Guest Post: dog walking safety by Dr Rex Riggs

Yea it is summer!  Wow, was that the worse winter you can remember?  Well, now we all are doing as much as possible outside as we can, and that includes doing a lot of those things with our dogs. Taking a walk with a dog is one of the best therapies I know to wind down after a hard day at work. The serene evening hours, to me, is the best time to take a stroll. But….be aware, danger may be right around the corner.

Many of us live in areas that have no sidewalks, so we often use the streets. I am an avid cyclist, so I know all too well, of the dangers on the road. People really don’t pay that much attention while they are driving. You need to be visible, even in daylight and almost to the obnoxious extreme, to make sure people know you are there. I have 2 lights in the front, two in the back on my bike and I dress head to toe in dayglow green cycling gear (sorry for the mental image!). You can definitely see me!

The same thought for safety should be on your mind for you and your dog. There is a plethora of reflective dog accessories out there. A reflective leash is a great thing to have. It moves as you walk and therefore really catches the attention of drivers. My favorite tool is a small “blinky” light that can be attached to the collar. A flashing red or white light is the most effective way to tell people you are there. You can find these inexpensive lights at your local bike shop and some pet stores. They are great!  
 
One item I think people often forget is to put something on the “rear bumper” of your dog. I recommend the reflective pant leg wrap people who commute to work on their bike use, to keep their pant legs out of their chain. These work great and most dog don’t mind them.You may need to modify them, but it easily done with some self-adhesive Velcro and scissors. Perhaps even a reflective vest for your dog; just make sure it is made of a breathable fabric.

Remember your dog thinks you are wonderful and will do anything for or with you for as long as you want to do it, even on hot and/or humid days so please be aware of the potential for your dog overheating. The dog tongue is a radiator of sorts, and is the only way a dog can cool itself. When temperatures get in the 80 to 90s, panting becomes pretty inefficient. So pay attention to the amount of panting your dog does and if he looks thirsty, he is. Another thing I learned from cycling, if you wait to drink when you are thirsty, you already are dehydrated. So make sure you dog stays well hydrated.

Make sure you also pay attention to the dog’s feet.  If you can walk on grass instead of asphalt, do it.  Remember we have shoes on. Our dogs don’t.  Asphalt and concrete are very abrasive and can wear pads down. Again, remember, you are the king or queen of the universe to your dog and they will not stop until you do. I had a client training for a marathon and ran on a bike path. Her dog would go a short distance with her. One day she noticed her dog, a lab, limping after a run and notice some bloody foot prints. Being a loyal lab, he had completely worn off the pads on all 4 paws. I just want you to know, this person was a very conscientious dog owner and didn’t go a distance that any one of us would not have gone, so just be aware.

So enjoy the summer and get outside, but pay attention to your dog's safety and comfort. Don't let your daily stroll turn into a visit to the veterinary emergency room.

Related Posts
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Guest Post: dog walking safety by Dr Rex Riggs
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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 Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.



Guest Post: what do generic drugs, ticks, and bats have in common?

They are all on Dr Rex Riggs' mind as he ponders what's going on in his veterinary world this summer.

Name Brand medications vs. Generics-Sometimes there is a difference…

To be certified a "generic" by the Food and Drug Administration, a drug has to have the same "active ingredient" as its brand name equivalent. The generic has to have an efficiency rate plus or minus 20% of the effectiveness of the name brand. This is very important point. If you get one batch of generics that is 20% below the name brand’s effectiveness and you refill it with a batch that is 20% more effective than the brand name, that is a 40% difference.  

For antibiotics, the variance does not make a big difference.  For NSAIDS (like Rimadyl and Metacam), thyroid medications (Soloxine), antidepressants, or any other drug that has a narrow therapeutic or safety range, it can make a huge difference.  

In addition, generics are not required to use the same binders as the name brand. It is the binders that are responsible for how the body absorbs the active ingredient; therefore, generics might be absorbed differently in the body (gel caps compared to pills, for instance), which affects efficacy. 

For these reasons, we do not like using generics in place of Rimadyl, Metacam or Soloxine at our hospital. Something to ask about at your next vet visit if you are seeing varying results in your pet's response to these generic medications.  

Ticks, Ticks….they are everywhere!

How did they live through this winter? Who knows but they did. We are seeing more ticks this year than ever. I was in Montana in April fly fishing. Montana, like most parts of the nation, had the worst winter in memory. It was 20 below for 3 weeks and the ticks survived very nicely. In fact, they are now are everywhere. It's definitely time to be diligent against tick-borne diseases. 

For our animals it is easy to prevent ticks with products like Frontline and a new oral treat like medication like Nexgard. They are very efficient.  We are now recommending them year round on our patients.

I wish it was that easy for us human beings. The Lyme disease tick is now in Ohio, where I live. You cannot see this tick; it's called “the moving freckle” because of its minuscule size.  If you take a dime and look at the word “Dime”, the Lyme disease tick is ½ the size of the “D”.  In people, the most common sign of a bite from a Lyme disease tick is a red target lesion on your skin.  If you see this this, go get antibiotics.  It is easy to treat it at this point, but if you wait it is much harder to treat. 

The mosquitoes are going to be bad this year….

bats with White-Nose SyndromeWhite-Nose Syndrome has killed over 6 million bats since 2006. The cause is a fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which kills nearly 100 percent of the bats it infects. The fungus grows on the noses, wings and ears of bats during winter hibernation, giving them a white, fuzzy appearance. It invades the deep skin tissues and causes extensive damage.

Bats have such a bad Hollywood image, but they are great creatures and an important part of our ecosystem in their ability to eat bugs, especially mosquitoes. A single bat eats up to 1000 mosquitoes in a single hour and it is not uncommon for some of the bats to live 40 years.

So let’s think about that. One thousand mosquitoes per hour times 8 hours a day, times, say, 5 months a year times 40 years. That would be 48 million mosquitoes that one bat would eat in a lifetime! That is a lot of bad bugs.

So what does that mean to us? Beside all the hassle of dealing with mosquitoes while sitting outside at dusk, it means a lot more disease transmission for both humans and animal. Mosquito-borne diseases have killed more people through history than any other disease. In fact the mosquito-transmitted diseases outnumber all the other fatal diseases combined. For all the dog and cat owners, the biggest threat is heartworm disease. So keep them on those heartworm meds. The alternative is not pretty.

Related Posts
June is Summer Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: what do generic drugs, ticks, and bats have in common?
Podcast: summer dangers and your pets

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



Guest Post: Dr Rex Riggs on critical thinking and pet food

Dr GoogleWow, how many dog and cat foods are out there now!  Did you know, in our grocery stores, pet food is the number one grossing item?  It outsells the next 6 items combined!  In 2013, dog and cat owners in the United States, spent $21,000,000 dollars on food. Twenty one million dollars! Dog and cat food is BIG business. So it no wonder that the number of companies making pet food has exploded.  Some of these foods are good, some are heavily marketed with unsubstantiated claims.  Buyer beware.

What do they say about opinions?  Everyone has one.  I hear all the time, “my brother’s girlfriend’s brother worked in the kennel at a vet’s office and he said…..”  Maybe he is right, but you need to check it out yourself.  Do you go to the internet?  Just remember, there is no editor on the internet so anyone can say anything, and will, to sell a product.   Do you ask the people in the pet store? Maybe, but where are they getting their information?  More than likely from the company representative of the foods they are selling. They have a vested interest in having you buy that specific food, often the one with the highest profit margin. 

So where do I think you should turn to?  I would say your vet.  Now, I have heard many times people saying that they were told vets don’t get any training in pet nutrition.  Well don’t tell Dr Tony Buffington at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine that, he might wonder what he has been teaching vet students for so long. 

The fact is, yes we do get taught nutrition in school, and like any other professions, the dedicated doctors keep current through continuing education and reading. Many veterinary colleges have a veterinary nutritionist on staff to answers your questions (http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/nutrition-support).  

I, like most vets, only sell prescription foods in our hospital. So, there is no ulterior motive for us to have your animal on a particular food.  My only motive is to make sure your pet is on the right food for them. 

Be careful of the fads and hype.  In such a crowded arena, everyone is trying to grab a niche.  Some of these fads are based on pseudo-science, only to sell their product. During the last 3 years, the FDA recalls of pet foods has sky rocketed.  Coincidence?  I think not.

So…BE A CRITICAL THINKER.  If it sounds too good to be true or too far out, It just might be.  Go to your veterinary resources available, because… vets are the experts.

Here is an excellent Myth Busters article written by Dr. Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University College of Veterinary Medicine.  It will answer all your questions.

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Guest Post: Dr Rex Riggs on critical thinking and pet food


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

 



Guest Post: why do a dog or cat dental cleaning?

Embrace friend and advisor, Dr Rex Riggs, talks about why you should go ahead with the expense of a dental cleaning under anesthesia with X-rays. It's needed people!


Periodontal disease is the most common disease seen in our pets. Think about it. If we did not brush our teeth, used no mouthwash, ate whatever we can put in our mouth including, for dogs, that tasty hors d’ourve, the ever popular cat turd, what would our teeth look like? Put on top of this chomping down on deer antlers, bones, and nylabones, and you get a lot of chipped and broken teeth.

How many of us have had root canals?  They are a result of tooth root abscesses and they hurt like a mother. Dogs and cats have these same tooth root abscesses and continue to eat. They are great at hiding their pain.  How they do that is beyond me.  Did I mention tooth root abscesses hurt like a mother? 

Dental care in our pets is so important to the animal’s wellbeing and quality of life.  The plaque, which accumulates on the teeth, is just a harbouring site for bacteria that can be responsible for gingivitis as well as for infections a long way from teeth, such as the heart valves and kidneys, once it gets seeded in the blood stream. Dental health is not something to overlook.

Do you have some reservations about pet dentals, perhaps because of recent media stories? Recently ABC did a 20/20 story that talked about how vets use dentals as a scare tactic for clients to schedule dentals strictly as a underhanded way to make money.  They implied dental x-rays in our pets are just not needed.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is a great article, "How Honest is your Veterinarian" written by Steve Dale, who is a journalist, not a veterinarian, about this piece of yellow journalism, and how it's simply not true.  It is a very good read if you have a moment.

Dental radiography is very important in veterinary medicine and I would go as far as to say a vet should not be doing dentals without the ability to do intra-oral x-rays. You just can’t see what is going on under the gums where about 60% of the tooth lies.  Tooth root abscesses (which looks like a black halo around the root), bone loss around the tooth, and fractured roots are just three of the things you need an x-ray to diagnose.  Sometimes there are extra teeth, called supranumary teeth, lurking beneath the gum line. You would not be able to tell all these problems were going on just by looking at the teeth, even under anesthesia.

Check out the document below with radiographs illustrating the wonders of dental radiology. You will soon see that a lot of what is shown could not be seen with out x-rays.

Download Dental X Rays in dogs

 

Related Posts
February is Pet Dental Health Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: why do a dog or cat dental cleaning?

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



Guest Post: Have a Safe and Happy Holidays from Dr Rex Riggs

Happy Holidays to everyone! It is a great time of the year that gives us an opportunity to spend cherished time with our family and friends. Enjoy the season.

Holidays can also be fun times for our pets, with all the new people around to spoil them with all the attention. But, as always (isn’t there always a but), there are also things we need to remind our guests. They can love our pets all they want with petting, but please don’t share the Christmas treats.

Max from the GrinchRemember Max, the Grinch’s dog, did not eat any of the “roast beast “or “the who pudding” and he had a great Christmas. In contrast, who could forget what happened to the lovable dog “Snot”, at the Griswold’s house. He drank the tree water and then enjoyed the Christmas trash. He then deposited his “present” under the dining room table. Not a jolly event.

Remember, even small amounts of our foods can cause a lot of troubles for our pets. They are a lot smaller then us. Spending the holiday hours at an emergency clinic is not a festive time.

Christmas-Vacation-Fried-CatReferencing again the classic “Christmas Vacation”, who can forget what happened to Grandma's poor cat, Fluffy, when he chewed the Christmas lights. Not a good smell. More often when animals chew cords, the shock will lead to a condition called non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema. This is when fluid floods the lungs and will make the pet unable to breath. Obviously an emergency situation.

One of my youthful Christmas memories is of me and my twin brother tossing handfuls of tinsel on the Christmas tree, the final touch to the decorations. Yea, I know you were supposed to lay individual stands on the branches, but we had our own technique…just saying.

TinselcatIt was pretty, but you rarely see tinsel nowadays because cats loved to gobble it down and boy did it cause obstructions. Similarly wrapping ribbon can be a vet’s Christmas nightmare, especially the type that you can curl with your scissors. Kitties love anything linear. The bad thing with stringy things is that it catches up in the intestinal tract and when the intestines try to move it down the tract, the intestines get accordioned and requires surgery. This why I hate the old pictures with cats playing with a ball of yarn. I spent Christmas Eve night, 20 years ago, removing 56 inches of ribbon from Frosty the cat. Frosty and I were not happy spending the night together.

We all know chocolate is dangerous for are pets. The better the chocolate, the more of the toxic ingredient, theobromine. Theobromine is a stimulant like NoDoz and can lead to seizures. So keep the Godiva in a safe place.

Finally, please don’t get pets as a Christmas present. I know we all have seen all the Hallmark commercials with the kids opening the “moving box” and then a happy puppy jumps out. I know it sounds like a perfect Christmas. What could be better! Well ….we don’t live in the world of Hallmark. Believe me, puppyhood is a trying time. It is a lot of work and the holiday season and winter is the worse time to puppy train. Please don’t be tempted; if it seems like a good idea, at Christmas, it will be a much better idea at a later less chaotic time of the year.

I would like to wish everyone a great holiday season. Enjoy yourselves and enjoy the time with your loved ones. Please, try to put away your differences. Relax, enjoy and cherish the moment. Life is short.

Happy Holidays!

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



Guest Post: Cancer Sucks, For Pets as well as Humans

Dr Riggs talks about cancer and some of the interesting developments in the human world of cancer that might help our pets.

Cancer sucks. It sucks when someone we know gets it. It sucks when our pet gets it. It just sucks. So what exactly is cancer?

We hear the word, but do we understand what is going on? Cancer is the proliferation of cells from any normal tissue of the body that has undergone a transformation into abnormal cells, which grow at a faster rate then the surrounding normal cells. A benign cancer will stay in one area. A malignant cancer spreads to other parts of the body, through either the blood stream or the lymph system.

Cancer causes problem when it crowds out of normal cells and disrupts the organ’s natural functions. Whether it causes a problem just depends on where it is. A benign tumor on the skin often causes little problems if it is small enough to be removed. A small tumor in the brain may cause big problems if it puts pressure on specific parts of the brain.

Our pets get the same types of cancers people get. They get leukemia, lung cancer, liver, pancreas, brain and bone cancer. Any type of cancer you can think of, they get too. We treat them the same way, with surgery radiation and drugs.

Chemotherapy can be a scary word. I try to explain to my clients that chemo, is just another name for a drug and therapy, is just another name for treatment. So chemotherapy just means treatment with a drug. When we take antibiotics, it is a type of chemotherapy. So if we think in that way if seems less frightening.

There are differences in how we diagnose and treat our pets compared to how people are handled. First of all, for pets we do not have the blood markers that exist in people for many human cancers. For example, one such marker is CA 125, which increases in ovarian and peritoneal cancers. CA 125 levels are use to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Unfortunately it cost a lot of money to do the research to come up with these markers in each species. The money is just not there in veterinary medicine to sponsor these studies.

The major difference between human and veterinary treatment of cancers can be summed up with one statement. “We do not make animals sicker than they are with chemotherapy.” In humans, we can justify causing discomfort in patients to get a cure or prolonged remission. In animals we are looking often at a prolonged remission rather then a cure. This is because of the relatively short life span of our pets. If we can get an additional 2 years added to a 12 or 13-year-old dog, we are adding a substantial percentage of their lifespan. I am not saying we don’t cure many cancers in veterinary medicine; we just don’t make them miserable during their treatment.

I have ridden my bike 100 miles in one day in August for the last 4 years in an event called Pelotonia. This year nearly $20,000,000 was raised on this one day. 100% of the money goes to the Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital to fund research to find a cure, the only goal. 

Through being associated with this organization I have learned so much on just how close we are to that cure. Probably the most exciting development has been the introduction of genomic medicine. Many of our cancers have a genetic predisposition. Through genomic medicine, doctors are looking at what turns on those genes and how to prevent them from being expressed. There are tests now that will tell healthy people if they are carrying these "cancer genes", so preventative measures can be taken.

Most exciting to me is that it allows doctors to be able to tell which treatment will work for that specific patient. This alleviates the need for patients to go through unneeded treatments and their side effect. It allows a patient to get treatment tailored to them.

Genomic medicine is in early days, but it seems so promising. I really believe in the near future it will change the way we look at cancer, not only in human medicine, but veterinary medicine as well.

Related Posts
November is Cancer Awareness Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Cancer Sucks, For Pets as well as Humans

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

 



Guest Post: fake service dogs

For working dog month at Embrace, Dr Riggs, talks about the impact of fake service dogs and their impact on true service dogs, plus how you can help do something about it.


Service dogs change people’s lives. That is a fact. There are dogs that detect seizures in epileptics before they happen, dogs that are seeing eyes, dogs able to tell glucose levels in diabetics, and dogs that help people with mundane tasks that we all take for granted.

Service dogs can be true lifesavers. There are many great organizations that train dogs to be service dogs. I have been fortunate to be involved with a wonderful organization, Canine Companions for Independence, for almost 20 years now.

Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA, Canine Companions is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs, and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. The result is a life full of increased independence and loving companionship.

I have seen so many lives changed in so many ways by these wonderful dogs. These dogs go through extensive training from the time they are born right up to 2 years of age when they are presented to their companion person, which we call graduates.

These dogs know 35 commands. These are very well trained companions. They go everywhere with the graduate. The store, restaurants, sporting events, work, on planes, trains and automobiles. The graduate and their dog companions are a team. The dogs are trained to perform their duties and remain calm and quiet and not to disrupt anyone around them. In fact, if you see a service dog with its working vest on, do not attempt to come up and pet him/her without the graduate’s permission, because they are working, they are not pets.

Unfortunately, a cottage industry in service dog fraud has sprung up and you can find a number of internet websites willing to sell service dog’s vests along with “identification papers” to anyone willing to pay them. These fake vests are causing a lot of inconvenience and hassle to the legitimate service dogs and their companions. People then use them fake vests to take their dogs into public areas where other pets are not allowed.  Untrained dogs can cause all sorts of problems that make some business owners deny access to real service dogs and the graduate. Denying a service dog’s access to a public place is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Corey Hudson, CEO of Canine Companions for Independence, is spearheading a letter writing campaign to the Department of Justice to stop the sale of these fake vests. If you believe service dog vests should only be for true service dogs, please go to the website cci.org/stopfraud to send a letter yourself.

Remember…. “Some angels have wings…others have tails”.

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



Guest Post: Veterinary Perspective on Pet Insurance

In Pet Health Insurance Month, Dr Riggs weighs in with his veterinary perspective on pet insurance.


If you talk to a number of vets about pet insurance, you will get many different opinions. There are many vets, like myself who have researched and done my due diligence, and see it as a win/win/win situation for the client, the vet, and most importantly the pet.

Some vets think pet insurance is evil, and the industry is trying to control veterinary medicine and tell us how to practice medicine, as it has human insurance.

Then you have the third group…"there’s pet insurance???"

It is true the early pet insurance companies were not very good. I initially had bad experiences with pet insurance myself.  This is where the newer pet insurance companies started to pop up, and thrive.  The newer companies, such as Embrace, have looked at Sweden, United Kingdom, and other parts of the world to see how to develop a new model.  In the United Kingdom, it is estimated around 25% of pet owners have pet insurance as opposed to the United States , where less than 1% have pet insurance.  The newer companies, have great customer service, quick claim payments, and almost nothing for the vet to fill out.  They truly have learned from others' past mistakes.

I think a lot of “older vets” got a bad taste for pet insurance because they had that same bad initial experience I did. The early pet insurance companies often denied claims, had bulky forms vets had to fill out and crummy customer service. That became a reflection on the vet, because they recommended it. It simply was not worth the effort.

In addition, some vets equate pet insurance to our human health insurance. I don’t need to tell anyone how messed up our healthcare system is. Some are concerned that it will become managed care and the insuraners will dictate how the vets would practice. There is a lot of fear and misunderstanding about pet insurance and veterinarians.

Pet Insurance is Indemnity insurance. It is not managed care. I compare pet insurance to car insurance. You pay the insurance company to protect yourself from some unseen problem. This prevents you from having to pay a large sum of your own money. Pet insurance is the same way, the policy holder pays a small monthly amount and if your dog eats someone underwear, or whatever, then you are protected from the high cost of the surgery. You hope you never need to use insurance but it is there, in case you need it and it takes away the problem of not having enough money to be able to treat your pet, which is a very difficult situation, for the vet, when you know you can help an animal and the people can’t afford it.

Managed care is not the intent of pet insurance nor the vets. Vets would not, and could not, allow that to happen. The number of people required to process human health insurance issues, would be cost prohibitive for vets. Payment to physicians can take up to 6 months and when they arrive, the reimbursement is a fraction of the charges. With pet insurance the client pays the vet at time of service as usual and then gets reimbursed by the insurance company.

Finally, veterinarians only benefit from pet insurance by allowing clients to be able to pay for what is needed for the pet. THERE ARE NO KICK BACKS.

Related Posts

September is Pet Health Insurance Month across North America
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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 Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.



Guest Post: a veterinary perspective of disaster preparedness

Do you know how your local authorities would help your pets in times of a disaster? Dr Riggs talks about the PETS Act and how you can take some minimal steps to be prepared should something happen in your area.


It seems we now live in a world of the ever present disasters. (I always wonder, though. if the world has really gotten worse or is it that now we have a million cable news channels, reporting everything, as it happens…..But I digress.) Today, there are currently 5,000 fire fighters fighting some 10 huge wildfires in California. The California fires have burned twice as much acres over last year and the Santa Anna winds, which annually, fan these fires and spreads them, have not hit this year.

I was in San Diego five years ago during such a fire. It started as a small brush fire and due to the Santa Ana winds, the fire jumped highways and caused a massive fire, large enough to actually turn the downtown sky a red color. Suddenly many people and their pets were misplaced from their homes.

Hurricane Katrina was a disaster not only in the natural sense of the word, with its devastation, but also in the way, it showed how ill prepared we were. The events of 9/11 have changed our world forever and we are all anxious about the next Boston marathon attack.

We know there will be more fires, more hurricanes, more flooding, earthquakes and unfortunately more acts of terror. We need to be prepared, not only for our well-being, but also our pets.

Before Katrina, many did not think about the safe evacuation and housing of victim’s pets. Katrina brought to light the strength of the human animal bond. Many people would refuse to evacuate without their pets, and chose to stay in their house and in danger’s way. Have you ever thought how devastating it would be to leave you pets in danger as you are rescued? I could not do it.

As a direct result of Katrina, the PETS act was established. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS)” was a bi-partisan initiative in the United States House of Representatives to require states seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters”. This act requires state and local authorities to include how they accommodate pets, along with service animals, in the event of a disaster. (Download PLAW-109publ308 for a copy of the act.)

Katrina left some 8,000 pets stranded, many of whom were subsequently rescued and taken to temporary shelters. Most were never claimed by their owners, and were transported to all corners of the country to be adopted to other families. These horrible circumstances shows the importance of the identification chips for all your pets. Even for those who are inside pets, in a natural disaster, they often become outside pets. These inexpensive microchips are implanted under the skin and may be your only chance to be reunited with your pet. So as the Boy Scouts always say…..”Be Prepared”.

In addition, make sure your animals are always up to date on vaccines because of the increase chance of disease transmission in disasters such as flooding and also in kennel situations with animals of unknown vaccination history. Get your animals micro chipped, it is often your only chance to be reunited with your pets.

Finally, contact the authorities in your area to learn what procedures are in place for you and you pets. Do it now while things are calm and no disasters are on the way.

Related Posts

August is Disaster Preparedness Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Pet Disaster Preparedness
Guest Post: a veterinary perspective of disaster preparedness

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



Guest Post: my veterinarian is so expensive!

Here's a hot topic - the cost of veterinary medicine. Dr Riggs calls it as it is from his perspective.


Where is the wing with my name on it? Vets are so expensive!

I have always wondered why people think vets should do things cheaply or charge nothing at all for some things. Shouldn’t we make a good living? So where is the wing? Sorry, we wanted to draw up those plans, but the money went to pay for the electric, or phone, or salaries, or benefits, I don’t know which, but sorry no wing.

Veterinary medicine… are you sitting down as this will come as a shock to some, but... veterinary medicine is a business.

Yes… we all love animals, we really do, but we are like any small business, we do need to make money to survive. We need to make money to be able to diagnose and treat your pets in a professional manner. When we pay our bills to the electric company or our mortgage company, I try to tell them we are very nice people, who care for your pets, and they should cut us a break, but, they don’t really care. They just want our money.

Oh, how it would be nice to practice where we do what is necessary to make a correct diagnosis, do the right treatment without worrying about what people can afford or want to spend on their animal. We often need to pick and choose which test to do, based strictly on economics, rather then what is medically prudent. Sometimes we pick correctly and sometimes we don’t. When the tests come back normal (which is what we really want), I often get “I paid all that money for nothing!?” Hmm.

Let’s talk about the economics of veterinary medicine. The average veterinary student left the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 with a debt near $200,000. This is after 8 or more years of their life working toward their life goal of being a veterinarian. Ready for the world, here they go, and then reality hits them. The starting salary for a new vet is between $45,000 to $65,000. Contrast that to a dentist $100,000-120,000, a pharmacist $100,000 and a physician $100,000 to 200,000 +. Most young vets will be paying off their debt for 30 years or more.

Does this sound like a way to become wealthy? Is it wrong for vets to be like anyone else and make a decent living, especially after to sacrifices of all those years?

Then comes your pet’s flea and tick and heartworms meds. 1800 Petmeds want you believe vets are money grabbing horrible people, and they assure you their products are just the same as the ones you get at the vets. That would be wrong and wrong.

Vets do make money on the meds they sell. That is true. That is one reason the average vet office visit is $46. The average family practice physician’s office call was $194 in 2009. If vets lose the medication revenue, guess what, our office calls will approach the cost of your physician’s, because our expenses are the same and we need to generate revenue to pay for those expenses, just like any other business. It is just a matter of dollars and cents.  [Oh… btw, the products that 1800PetMeds or any of the other internet companies sell, are not the same, and they do not come from the manufacturers. Surprised? Read up my prior post on the subject]

So in closing, I just want everyone to know vets, as a group are some of the nicest, most caring people you will meet. Please give us a break. We just want what everyone else does, a chance to make a good living doing something we love. I also want to have veterinary medicine continue as a profession, and not just a job. In order to supply the pet owning public with the professional care their pets deserve, a price must be paid. In a business, when the revenue does not meet your expenses, things need to be deleted and that is where professional care suffers. That is where professions convert to jobs, where people are just looking for the cheapest price. After saying all of this, the pet owning public deserves a value for the money spent. “Demand” that from your vet.

Finally we all need to remember owning a pet is a privilege, not a right. A pet owner has the responsibility to care for that pet properly, and if you can’t, then don’t own a pet until you can afford it.

Related Posts

July is hot topics and summer pet dangers month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: my veterinarian is so expensive!

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





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