Embrace pet insurance policies finally move over to RLI!

RLI logo

Big progress in the move to RLI... 

If you recall, Embrace Pet Insurance is in the process of moving underwriters from Lloyd's of London to RLI Corp, an A+ AM Best rated company based in Peoria IL.

We have already moved 35 states over to RLI but, as of today, we have added 12 more states to the list:

AK, GA, HI, ID, LA, MD, NH, ND, SC, VT and WV

This move leaves just 4 states, MA, NY, FL, and WA, that are not on RLI admitted paper. While we wait for state approval, we have moved these four states over to RLI's surplus lines company, Mt. Hawley, using the terms and conditions we used with our Lloyd's of London policies. The good news is that we will not apply the Continuing Care sublimit to the claims on the Mt Hawley. You can find more details of the change to Continuing Care in my article Embrace Continuing Care Sublimits are gone! 

Once the relevent departments of insurance for the remaining states give their nod of approval, we'll more these last four states to RLI admitted paper. In fact, Massachusetts will move for coverages starting Jan 10, 2011; I expect the others will move shortly thereafter.

Related Posts - move to RLI
Embrace pet insurance policies finally move over to RLI!
Embrace moves 12 more states to RLI
Embrace has a new insurance partner - A+ rated RLI Corp
What the new Embrace / RLI partnership means for you - new terms and conditions
PennHIP Pet Insurance Discount now available at Embrace Pet Insurance
The new and improved Embrace Wellness Rewards program

Anyone interested in some Embrace Dental Rewards? Pick me, pick me!
Embrace Continuing Care Sublimits are gone!
Other interesting changes in the Embrace Pet Insurance policies

Okey's Promise: Highlighting the Link Between Animal and Human Abuse

SAFE-ANIMALS-SAFE-KIDS-Public-art-cat-dog-child-pop-art-BZTAT Our friend, Vicki Boatright, aka BZTAT, has just launched her fundraising campaign for her new project Okey's Promise. Okeys' Promise is a public art project designed to create awareness about the connections between animal maltreatment, child abuse and domestic violence. The picture to the right is the proposed image for first Okey's Promise mural to be located in the Canton, OH Arts District

As Vicki blogs:

Recently, a lost and forlorn cat crossed my path. Residing in a parking lot and in danger of being killed by heavy traffic in the area, she was like a sitting duck. Reluctantly, I rescued her – the reluctance being because of my own circumstances being not the best for adopting a new cat.

I was deeply humbled by how many people not only followed her story here, but also donated to her veterinary care. Within DAYS, $305 was raised for my little Okey.


It is clear to me that Okey was socialized to some degree with people, then abandoned. The way that she cowers with me leads me to believe that the humans she has encountered before me were frightening to her. She is coming around, but it is a slow process.

It is one thing to care about animals and to have compassion for creatures who are lost in our human world. Yet there are those who would suggest that we should worry more about other social ills first. An editorial in my local paper went so far as to decry volunteers who give of themselves, implying that childhood poverty was a more important concern to address.

But here is the reality. When animals are suffering in society, children are too. When there is violence to animals, there is likely violence to children and others who may be defenseless. Where there is poverty, there is an abundance of unwanted pets due to animals not being spayed and neutered.

Vicki goes on to say:

There is a strong link. When animals are in danger, chances are, children are too.

The purpose of Okey’s Promise, named for a small rescued cat, is to create artworks that will be prominently viewed in the community to generate interest and awareness. They will be positive in nature. The purpose is to remind us of the riches we have in helping those who are most vulnerable in society.

The video below explains the genesis of the project.

I hope you feel inspired enough to click your mouse over to the Okey's Promise website and pledge a few dollars for this inspiring project - or click on the widget to the right (up to Jan 27th 2011) to connect directly to the donation site.

We need more art in our lives; we need more understanding.


Claim Example: dog poisoning from Xylitol in chewing gum

Before I started in pet insurance, I confess I had no idea that certain types of chewing gum could be fatal to a dog (there are no known cases in cats) but now I know.  

Xylitol, a sweetner often used in gum, can do 2 things to a dog:

  • ?hypoglycemia - with only a few sticks of gum, the dog's system will think that there's a lot of sugar in the system so work hard to digest it, putting it into an "insulin shock" you hear about with diabetics
  • hepatic necrosis - this extremely serious condition occurs with a much higher dose of Xylitol and can result in complete and acute liver failure, which is fatal to the dog

Here's an example of a claim we had earlier this year for 2 year old Meesha, a Siberian Husky living in East Lansing, MI. The treatment consisted of one emergency visit plus a follow up for blood work to make sure no permanent liver damage had occured.

3/11/2010 Emergency Exam $105.00 $105.00
3/11/2010 Medical Waste Fee $5.50 $5.50
3/11/2010 Chem Profile $57.00 $57.00
3/11/2010 Professional Fee $33.00 $33.00
3/11/2010 Chemstrip $20.40 $20.40
3/11/2010 IV Insyte Place $48.50 $48.50
3/11/2010 Hospital ICU II $70.50 $70.50
3/12/2010 Hospital Care/Board $52.00 $52.00
3/12/2010 Medical Waste Fee $5.50 $5.50
3/12/2010 Professional Fee $33.00 $33.00
3/12/2010 BG Chemstrip $13.60 $13.60
3/12/2010 Hospital ICU II $70.50 $70.50
3/15/2010 Prep Profile $35.00 $35.00
Total   $549.50 $549.50

Meesha's monthly premium is $29.23 a month for $200 annual deductible, $10,000 per year maximum, and 20% copay. The drugs & dental coverage was not selected for Meesha's policy but it was not needed for this claim.

The payout of $322.00 was calculated as follows:

STEP 1: Calculate Potential Refund               
  Billed Amount:                 $549.50
  Covered Charges:  (see attached detail)              $549.50
  Annual deductible remaining             $147.00
  subtotal             $402.50
  Copay 20%  (your copayment)              $80.50
Potential Refund                  $322.00
STEP 2: Compare potential refund against your annual maximums    
     Annual Maximum               $10,000.00
     Prior refunds for this policy year             $0.00
     Coverage remaining             $10,000.00
Your total refund is:               $322.00

Related Posts:
December is Accident Month at Embrace
A bit of dog humor to lead us into the Thanksgiving weekend
The dangers to your cat or dog from other animals
Guest Post: Common Poisoning Situations in Dogs and Cats
Claim Example: dog poisoning from Xylitol in chewing gum

Guest Post: Hormonal Cream Poisoning in Cats and Dogs by Dr Keith Niesenbaum

Hormonal creams, such as topical estrogen prescribed to relieve some of the symptoms of menopause, can have a devastating effect on dogs or cats (or other 2 legged children) who come in frequent contact with you.

I was talking on Facebook recently with Dr Keith Neisenbaum about hormonal cream poisoning. He mentioned a particular example so, given it's accident month at Embrace, I asked him to guest blog to spread the word about this innocuous but possibly fatal poison.

Dr Neibenbaum writes...

Kitten with David Trouble (not her real name) was a small but spunky Yorkshire Terrier.  She became a patient of mine 13 years ago when she was just a pup.  Unfortunately, her poor breeding stock left  her with a couple congenital problems that we had to deal with in her first year of life.  Her knees were never quite right, and she needed a surgery to correct  a blood vessel anomaly that shunted blood away from her liver.  She did well after that though, and the next 13 years were relatively uneventful healthwise.  Of course we are going to overlook her nasty habit of stealing the remote control for the TV and then hiding it so that no one could change the channel (I assume from Animal Planet).

In the spring of 2008 she presented at our office with some vague gastrointestinal signs.  She was on some medication for arthritis and had been in a couple of months ago for a complete work up.  At the time her blood work was normal and her radiographs showed nothing other than the degenerative joint disease.

It was June 2nd and Trouble’s Mom said that Trouble just wasn’t acting right.  She had been vomiting and her appetite was off.  We thought it might be the arthritis medicine so we stopped that, gave her something to settle her stomach, and ran some preliminary blood work in our in house lab.  We were surprised to see that her platelet count was low. 

Kitten at Christmas Since she was so small, and her owners were so concerned, we admitted her to the hospital and placed her on IV fluids and monitored her.  The next day we took some abdominal x rays and saw that here liver looked a little small and that there was some gas in her intestines.  The small liver fit with the congenital liver shunt that had been corrected 12 years ago.  Her chemistry panel was normal and an ultrasound was performed.  No masses were found and no specific reason for her condition could be identified.  We became concerned that she had an auto immune disease, one where the body attacks it’s own cells, in this case the platelets.

By June 5th, her platelets were even lower and the other blood counts (red blood cells and white blood cells) were beginning to drop.  This puzzled the team at Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital since we usually see a high white count in auto immune disease.  She continued to deteriorate and she was given her first transfusion with a synthetic hemoglobin product on the 6th, as her anemia was worsening.  The condition was starting to look more and more like a bone marrow shutdown than anything else.  We carefully questioned the owner and we could not come up with anything in Trouble’s environment that might have been causing the problem. 

Kitten August 06 012 She was started on injections of Erythropoietin to stimulate her bone marrow to produce red blood cells.  On the morning of the 7th, she was given a second transfusion of the synthetic hemoglobin and a unit of packed red blood cells.

Concerned that her condition was continuing to worsen, we transferred Trouble to a specialty practice with an intensive care unit.  They continued to support her and she seemed to be responding to the multiple transfusions.  Her count, while still very low, seemed to be beginning to turn for the better.  Plans were made to discharge her to her owner’s care.  She went home on the 9th of June.  Unfortunately, this trip home was brief, and she took a turn for the worse almost immediately.  She passed away on the morning of June 11th.

We were all very puzzled by the way this case unfolded.  Auto immune disease is usually seen in younger dogs.  In addition, her laboratory work did not fit that diagnosis.  There was no evidence of cancer anywhere in her body.  We had planned a bone marrow biopsy, but were concerned that she would not survive the procedure, so we couldn’t really get a handle on what had caused it to shut down.

Kitten upside down I went back to the owner and reviewed the history repeatedly and the only thing that we could find was that she had been using a topical estrogen product prescribed by her physician to relieve some of the symptoms of menopause.  This was applied to alternate sites on her for arms and on reflection, the dog used to lick her hands and wrists (the latter being one of the application sites).

Estrogen in high doses can be very toxic to the bone marrow.  We used to always see it in ferrets, back before they were spayed at an early age.  Several hormonal preparations used in dogs up until the 80’s had also been shown to cause bone marrow suppression, sometimes non reversible and fatal in dogs.  Apparently the combination of Trouble’s diminutive stature combined with the amount of estrogen left on the skin, sometimes days to hours after, provided a toxic dose of the hormone.

Trouble’s mom contacted the FDA and the company that makes the topical hormone medication, but no one really responded in a satisfactory manner.  I guess that as long as it was just a little dog that we were worried about it, would remain under the radar; however, there must have been other problems because this year the medication’s label was changed to include a warning that human infants can absorb this drug by contact with the skin of the person using it.

We have tried to get the word out to our clients about the dangers of this medication to others that they might come in contact with, no matter the species.  As we become a society that relies on more more medication, with different delivery systems, we are starting to see a dramatic increase in the number of poisonings’ of pets with their owner’s drugs.  Please, read you labels, speak with your physicians, and keep all medications out of the reach of children and pets.

Related Posts:
December is Accident Month at Embrace
A bit of dog humor to lead us into the Thanksgiving weekend
The dangers to your cat or dog from other animals
Guest Post: Common Poisoning Situations in Dogs and Cats
Guest Post: Hormonal Cream Poisoning in Cats and Dogs by Dr Keith Niesenbaum
Claim Example: dog poisoning from Xylitol in chewing gum

DrKeith Dr. Keith Niesenbaum graduated from the University of Pensylvania with a VMD degree in 1984. He has been practicing on Long Island Since 1988, and is currently the owner of Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital since 2002 (find them on facebook too). Dr. Niesenbaum uses a therapeutic laser and nutritional supplements to complement traditional medications for the management of chronic degenerative diseases. He also provides regenerative stem cell therapy to treat arthritis in dogs. When he’s not tending to his many four-legged patients, Dr. Niesenbaum can be found out and about training for upcoming triathlon races. He competed in his first Ironman race in 2008 complementing his interest in performance medicine, pain management, and nutrition.

Guest Post: Five Common Poisoning Situations in Dogs and Cats

Today, we have another excellent 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 common cat and dog poisonings and how the holiday season can be particularly worrisome.

Christmas dogs 1 Our pets love the holidays too. They get to see all the family. They get presents just like us. They also know we are preoccupied so it is time for them to get into mischief. You really need to watch your dogs and cats, because they can and WILL get into anything, and I mean anything!

I have already described the objects they will eat, such as ribbon, tinsel and the Christmas ham, in a previous post (Guest post: the most common items swallowed by dogs and cats), so this post is about the different poisonings we see in our practice in this festive time of the year.

The holidays are upon us and they present (get it…holiday…present??…oh never mind) your pets with some interesting seasonal hazards.

The first one everyone thinks about is the poinsettia. These beautiful flowers are always represented as dangerous and toxic plants but they really are not that toxic. The flower growers have changed the poinsettias through hybridization so that they state these plants are not poisonous. Now this is not to say that if you dog or cats decides to munch on these it will be a positive experience. They are bitter and your pet will probably salivate and shake their head for a time.

Christmas dog 2 I think most people now knows chocolate is toxic to pets, but I just wanted to remind everyone. Milk chocolate is the least toxic and the darker the chocolate the more toxic it is. Baker chocolate has the highest amount of theobromine, the toxic agent. So keep all the chocolate candies off the coffee tables.

Speaking of tables, during the holiday season we often try to add a festive scent to our house by using potpourri. These aromatic mixtures are often combined with substances called catotonc detergents. Cats are the ones that are attracted to the potpourri the most. They will paw at it the mixture and then through grooming, will transfer it to the skin or mouth, which can be very irritating to the cats.

Xylitol is a sugar free sweetener that is found in a number of gums and candies. This sweetener is very dangerous in cats and dogs. When ingested, it causes a burst of insulin that causes these animals to become hypoglycemic in as little as 30 minutes. You will see weakness and possible collapse that can last hours if not treated.

It is very important with Xylitol toxicity, as well as the other ones we discuss to get to you veterinarian as soon as possible.

I want to transition away from the holiday hazards now to talk about one of the most common toxicities we see, rodenticides, or rat poisoning. These are very bad news.

Christmas dog 3 The most common rodentocides are the ones that effect the animals blood clotting. The oldest agent used was warfarin. This agent takes repeated ingestions for an animal to have problems, so it really was not as quick as people wanted.

Then came the newer or second generation anticoagulants. These last longer and only need to be ingested once to cause some major problems. They last longer in the body and can often have delayed toxicity that results in internal bleeding in the pet weeks after ingestion. The antidote is long term vitamin k1 treatment for up to 6 weeks. Don’t delay treatment!! The important thing to remember with these toxins need to be treated these right away. If you wait until you see signs, it is too late.

As if these were not effective enough, two more rat/mice poisoning have been recently introduced. One is called Bromethalin. This is a nasty one because it causes neurologic signs such as seizures. There is no antidote. These need to be treated immediately to be able to save the pet.

The other newer agent is cholecalciferol or vitamin D based rodentocides. These are becoming very common. These work by mobilizing calcium from the bones and intestinal tract. The increased calcium often leads to kidney failure. This also needs immediate treatment to have a chance.

So now that I have been such a downer, please enjoy your holiday season but just be aware of what your pets are doing while you are celebrating the season.

pictures courtesy of Dr Riggs and his happy clients

Related Posts:
December is Accident Month at Embrace
A bit of dog humor to lead us into the Thanksgiving weekend
The dangers to your cat or dog from other animals
Guest Post: Common Poisoning Situations in Dogs and Cats
Guest Post: Hormonal Cream Poisoning in Cats and Dogs by Dr Keith Niesenbaum
Claim Example: dog poisoning from Xylitol in chewing gum

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. 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, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie, and two cats Franklin and Speeder. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and enjoys travel and photography.

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