November 25, 2013
When I read this post that Embracer Lea wrote, I had a heavy heart and a tear in my eye. I've known Lyger as long as I've known Lea and he's been a wonderful part of Embrace's history.
It's hard to think you would ever drop your pet insurance policy for your older dog. What do you think about Lea's decision below?
Back in 2006 when I started with Embrace as one of just two employees, we weren’t even selling policies yet--just getting ready to. But when the big day rolled around come October, we all jumped up and celebrated, then set to selling each other our very first insurance policies. Lyger, then just a six year old nutball who would sneak into the board meetings of our office neighbors, was among the first to be “embraced”. We set him up with the “$5,000 max/$200 deductible/80% reimbursed” plan.
Flash forward a few years and his policy looks quite different. Until he hit his “tweens” he’d been mostly healthy, with the exception of some arthritis so I reduced his coverage to a more catastrophic $500 deductible and 90% reimbursement option. And that policy continued to serve us well, reimbursing for his mast cell tumor removal in 2012 and acupuncture in 2012. Then his renewal rolled around last week, a happy reminder of how many years we’ve been selling policies, but also a reminder of how frail Lyger’s become, and how much the cost of insurance goes up with the advanced age.
During his last vet visit the doctor and I discussed his overall quality of life and noted that his arthritis and a large benign tumor were starting to take their toll on him. I realized that the cancer surgery he had last year had been very hard on him, a trauma that he hasn’t fully recovered from. While that’s bought him an extra year, it’s not the sort of procedure I’d put him through again.
Realizing that Lyger’s $500 deductible wouldn’t serve much use in a situation where we had switched to pallative care, I took a look at the cost benefit of our coverage. Ultimately, Lyger’s insurance reached about $55 per month for a catastrophic plan that wasn’t paying for any of his home pain medications. (I’d opted out of the prescription drug coverage, and stand by my decision to do so...but that’s a post for another day.) I consulted with my long-time colleagues about my decision, but ultimately took Lyger off of our Embrace plan.
So, now it feels very final. No going back. No coverage “just in case”, because we’ve sadly hit that point at which the next major step will be euthanasia. And honestly, making the decision to jump off of the policy was difficult, but I have come to a resting point at which I no longer need to “make good use” of our policy. In the insurance industry, we talk about avoiding “financial euthanasia”, or putting an animal to rest because the care is unaffordable. But, we’re now at a polar opposite...I’ll no longer feel like I should proceed with treatment, just because I can. It’s almost like I’ve made an internal agreement with myself. No more extreme measures, just respite care.
And I’m ok with it. For now. Until that hard day comes. In the meantime, I’ll opt to spend the savings I would have spent on premium on a few trips to his favorite ice cream stand.
A few notes from your Embrace agent about adding/removing pets:
- Pets can be removed from the policy at anytime, though age guidelines may apply for pets being added to a policy.
- Pre-existing conditions may also apply if adding or re-adding a pet to your policy.
- Coverage changes can be made, but any increase to your coverage will result in pre-existing conditions being reset.
- Euthanasia is covered by your Embrace plan so long as the decision is brought about due to a covered condition. Cremation and burial costs are not included at this time.
- When a pet is removed, for any reason, the coverage ceases and the policyholder is issued a refund for the remaining portion of premium paid.
November 15, 2013
Continuing on the topic of pet cancer this month, Dr Patrick Mahaney and I talk about the ins and outs of cancer in dogs and cats. Some of the questions we cover are:
- Do you think cancer is becoming more prevalent in pets, or do we just know more? If you feel it may be becoming more prevalent, besides genetics, do you think there are any specific environmental factors that contribute to this?
- What is the prognosis with cancer in cats and dogs? Can you cure cancer or are you just delaying the inevitable?
- What about early detection? What are the signs and what regular diagnostics should we be doing?
- What does he think of new product such as apocaps, which supposedly stimulate apoptosis which targets cancer cells?
- What other new or newer cancer treatments there are?
- Which dogs are more prone to cancer than others? How can cancer be hereditary?
Click on the link below for the podcast.
Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney cancer 2013
November is Cancer Awareness Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Cancer Sucks, For Pets as well as Humans
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on pet cancer
Other posts by 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 atVeterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.
Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) forwww.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2014 through Havenhurst Books
November 12, 2013
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.
November is Cancer Awareness Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Cancer Sucks, For Pets as well as Humans
Other posts by Dr Riggs
November 11, 2013
Several of the Embrace staff members (aka Embracers) are or recently have been going through cancer in their dogs and cats and all the physical and emotional toll that takes.
This month we are going to address this difficult health issue with a discussion by Dr Rex Riggs, and a podcast with Dr Patrick Mahaney, as well as some aspects of cancer treatment that pet insurance can definitely help you with.
In the meantime, check out the Morris Animal Foundation's "Golden Retriever Lifetime Study" that has just got going.
Morris Animal Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a groundbreaking effort to learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases. It is the largest and longest observational study ever undertaken to improve the health of dogs. The study will enroll up to 3,000 Golden Retrievers and will last 10 to 14 years.
This study does not directly affect how owners care for their dogs, but it does gather information on their dog's genetics, nutrition, health and environment. The study is expected to provide valuable information on how to better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases.
I'm so happy they are doing this study and can't wait to hear some of the findings. What do you think they will find are some of the causes of cancer in Goldens?
October 22, 2013
As part of our focus on working dogs and cats this month, I was reminded yesterday how far reaching the benefits of therapy dogs are when the new that Brutus, our kids' school principal's boxer, passed away over the weekend. Brutus was more than a pet, he was a therapy dog who helped with many of the children at that school.
In an excerpt from our principal's letter to parents:
It is with a very heavy heart that I write to inform you all that our dog, Brutus, passed away over the weekend. This was unexpected and, as you can imagine, has been heartbreaking for my family. I am so grateful that over the past 3 years, Brutus also became part of the Gurney family. However, we always knew that the challenge of adding Brutus to our Gurney family would be that at some point we’d have to inform students of his passing. My hope was to have his younger brother, Woody (currently 18 months old), completely trained and credentialed through Therapy Dog International by the end of this school year so that we could phase Brutus out as he aged. Unfortunately, Brutus left us much earlier than ever expected.
Credentialed through Therapy Dog International, Brutus filled many roles at Gurney. Most commonly, individuals and groups of students enjoyed reading to him.
Some students read to Brutus as practice – they may have been English Language Learners or at-risk readers but, Brutus never criticized. Some groups practiced their Readers’ Theater performances in front of him before they felt ready to perform to their class. Other students had already practiced and wanted to do their best reading for their visit with Brutus.
Students with autism, Downs Syndrome, and other disabilities practiced communication skills such as good eye contact and clear articulation by making Brutus practice his obedience commands and some fun tricks.
Students who needed additional, purposeful movement during the day had jobs related to taking care of Brutus such as refilling his water bowl or brushing him. Some students working very hard on self-control would work even harder when visiting with Brutus was the reward. For students with diagnosed anxiety conditions, time petting Brutus worked better than medicine.
Of course, Brutus was always looking for opportunities to visit classrooms so that we could share one of his favorite stories, kids could share stories they had written about him, or he could simply give some high-fives for working hard. Brutus even had his own bulletin board on which students posted pictures and poems they made about him.
When I reflect on this long list of Brutus’ contributions to the special culture we have at [school], it is heartwarming to know how much we all valued him.
She goes on to describe how they are handling the news at school and closes out with:
Again, I sincerely thank you all for allowing Brutus to become such a beloved member of our [school] family. He taught us more about the benefits of a therapy dog in a school than we had ever predicted. He will be greatly missed.
I know I felt comfort seeing Brutus in the front office wanting to say hello to anyone that came in and shed a tear at the news he has moved over the Rainbow Bridge.
Perhaps more schools should have a Brutus of their own to benefit both parents and children. What do you think?
October is Working Dogs and Cats Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: fake service dogs
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk about the wonder of working dogs and cats
Helping Working Dogs and Cats
One Dog's Passing Highlights the Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Schools