Canadian pet insurer buys UK pet insurer

In an interesting development in the pet insurance world, Pethealth, a Canadian pet insurance company, bought Pet Protect, a British insurer from Domestic & General Insurance in the UK for 3.5 mil British pounds (7.133 mil Canadian dollars/$6.98 mil US) in cash.

Some interesting points to note from the press release:

The purchase price represents 27% of 2007 gross written premiums placed by Pet Protect.
Prior deals involving pet insurance companies have been in the 1-2 times gross written premium so this is a bargain indeed; however, it also implies that the earnings of the book of business isn't the best, which means there's work to be done by the new owners.

The purchase price being paid for the company represents approximately Pounds Sterling 64.50 (C$129) per paid policy in force.
Not bad. Pethealth gets policies that make money for them (hopefully) and infrastructure to sell more policies that make money for them. As a reference, according to Pethealth's prior earnings discussions, their acquisition costs per policy in North America is in the range of $50-60 (although this does not include any non-insurance costs that are incurred to generate those policies).

Pet Protect currently places insurance for over 54,300 dogs and cats, representing approximately 3% of the U.K. market.
54,300 dogs and cats insured resulting in 3% of the market implies that the total market in the UK is 1.8 million pets insured.

According to the latest Defaqto report (2006) on pet insurance in the UK, the total number of cats and dogs in the UK is around 16.4 million with 3.8 million insured (23%). When I was at the International Pet Insurance Conference in 2006, UK insurers uniformly said that about 20% of cats and dogs are insured insured (3.3 million cats and dogs insured). So that would make Pet Protect's share in the 1.4 - 1.7% range rather than 3%. Probably some rounding and different assumptions making up the difference (numbers - who needs them!)

So overall, kudos to Mark Warren and the gang over at Pethealth. It will be interesting to see what they do in the UK. They've certainly done very well in the US.



Update on Barnes

As you may recall, my cat Barnes had been having some subtle signs that something was amiss with his health (blogged about it in Serious Illness Is Never Expected) so I took him to the vet and we were awaiting test results with the hope he had hyperthyroidism (option 1) and not cardiomyopathy (option 2).

Well, it turned out to be option 3 - worsening of his kidney disease aka chronic kidney failure - and option 2, cardiomyopathy or some such heart issue. Sigh. Not what I'd hoped for.

His BUN (blood urea nitrogen) results were high and his potassium was low so we're working on stabilizing his blood levels and then worrying about his heart. Sigh again.

So, he's on twice weekly subcutaneous fluids (that I give - eek!), a potassium supplement, and Prescription Diet k/d (which Barnes does not like and now refuses to eat without much coaxing.) So, I just ordered Hi-Tor Canned Neo-Diet Feline Canned Kidney Diet to see if he'll eat that since it got rave reviews on Waggin Tails. He's gotta eat...

Fingers crossed this helps. After a recheck in a month, our next stop is heart condition.

Go Barnes Go!



Serious illness is never expected

I've been following the dog health stories two of my blogging friends, Dr. Patty Khuly (Dolittler) and Therese (PetSitUSA), and their dog's cancer treatments lately. Dr Patty's dog, 10 year old Sophie, has a brainstem tumor and Therese's 7 year old dog Lydia has anal gland adenocarcinoma.

It's struck me how calm Patty and Terese have seemed while blogging about the extremely serious health issues their dogs are going through. I can imagine though that behind the scenes, they ponder life, death, and all that is in between and wonder why it should happen to them, knowing there are no answers to that particular question.

Barnes_working_hard_feb06 Yesterday, I started my own steps down that path with Barnes. Barnes as you might recall is my 13 year old neutered male cat who has kidney disease. He's been doing very well with his kidney issues as I've been able to manage it very well with food (discussed in my blog post Tips for Looking after Cat with Feline Kidney Disease).

But lately, he seems a little off, not himself in a way that only I seem to notice. He's a big cat - larger than a small dog - and an excellent weight for his size. We gave him his summer coat a month or so ago and when all the fluff was shaved off, I thought he looked even slimmer than he normally does but I put that down to the contrast between his real body and his fluff body - he's got a lot of fur!

But for some months now, he's seemed more needy and hungry all the time. And he's got so little body fat and no fur now, he's been hiding under the covers in our bed during the day as it's been a little colder than you'd expect this summer. In all other ways though, he's been great, going outside and wandering all over and being his handsome and gentlemanly self with the kids and Lily, our other cat.

But something continued to nag at me about his health so I took him to our vet yesterday evening and yes, there's something seriously wrong.

Barnes is now 11 lbs compared to the 15 lbs he was 4 months ago and he has a seriously loud heart murmur. My poor baby :(

So, X-rays were taken showing Barnes has an elongated heart (and we saw what we thought was the calcification in his right kidney he'd had from years back) and then we looked at the most likely options.

  1. hyperthyroidism: an overactive thyroid gland (cardiomyopathy is a secondary condition for hyperthyroidism)
  2. cardiomyopathy as the primary condition: a thickening of the heart

Img_3069 If I had to pick, I'd definitely want it to be option 1 hyperthyroidism, which is definitely manageable. There's an excellent article on Pet Education on hyperthyroidism if you'd like to read more. Barnes has all the signs (even with the average onset age of unlucky 13) and it seems we might have caught it early enough that hopefully we can get him back to abnormal with treatment.

Option 2 Cardiomyopathy by itself is more worrying as no-one knows what causes it and it only leads to bad things, including saddle thrombus (which is my nightmare after reading all the incredibly painful comments on my Saddle Thrombus blog series) and sudden death.

So we shall see what his blood work shows us today and go from there. Fingers, toes and paws crossed. I'm optimistic we can manage Barnes's health through this.

Pet parents go through situations like this all the time. I'm just sad that our time has to start now.



For Pixie, A Cavalier King Charles sweetheart who died of Dry Drowning

Pixie_cutiepie [get out the Kleenex, this moving story is likely to get you going]

A month ago, we received this desperate phone call from Suzie who told us that Pixie, her beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel was hanging on to her life by a thread after experiencing "dry drowning" when playing with her daughter in a kiddy pool all afternoon.

She told us that after coming into the house from playing all afternoon, Pixie started coughing and wretching and became clearly in severe distress.

Pixie_from_above Suzie jumped into the car with her kids and drove to the emergency clinic 45 minutes away with Pixie in her lap and two minutes away from the hospital, Pixie's heart stopped and Suzie was administering CPR while driving with her.

Finally at the hospital, the veterinarians were able to revive Pixie but she died the next day on life support, not even 1 year old.

Suzie and her family have been struggling to make sense of what happened to Pixie and as part of their grieving, Suzie wrote a poem for Pixie that she shared with us. Here it is.

For Pixie by Suzie Vaughan

Pixie_in_thought_2Your body held against my chest
long auburn ears fanned out in rest.
I look upon you long and deep
your image in my mind to keep,
and blink the tears that blur my view
of my last chance to gaze at you.

I long to feel you stir and wake
and watch you stretch and see you shake
and wag your tail and romp with me
but now you’ve gone where I can’t be.
I plant a kiss upon your head
and place you gently on your bed.

I do not want to lay you down
to dig the red clay Georgia ground,
my tears to loose the stubborn dirt
each spade-full filling me with hurt.
But you deserve a proper grave
and my children need to see me brave.

Pixie_and_her_gal_morgan_2 Now one last time I hold you close,
caress your fur and kiss your nose,
but your fading warmth says you’re not here
so with a sob and many a tear,
reluctantly I lay you down
with part of my heart, in the ground.

Thank you for your loving heart
your gentle soul, your happy bark.
When I, too, go beyond this place
I eagerly will seek your face.
Then I will hold you once again
my precious dog, my loyal friend.

Sometimes sharing the pain can mend the heart.



Gratuitous Embraced Pet Blogging

Apologies for the radio silence. It's been a week of busy-ness that included a Board meeting, interviewing potential staff, media interviews, offering jobs, strategy meeting prep, and actuarial work (oh and a quick stop off at Costco.)

Such fun! Who'd want to work for a faceless corporation when you can have it all at Embrace :)

So, to tide things along, here are some photos of Embraced dogs and cats for your viewing pleasure. I promise to be more on track next week.

Annie_and_rosey Aren't these two adorable? Annie and Rosey were made for movies I think!

Deucebolobed61405_3 "Nothing but snoozing going on here; move right along"

Giz_1_2 LOL cat in the making :)

Wrona_gang_2 The three-headed couch jigsaw puzzle