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4 Remedies for Hairballs in Cats

May is the month we see the most shedding in our kitty patients – and the most hairball-related vomiting. Shedding is a normal process that occurs all year long, but seems to be at its peak in Seattle cats in May and June.

Typically fastidious about their personal hygiene, cats spend up to a quarter of their day grooming themselves.

Their rough tongues catch loose hair, which is swallowed and usually passes unnoticed through their GI tract. When a larger amount of hair has accumulated in the stomach, however, cats have a unique talent of vomiting up a trichobezoar, or “hairball” (although it’s hardly shaped like a ball).

Hairballs and Shedding in Cats | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

This is protective measure that usually works just fine to rid the cat of excessive hair in its stomach. Occasionally, the trichobezoar grows so large it cannot pass out of the stomach or blocks the intestinal tract, requiring emergency surgery to remove it. Fortunately, these occurrences are rare.

Other times, cats are vomiting hairballs more frequently than normal, indicating some other underlying medical problem that needs to be addressed (besides having the carpet cleaners on speed dial).

Cats that vomit hairballs more than once a month (except in May and June, perhaps twice a month), may be grooming excessively. Or, the frequent hairballs may be a result of inflammatory bowel disease, food sensitivity, or an intestinal motility problem. It’s time to give us a call and schedule an appointment.

4 Common Remedies for Hairballs

Here are four ways to remedy hairballs.

1. Hairball diets

Over the past 15 years, “hairball diets” and “hairball treats” have become common place in the world of cat food. These diets and treats are usually higher in fiber and are thought to help cats pass swallowed hair in their stool. Whether they actually work as advertised seems to vary amongst cats.

2. Hairball Laxatives

Another common remedy is hairball laxatives, typically petrolatum-based (think Vaseline) or oil-based, that is also meant to help a cat pass swallowed hair in their stool. We suggest the oil-based hairball laxatives, but only once a week (not daily). Oil-based hairball laxatives can be harder to find than the petrolatum-based products.

3. Regular Grooming with a Cat Comb

The very best remedy for hairballs (not caused by an underlying medical problem) is regular grooming. During May and June, “regular” can mean twice a day.

Our favorite grooming tool is a nylon comb from the drugstore, or you can purchase a cat comb from a pet store. Nylon combs are inexpensive, their teeth are rarely sharp, and they can be tossed in the dishwasher to clean.

Try dipping the comb in a tumbler of water, tap it on the edge of the glass to remove most of the water, then comb your kitty in the direction the hair grows.

Most, but not all, cats enjoy grooming if it doesn’t hurt. It’s a social thing cats do for each other when they like each other. The damp comb helps pick up more hair, keeps it from flying around your home, cleans the kitty, and prevents static electricity so you don’t “zap” your cat (who would no longer find grooming much fun after that!).

It’s best to start regular grooming as a kitten so your cat, however, even many adult cats like it if you’re gentle.

4. Lion Cuts

Some extra furry kitties come see us in May or June for a lion cut because their heavy coats cause them to shed A LOT.

Our nurses love doing lion cuts, and most extra furry cats like them too (however, occasionally we have to provide light sedation to accomplish the task).

Lion cuts involve clipping the fur on the trunk, but leaving the fur on the “ruff” (neck), head, legs, and tail, thus making the cat look like an adult male lion. Older cats usually act pretty kittenish after a lion cut.

It’s Kitten Season – Here We Go Again!

Warmer temps, sunnier days – the start of another kitten season. We truly adore our kitten patients – those hilarious balls of fluff, curiosity, silliness, and ever-so-sharp teeth!

It’s Kitten Season – Here We Go Again! | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Bless the families that adopt them and provide love and appropriate care – good nutrition, training, parasite prevention, vaccines, and spay or neuter surgery.

Sadly, the annual hordes of kittens are starting to land at the humane society, cat rescue, animal shelter, Craig’s list, and coyote dinner plate. These little ones are a result of the effect of longer daylight on unspayed, neglected momma cats (owned and feral), causing them to go into heat.

Their kittens are adorable, but it makes us sad to know not all these kittens will find loving homes and many will be euthanized.

Momma cats can have two litters a year, and their first litter often has litters of their own within those 12 months. It’s a situation that repeats itself every year.

Make a difference for cats. Today.

  1. Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered before age 6 months so he or she doesn’t contribute to the overpopulation problem. Altered cats live longer, healthier lives.
  2.  Consider adopting an adult cat (even more likely to be euthanized to make room for a “more adoptable” kitten).
  3. Volunteer at a cat rescue, helping feed and care for some of those tiny fluffs who may be still on a bottle.
  4. And donate – cash, marketing skills, IT skills, serviceable towels and cat carriers gleaned from Goodwill, cat food, litter boxes, etc.

You can make a difference for cats.

Blessings,

Tiny Tim & Bubba

How to Defend Against Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats

When we think of Lyme disease, most of us think, “East Coast problem,” right?

Not so. Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks, is increasing in the Western US, particularly in the Southern Cascades and along the Oregon coast.

Dogs, cats, and humans (along with many other animals) can become infected with Lyme disease when they are bitten by an infected tick that has been attached to the skin for 24-36 hours.

The longer a tick is attached, the greater the chance of infection. The Lyme disease bacteria can establish a long-term infection that affects the heart, kidneys, joints, and brain.

Signs of Infection

Signs of infection include fever, lethargy, lameness, stiffness, pain, vomiting, and diarrhea – signs shared by several other diseases.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs and Cats | AtlanticVetSeattle.com
It is important to note that the typical “bulls-eye” rash that commonly effects people with Lyme disease is uncommon in dogs.

Treatment for Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is still relatively rare in the Pacific Northwest, but is increasingly showing up on local veterinarians’ “diagnostic radar” of possibilities when a pet presents with the clinical signs of the disease.

Fortunately, new diagnostic tests are available that help us determine infection more quickly. If treated early with appropriate antibiotics, Lyme disease in pets can cured. If treatment is delayed, however, the disease frequently progresses to severe kidney or liver failure and death.

Defending Against Lyme Disease

The first line of defense against Lyme disease and any other tick-borne disease is a rigorous tick control program.

  1. Consider one of the new tick preventives for pets, such as one of the chewables for dogs (Simparica or Bravector) or topicals for cats (Bravecto or Catego).
  2. Keep pets away from potentially tick-infested areas (tall grass, low brush, and wooded areas) if possible.
  3. Conduct a daily tick inspection of yourself and your pet after traversing these areas.

What to do if You Find a Tick

  1. If you do find a tick on yourself or your dog, the tick should be safely removed with tweezers as soon as possible, pulling straight back to make sure the tick is completely removed; otherwise, tick mouth parts can remain embedded and infection is still possible.
  2. The bite area, your hands, and the tweezers should be disinfected.
  3. Save the tick in zippered sandwich bag for identification and possible testing.

If you are uncertain how to safely remove a tick from your pet, please contact us and we will make a same-day appointment to remove the tick from your pet.

Lyme Vaccines

Better Lyme vaccines are now available for dogs travelling to Lyme disease endemic areas – the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic region, and Florida.

The Lyme vaccine does not provide complete protection against the disease, but is still worth considering for dogs travelling to high-risk areas.

  • We recommend beginning the Lyme vaccine series 7-8 weeks prior to your trip.
  • Dogs 12 weeks of age or older should initially receive two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart, then an annual booster thereafter if they travel back to or remain in the high-risk area.

Learn more about Lyme disease in dogs

Learn more about Lyme disease in cats 

May Special

Purchase 12 doses of flea and tick preventive and get a complimentary nail trim for your pet. For more info, call us at (206) 323-4433.

April Showers Bring May Flowers – Fleas & Ticks Aren’t Far Behind

More than an itchy nuisance, fleas are blood-sucking, disease-spreading insects. Although tiny and flightless, fleas can jump 7-13 inches and show no respect for property lines and door sills.

Female fleas can lay over 5,000 eggs in their lifetime and live up to 18 months.

A single pregnant flea can cause a population explosion of fleas on your pet and in your home.

April Showers Bring May Flowers – Fleas & Ticks Aren’t Far Behind | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Fleas have been around for millions of years, causing itchy misery and spreading diseases like tapeworms and life-threatening bacteria and viruses affecting animals and people. For example, fleas spread the bacteria that causes The Plague, a disease that killed thousands in Europe in the Dark Ages and is still found today in places as near as Eastern Oregon.

Ticks…A Growing Concern in the Pacific Northwest and Worldwide

Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids, not insects, and are implicated in the spread of a number of life-threatening diseases that affect humans and animals. They can harbor bacteria, viruses, and protozoal parasites, sometimes more than one at a time.

Slow-moving and unable to jump, they lay in wait on grass or leaves until their prey walks by, then grab on for the ride.

Ticks can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, and erlichiosis, to name a few.

Unfortunately, one of the many side effects of warmer temperatures is that ticks are increasing in abundance and geographical range throughout the world. Once a realm of warmer, humid southern areas of the US, ticks and tick-borne diseases have spread north and occur in all 50 states and Canada.

A similar phenomenon has occurred in Europe. Tick migration mostly occurs through the movement of animals upon which ticks feed. Small mammals can transport ticks short distances, but migrating deer and, especially, birds can carry the intrepid hitchhikers into new territories where they once did not exist.

Our Western Washington “Emerald Isle” has more ticks.

New Products Make Flea & Tick Prevention Easier for Pets

Fortunately, defense for pets against fleas and ticks continues to improve since the introduction of fipronil (Frontline) in 1995, a safe-but-messy topical that helped prevent fleas and ticks in cats and dogs.

Today, better products help prevent these parasites. Our favorites are the new oral chews that have come on the market in the past two years that quickly kill fleas and ticks.

No more messy topical medication or stinky collar, just a tasty “treat” that safely and effectively prevents fleas and ticks from 30-90 days, depending on the product.

Additionally, new laboratory tests help us spot tick-borne diseases faster, sometimes before they even cause disease symptoms.

You know the 4DX lab test we recommend for your dog every year? Well, test #1 screens for heartworm disease, but #2-4 are screens for tick-borne illnesses – Lyme disease, erlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Hey ticks, we’re watching.

Better Lyme disease vaccines are now available for dogs traveling to Lyme disease endemic areas – the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Florida.

We recommend your dog begins the Lyme vaccine series 7-8 weeks prior to your trip back East, in addition to using one of the newer tick prevention products and taking precautions, such as keeping your dog out of tall grass or wooded areas if possible, and doing a daily tick inspection of yourself and your dog.

May Special

Purchase 12 doses of flea and tick preventive and get a complimentary nail trim for your pet. For more info, call us at (206) 323-4433.

Acupuncture: This Ancient Healing Art Helps Pets, Too!

An ancient healing art developed in China more than 4000 years ago, acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that enhances a body’s natural healing abilities.

Acupuncture: This Ancient Healing Art Helps Pets, Too! | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dr. Munroe uses acupuncture to treat a dog.

What is Animal Acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves inserting very fine, sterile needles into specific points mapped over the body. The needles stimulate circulation, stimulate the release of hormones, and help restore the body’s natural balance.

Dr. Tricia Munroe | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dr. Tricia Munroe, cVMA, CCRT, completed her training and certification in veterinary acupuncture in 2015.

Animal acupuncture should only be performed by a trained and certified veterinary acupuncturist. Dr. Tricia Munroe, cVMA, CCRT, completed her training and certification in veterinary acupuncture in 2015 and has been using the technique to provide our patients with an additional therapy option.

Conditions that Acupuncture Can Improve

More and more pet owners are trying acupuncture for their furry family members. Pain management is one of the most common uses for acupuncture, often in conjunction with a more traditional treatment plan.

Several common conditions effecting animals can improve with the addition of acupuncture treatment, including:

  • arthritis and back pain
  • immune disorders
  • decreased appetite
  • asthma
  • allergies
  • skin conditions
  • intestinal problems (diarrhea and constipation)
  • metabolic problems (liver and kidney disease)
  • anxiety
  • urinary incontinence

During Therapy…

Pets typically relax and enjoy acupuncture therapy. The tiny pinch caused by the needle insertion is very tolerable and often unnoticed. Many pets relax and fall asleep while they wait the 15-30 minutes before the needles are removed.

Acupuncture: This Ancient Healing Art Helps Pets, Too! | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dr. Munroe uses acupuncture to treat a dog.

Initially, Dr. Munroe recommends acupuncture on a weekly basis, but as a pet’s condition improves, treatment sessions are often changed to a monthly or as needed basis.

About Veterinary Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the safest medical therapies, using no chemicals or medications. Veterinary acupuncture was approved as an alternative therapy by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1988. A new development in animal acupuncture is the use of therapeutic lasers instead of needles.

We Provide Physical Therapy and Rehab Therapy for Animals

Veterinary rehabilitation therapy is new and exciting field in which human physical therapy techniques are adapted to treat animals with debilitating and painful musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.

Rehab-certified veterinarians use an array of traditional and alternative therapies to reduce pain, increase strength and flexibility, and enhance recovery from injury, surgery, and degenerative diseases in their efforts to help their animal patients live full and comfortable lives.

Dr. Tricia Munroe | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dr. Tricia Munroe

Dr. Tricia Munroe, cVMA, CCRT, completed a rigorous training course and certification in canine rehabilitation therapy and sports medicine in 2016.

She uses her training to evaluate our patients with orthopedic and neurological conditions, then prescribe and implement an individualized treatment plan aimed at increasing muscle strength, joint flexibility, and balance, while decreasing pain.

Treatment plans may include:

  • specialized exercises
  • laser therapy
  • acupuncture
  • massage
  • cold or heat therapies
  • electrical stimulation
  • hydrotherapy
  • medication

Dr. Munroe educates owners about their pets’ condition and what they can do at home to help their pet, such as home exercise programs. She can also suggest home adaptations and tools that may be useful to help a pet move more comfortably and confidently.

As one of only 17 veterinarians with CCRT certification in Washington, Dr. Munroe is seeing an increasing number of patients for rehab therapy and accepts referral patients from other veterinary clinics for patients who would benefit from rehab therapy.

A Day in the Life of Bogey, a Typical Older Dog

The sun has been shining through the blinds for at least an hour now and the family has been busy getting ready for work and school.

Bogey’s hips are sore from sleeping in one position all night and he knows getting up will be difficult, but Nature’s call finally wins out. He rises very slowly to his feet from his bed, then over-corrects and almost takes a header because he’s a bit unsteady.

A Day in the Life of Bogey, a Typical Older Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Bogey

What happened to the days when he’d wake everyone up with the sun, jumping on the beds and giving a lick to the face before the alarm went off?

Bogey shuffles to the back door in short, choppy steps, hoping he makes it in time. His long nails scratch a slow cadence on the wood floors that seems like an ice rink. The discomfort and stiffness in his hips and lower back make progress slow, but he never complains.

A brief “woof” at the door, and someone opens the slider so he can go out. The cool air feels good, but the slippery steps down the porch, while only three, cause him to hesitate for several minutes while he contemplates which is worse – having an accident on the porch or falling down the steps.

After a slow amble around the perimeter of the backyard, he’s ready to come back in. Thank goodness no squirrels appeared to taunt his slow progress. This time, finding the strength to go up those three steps gives him pause. He heaves himself up and makes it up the first two, but slips on the wet porch at the third and lands on his left shoulder, torquing his neck. Warm, kind hands help him up and steady him as he makes his way back into the house. The stiff hips have loosened a bit, but his shoulder hurts from the fall.

Breakfast is in his dish and he’s hungry. Eating would be easier if the dish was raised off the floor, and he lies down in front of it to finish his breakfast. Everyone is about to leave for the day, so after a few welcome pats on the head, he heads in the direction of the front window and wags his tail as they hail their goodbyes.

A Day in the Life of Bogey, a Typical Older Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.comThe house is quiet now. Bogey still takes his duty as guard dog quite seriously. His chin just fits on the window sill in the living room, and he stares dreamily out onto the front lawn and walk.

Suddenly, a German Shepard with a human attached appears in his line of sight and proceeds to relieve himself on the bush by the gate, turning his head to give a defiant look to Bogey in the window.

Bogey woofs loudly in protest and tries to make himself taller, but only manages to bounce his front feet off the floor a few inches a couple of times. He decides to let this transgressor pass.

The excitement is tiring and he heads towards his bed for a morning nap. The bed used to be upstairs, where he spent his nights guarding the family, but the stairs are too steep now and he’s too big to be carried. He had to settle for the move to the family room, but it’s lonely at night.

Try as he might to shift the bed’s soft padding with his front paws and turn three times for luck to find the softest spot, the ungraceful plop down onto the cushion sends waves of pain through his hips and back. He pants loudly for several minutes to keep from crying while the pain slowly subsides.

In what seemed like only a few moments, the front door bursts open and the family is home. Bogey realizes he’s slept the day away when a glance out the window shows long shadows are falling across the lawn.

Nature is calling again, and loudly, and he makes his way to the back door. This time, welcome hands help him down the steps, guarding him from falling, and he ventures further around the yard to the front, in no hurry to return to the house.

A leash is snapped on his collar and the front gate opens. Bogey does his best to cover the mark on the bush made by the offending German Shepard, but lifting one leg to stand on three is a wobbly challenge and he almost soils himself in the attempt.

Moving down the uneven sidewalk requires his full concentration, yet the feel of the breeze on his face and the attention of his human make his heart sing. He remembers the days when he used to fly down this street, pulling a kid on skateboard.

Bogey makes it to the end of the block, and though his heart is willing, his backend protests and he sits down, letting his human know that this is as far as he can go today. Maybe tomorrow he can go further. They return to the house and warm hands help him up the steps.

The walk rejuvenates his spirits and he visits everyone in the family while dinner is made and homework completed, resting his head on a lap here and nuzzling a knee for an ear scratch there.

Food appears in his dish again, but this time the dish is raised up on several books and he’s able to eat while standing. His tummy full, he makes his way back to his bed again, intending to listen in on the conversations at the dinner table, but his eyes grow heavy.

The next thing he knows, the house is dark and quiet again, and everyone else is upstairs. He tries to accept the loneliness of being apart from his “pack” while they sleep upstairs, but the separation never feels natural. The discomfort in his hips is singing a loud song tonight, and he pants again to deal with the pain. It finally subsides, and he lays his head down on the edge of his bed, listening, waiting, and remembering.

Osteoarthritis in older dogs and cats

The most common cause of mobility issues and discomfort in older dogs and cats is osteoarthritis. Older pets, large and small, suffer to some extent from osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease.

Time, conformational differences, and excess weight can wear down the slippery cushions on the ends of bones, called cartilage. With cartilage wear, bones start rubbing against each other, causing pain and inflammation.

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but is most common in hips, spine, shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, the pain can be managed through a combination of traditional and alternative veterinary care, moderate regular exercise, weight control, special anti-inflammatory diets, and environmental adaptation.

Laser Therapy for Pets: Speeds Healing, Enhances Comfort

Laser therapy is a comfortable, drug-free, non-invasive therapy used to successfully treat a variety of painful pet conditions.

Dr. Monahan performs laser surgery on a dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Dr. Monahan performs laser surgery on Georgia.

Laser therapy speeds healing and enhances comfort for chronic issues, such as arthritis and some neurologic conditions, as well as acute injuries like wounds, injuries, dental extractions, incisions, and broken bones. And, in the hands of a trained veterinary acupuncturists, therapeutic lasers can also be used to perform laser acupuncture therapy.

While a relatively new therapy, laser technology has significantly improved in recent years from the older, less powerful “cold lasers” to the newest and most effective Class IV Therapeutic Lasers, such as our Companion Laser.

What does laser therapy feel like?

During laser therapy, patients feel a soothing warmth during the treatment and typically relax and enjoy the session. Areas of inflammation may briefly feel sensitive to the touch, before pain reduction occurs. Therapy sessions usually last 10-20 minutes, depending upon the number of body sites treated and the size of the animal.

Veterinary technician, Cindy, with Isabella, a happy laser surgery patient | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Veterinary technician, Cindy, with Isabella.

How often should a patient be treated?

Acute conditions can be treated daily, particularly in cases of severe pain. Chronic problems (arthritis, some skin conditions) may respond better with treatments 2-3 times weekly, tapering down to once every 2-4 weeks, or as needed.

How long before results are seen?

While some patients experience significant pain reduction after the first visit, improvement is usually seen by the third or fourth session, and the benefits of treatments are cumulative. Acute conditions often improve quickly, while chronic conditions (such as arthritis) may require ongoing therapy treatment to achieve and maintain optimal results.

Pookie enjoys relief from arthritis with laser treatment | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Pookie, one of our oldest patients at 21 years, enjoys relief from his arthritis with laser treatment!

April Special on Laser Therapy

We offer both single and discounted packages of laser therapy.

During April, 2017, owners that purchase a package of laser therapy for their pet will receive an additional complimentary laser session for their pet.

What In The World Is Going On In Veterinary Care?

Every year, despite our efforts to remain as affordable as possible, costs for providing outstanding veterinary care increase.

Pharmaceutical companies, pet food companies, and reference laboratories annually mark up their prices 8% or more (even during the last recession). Veterinary practices’ overhead costs for insurance, utilities, taxes, and the like increase.

What In The World Is Going On In Veterinary Care? | AtlanticVetSeattle.comAnd to keep the same familiar, educated, and experienced smiling faces caring for your pets, staff wage costs rise as well, including the Seattle new minimum wage increase and rising health insurance costs.

Mars, Inc. Owns 15-20% of America’s Veterinary Hospitals

It’s a rapidly changing world out there. Small, family-owned veterinary clinics compete with huge corporations for purchasing power.

One corporation now owns 15 to 20 percent of America’s 26,000 pet hospitals — candy maker Mars, Inc. A $35 billion global business who makes the likes of M&Ms, Snickers, Milky Way, Skittles, Twix, and Wrigley’s, Mars now wants to provide your pet’s health care.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Mars has been buying up veterinary practices at break-neck pace over the past two years, and its pet-related holdings now include:

  • Blue Pearl
  • Banfield
  • Seattle Veterinary Services
  • VCA veterinary hospitals

Plus, they own pet food brands Pedigree, Whiskas, and Royal Canin; one of the two largest veterinary diagnostic reference laboratories (we use the other one); and Seattle-based Sound Technologies, a digital medical equipment company.

Three Ways To Support Neighborhood Pet Clinics

What can you do to help provide excellent care for your pet without breaking the bank or handing your pet’s care over to a multibillion-dollar corporation?

First, take measures to keep your pet healthy in the first place (See our article, 7 Ways to Care for Your Pet Without Breaking the Bank).

Second, contemplate whether our affordable wellness plans and pet insurance are right for you.

Third, carefully consider your online and big box store pet purchases – and choose to buy local instead.

Supporting your neighborhood, family-owned businesses with your purchases helps keep the focus on your pet, keeps the overall cost of pet care down, and keeps your money in Seattle, instead of the accounts of corporate stockholders.

Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies – Is Pet Insurance Right for You?

We’re all familiar with the mess going on in human health insurance. Even before the arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act, health insurance for humans was a hot topic, rife with accusations of care being over-priced, inefficient, and sometimes denied when needed.

Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies – Is Pet Insurance Right for You? | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Insurance companies were often accused of taking the control of medical decisions away from patients and their doctors. I used to tell pet owners that if veterinary medicine went the way of human medicine (meaning the issues with health insurance for humans), that I was going to drive a truck instead – and I wasn’t kidding.

How Pet Insurance Differs from Human Insurance

Fortunately, I learned more about health insurance for pets and was happy to discover that it currently works differently than health insurance for humans.

It functions a lot more like dental and eye insurance for humans – the medical decisions are left in the hands of the pet owner and veterinarian, and the company reimburses the pet owner a portion of the cost of care, based on its own formulas for a particular condition.

The veterinarian is completely out of the payment picture; in other words, it’s not third-party-pay like health insurance for humans.

Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies

Learning this, and after experiencing several very sad situations where pet owners were unprepared for a pet medical emergency (such as an advanced surgical procedure with a veterinary specialist), I’ve changed my tune to become an advocate for pet health insurance instead.

When pet owners make the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize their pets instead of seeking medical care for serious, yet very treatable, medical conditions, a beautiful life is cut short and hearts are broken.

While most family-owned veterinary practices have payment plans and small charity funds, they don’t stretch far enough to cover every pet in need, and as a small business, we’re unable to provide the care free-of-charge.

As our pets have become valued members of the family, advances in medicine have also influenced the quality of care we provide our pets, many consider pet health insurance an increasingly integral part of responsible pet ownership.

Not all pet insurance companies work the same way, and it’s worth your time to research and carefully read the fine print.

Some Employers Offer Pet Insurance Benefits

While pet insurance is growing in popularity in the United States and some employers even offer it as part of their benefit package, less than 1% of dogs and cats in the US are covered by health insurance. Contrast that to Europe, where more than 25% of pets have health insurance.

Alternative to Pet Health Insurance

For the disciplined saver, an alternative to pet health insurance is a self-administered pet health savings account.

Setting aside a regular monthly contribution in special savings account designated for pet emergencies until you reach a cushion (say, $5000 – $10,000) and having a room on a credit card to cover until you reach your goal sum, is another way to prepare for an pet health emergency so you aren’t faced with a difficult decision of choosing to pay rent over medical care for your pet. And, you get to keep the “premiums” with interest if no emergency occurs.