Guest Post: Three Holistic New Year's Resolutions for your Dog and Cat

With 2012 fast approaching, we will all spend a lot of time making (and breaking) new year's resolutions for ourselves but have you ever thought about new year's resolutions for your dog or cat?

Dr Patrick Mahaney and I chat about his top three holistic resolutions you might consider for your cats and dogs.

Three New Year's Resolutions For Your Dog or Cat

What are your new year's resolutions for your dogs and cats?

Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2012 through Havenhurst Books.

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney

Small Dog Claim Example: Pug has breathing issues

IMG_2460It's not just big dogs that have problems due to their size, smaller dogs can too. From luxating patellas to collapsing tracheas, health issues can become serious fast.

Consider the case of Weasley the Pug living in Valhalla, NY who has Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome or breathing problems due to the shape of his nose. Brachycephalic dogs (those with the smooshed-in noses) often have issues and in Weasley's case, it added up to over $5,000 earlier this year.

Date Status Diagnosis Claim Paid
7/9/2010 Deduct Syncope 76.00 0.00
11/22/2010 Paid Tracheal Foreign Body 549.40 95.20
2/11/2011 Paid Complication of Elongated Soft Palate 2,835.00 2,193.60
2/17/2011 Paid Bronchial Collapse, Bronchoscopy 1,786.88 1,429.50
3/3/2011 Paid Acute Onset Rhinitis 68.00 44.00
      5,315.28 3,762.30

Weasely's coverage included a $500 annual deductible, $5,000 annual maximum, 80% reimbursement percentage but no take-home drug coverage and cost $28.41 a month.

Weasley was only 1 year old when this condition started - it's good news he had the Embrace policy in place early before this condition showed up.

Related Posts:
December is Extremes Month - Big & Little Dogs & Cats
Life with a Great Dane
Big Dog Claim Example: Neopolitan Mastiff's torn cruciate ligament
Life with a Maine Coon, or three
Guest Post: very big dog versus very small dog
Small Dog Claim Example: Pug has breathing issues

Guest Post: very big dog versus very small dog

Today, Dr. Rex Riggs talks about aspects to think about when considering very big dogs versus very small dogs. Dr. Rex Riggs is the owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is a veterinarian, and an Advisory Board member of Embrace Pet Insurance.

Kingsley-JulieEllington-2What kind of dog should I get?  Should I get a purebred or one from the pound?  Should I get a large or small dog?  What do you think doc?? These are questions I hear everyday, and I like people asking them.  You should put a lot of thought of just what type and size of dog you will get because... that decision will be with you for many, many years.

The first two questions tend to be more personal choices.  Many people grew up with or have admired a certain breed and that influences their choice.  Some people want to “save an animal”, and opt for dogs from our many shelters and rescue groups.  Every breed has a rescue group now days and you can find a rescue group for any breed you want, so you can get your favorite breed and save an animal at the same time.  Just remember, purebred dogs do tend to have more congenital and heredity problems then mixed breed dogs, so research the breed you want so you won’t have any surprises.

So what about the big dogs? And with some I do mean BIG dogs. I have a number of patients that weigh in excess of 150lbs!!  One hundred and fifty pounds of dog takes up some major space. The thing I like most about big dogs is that most are just big, goofy, happy dogs.  They almost all have a pleasant personality. But they are big.  Tails are often at coffee table height so nothing breakable please - the table can be cleared in one happy moment. Big dogs can also reach just about anything on kitchen counters also so your teenagers need to put things away.

Adam-Lisa SalemaHealthwise, big dogs do have issues.  They are more prone to boney problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow problems and ACL tears of there knees. So keep them lean!  Remember that weight reduction is the number one pain reliever in dogs and people. 

Large breed puppies need to be fed foods that have no more then 25% protein.  Research done at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine, showed a much higher incidence of boney defects in puppies fed higher protein food.  So…. the trend of high protein no grain foods, would not be a good choice for these dogs.  

Speaking of food, they eat a lot and poop a lot. So think of any space constraints you might have and the expense of feeding your new beast. Big dogs just cost more to own.  This is true for drugs and heartworm and tick medications, so just be prepared.

Lastly…these big companions just don’t live as long as the should.  The bigger the dog the shorter their lifespan.  Some giant breeds life expectancy is only 8 years, where many small dogs can live into their late teens.

Xander-KariNiebell-1So what about small dogs?  Well, they do live longer.  The oldest dog I ever saw was a terrier mix that was 23 years old and meaner then a snake!  I would say the average for the small dogs is 13 to 15 years, so you want to pick your puppy wisely.

Small dogs also have their potential problems.  Where many of big dogs problems are a fact of weight and affect the musculoskeletal systems, small dogs can have problems due to underdevelopment.  Liver, kidney and heart problem can be common in some small breeds.  Dental disease is often more of a problem as well. So research your breeds!

On the plus side, smaller dogs take up less room, so are better for apartment dwellers. They cost less to “maintain” as far as food and medication costs go.  They are also more portable and maybe easier to spoil, but that is up to debate I am sure.

Related Posts:
December is Extremes Month - Big & Little Dogs & Cats
Life with a Great Dane
Big Dog Claim Example: Neopolitan Mastiff's torn cruciate ligament
Life with a Maine Coon, or three
Guest Post: very big dog versus very small dog
Small Dog Claim Example: Pug has breathing issues

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 dog Maggie and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and enjoys travel and photography.

Life with a Maine Coon, or three

Continuing December's theme of dog and cat extremes, Maine Coon Embracer, Joan W. of La Crescenta, CA, tells us about life with her big cats, Main Coons.

To cool for schoolOur Maine Coon experience began early one Friday morning, when a big kitten, probably 4 months old, forcibly shouldered his way through our kitchen door while my husband was trying to go out.   Arms full, and trying to keep the door closed with one foot, Russell was yelling “Wait!  Stop!  Aargh!” when I ran in. I grabbed the filthy kitten, “unfolded” him and discovered he was white with round black polka dots.   Since we did not want to add another cat to our household, I made arrangements at work to bring him in on Monday so we could find him a home. Later, we washed him and got his shots.  My husband and I spent the rest of the weekend gardening.

The kitten, whom we temporarily (and inevitably) named Spot, would sit under whatever bush we were pruning and, when we sat down, would run over, jump onto our laps and throw his arms around our necks.  Very endearing to say the least. 

To make a long story short, we ended up keeping Spot, who became my inseparable best pal.  He gave everyone hugs and liked to climb into people’s arms where he would either go completely limp, like a bag of furry cement; or climb up to hang around their necks like a spotted stole.  He’d jump into my arms, and would jump through a hoop. At night he’d curl up behind me and put his arms around either side of my neck and rest his chin on my cheek.  At age 10, he was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)— an enlarged heart, which produces blood clots. Just 5 months later, a clot broke loose and he died very suddenly.   We were heartbroken.

When asked what breed Spot was, we said he was a Spotted Rumpus.  But actually, Spot was believed to be a Maine Coon mix:  he trilled, was huge and friendly, very playful, followed me everywhere, had furry feet and a great tail. 

By visiting cat shows, we learned that Maine Coons also tended to go limp when you picked them up, a trait we thought was typical of a Ragdoll.  And we learned HCM is also common to Maine Coons.  Fear of HCM prompted us to go to a breeder rather than adopt from a rescue—we wanted to be sure that our new family member was tested for the HCM gene, because we just couldn’t go through that kind of loss again.  So that’s how we got our first registered Maine Coon, Heffalump.

Kachin's spotted tummyEarlier in the year, we’d adopted a Bengal girl, named Kachin.  We thought she’d be a playful nut—a successor to our old male Siamese whom we’d lost a few months before Spot.  Turns out that Kachin was more of a lap leopard.  But Heffalump was a play-monster!  While he was very loving, he could not get enough of playing.  Since he was wearing Kachin out, we decided to get another Maine Coon who could keep up with him.  We couldn’t decide between two available kittens, so we got both.

So now we have 3 Maine Coon boys:  Heffalump, aged 1-1/2 years, a bicolor blue smoke (grey) and white; and two 4-month old half-siblings:  Chumley, a bicolor red tabby & white; and Smedley, and a white and cameo (pale red) “van” (white with colored “hat” and tail).  Both Smedley and Chumley have one circular polka dot on their shoulder blades, so they are clearly of Spotted Rumpus heritage.

Probably the first thing you notice about them is their size.  Maine Coons are big.  Then the tail, which is long, full and magnificent.  It’s said Maine Coons are sometimes called “The tail with the cat attached.”  For me, though, it’s the huge paws with the furry toes that provide absolutely no traction.  This last trait enhances the natural goofiness of Maine Coon males, as well as my boys’ natural klutziness.  Attempted leaps onto a counter often fail at the launch, when their back feet slip out from under them, resulting in assorted splats and crashes.

Brothers in armsThey’re all really playful—Smedley most of all—but also very loving.  They go from attacking anything that moves to purring limply in your arms in a heartbeat.  They’re also really smart and have astonishingly acute hearing.  They can hear the opening of the drawer with their feather toy from the other end of the house—and they can distinguish that drawer from the other seemingly identical drawers next to it. 

Although Maine Coons are said to be generally terrestrial because they’re so big, they can and do get “big air” and will leap around until they’re exhausted.  Heffalump also likes to play tug of war, and to drag around the house whoever is at the other end of the feather wand.  A favorite game is to hide—either hunkered down within the pillows at the head of our bed or ducked down inside their cardboard airplane—and leap out and surprise us or each other. 

Smedley and Chumley are pretty creative in entertaining themselves:  They have a track ball toy—the type with the open track and the cardboard scratch pad in the center—but rather than just bat the ball around the track, they will put one paw into the track, and then run around in circles pushing the ball around in front of them.  One day, Chumley and Smedley decided to chase each other—around my husband, who was working in our home office.  Did they simply circle the chair on the floor?  Of course not!  They got up onto his lap, and—since he was sitting somewhat forward in his chair—they chased each other around and around his waist.

Witte Kitties Feeding TimeDespite their playful nature, they are not destructive; in fact, they’re very well behaved and have great dispositions.  Like most cats, they like their routines.  Heffalump likes to “help” my husband get ready in the morning—he attends him in the bathroom, sitting in one basin while Russell shaves in the other.  After a shower, Heffalump jumps into the still-wet tub and sits for a while.  Chumley and Smedley like to sleep under the covers and, though still small, take up an enormous amount of room; their innate limpness makes it really hard to dislodge them.  Heffalump, meanwhile, immobilizes my feet for most of the night, except when he comes up for a stealthy midnight cuddle (he kneads my throat, while burying his nose into my neck:  both uncomfortable and charming at the same time).  I’m not sure why he sneaks up in the middle of the night for this:  does he think I won’t recognize him?

What else can I say?  They eat a lot.  Their fur is not as easy-care as I’ve read.  Heffalump’s fur tangles easily—in fact, often immediately after combing.  Static is a problem, too. So if you get a Maine Coon, you need to get them used to daily combing.  A small price to pay, though, for a life-long friend who will joyfully meet you at the door every evening, sit beside you while you read or putter, keep you warm at night… and maybe even throw his arms around your neck and give you a hug.

Related Posts:
December is Extremes Month - Big & Little Dogs & Cats
Life with a Great Dane
Big Dog Claim Example: Neopolitan Mastiff's torn cruciate ligament
Life with a Maine Coon, or three
Guest Post: very big dog versus very small dog
Small Dog Claim Example: Pug has breathing issues

Embrace University: will you still love me when I'm 65?

Occasionally I am asked the following:

My pet is getting older.  Will Embrace drop her or reduce her coverage to accident-only from accident and illness?

Nope.  Nada. No way, Jose.  Your Embrace coverage will stay the same as what you started with, regardless of your pet's age, as your policy renews.  Even when your pet enters her golden years (let's say 65 years old is really 9 dog years), she will still be covered for the same accidents and illness coverage that she was signed on with a youngster.

How can Embrace do that?  To account for the increasing risk associated with age, your pet’s premium may go up about 8-10% yearly (this increase is separate from increases due to inflation); however, the age increases don’t currently kick in until age 5 or so. It you want to offset some of your premium increase, you can certainly decrease your coverage over time to help reduce your policy cost.

Age can play a factor in your coverage eligibility at enrollment though.  Some pets, due to age or medical conditions, may not be eligible for illness coverage at the time of enrollment.  They are, however, eligible for accident coverage, as well as our Wellness and Dental rewards options.

The age your pet must be to get an accident and illness plan at Embrace is:

  • Pure breed dogs less than 7 years old
  • Mixed breed dogs less than 9 years old
  • Pure breed Cats less than 8 years old
  • Mixed breed cats less than 10 years old