imagine, this can be painful as the joint cartilage wears down, leading to arthritis. This motion can also put excessive stress on the menisci (C shaped pieces of cartilage within the knee joint), causing damage or tearing. Not a fun place for Max to be.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian can diagnose a ruptured cruciate ligament by feeling your dog's knee moving abnormally. The knee feels like it's moving like a drawer of a cabinet instead of being locked in place.

Treatment

Complete tears are usually treated with surgery, which involves using synthetic suture material, or a portion of adjacent fibrous tissue to basically re-create the ligament. Types of treatment include the extracapsular imbrication technique, fibular head transfer, and tibial plateau leveling (aka TPLO).

The most important thing about the surgery is the after treatment that you must do. Your dog's movement must be severely restricted for 2 weeks. Of course, as the days tick by, your dog will be able to put some weight on the affected leg and then want to start running madly around (that's how he got the tear in the first place!) but it's really important to keep them restricted until the healing is complete. Definitely a case of following your veterinarian's instruction to the letter.

Sometimes, a cruciate ligament tear can be healed with medical treatment - see Ski's story for an excellent example of this. Basically, the treatment involves controlled swimming and walking, as instructed by a veterinarian, to keep up muscle strength.

Overweight dogs (no, we never have those!) need to go on a reduced-calorie diet to lose a few pounds and take the pressure of those poor knees. Your vet may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as carprofen, etodolac, meloxicam, deracoxib, buffered aspirin, or other medications to reduce inflammation in the joint and relieve pain (note: do NOT give your cat aspirin unless prescribed by your veterinarian.) Your vet might also recommend joint health supplements with glucosamine, chondroitin, perna mussel, polysulfated glycosaminoglycans, and other chondroprotective agents.

If you don't treat your dog with a ruptured cruciate, he will usually end up with a severe arthritis and may rupture the other knee because of the extra weight being put on it.

Prevention

How to avoid this in the first place:

  • Keep your dog's weight down in the appropriate range.
  • Use supplements for joint health (glucosamine, chondroitin, perna mussel, etc.)
  • Keeping your dog from jumping up, suddenly going from 0-50mph in 5 seconds, and other normal doggy behaviour that is darn well impossible to prevent.

And of course, best to have your dog insurance before this happens to your dog because you can't get it after.

How much does a typical cruciate ligament rupture repair cost? Check out the next post How much did you say a ruptured cruciate ligament costs to treat in my dog? for the details.

Related Posts:
How much did you say a ruptured cruciate ligament costs to treat in my dog?
Ski - a dog who recovered from a cruciate ligament injury without surgery
My dog or cat is limping



Ask Laura: how does Embrace Pet Insurance treat a shelter cat without health history

Here's a question that came through my blog. It's a bit long but instead of me editing it and removing the personality of the question, I thought I'd leave it intact and let you scan accordingly.

Question:

Wikipedia_abyssinian_cat My question has to do with health history and shelter pets. My beloved abyssinian died two weeks ago so I signed up with various breed rescue groups and began scouring petfinder for another one. The best way to grieve a pet is with a pet, right?

I located a great little guy (appears purebred abyssinian) who had just been brought to the shelter and drove 4 hrs round trip to adopt him the same day. He only spent about 6 hours in the shelter environment. He looks great, is playful and energetic, eating and pooping as expected and doesn't appear to have anything wrong with him. The shelter paperwork just records the shots he was given and is stamped that he might have been exposed to an upper respiratory infection which is standard for shelters - precisely why they have a stamp. Haven't noticed any symptoms but I'll give him a few weeks before introducing him to my other cat just to be sure.

So, having broken the bank trying to save my last cat, I would rather spend my 3-4 hundred dollars this year on insurance than on redundant wellcare. My preference would be to only bring this cat in to my vet if he needs it over the next 10-12 months until what would be his annual exam, shots, etc. By then I would have had about a year of insurance coverage.

However, what if something showed up during the vet visit? Worst possible outcome for me financially would be-

1) healthy cat from the shelter,
2) insurance payments for a year,
3) 300 or so spent on wellcare at the end of 10-12 months,
4) something discovered at the annual visit,
5) somehow whatever it is is considered preexisting even though it wasn't observable at the shelter or by me.

I'll never have a medical history for the previous 4 years (shelter estimated his age) and they gave him his shots before I took him home so I feel like I've got a "clean" cat. If I have to take him in for some kind of qualifying vet exam in order to obtain insurance I won't have enough cash left for the insurance.

I believe in wellcare for pets because they can't talk so you have to have an expert look them over on a regular basis. (As opposed to the annual exam for people which studies show is not necessary because humans can identify and explain their problems seeking care as they arise). However in this case I feel like the cat was evaluated at the shelter (albeit in a limited way), he has already had his vaccines etc. And I'm outa cash for a while. Smile.

If I buy a policy from Embrace (by far the best company around) I don't want to learn that he doesn't qualify for coverage in the future (whether 6 or 16 months from now) because I didn't take him in for a preliminary exam under the assumption that the shelter wouldn't have allowed me to adopt a sick animal.

Many thanks,

Answer:

First of all, thanks for reaching out. It’s great to see someone doing so much research. I'm sorry about your Abyssinian, my heart goes out to you.

But back to your questions. As you can imagine, this is not the first time we've come across this rescue shelter situation. We do assume that a shelter won't adopt out a sick cat or dog unless the adoption records say otherwise (some people specifically will take on a special needs pet). We also don't require you to go again to the vet. As long as you go once a year for a routine visit, that works for us.

On your first claim, just make sure to send in the rescue notes. I should remind you that the waiting period still applies - anything that happens in the first 2 weeks of the policy is not covered, including things that had symptoms in this period.

Does that help you folks with rescued cats and dogs?

As always, get a free quote for Embrace cat insurance over at our website www.embracepetinsurance.com. And while you are at it, you can learn about pet insurance there and compare pet insurance plans too.