Pawsitive Pointers: Pet Insurance

Pawsitive Pointers: Pet Insurance

Can you afford it when your pet gets sick or injured?

Did you know it’s common for a pet emergency visit to cost $1,000 or more, and even regular wellness exams can quickly cost several hundred dollars? One way to take the financial sting out of seeking vet care is to obtain pet insurance.

We DO NOT endorse any specific insurance company. Since each plan is different, we do recommend understanding coverage options and getting quotes from a few companies before deciding which is right for you, your budget, and your pet(s).

How does pet insurance work?

Typically, pet policies allow you to visit any vet, specialist, or emergency clinic you like. You pay the bill at the time of service and use that paid invoice to submit a claim for reimbursement. The amount reimbursed varies by policy and insurer. Some providers may offer direct payment to your vet.

How much does it cost?

Pet insurance premiums depend on the coverage you choose, your geographic location and the species, breed and age of your pet. Some insurers offer discounts for multiple pets, new policies, non-use of an exiting policy, or bundling the policy with other types of insurance.

What’s covered–and what’s not?

There are a variety of policy options: from packaged policies to a la cart coverage. It’s important to look at the policy details. For instance, some providers won’t reimburse you for exam fees, which are part of nearly every veterinary bill. Many will not cover expenses related to pre-existing conditions, which are conditions that occur before coverage starts or during a waiting period. Some policies may cover dental, rehab services, and medications – others may not.

Where do I get pet insurance?

While this is not a comprehensive list, we’ve listed many of the leading pet insurance companies here for your reference. As policies and pricing vary, visit the company websites and use the quote-generating forms to obtain tailored information.

Other tips

The following sites allow you to compare policies offered by multiple companies from a single location. However, not all insurance providers may be included in the comparisons, so you may want to use more than one site, or access some providers’ sites directly for quotes.

  • ASPCApetinsurance.com (See “Compare Plans” under the “Pet Insurance Plans” tab)
  • Pawlicy.com
  • Petinsurancereview.com
  • Petinsurer.com

Using the Internet to search “Ranked Pet Insurance Companies” will also provide helpful references. These sites often provide a high-level overview of what a provider offers, which can help you quickly distinguish between policies.

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Traveling with pets

TRAVELING WITH YOUR PET

Going on vacation? Your companion animal can be a great travel companion on a trip. Preparing to move? Your furry friend will acclimate to a new home if he is with you. You will need to do some planning ahead to make it a safe journey for you and your four legged family members.

Buckle up for safety is the first step for everyone in your car, and this includes your animal passengers. Be sure to pick out a crate that is suitable for you and your pet. The heavy duty plastic carriers can be found in various sizes at most pet stores and are often times preferred over the wire crates due to safety reasons. It’s too easy to get a foot or toe stuck in a wire crate causing possible injury or pain. Carriers provide security and should always be buckled with the seat belt or a specially designed carrier restraint. Select a crate that allows your dog or cat to stand up and turn around but one that is not too big. Too much space inside a crate can lead to injury during sudden stops or accidents. Put a towel inside for a comfy cushion.

If car travel is new for your companion, take him or her for a few short rides to the park or around town before the trip. This will help your dog or cat become comfortable with auto travel. These practice runs will help you to determine if you will be traveling with a road warrior or a white-knuckle flyer.

Food, Water and Exercise

If your dog isn’t accustomed to car travel, do not feed him for 6 – 7 hours before the ride. Stick with your regular diet, giving his main meal at the end of the day’s road trip. Dry food is more convenient, if your pet is used to it. There are also several types of clip-on water holders that can be attached to the inside of carriers to provide water for your furry friend’s trip.

Cats will need a litter box in their carrier. Use only a small amount of litter – they just needs to get the scratching sensation.

When you need to stop you can walk the dog. You and your dog will know how often this needs to be. Older dogs might have to stop more frequently; other dogs might be able to wait up to 4 hours or more.

Certification and Identification

Carry proof your dog or cat is current on all vaccinations, including rabies. If traveling over state lines, you will need a health certificate from your veterinarian issued within 10 days of traveling. Make sure your dog or cat is micro chipped and has current ID tags with a telephone number where you can be reached – maybe your cell number – secured to his collar. Also carry a photo of your pet to help others identify the animal if he gets lost.

Other Helpful Hints

  • Pack your pet’s leash (a leash or harness for cats), food and water bowls, favorite toys, a piece of bedding from home and any medication your furry family member requires.
  • NEVER let your pet’s head extend outside the car window. Particles of dirt can penetrate the eyes, ears and nose, causing injury or infections. Excess cold air in the lungs can also cause illness.
  • Be sure to always park your car in a shaded area to keep the car cool. NEVER leave your pet alone inside a car, even for a few minutes. Find restaurants with drive-through windows or bring someone with you on the trip to take meal shifts so your furry family member can stay in your air-conditioned car.
  • Plan ahead where to stop and where to stay. Information on pet-friendly establishments can easily be found in bookstores or online at sites like www.petswelcome.com. Call ahead to confirm their pet policy. Getting your dog or cat ready for travel will be rewarded with many memorable adventures and fun days on the road together.

Dog Behavior: A Historical View

DOG BEHAVIOR: A HISTORICAL VIEW

If we are going to understand dog behavior, then it is important to understand the history behind the domestic dog. Remember that domestication of dogs is a relatively recent event in the grand scheme of their existence. Wild canines have been around for millions of years but have only lived with us a few thousand of those years. By looking back with an evolutionary point of view, we can see that wild canines spent a long time forming a life style and the types of behavior that perpetuated their existence. In their world, before they teamed up with us, there were no food bowls set on the floor always filled with a balanced diet. No individuals, except other pack or family members, guarded them from injury, and there were no veterinarians, vaccines, and medications to protect them from disease. Through natural selection, a canine model was formed that had the physical and mental abilities to continue their species. Their behavior patterns guided them through their day-to-day and year-to-year existence helping them to make the right choices to protect themselves and their offspring. If this would not have been accomplished they would be classified with the dinosaurs.

The daily life of wild canines was guided by behavior and interactions that occurred between them and other members of their group. Wild canines often chose to live in social groups usually made up of members of the same family. This was a better way of guaranteeing protection and a near constant supply of food if they worked together. For larger canines, this meant they could hunt together to bring down a large animal. For those wild canines who were scavengers, being in a group helped protect them from a larger predator as they scavenged its prey. They are able to gain additional protection from these larger or more efficient predators by banding together in a pack versus attempting to defend themselves as a single animal.

For dogs, being part of a social group provides them many benefits, too. Much of their natural instinctive behavior revolves around learning how to interact with other members of their species. As puppies, their play with other family members is important. It teaches them how to properly interact with other dogs. Socialization with people is also vitally important if the puppy is to grow up valuing human companionship.

Domestic dogs prefer living in a social environment, and generally consider “their” humans as part of the family. In some families, they share their lives with humans as well as other dogs. In these social settings, it helps them to know who is the leader in their social group. Well-trained dogs are taught to look at the humans as their leaders. This should be accomplished early on, not by showing any type of physical domination, but by being the leader mentally. Helping the dog to gently and consistently know what is acceptable behavior, will actually help your dog be more comfortable. For a dog, as for people, not knowing what is expected of you can be very stressful, as can mixed messages.

As we train our dogs, we need to remember that wild canines do a number of things on a day-to-day basis that help them to survive. Wild canines naturally dig holes for protection. This may be to cool their bodies on hot days or make dens in which to whelp and raise their litters. They bark at intruders to warn other group members of a potential danger, or at other times, to signal their own location. The things we have described here are those that make a wild canine an effective being. These behaviors come quite naturally for the animal. However, many of these behaviors we will try to eliminate in domestic dogs through training. Many things that wild dogs do in their day-to-day existence are unacceptable to us if they are going to be a part of our home and family. We don’t want them digging up our yard. We don’t want them to mark their territory inside our homes. We don’t want them to bark excessively, etc. Knowing these behaviors are natural for canines will help us better understand our dogs and provide better alternatives for these potentially problematic behaviors. Using positive reinforcement and other good training skills we can mold these behaviors into ones that are more acceptable to us.

Dog Behavior: Barking

DOG BEHAVIOR: BARKING

Barking is a natural behavior of dogs. Almost all dogs bark, and some bark more than others depending on individual tendencies, learned behavior, and breed type (for example, Shetland Sheepdogs “Shelties” bark as part of their herding behavior, so it is a behavior that people have selectively bred them to achieve). In order to reduce unwanted barking, you must first determine what the dog is getting out of it and what the trigger is (what starts the barking). Here are some common reasons why dogs bark, and how to work with the behavior:

Fear

A dog may bark due to being fearful of a person, another dog, or other animals/things. In this case, the dog is likely barking to “scare away” the thing he is afraid of. An effective way to approach this behavior is to change the dog’s association with the thing that he is afraid of. For example, introduce him slowly to the person, making sure he is comfortable, and use treats, “jolly talk” (happy, encouraging praise), or toys, so that he learns that when he sees the person, good things happen, and that he not only doesn’t have to be afraid but he can actually look forward to seeing that person again. Punishment is especially not recommended in this case as it could make the dog associate unpleasant things with the person he is already afraid of, and cause him to become more fearful.

“Watch-dog” Barking

A dog may bark to sound the alarm that a person or other animal is coming near your home or property. Dogs have been valued for this behavior for many centuries, so it is a very natural behavior for a dog to display.

  • Reward for appropriate behavior: Sit with your dog at the window/door where he usually stations himself to bark. Wait until a person (or other trigger) passes the house, ask your dog to sit and reward him for quietly sitting while the person walks by. Use tiny pieces of a delicious treat so that you can give him multiple treats as the person passes (be generous) and praise in a calm voice. At first it will be helpful to set up training opportunities. For example: have a friend walk past your house multiple times so that your dog can practice the new quiet behavior over and over again, and you can reward him.
  • Time-out: When the dog is barking and you want him to cease, tell him “that’s enough.” Allow him to bark three more times, then if he doesn’t stop, tell him “too bad” and take him by the collar (or clip a leash on) to a time-out area (a bathroom or laundry room works well). Leave him in there for 30 seconds, then let him out again (unless he’s barking while in time-out; if this is the case, do not let him out until he’s quiet). If he comes out and immediately starts barking again, repeat the procedure but this time the time-out period should be two minutes. At first, since your dog will not know what “that’s enough” means, he will continue to bark and you will need to implement the time out. After you’ve done this numerous times, he should stop barking after he hears you say “that’s enough”—be sure to reward him enthusiastically for this! A few tips: Remain calm as you are taking him to the time-out area, the punishment is the time-out, not a reprimand from you. Do not repeat the “that’s enough” cue. Always follow through once you’ve said “too bad.”
  • When you are not home: to prevent barking at people, etc, passing your home when you are not home, keep your dog inside and use a crate or a confinement area where your dog can’t see the area.
  • Barking at Visitors to the Home/at the Door: Often this is excitement rather than protective barking. Either way, teach an alternative behavior. Choose something you’d like your dog to do when someone knocks on the door. For example, go to his bed, go and get a toy, or do a down-stay at a location near the front door. You will first need to teach him to do that particular response on cue in a normal context, not while someone is at the door. When your dog is able to respond to the cue, set up some situations where someone comes to the door and knocks, and you give the dog the cue to the do the trained alternative behavior. Example: knock on door, you cue the dog to lie down and stay on his spot, you reward him. Next step: knock on door, down-stay, walk to door and open it a crack, return to dog and reward. Then: knock on door, down-stay, open door and speak to the person, return to dog and reward. Continue to work on this behavior in steps until the person can come inside and your dog can successfully hold his down-stay until released. It helps if the person is known to the dog at first (a household member, for example) and then you work up to practicing this in “real life.” While you are in the training process, if someone comes to the door and the dog is not ready to hold his down-stay and/or you’re not able to focus on the dog to do training at that time, put your dog in his crate or in another room so that he doesn’t “practice” the unwanted behavior. This approach can also be used as a response to barking at things outside the home.

Barking for Attention/”Demand” Barking

Some dogs learn that barking at a person is the best way to get attention/treats/praise/toys, etc. The most effective way to work on this is to give NO attention whatsoever. Even scolding the dog is attention and may give the dog what he is seeking. If the dog has previously been given attention (or other things that he wants) by barking at you, he is likely to try very hard to get your attention when you ignore him so you must be prepared NOT to give in to the barking. Wait until he is quiet then praise him and give him attention. Try to anticipate the things that he normally would bark at you for and, before he starts barking, ask him to “sit” then give him the attention, toy, invitation to join you on the couch or for a walk, etc. Try to be very aware at what your dog is doing when you give him something he wants or needs. For example, if he is crying when you let him out of his crate, you are rewarding that. Or, if he is jumping up and down in excitement when you put his food dish down, you are rewarding that behavior. Don’t forget to give your dog attention and other things he wants when he is being calm and quiet—the tendency is to ignore the dog then, but it’s important he learns that is the behavior that gets rewards.

Boredom/Social Isolation

If your dog is barking in the yard all day, the best course of action is likely to bring him into the house. If he’s in the yard seeing people and other dogs walk past all day, he’s very likely to bark at them and this is a difficult behavior to change. If he’s bored or lonely in the back yard he may bark all day to relieve the boredom. Dogs are social animals and do best when they have plenty of time with their family. Give your dog toys, plenty of exercise, and mental stimulation (a few minutes of training can tire a dog out in a different way than exercise does). You need to direct how his energy will be spent, if you don’t help him release his energy in appropriate ways, he may resort to barking, digging, or inappropriate chewing in order to expend his pent up energy.

Not recommended

  • “debarking” (a surgical procedure)
  • shock collars.

Crate Training

CRATE TRAINING

Ever notice when your dog lays down under a table or curls up in a corner or under your legs when you prop your feet up to relax? That is the natural denning instinct in action. In the wild, dogs used sheltered and secured places to raise their litters. Dens provided protection from aggressors and were essential for pack survival. A kennel crate, a den-like setting, has the same calming effect on domestic dogs today.

A kennel crate can become a quiet secure place of relaxation and sanctuary for your dog – his very own room. When traveling, a kennel crate serves as a travel cabin so your dog can go with you by car or by plane. Crates are also very effective, humane housetraining tools, since dogs are clean and don’t want to sleep in a soiled place. And for dogs who chew on lots of things, it keeps them safe and protects them from ingesting dangerous materials.

Starting Training:

Buy a crate that provides enough room for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down. For a puppy, be sure to consider his size when full grown.

Decorate her “den” with soft bedding and some favorite toys for playing and chewing will help to make it fun. When dogs have been introduced to their crate while still very young, they grow to consider their crate their special “hang-out” or even their “Chateau”. A towel draped over the crate can make it a cozy den-like hideout. Give your dog water and a treat as soon as you place him inside. And NEVER use a crate for the purpose of punishment!

Introduce the dog to the crate gradually. Place a treat in the crate and let the dog enter and exit the crate on his own. Always reward positive behavior. You can also feed the dog in the crate when you are still at home as a method of introduction.

Begin confining the dog to the crate for a few minutes at a time when you are home and nearby. Wait until she has settled down and is not whining to let her out. Watch for signs of fear and distress such as barking, howling, excessive pawing at the door. If the dog is fearful in the crate, let her out, calm her down and try confining her for shorter periods, until she is comfortable. Then lengthen the time until you can leave her for an hour or two.

When using the crate in conjunction with housetraining, a puppy should only be in a crate a maximum of one hour per month of age. Most puppies at four months can stay overnight for five to six hours before they need to be taken outside for a potty break. A one-year-old adult dog should not be in a crate more than eight hours.

Taking the time to work with your dog to make the crate his special, safe “den” will give you the peace of mind of knowing your dog is comfortable and safe staying alone. It will also give you the opportunity to comfortably include your furry family member at home gatherings and on family outings.

Welles

WELLES

I adopted Welles in January 2009. He was the opposite of outgoing – he was shut down in the shelter, barely acknowledging me when I visited with him, but when I scratched the right spot on his cheek and he leaned in slightly, the deal was sealed.

Right from the start he was a difficult dog — he struggled mightily with reactivity to lots of daily life stimuli and later, separation anxiety so bad he dug through the wall of my apartment in no less than five times. In a lot of cases, this would have been a setup for failure. But thanks to the variety of services and truly amazing trainers in the behavior and training program offered by AHS, Welles and I almost immediately began obedience classes and were set on the right path to deal with his challenges and help him gain confidence.

We started classes literally fenced off in the corner of the training room, practicing attention around the innumerable triggers (dogs, people, sounds, movements, etc.). We ended a few years later with Welles earning his Canine Good Citizen title and starting some basic Rally before we moved to Seattle. Ten years from adoption, Welles is a different dog — still reactive, prone to anxiety, and, at times, difficult to manage — but he is living a happy, healthy life and with a little management, stays home comfortably while we are at work and is able to meet a variety of other dogs happily and even lives with a second pup now!

Our second dog (a 2-year-old Golden) has improved his confidence even more, to the point where they have several neighborhood dog friends whose yards they insist on visiting during most of our walks. It may seem tiny to a lot of people, but seeing Welles calmly walk up to another dog and wag his tail never fails to surprise and delight me. He has a few doggie friends he even offers to play with although he’s now (at estimated 12 years old) arthritic and losing most of his hearing.

I know we wouldn’t have gotten this far without the good start assisted by AHS, so as I’m thinking back on how far he’s come these last ten years, I recognize we owe a huge debt of gratitude to AHS for both saving him and ensuring we were set up for success.

– Kate

Buddy

BUDDY

My husband got the okay to have a dog from the landlord the exact same day we adopted Buddy. We knew we wanted to adopt/rescue because of the many dogs waiting for someone to bring them home. My husband Tucker was out meeting dogs at a different rescue when I called him to drive to AHS Woodbury to meet Buddy.

I saw him online and it said he had been there for quite some time. He was 10 years old at the time with gentle eyes in his picture. I called the Woodbury shelter and they confirmed he was still there because people tend to pass over senior dogs. She told me he was such a sweet boy with a sad heart. I knew immediately that he was meant to be ours.

Tucker met Buddy right before closing and sent me a picture in the meeting room. I started crying and told him to do what he thought was best. A little while later I received a picture of Buddy in the passenger seat of the car, wagging his tail, and “smiling” from ear to ear. He was going home!

We had an instant bond and we are inseparable. Tucker has a very playful relationship with him and Buddy goes to him when he wants someone to play — for a senior dog he has a lot of energy and LOVES squeaky toys. We have a very loving and cuddly relationship, he needs to know where “mom” is at all times and rarely leaves my side. If I am sitting down, he’s cuddling me. He rarely gives kisses but he makes an exception for us.

He is our world and we love him so much. Buddy is very spoiled and we believe he is living his best life with us! We love our senior puppy!

– Cassie