Insurance for your pet is no longer considered to be a luxury, but more of a necessity. Diagnostics, medicine and surgery for pets has become as high tech as human medicine. In clinical small animal practice, veterinarians deal routinely with many varied problems and many of them involve expensive laboratory tests, treatment, surgery, even chemo-therapy and/or radiation. Everything from hip replacements, MRI’s, pacemakers, Sonograms, etc. are becoming routine. But, before a comprehensive understanding of pet health insurance plans can be discussed a few more simple facts should be mentioned. 1. The far majority of claims processed by pet health insurance companies are the result of unexpected accidents or unexpected illness. This number exceeds 82%. They include auto accidents, lacerations, systemic diseases like Lyme disease, dental disease, allergic reactions, ear infections, skin infections, cancer, etc., etc. The list is voluminous. 2. Each year, in the U.S. alone, approximately 6 million dogs and 6 million cats are diagnosed with some form of cancer. 3. One out of every four dogs will die of cancer or be humanely euthanized because of it. Having an insurance plan will simply give you “piece of mind” that your pet will receive the best veterinary care possible, when they need it the most. Today, there are many diverse plans to fit all budgets and some even cover routine vaccinations, spaying, neutering, dental cleanings and flea/tick and heartworm preventatives. However, in my opinion, you should look upon pet insurance as “major medical & surgery” coverage, as many treatments and/or surgery could catch you unexpectedly. Every client of mine that has pet insurance are glad they do, and renew each year. The insurance companies pay you directly, not the veterinarian, and often it is 90% of the total bill. There are many good plans available and recently a new plan known as Trupanion came out. They claim their plan offers lower premiums, higher payout, faster approval and payment, and higher maximum lifetime payouts. The plan is endorsed by the American Animal Hospital Association, (AAHA). Trupanion even offers 30 day free coverage for new puppies and kittens. For more information go to: www.trupanion.com. Other insurance plans websites to investigate are: www.ASPCApetinsurance.com,www.PurinaCare.com, and www. completepetcareinsurance.com.
Once again, the relatively new disease known as Canine Influenza has been reported this past May in NYC. In fact one dog died and several were severely ill. Within the last year, as of April 23rd, 2010 Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center has 384 positive cases throughout NY State. The disease manifests itself as an unusual form of “kennel cough” which is caused by the organisms known as the Bordetella bronchisepticum/parainfluenza viral complex. As with any disease, the clinical signs of Canine Influenza can vary as well as the outcome of the disease. The most common symptom is a lingering cough of 2-3 weeks or even longer. Some dogs have a purulent nasal discharge, are lethargic, have a lack of appetite, and run a high fever of 104-106 which often results in secondary viral or bacterial pneumonia. It is a highly contagious respiratory viral disease that is communicable from dog to dog but not to humans. Although this is sometimes referred to as “Canine Flu” it is in no way the same flu that can affect the human population. Because it is a relatively new disease, most if not all dogs are susceptible. High exposure dogs such as those that accompany their owners on vacation, or board at a kennel are more susceptible than those isolated at home. Also those dogs that frequent dog shows, grooming shops, pet food stores, dog parks, go for walks where other dogs go also are considered high exposure. These dogs should be vaccinated with the Canine Influenza Vaccine H3N8. It is a safe killed viral vaccine, came out over 1 year ago and has been used a lot in clinical small animal medical facilities with little to no side effects. Many boarding kennels insist that all dogs be vaccinated with both the “Dog flu” vaccine as well as the “Kennel cough” vaccine 2 weeks before allowing them in their kennel. Check with your veterinarian for the recommended vaccination protocol and check with the kennel if you expect to board your dog.
Because of the many advances in medical science knowledge and nutrition, our pets are living longer. Although the researchers estimate that 25% of the pet population will die of some form of cancer, they are stepping up their efforts in finding early detection tests, treatments and hopefully cures, to bring that statistic down. The research being done on animals will also help human medicine, as frequently the discoveries are found in animals first. Soon there is a new test becoming available to veterinarians in clinical small animal medicine for early cancer detection. A simple blood test called the OncoPet RECAF is very promising. The test utilizes a universal marker for malignant cell growth in animals AND people. Cancer cells reproduce more rapidly than the normal cells in the body, and it is this rapid cell growth this test picks up. Right now the test is for dogs only, but soon it will be available for cats too. The manufacturer claims that there are three main applications where the OncoPet RECAF test will be useful in veterinary medical small animal practice. First is in the diagnostic process. In addition to the general examination, the veterinarian often must resort to laboratory testing, including biopsy, blood samples, radiographs, ultrasound and even CT Scans and MRI’s to help diagnose the various type of cancer in dogs and cats. Hopefully this test will be make it easier for the diagnostic process in the early stages of cancer cell development. It is reported to have a “95% specificity level” for cancer cell detection. The second application is in the follow-up process of dogs already diagnosed with cancer by monitoring the cancer therapy and the early detection of the possibility of metastatic cells (cancer cells that are spreading). The third use is in the screening process of the overall dog population as part of “Wellness” exams. The earlier cancer is detected the more likelihood of a successful treatment, whether it is surgery or therapy or both.