When it’s time...to Remove a Pet from your Pet Insurance Policy

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.

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Claim example: German Shepherd Dog first wellness visit

If you ever wondered how expensive a puppy can be, here's a sample for a puppy's first visit that cost over $400. And it's not even from NY City; it's from Wrightsville PA.

This Wellness Rewards claim is for Turbo, a German Shepherd Dog puppy with several more visits to come. Now that's worth having an Embrace Wellness Rewards policy for.

Description Billed Amount
Puppy Series Full Bundle $349.35
Examination -Preventive Care $45.50
Fecal Wellness $29.85
Initial Puppy/Kitten Deworming $10.00
DHLP Vaccination $20.50
Initial Puppy Heartworm Dose $12.00
Pre Op Screen Panel $58.70
Vectra Puppy Pack Dose $0.00
Discount -$117.80
Total $408.10

I wonder how many people would get a dog if they saw this bill first. Was your first vet bill an unwelcome surprise?

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January is Eye Care Month at Embrace Pet Insurance

IMG_3459Back in 2001, my cat Simon started to be concerned about his left eye. He'd rub it, and rub it some more, and then really had go at it until it was so swollen, he couldn't open it - all in the span of two days.

I took Simon to a local cat vet and we tried putting an antibiotic cream into his eye but he'd rub it out so fast, it hardly made a difference. I tried an E-collar but that didn't seem to help the condition (and he was a houdini when it came to the collar). So, off to the kitty opthamologist at the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Her assessment was that if we couldn't fix the issue, Simon was going to lose his eye. I couldn't believe it!

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Claim Example: Ruby the Dog is kicked by a Moose

When I was looking for claims that related specifically to Winter Dangers, this one stuck out as rather unexpected - poor Ruby gets kicked by a moose! We asked Elizabeth B, her pet parent, to tell us what happened and this is what she said:

Ruby in AlaskaRuby is proof that old dogs can learn new things.  We moved to Alaska in the winter of 2012.  Our dogs, Ruby (age 12) and Willow (age 3) , instinctively knew to be cautious around the bears we crossed paths with on our hikes.  But our dogs did not see moose as an obvious threat.  Although moose can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds, they come off as curious, docile, and almost clumsy creatures, and accordingly are easy prey for dogs. What our dogs didn't know is that while moose tend not to run from a perceived threat, they can and will kick forward with their front feet, knocking down and trampling the threat.  

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Claim Example: Mast Cell Tumor in German Shepherd/Golden Retriever/Labrador mix

Embracer Lea has been off on maternity leave with her super cute daughter Stella but she has been going through some tough times with her dog Lyger, which she wrote up for us. Here's Lea's story of Lyger and his mast cell tumor.

FYI we know Lyger's breed mix because he's Embracer Lea's dog and we did the genetic test on him as
part of an Embrace contest. He's a very happy German Golden Lab :)

Lyger and his red boneMy old retriever Lyger has more bumps and lumps than I can count--he's had lypomas for years.  Sometime in the summer, I noticed a new, soft, squishy bump on his neck.  I was a working student, very pregnant, and had just been joking with my vet tech about the possibility that I have Munchausens syndrome with my dogs--taking them in for any little thing.  So, I figured I'd just take a wait and see approach with this lumpy bump, keep an eye on it for any changes.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm in my vet's office for a senior check up--Lyger's been acting a bit sluggish.  The vet checks his hips, his neck, looks at a mole, does bloodwork.  Everything appears normal--it appears to be just  normal aging.  As an afterthought I mention the neck lump.  He does a needle aspirate to check the fluid in the lump.

Now, here comes the one downside to having a good relationship with your vet: You know when he sees something bad but is trying not to scare you.

He sends it out for pathology and calls me the next day to say it's cancer--but, a very treatable form of cancer, mast cell.  I confirm with some of my vet tech colleagues--they agree, this is a good cancer prognosis, if such a thing exists.  I never thought I'd want to put him through surgery at his age, but it was the best chance he had.

Lyger's mast cell surgery incisionTo remove a mass that was only about half the size of a ping pong ball required a very large incision, about 7 inches, to get clear margins.  But, we got very lucky--the vet was able to remove all of Lyger's cancer.  He won't require chemotherapy or other treatments.  But, as grade 2 mast cell tumors have a 50% chance of recurrence, we'll have to watch that area carefully.  A sample biopsy from his lymph nodes indicated that the cancer had not spread, despite my decision to "wait and see".

Speaking of the wait and see, that's what I'm here to tell you.  Don't do that.  First of all, the cancer could have spread to other systems, causing the prognosis to be much worse.  Secondly, I was waiting to see if the lump would get bigger.  It never did--but I later learned that's a characteristic of mast cell tumors: they can get bigger and smaller again!  Sneaky!  These tumors are especially common in senior dogs, particularly Retrievers, Boxers, Beagles and Bully breeds, among a list of others, and are
often found on on a dog's extremities.

This was a very costly close call, with about $1,000 in diagnostics and the surgery. But, I learned a very valuable lesson--don't play wait and see when it comes to health concerns, whether it's for your pet or yourself.  I could have lost the friend that's been by my side for over a decade, and would never have forgiven myself for it.  Fortunately,  Lyger is doing fine, enjoying the extra hugs he's been getting, and will continue to get for a while to come.

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"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - hip dysplasia surgery for 1 year old German Coolie

Being Pet Health Insurance Month, it's time for a "so glad I had pet insurance" story. How's this for a good one. A one year old German Coolie (yes, it's a real cool looking dog too) based in Salem, NY who unexpectedly needed hip dysplasia surgery, for a total cost of $5,417.

Here's Amy H's story in her own words: 

2012-07-01_16-07-51_500When my 1 year old German Coolie Elliot Cool came up three legged lame after a fun weekend of
running and playing, I knew something was wrong right away.  After bringing him to the vet for an exam and radiographs, my worst fears were confirmed.  Elliot Cool was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and would need hip replacement surgery if he was going to be able to live out a full, active life without constant, debilitating pain.  

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"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!

Continuing the theme for Pet Health Insurance Month, here's a story from Chrissy, one of the Veterinary Account Representatives at Embrace. I love seeing Bella in the office and had no idea of this story until today.

I have worked as a technician in the Cleveland, OH area for the past 10 years.  While I always thought pet insurance was an excellent idea for clients, I never dreamed I would need it for myself.  Being in the profession, getting a hefty staff discount, and having a whole bunch of great contacts in the field, I did not foresee the cost of veterinary care ever becoming a problem.  I could not have been more wrong! 

Rewind to Christmas Eve 2007.  Bella, at the time a 2 year old pit mix, was always getting into things she wasn’t supposed to. She was obsessed with having things in her mouth so it didn’t surprise me when she vomited that morning.  However, a few hours later come breakfast time, I started getting concerned when she was not interested in her food.  She is a chow hound so that was very out of the ordinary.

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Michael Phelps strikes gold with his dogs

Continuing on with our theme of the Olympics this month, Embracer Lea put together a piece on Michael Phelps and his canine companions. Olympians have big hearts for their pets, as well as for their sport.

Michael Phelps shows off Stella (Penelope) on the Today Show's Bow to Wow segment. Photo Credit TODAYIt’s not just his competition that will be pleased with Michael Phelp’s retirement. His two canine companions, English Bulldog Herman and recently rescued Catahoula Mix Stella will also be happy to have him around more. Phelps says that neither dog is keen on his early morning work-out schedule and prefer to root him on from the comfort of the couch.

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Claim example: Wally regains his mobility through acupuncture and hydrotherapy

WallyacupunctureContinuing our focus on alternative therapies (absolutely fascinating indeed!), let's talk about Wally, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi living in Emeryville, CA. Wally's mom, Carol, told us about Wally's acupuncture and hydrotherapy treatments.

In Carol's words:

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Guest Post: Allergy Questions with Dr Patrick Mahaney

As we continue with our focus on allergies this month at Embrace Pet Insurance, I chat with Dr Patrick Mahaney about allergies and your questions for him on the topic.

Carl: Our dog, Sammy, licks and chews his feet regularly and occasionally has bacterial sores on his belly. We've given him Benadryl for the licking and chewing and Vet prescribed antibiotic for the sores. We've been told he has allergies. We keep treating these issues but they keep reoccurring. How would we find out what allergies he has?

Caroline:  At what stage do you suspect a yeast infection over allergies, because aren't the symptoms very similar?

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