March 31, 2010
Now that you have bought your Embrace pet insurance policy, here are ten things you can do to streamline your pet insurance experience (and we're talking with stripes on it).
- Store the Embrace phone number on your cell phone
800-511-9172 You never know when you'll want to call in with questions.
- Print out 2 copies of your personalized Claim Form
Put one in your car's glove compartment and take one to your veterinary clinic and ask them to put it in your file. They can run off copies, so it’s one less thing to think about during a health issue.
- Have your Pet checked by a vet
Not only is it a good idea, particularly if you don't have much health history for your pet, but you can have your vet complete the orthopedic report card to reduce the 6 month waiting period for orthopedic issues down to 14 days. This will ensure that you’re covered in the event of something like a ligament tear, or a broken bone. And, you can take care of task #4 too while you are there…
- Fax in your pet's health history
800-238-1042 (it's on your claim form too - the one you are going to put in your pet's file, right?) Specifically, ask your vet to fax us your doctor's hand written notes for every vet visit your pet has made, including routine visits and for every vet including one-off visits to other clinics. If your pet is older than 2 years old, start with the last 2 year's worth of history. We’ll even review your pet’s records to let you know if we find any pre-existing conditions that might affect future claims.
- Read your terms and conditions!
I know, this is so obvious, why should I even mention it but my experience is that only 1 in 10 pet parents actually read their policies (you can be the 1 in 10 for today, right?). At the very least, check your information is correct and your policy is what you asked for. Then read the rest of the policy; understanding your terms and conditions will make for a much better pet insurance experience.
- Call us with your questions
Here's the number again 800-511-9172 (of course, it's already on your cell phone, right?) Now that you've read your policy, you probably have questions. What better time to call than now to get those questions answered? You really don't want to be getting the answers from the lobby of your local emergency vet clinic.
- Maximize your discounts
We offer discounts for spayed/neutered pets (5%) and microchipped pets (another 5%) so if your pet wasn't spayed or neutered and/or microchipped when you signed up for your insurance but that changes, phone in (remember the number?) and let us know. We'll drop your premium immediately.
- Set up your own pet health savings account
Your Embrace pet insurance policy has a deductible and copay component to your policy. So to be financially prudent, you might want to set up a small fund to cover your annual deductible and copay. For example, if your annual deductible is $200 and your copay is 20%, you will be paying the first $200 of a claim and then 20% of the total thereafter. On a $500 claim, that's $260 out of pocket and on a $1,500 claim (about what an inexpensive cruciate repair costs), that's $460.
- Join the Embrace Facebook Page
We’re always posting information about new Embrace products and services that can help you protect your pet, as well as promotions and partnerships with other companies. We’ll keep you informed of your options and ways to save money on your pet expenses.
- And bonus points - send us photos of you and your Embraced pets. We love the cute and fuzzies and you might see them in the Embrace newsletter one day!
Got any more pointers you would add?
March 26, 2010
Today, we have a guest post from Dr. Rex Riggs, owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is a veterinarian, and an Advisory Board member of Embrace Pet Insurance. Dr. Riggs writes about hereditary issues from a small animal practioner's perspective.
Hereditary problems, and their consequences, are something we deal with everyday in our practice. We see a number of purebred animals, each with its own great traits.
Labrador Retrievers are happy go lucky souls. Golden Retrievers are the owner’s loyal best friends. Then, there are the adorable King Charles Spaniels with their doll like faces. Who could resist the wrinkled faces of the Shar Pei? When you talk about majestic animals, who could deny the beautiful German shepherd?
Each breed has been bred to accentuate specific desirable traits. This is done by carefully breeding a male to a female with the same characteristics, so hopefully we get a litter of puppies that are similar to the parents. When done by conscientious breeders, this can be a very successful and everyone is happy. All too common though, we see the unwanted consequences of these breedings. Along with the good genes, often times the bad, often recessive genes, are expressed. This becomes more and more common the closer related the animals.
When a particular breed becomes popular, the more likely the two dogs are related, due to the intensive breeding. The five breeds were mentioned above, not only because they are fantastic dog breeds, but also because they are the breeds we see with the most genetic problems.
- The retrievers often have hip dysplasia, eye problems, allergies and seizures.
- The King Charles Spaniels have a high incidence of heart valve problems and neurologic defects, and
- the Shar Pei and German Shepards have enough hereditary problems to fill this page.
The reason; they are just too popular for their own good.
When a breed becomes popular, greed becomes involved and people often see a way a profit can be made. The pet stores and nontraditional breeders start mating dogs.
Then there are the puppy mills.
We have a real problem in this country with puppy mills. They use the dogs as money making machines by breeding them over and over until they can’t breed anymore. Often times this results in dogs that have lost any resemblance to the original breed.
Unfortunately, the state where I live, Ohio, is one of the worst in the nation, in the number of these businesses. All too often I see an excited family bringing in their new puppy, only to have me tell them that the dogs has a life threatening problem. The owners are devastated. It is a sad part of my job.
We can and need to do a better job. The animals and the families who adopt them deserve it. Contact you legislator and get involved.
And please read the article in this blog about the 8 tips to bring home a healthy dog free of genetic conditions to help you in choosing a new puppy.
Dr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center with his wife Nancy, their two dogs Boo and Maggie, and two cats Franklin and Speeder. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and enjoys travel and photography.
March 23, 2010
It seems to be the month of the toe! Here is another toe issue regarding infection in a cat's extra toe.
My cat has an extra toe and had an ingrown toenail that wrapped around and split the skin between her big toe and the first toe and may have got infected. The vet gave her an antibiotic shot, cut nails, and wrapped it almost two weeks ago. Last Saturday it was still not healed all the way so he wrapped it again and sent antibiotics home with me to give twice daily. He said if it don't work by this Saturday he recommended amputating her toe. I really do not want to do this. Is there something else I can do to prevent this?
Answer from Dr Riggs, Best Friends Vet Hospital:
It sounds like the cat is polydactyl, which just means he has extra toes. All of Ernest Hemingway’s' cats in Key West had extra toes and if you visit his house down there they still have a number of his cat's descendents, all with the extra toes. Often times they do not cause problems, but when the grow in between the toes they can become ingrown and infected. Cats are hard to keep the nails clipped often enough, so removing that extra digit often solves the problem. The cat is more comfortable and actually will walk better. Ask your vet and the vet can tell you if that would solve the problem.
While following your vet’s instructions on keeping the toe as clean as possible and administering any medication is the best you can do to prevent amputation, removing the toe is not as bad as it sounds and would prevent future issues as well.
Toe Amputations for Cats and Dogs
Ask Laura: the impact of toe amputation surgery
Ask Laura: dog weight bearing toe amputation appropriate or not?
Ask Laura: infected ingrown toe nail on cat
Ask Laura: to amputate or not to amputate the cat's toe, that is the question
Corns on a greyhound's toe: Dr Riggs discusses
March 22, 2010
Since we're focusing on hereditary and genetic conditions this month, here are some pointers on minimizing the chance of getting a dog with hereditary conditions.
1. Avoid Puppy Mills
Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers all breeds and popular mixes, shipped with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
2. Find Your Breeder from a Breed Club
Start with a breeder who is a member in good standing with the breed's specific breed club and has agreed to abide by Code of Ethics of that club.
3. Genetic Tests
If relevent to your dogs' breed (see the Embrace Pet Health Center for more details), ask the breeder for:
- documentation from either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) that your puppy's parents are free of hip dysplasia, a crippling genetic defect of the hip socket that requires expensive surgery to repair and usually results in painful arthritis in the dog's later years.
- test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) that her dogs are clear of genetic eye disorders known to occur in the breed you are looking at, if relevent.
- OFA clearances on her dogs' hearts, thyroid glands, and knees.
You can also see if the breed club maintains its own health registry, which can provide documentation about those same conditions as well as certify that the parents are free of Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) and Factor X, which are bleeding disorders.
Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of problems, or that they're not a concern, is a stong indication to look for your puppy elsewhere.
4. Check out the breeder's dogs temperament
If temperament is a particular concern in the breed, make sure you spend time with the breeder's dogs, and if possible, with your puppy's mother or father. Very often the father won't be on the premises – good breeders look for the best possible male for their females, not just the best one they happen to own – so don't view that as any kind of red flag. A breeder may also have American Temperament Test Society (TT) certification on her dogs. But if the breeder won't let you meet the mother of the puppies, and won't let you meet any of her dogs, consider that the worst of all signs and look elsewhere.
5. Find out how involved the breeder is in her breed's world
If the breeder has all the required genetic test documentation and her dogs seem gentle and well-mannered, ask about her involvement with the breed and dogs in general. Good breeders show their dogs or compete in canine sports such as obedience and agility. Good breeders don't just sit home churning out pets; they get out there with their dogs and make sure they're happy and stable in the kinds of real world situations every family pet needs to take in stride.
6. Know your contract
Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
7. Perhaps adopt a dog instead
Consider adopting an adult dog from a shelter or breed-specific rescue group. Most puppies won't show health or temperament problems until adulthood. By adopting a dog who is already grown, you can use the expertise of the rescue group to evaluate his temperament and health as it already is, and avoid dogs with issues. What you see is mostly what you get with adult dogs.
8. Arrange a vet visit as soon as possible
Puppy or adult, take your new dog to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, like ear infections and eye problems.
For details on specific breeds, such as the breed and breed rescue club, check out the Embrace Pet Health Center.
March 19, 2010
There’s a legitimate warning circulating via e-mail about the dangers of the Cocoa landscape mulch. (In case you haven’t received it, here’s the scoop via Snopes.) The sweet smelling mulch is manufactured by Hershey’s and contains both the Theobromine and Caffeine found in chocolate. Just a few ounces could cause stomach problems, as well as seizures and death if enough is ingested. (ASPCA poison control says that as little as 20 ounces of milk chocolate can cause serious problems in a 10-pound dog.)
The mulch is sold at most garden supply stores, and according to Hershey’s 98% of dog’s won’t eat it. It’s unlikely that your pet will have a chance to eat the mulch, but with such high risks, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Why would a dog eat mulch? To be fair, mulch is just chopped up sticks-a dog’s favorite toy! But, sadly, Embrace recently handled claims in which a pet ingested regular mulch (non-toxic, basic mulch) and the splinters and debris formed a painful obstruction. Vets performed two surgeries to try to remove the many small splinters of wood from the dog’s bowel, but infection and contamination killed him.
A tragic reminder for all of us to supervise our pets at play, especially those prone to chewing foreign objects.
Thank you to Lea, who writes the Embrace Pet Community blog for the information presented above. Such an important topic to share with people who care about dogs.