Thursday, April 8, 2010

Health Care and Healthy Pets

Are you a pet owner? Do you have dogs, cats, birds, fish, or other types of critters around your house? Are you a more traditional pet owner, or do you have an interest in the more bizarre creatures available for your personal fulfillment? Are your pets considered part of the family and provide companionship for you, or are they just a fashionable appendage? Are you one of the millions of Americans who enjoy spending time with non-humans? Well, join the crowd. According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey published by the American Pet Products Association, 62% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.4 millions homes. Wow! Now that's a lot of puppy chow!

A healthy pet is a happy pet. No one knows your pets as well as you do so make sure you act on the first odd behavior that your pet displays. Often times owners will try the wait and see approach but some sickness may need immediate attention before it gets worse. According to HealthyPets.com, here's 10 signs that your pet may be ill:

1.) Vomiting or Diarrhea--Your pet may vomit or experience diarrhea from time to time due to a change in diet or unfamiliar consumption. Such cases may not be of much concern but when there’s blood, undigested blood in either their vomit or diarrhea, make sure you visit the vet right away! There may be parasites present or gastrointestinal issues.

2.) Change of Appetite--Pay attention to how long your pet refuses to eat. An unusual period of time can be caused by a serious stomach ache issue. Your pet may refuse to eat their food in hopes of receiving human food; such cases should not be much of a concern. An increased in appetite can also show that they may not be receiving all the nutrients needed and should get checked on for cause of deficiency.

3.) Change in Urination Behavior--A straining pet or one having a hard time urinating may have bladder issues or a urinary blockage. Increased urination can also signal signs of liver, kidney or even diabetes problems. The first sign of a urinating problem should be of major concern!

4.) Skin Problems--Itchy skin or signs of hair loss can be caused by a deficiency in nutrition or a result of infestation or even parasites. Seek for help immediately at signs of excessive hair loss or bald spots as it could also be a sign of cancer.

5.) Weight Loss--Parasites and worms can cause rapid weight loss in pets. Observe their stool and vomit for any signs of tape worms. If no obvious signs are visible see a veterinarian regardless, your pet may be having some digestive issues that can cause rapid lost in muscle mass.

6.) Change in Behavior--Irritated, unusually over active or even less active pets are signs that something is wrong. Lethargic or disorientation of your pet should all be signs of concern.

7.) Unusual Odor--Pay attention to how your pet normally smells. A change in odor can be a cause of infection or disease. Ear infection can cause a nasty change in odor that can be detected by giving a sniff near their ears. A foul smelling mouth can be caused by dental problems and a full body odor may be issues of skin infection.

8.) Runny Nose or Eyes--Excessive runny eyes and of the nose can be signs of diabetes, respiratory issues or at its worse, even cancer. Moderate levels of runny noses and eyes are normal for pets and should not be much of a concern.

9.) Change in Breathing--Seek immediate attention at the first sign of an unusual breathing pattern. A shallow breathing pattern or even an excessive one may be a serious cause of concern. Like humans, our pets can at times experience some episodes of coughs but if the coughs persist then attention must also be given.

10.) Body Temperature--Increased in body temperature alone may not be of any concern, perhaps your pet had just finished actively running around, but coupled with any of the signs above can be an issue of concern. If you are not comfortable rectally taking the temperature of your pet you should seek a veterinarian for help, otherwise a normal resting dog and cat’s temperature is around 101.5F. A reading above or below 103 or 100 should be of concern. Much more details can be found at this site: http://www.healthypets.com/ .

According to HealthyPet.com, You may care to tag along next time your pet is whisked to “the back” of the veterinary clinic for an injection, a diagnostic test, or a nail trim. Perhaps you are curious about what actually goes on “back” there. Maybe you believe that your best buddy will feel more secure if you are present. Whatever the reason, know that if you desire to go where your pet goes and see what your pet sees, this is a perfectly reasonable expectation in most circumstances. Your request might be denied if:
-Your pet is better behaved without you there (all vets have experienced aggressive patients in the exam room who become gentle as lambs when separated from their humans).
-There is something going on that is private (for example, a grieving client) or too graphic for you to see (trust your vet on this one).
-Your dog or cat will be in an area of the hospital that is off limits to humans. For example, in my hospital, in order to avoid radiation exposure, no one other than the patient is allowed in the room where X-rays are taken. Gentle sand bags are used for restraint along with mild sedation if needed.
- The staff is aware that you have a lot to say and no one will be able to get anything done because they will be too busy responding to your questions.

Admittedly, some vets simply don’t like having clients tag along, according to HealthyPet.com. If your doc falls into this camp, some patient persuading on your part may be necessary. Provide reassurances that you will be on your best behavior and remind him or her that large animal vets do practically all of their work in front of their clients. Have you ever accompanied your dog or cat to “the back” of the hospital? Was it a good experience for you? How about for your pet?

According to CDC.gov, pets provide many benefits to humans. They comfort us and they give us companionship. However, some animals can also pass diseases to people. These diseases are called zoonoses. Although animals can carry germs, it is important to know that you are more likely to get some of these germs from contaminated food or water than from your pet or another animal you encounter. Many groups encourage people to enjoy the benefits of common household pets. Because wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, CDC discourages direct contact with wildlife. You should never adopt wild animals as pets or bring them home. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if the animals appears to be friendly. However, if you manage a location that has been properly developed according to suggested animal control methods, your contact with these animals can be managed on a more secure and healthy basis. Also, maintain regular visits with your primary health care provider to monitor your own medical status on an ongoing basis for your personal protection and safety.

As veterinary treatments have gotten more advanced and sophisticated -- and vet bills for serious conditions can quickly add up to thousands -- buying pet health insurance is something to consider, according to WebMD.com. However, only about 5% of U.S. pet owners have pet insurance. Pet insurance is very much like human insurance. Pets live longer and longer lives these days, thanks to advances in medical care. As treatment options have become more sophisticated and more widely available, they’ve also become more expensive. Veterinarians now routinely perform hip replacements and administer cancer treatments.

But longevity definitely comes with a price tag. Pet insurance plans primarily are for dogs and cats, and not much is available for exotic animals like ferrets or reptiles, according to WebMD.com. Basic plans offer reimbursement for accident or illness expenses only. But there are plans that cover such routine needs as vaccinations. Coverage on some plans may include dental care, flea prevention, prescription medicines, and common medical screening tests, such as blood work, fecal examination, and urinalysis . With all plans, there can be caps or limitations on coverage. For instance, a company may pay only up to a certain amount per incident of illness or per accident. And, a plan may or may not exclude a common pre-existing condition that requires fairly inexpensive treatments. You should check the fine print before buying pet insurance.

If you still want to take care of your pet and save money, and your budget is tight, a discount plan membership can help offset expenses for vet bills, medications, and more. There are several vendors in the pet care market place. You can source those companies online or go to a company that will offer you a plan at a very nominal cost for your pets through well known vendors. Careington International (http://www.careington.com/) has a pet discount plan through an extremely well established pet industry company (Pet Assure), and the discounts on services are very good. The plan is only a few dollars a month, and you can cancel it at any time without having to worry about penalties or additional fees. The savings are healthy, just like how your pet will be when you take care of them with one of these plans.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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