Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Why Do Dogs Dig?

I wondered about this question, each time Joey would dig another hole in our yard. And I ruminated on the answer to this question many times.


Our chocolate Lab would move whole boulders in his industrial digging.

His persistent digging certainly gave me something to do in the mornings and afternoons, filling in holes, that is. Rolling out and laying down chicken wire to secure a certain area, like it was a crime scene.

The hole that Joey dug to escape from our back yard also got filled in with stones and planks. So when he started digging holes everywhere but there, in places that were away from the property line and fence, I was pretty content. "Pick your battles", I learned.

This summer it hit 100 degrees F. on a regular day. On a cool day it was in the 90's. Joey's holes were getting deeper. And larger. And deeper. The roots of our trees were getting pretty exposed.  "Pick your battles", I answered my frustration.

Suddenly one day, I understood.


There he lay, in the cool of his paw-made cabana, under the shade of a tree his chocolate-brown body camouflaged in the speckled browns and whites of the play of dirt, shade, and sunlight, almost like a speckled fawn would be .

And that's why dogs dig!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How to Know When Your Dog Requires Dental Surgery

The weather was hot here, and Joey started going back to his old habit of eating just one bowl of food a day.  Doubtless he and his appetite were overtaken by the heat of the summer.

His morning runs were inconsistent: If the weather hit 100 degrees at 5 a.m., as it did a few mornings, Dad just wasn't taking Joey running. The dog hit his 11th birthday - and the boy just couldn't handle it. As Dad says, Joey started out his old self but by the end, they were more walking than running.

One day Dad noticed Joey had bad breath.  It's hard to miss a dog's bad breath but sometimes dog owners just get complacent.


Bad dog breath was definitely a sign that it was time for a teeth cleaning.  Within one day, we had Joey at the veterinarians for his pre-cleaning blood work.  When the old boy sat on the scale, I was sure there was a mistake. 70 lbs. it read. This is too low.   Joey stepped off the scale, and got back on again - with the same reading.  70 lbs. This dog is too thin!  I was under doctor's orders to increase his food intake.

The next week was Joey's dental cleaning. While he was under anesthesia, the veterinarian noticed that he had a severely cracked tooth that needed to be extracted. Suddenly we saw Joey's weight loss through a different lens. We saw his not eating through a different lens. His tooth hurt and he just didn't want to eat more than a minimal amount every day.

So how can you tell if your dog requires dental surgery?



  • Watch his weight. If he's losing weight rapidly, there may be a health problem. Don't rule anything out: Get him to the doctor's to do a physical.
  • Check his breath.  Bad breath is not just unpleasant but may signal a health issue.  Get your dog to the doctor's for an exam and a cleaning.

It's been around 3 days since Joey's dental surgery and tooth extraction, a long after-effect of his being hit by the car 15 months ago: Joey is back to running, he is back to opening his mouth again!  And he is back to eating.  A lot!  A little incentive (like chicken gravy) never hurts, but he deserves it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

These Are a Few of My Dog's Favorite Foods

You know the routine; you are all alone in your kitchen. You walk on over to the refrigerator or open a container of food.  And - suddenly your dog is there! And he's bearing down on your heals, with his tail wagging. "Where did he come from?" you say to yourself. Or better yet, "Where did you come from?" you ask the dog directly.

I'd read in novels that horses could smell water that was hundreds of miles away. Sure, I thought to myself. Smell water?  But here in my own home is the canine equivalent. Take out a simple baked potato from the oven while the dog is in his bed on the living room - and hello Joey.


Over the years, we've come to pride ourselves on a pretty varied list of foods from which our chocolate Labrador Retriever derives gustatory delight.  These are a few of Joey's favorite foods:


  • oranges
  • grapefruit sections and
  • cherries (not sure if they agree with him and besides they're kind of expensive)
  • blueberries  (really good if you want to be the pitcher and doggie plays the catcher)
  • beets  (Do you hear me? Beets!)
  • potatoes, baked and grilled
  • potato chips
  • can't forget popcorn
  • challah - yes challah. It's in his DNA.
  • grilled salmon
  • nuts - cashews in particular but any will do
  • chicken of course (cooked any way)

  • treats!

How exactly did the Labrador Retriever, out of his Canadian and English ancestry and breeding, develop a taste for corn?  Or citrus?  


Now there are legal limits to how much of these foods we will allow him to eat.  We don't want him to be a beggar, and we want to maintain his slim weight.

And there are also foods that are illegal for him. Prohibido under any circumstances. And these foods are:

  • Anything that contains chocolate is in this category. (This is harmful to dogs).

  • Or onions.

  • Or garlic. (No thanks, onions and garlic dog farts!)

  • Or salsa. (goes right through him)

  • Or carrots.  (dog diarrhea, no thanks)

  • bones and ribs - the kind that are nicely packaged just for dogs, or the kind that your nice neighbors and friends save for your dog from their rib steak dinner. Joey loves 'em! When you are handing him that bone, you feel you are handing him happiness on a stick.  He covets it and protects it, like a child. But two days  later - we have a problem!!  And who's the one walking him tonight???

What are YOUR dog's favorite foods?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Our Dog's Harness

It took a while before we even considered the idea.


There was something harsh about that word. Harness.

Like we were turning our dog into our beast of burden.

But the case was clearly in favor of the harness: Because Joey was so excited when we took him outside, and in particular to a wooded area, he would pull so hard he would choke himself. AHHHH. CHoKKKKe. AHHAHHH. CHuPPPPa. Along with a few "Joey, take it easy. Easy. Slow down." Choking and coughing wouldn't deter this dog. He would just pull and pull. Smart dog!

The harness changed all that.

Around the same time, I started to take Joey to the lake for hydrotherapy. The harness would definitely help there. Also, I saw some photos of a Retriever in the field, with his harness on and his owner at the other end of the lead, and the balance of power between dog and human seemed to be working well.

Truth be told, the harness gave Joey even greater freedom when he walked. When we were out walking on a trail, it reduced the tug on his neck. Less tugging - less choking! Less choking: a happier puppy. As Joey meandered from one side of the trail to the other and back to the first, the harness allowed him to move, in his meandering path, like the Charles River!

Friends of ours use a harness on their new puppy that makes him walk more slowly. The harness we have for our chocolate Lab is perfect for hunting dogs, dogs who love to roam and explore.

So now of course you've been convinced that you need a harness for your dog. There are two parts of getting your dog a harness that you have to master:


1) Getting one the right size, and

2) Figuring out how to - correctly - get the darned thing on your dog.

So you have to ask two questions:

How much patience does your dog have?
And how much patience do you have?

Face it. The dog knows that the harness means, "Yes, I am going to take you outside." So that means keeping him still, while he's as excited as a boy who is seeing snow for the first time.

In our next post, we'll discuss getting the right harness, and how to correctly get the harness on your dog.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Obtain Your Dog's Genealogical Chart

Where's Bolo?

Some people can trace their dog's ancestry further back than they can trace their own!



Monday, May 24, 2010

Oh, My Dog's Arthritis Is Killing Him!

Maybe you're young too young to understand when your mom or grandmom, or dad or granddad, starts complaining, "Oh, my arthritis is killing me!"


If you can't understand your aging parents or grandparents reeling from the aches and pains of arthritis, you certainly aren't going to understand that your dog may be suffering from the same thing - and silently. And if you can, or if you yourself are an arthritis suffering, maybe you will be able to empathize with your dog.

Arthritis can be painful.  And it doesn't just establish itself in humans; it also establishes itself in dogs. And dogs have four legs, and need to take walks every day just to go to the bathroom, so arthritis is a real detriment to a dog, his health, and his happiness.

When Joey started getting up there in (dog) years, we started him on the glucosamine/chondroiten treats.

As always, be an educated consumer when shopping for your dog.
The serving size is based upon your dog's weight.
So let's talk brands.   We choose one popular brand of chewables whose product contains 80 chewables.  Let's do the math to get the correct dosage.  According to their directions, an 80 lb. dog, such as Joey, would need to take 4 tablets daily. That package of Product A would last, thus, about three weeks.

Glucosamine/chondroiten Product B provides 120 chewable wafers.  Sounds better.  Read the label:  The packaging tells you a serving size is "2 wafers" and then below the label it tells the consumer that the serving size is based on weight. Sorry, but couldn't it have said "see below" above, under "serving size"?  At any rate, they're recommending 2 wafers per 20 lbs. of the dog's weight. For Joey, that would mean 8 wafers per day. So our bag of 120 wafers is going to last us slightly more than two weeks.

And so it goes. And so it went, each bag emptying out before we could say "Rover".  So we gave Joey the treats, from time to time, but never with any serious regularity.

Until Joey was hit by the car and got the broken ankle and toes.

After Joey got hit by the car, after the questions "Will he ever run again?" and "Has he learned his lesson?" we heard "Arthritis may set in.

Signs of aging. The white hairs around our dog's mouth are a sign of aging, but maybe he gets some respect out of those white hairs! But arthritis?

So here's what we did right away, as soon as Joey came home from the hospital- and we have continued this religiously:
We add liquid glucosamine and chondroiten EVERY MORNING to his food.

Let's talk about the liquid form. (These were created for horses, so I understand, with their larger body weight.)

First, you can get one with a pump or one without.  (In this latter case, you will fill up the lid and pour the lid over your dog's food).

Either liquid application, with the pump or without, costs a fraction of what chewables with glucosamine/chondroiten would cost.

So what would be the dosage?  Actually, it's pretty easy to figure out.  Here's the dosage of our current brand: A dog Joey's size should have two-thirds of an ounce) 2/3 oz. per day.  This is (two-thirds) 2/3 of a capful.  Easy.  There are 32 ounces to one quart, which means that our liquid is going to provide our Joey with the building blocks for his healthy bones, joints and connective tissues for more than one month.

Now that's my kind of supplement!

And with the dog running every morning, something has to be right!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Your Dog Is Also An Escape Artist? Rules of Thumb

TEST: What is Joey thinking right now?



So your dog is another "Mr. Escape Artist".  And you want to know "How do I keep my dog in?" or "How do I keep my dog from getting out?"

The rules of thumb are:

  1. Never assume that your dog will stay within the boundaries of your yard.

  2. Never say "It's just for a moment."

  3. Never assume that you are only opening the front door "just a little bit".

  4. Never think that your dog loves you so much that he will not stray in order to follow the scent of that other love of his life, the dog that just so happens to be walking on the other side of the block right then.

  5. Never assume that just because your dog is tightly tucked right at that moment inside your garage, whose door is wide open, he is going to remain there.

  6. Never assume that just because YOU cannot see another dog nearby, that your dog cannot SMELL another dog nearby.

  7. Even though your dog weights 80 lbs., never assume that he can't get through a rabbit hole.

Do you notice the number of times that the word "never" appears?

Which brings us to our next comment:

Make sure that your dog's name and your address and telephone number are clearly etched onto the dog tag
... and check the tag from time to time to make sure that the phone number and names are clearly legible to somebody who does not know your dog.

So while we have all these rules of thumb squared away (right?), at our next in this 2-part series let's look at a few other things we can do to keep your dog IN the yard and OUT of the street:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hydrotherapy for Your Dog

Water therapy for dogs? For dogs?


You've probably even seen a treadmill submerged in the water, in the swimming pool at your local health club.
They are used for seniors, for people with arthritis, and for people recuperating from injuries and surgery. But for DOGS?

Yes! For dogs!  And water therapy was one major way by which we brought Joey back to health, stemmed off the threat of arthritis, and returned him to his life of running, safely.

What are the advantages of water therapy? 
In water, there is no gravity, so your dog is not fighting against the pull of gravity from the earth. He is floating in water and all his energy is devoted to moving against the water (and not the pull of the earth).  Pressure is equalized on all sides.

If your dog has an injury, there is no stress directly on the injured area, i.e. no pounding of the pavement or the pads of your dog's feet.(This was important in our case, since Joey had a broken ankle and broken toes.)

Veterinarians recommend it. So what do you need to - or prefer to - do your own hydrotherapy with your own dog?  You need:



  1. a dog harness


  2. a body of water

Obtaining the dog harness is easy.
Any pet store will carry them. Just measure your dog's breadth and length before you pick out the harness to get a good fit.

Obtaining the body of water may be more of a challenge! 
It may be winter and water may be cold, and besides there may not be a body of water near you!  Remember, dogs can, because of their double layer of hair, tolerate colder temperatures that you (we) humans can. But at the first states of hydrotherapy, you need to accompany your dog into the water.

But let's say there is a body of water, and it's warm enough for you to tolerate; what do you do next?  



  1. In the beginning, just walk your dog along the edge of the water.
    Get him used to walking in the water. That will be considerable exercise for a dog who has not been walking regularly due to injury, or for a dog who may be experiencing pain that he cannot communicate to you.



  2. In subsequent days and weeks, get him a little deeper into the water. Continue to walk him.
    Just the water itself will provide resistance and that will be considerable physical therapy for him (or her).





  3. Gradually, you can get your dog fully into the water.  Next, hold him up by the harness, so that he is just floating in the water. Allow him to become comfortable being held by you.


  4. He may kick his legs underneath him to simulate swimming. Good. This is what you want.


  5. Time him.
    Start with 30 seconds. In subsequent days or weeks, increase that to one minute.  Let him rest or swim toward shore. Wait. Then try it again, for 30 seconds to one minute at a time.
Swimming in general is a great activity for your dog and, as mentioned above, he can tolerate much colder water temperatures than we humans can. So as he gets stronger, he can go in the water and swim on his own and it will be a great therapy for arthritis and other conditions.
Finally, don't get arrested!
 Seriously!  I was standing in a body of water about 20 feet from the shoreline, holding Joey up by his harness as he doggie-paddled beneath the water without moving forward, and a policeman came along and told me that it was legal for the dog to be in the water, but not for me to be in the water!

Please share your comments or experiences with doggie hydrotherapy (and/or getting kicked out of a body of water!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pet Insurance: Accidents and Catastrophic Expenses

You love your dog and you want to know if you should shell out the dollars for your doggie's pet insurance.
This is Part 5 of our series, intended to help you think through this decision.

Let's talk dollars and sense, again.  Joey's first trip to the emergency animal medical center, after he was hit by the car (if you're following our story), cost us almost $4,000. 
Let's emphasize that this covered the first five days of emergency trauma care and hospitalization.

Then due to the nature of the ankle fracture, our dog required surgery one month later. That cost just under another $3,000.

Then we add in the additional visits for bandages changes, which were supposed to be weekly for umpteen weeks but our darling chocolate Lab insisted on chewing his bandages and so sometimes we ended up bringing him to the vet twice weekly and if it was an emergency visit, the price tag was even higher.  (I emphasize that in no way are we complaining about our vet or the quality of service. It was the best. I'm just laying out the dollars and cents facts.) So our total spent was somewhat above $7000 to heal Joey (not including our time!).

But I'm not complaining so let's move on:

So notice the figure from our first post about pet health insurance
With a premium of $62 per month, we would have paid $7400 in health insurance in those ten years.
Notice the similarity of the amounts? That means that as of the time Joey was hit by the car, the amount we would have paid into a health insurance policy for him and the amount that we actually paid for his injury would have been equal!

So we ask you the question again: Would you not be better off - in the long run - not purchasing a health insurance policy for your dog, and spending the money as needed?


Let's review: 
What happened to Joey, i.e. his getting hit by a car, was not a pre-existing condition.  It was not a result of a congenital defect (unless you want to consider his enthusiasm for life and for digging his way out as one!).  So we are clear there.

Had Joey had some condition such as hip dysplasia, we would have been paying premiums all along and then the insurance company may have told us that they wouldn't cover him due to its being a congenital defect.

We did have to have a lot of money available, at the drop of a hat, though the hospitals will accept credit cards . But remember, even with pet health insurance, you have to have money up front, as you pay first (and wait until you find out whether they will reimburse you) and they (may or may not) reimburse you.

For us, at eleven years old next month, Joey is now doing great.
He's back to minimal annual examinations and pet care: Heartworm pills, tick and flea Heartguard, food, the cost of kennels etc. when we go out of town, Omega 3 fish oils, Glucosamine/Chondroiten, etc. Routine stuff that your pet insurance isn't going to cover anyway.

But we are going to bet on Joey's continuing to be healthy, and that for a long while at least he's going to continue running.  To us, we're going to say it would be "a wash", economically, that is.  So we feel we're better off in having not purchased Joey a policy, and having done everything we could to maintain his good health!

Oh, and we're keeping a much more careful watch on our dog than we did in the past, to make sure he doesn't get out of the yard again unattended!

But if you're that college student with a new puppy and very few financial resources, and your puppy gets sick, maybe you need to consider a different path. But, like beginners luck with gambling, will you know when to walk away from the slot machine after your big win so that the house won't always win?  Or will you understand the expression, "Bad money follows good?"  Unless you're a senior with a young dog to keep you company, in most cases, I think "the house will win".


By the way, please add your comments and share your experience with pet illness and insurance.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Health Insurance for Your Dog or Cat: Do the Math


This is the fourth installment in our series, "Pet Insurance: Is It Worth It? 

You have this darling little black Lab and you love him so much. Do you get health insurance for him? 
At this point, you may be asking yourselves, "So? What is she going to say in her blog? Is it worth it for me (or us) to purchase health insurance for my cat?" Will I be a horrible pet owner if I do not purchase this pet health insurance?
Here's what I do:  I go onto the web and find one site that reviews pet insurance companies. I see one.  They provide rave reviews from satisfied customers, three satisfied customers. Here are how the three rave reviews begin, and I'll paraphrase, so I don't get sued:
  • Your 11 month old Golden Retriever has accidentally swallowed a stone about the size of a small egg."
  • You're a college student who really can't afford the hidden costs that come with a dog. That being said, ... You spend the approximately $400 to buy the full coverage (0% copay, $50 deductible) .... You figure that, with the average checkup alone costing $120, it would be worthwhile, not to mention the potential for all sorts of terrible things happening to your dog. And you are right! A few months later, your beloved dog tears the ACL in his rear right leg, which requires major surgery.
  • You have a 9-month old Wheaton Terrier. When your puppy was 4 months old she had surgery for ectopic uretors and at 8 months she needed to have her right kidney removed.

In each of the above cases, the dog is very young when he or she is injured.
The owner has invested very little money in his/her pet's health insurance before the dog has had an illness. Of course the owner is going to think he got a good deal.

Pet insurance is also being recommended for seniors.
  A senior will get a pet when he or she is older in life, as a companion, and at that age is often of limited financial resources. If the senior gets a young dog, this can make sense.

So you do the math. 
The dog or cat is young (you've paid out very little into the insurance fund) and has a catastrophic illness (lots of money here). Since the dog or cat is young, there are no pre-existing conditions (which would mean you get no reimbursement). Seems like a win-scenario for the pet owner.  (But keep in mind from our Part 2, that usually you still have to pay the medical bills up front, and you get reimbursed.)

If you and your pet don't satisfy these conditions, we still ask the question: Might not it be preferable for you to put money aside every month into your own insurance savings account for your pet, to use if and when needed, and to then have for yourself, again, if not needed?
So what about our situation, with our dog Joey?  Would purchasing pet insurance for him have saved us any money, in the long run? Stay tuned for our next and final installment of this topic, "

Pet Insurance: Is It Worth It? Should You Purchase It?
"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pet Insurance: Pre-existing Conditions, Congenital Defects

"Pre-existing Conditions" is a term that you have heard referred to for human health insurance. But did you realize that this is a major issue with pet insurance?

And what about this term, "congenital defects and diseases"?  Many people don't even know what "congenital" means!

What do you know about the congenital defects of your darling new family member?

"Congenital" means that it comes with birth. The term "hereditary" also works.

Let's look at the human disease, Cystic Fibrosis. This disease is most common among Causasians in the United States  In the United States, this disease occurs more frequently among Caucasians than among any other ethnic or racial group.  If we took the same situation with a chocolate Lab who developed hip dysplasia, this would be considered, by most pet insurance companies to be a "congenital defect" and would NOT be covered! So you could be paying premiums and your dog could have many healthy years,  and then your dog develops hip dysplasia and you will not be reimbursed.

You may be able to find some pet insurance companies that say that they will cover congenital defects and diseases, but you need to do your homework. Which are they?  Read the fine print.

More than 400 diseases are considered to be congenital in dogs, and over 150 diseases are considered to be congenital in cats. More and more diseases are added each year to this list, as inbreeding continues. We do want our purebreds, right? And if your dog is a mix, do the pet health insurance companies refuse to pay based on both breeds in the mix? 
So before you purchase or consider purchasing pet health insurance, look at the list of congenital defects for your breed of dog. (And this goes for mixed breeds, too!)  Talk to your vet or do some online research.

So much to think about.... So much to learn!  Your dog is your best friend, and you are his.... But make smart decisions.


Our next installment is called "Do the Math".  

>The pet insurance companies are telling you one thing; sure they are!  They are in business. In their advertisements, they are presenting  the side of the story so that you cannot refuse taking out that policy.  You love your pet and want to be a good owner. But you can make a wise decision, if you learn to do the math!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pet Insurance for Your Dog or Cat: Money Up Front

This is Part 2 of our series about Pet Insurance for your Dog or Cat: Is It Worth It?  (Read Part 1)

If you're looking at this post, you're probably looking also at 8 or so Google ads for pet insurance. So you need to be a smart shopper because businessmen have discovered that offering pet insurance is a good way to make money! So with that, let's continue:

Now my husband and I laid out an astonishing amount of money to have our Lab Joey just admitted to the medical center.

But would having pet insurance have had any less of a crash impact on our pocketbooks?

Truth is that most of the dog and cat insurance companies that I saw require you to pay the medical care bills first, and then submit the bill to them, and then they assess the charges and fees and reimburse you as they deem appropriate.

So you have to have the money up front, even with pet insurance.
In some animal hospitals, you can't admit your pet without having the money available; in others, you can't take your pet home without having it. 

That may be having up to $1000., which I saw for many pet owners whose dogs or cats had a diabetic attack, or, in our case, over $3000 for an animal that's been hit by a car, available on a credit card.

And keep in mind that many of these pet insurances also have deductibles that have to be met.

Our next post in this series is called "Pre-existing Conditions and Congenital Defects."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Health Insurance for Your Dog: Is It Worth It? Part 1

I know a lot of people who have dogs, but frankly I don't know that any of them have pet insurance. And yet when Joey was injured, we heard people ask, "Do you have pet insurance?"  The internet is pulsing with ads for pet insurance.
 

Right from the start, I'm saying that we never got Joey health insurance. Do we wish we had? Would we recommend pet insurance?

We are going to begin a short series on this question: Pet Insurance:  Is It Worth It?

First, Joey - and I hope I'm not putting a curse on him by saying this - never was sick one day in his life!  For the most part, until he was hit by the car, his medical care was entirely routine.

The worst medical condition he had was an occasionally skin allergy in the winter, that the veterinarian said was due to the long dry New England winter and his lack of being outside.  (And we solved that problem: After Joey got hit by the car, we started putting Omega 3 oils in his food once per day to help his skin heal and presto, by the next long and hard New England winter, he had only minimal skin dryness!)

So when Joey got hit by the car, and even that first day cost us a pretty penny, naturally we started wondering if we'd made a mistake, if we should have gotten our dog health insurance a long time ago, and we started wondering if it was worth it for us to get it from that point going forward (with the understanding that it would not cover any costs related to his accident).

Even that first day!  We had a fee at the first and local animal hospital that stabilized Joey, then the second and larger 24-hour animal medical center provided acute emergency care, diagnosis, etc.  Joey was in the Intensive Care Unit for 5 days, during which time he had, among other care, dental surgery.

Now, if your pet has an emergency, when you go into the animal medical center, before they will even admit your dog or cat, they will consult a doctor and create a maximum and minimum estimate of charges.  You must have that amount of money in your account or on a credit card account before they will administer your pet and provide emergency services. Your credit care is not actually charged; it's kind of like making a reservation at a hotel. They want to make sure you have the money, but you are not actually charged until the service is provided.

So let's go back to pet insurance. We went online and chose one very well-known company to obtain a free quote. We put in for the maximum coverage: Common Problems, Panic-Moment Problems (aha, here is where our dog gets hit by a car), expensive problems (which includes chemotherapy), routine care, additional care (?) and enhanced cancer care: Hocus Pocus and we have the figure $62. per month. Now do the real math.  Okay, over one year that's $744. Over a period of ten years, that's $7445. Hey, that's Joey's age!  Over a period of 15 years thats $11,160.

So a person would have to have $11,160 in medical bills (and that's after any deductibles and/or co-pays are paid) on medical expenses related to your dog to just break even after 10 years.

Now the caveat is "Pre-existing conditions including congenital defects or diseases". 

Here's where it gets tricky. What exactly is a congenital defect considered to be? Or a congenital disease? And what are the congenital defects and congenital diseases that YOUR dog might have been born with, or might develop, for which you will not be covered?

On a Labrador Retriever, the ever-so-common Hip Dysplasia is considered to be a congenital disease and is therefore not covered!  Did I see a list of exclusions for each breed - what is considered to be a congenital defect - on this website???? Did I hear any of you say "No"?

We looked at another dog medical insurance. In the rolling sidebar, it gave the following example, intended to surely hook you in to the great savings offered by getting pet health insurance:

Example #1:

"Treated for: Colon Cancer Claim Paid: $2647.xx Monthly Premium: $42.xx

Do the math.  This person was paying $507. per month for health insurance for his dog.  So if his dog got colon cancer when he or she was five years old, the dog's owner would have broken even, and if he/she'd gotten colon cancer after that age the owner would have saved money by having pet health insurance. But in our pet insurance's example, how old was the dog when he or she got cancer?  We don't know that!  We aren't told this!  Most dogs don't get colon cancer when they are 5 years old, although Joey's mom was an exception and got cancer and died when she was four. (Cancer is common among Labrador Retrievers, but not so common among other breeds.) So maybe this owner would have done better putting his money in a bank account every month and using it when needed, if needed, and taking that statistical chance.

Example #2:

Treated for: Cruciate Ligament Tear Claim Paid: $2633.xx Monthly Prem.: $37.xx
Do the math.  This pet owner was paying, per year, $444. How old was the dog when he got the ligament tear, or how many years was the person paying for this insurance?  At 5-1/2 years old, the owner was breaking even.  Before that, the owner was saving money. After that, the insurance company was coming out ahead. 


Be a smart shopper.  Be a smart pet owner.
When you see these ads enticing you to purchase health insurance for your dog or cat, do the math - first.
And then there is the question from above: the exclusions for a "congenital defect" and a "pre-existing condition"!  In another post, we're going to take a deeper look at this question: For dogs, what is a "congenital defect and what is a congenital defect or disease considered to be, by these insurance companies?

Part 2: Money Up Front!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Running with Your Dog at Night or in the Dark

This below is what you'll see if you're walking or running down our street in the dark hours, very early in the morning or after the sun has set in the evening. What are these strange blinking lights, only two feet off of the ground?


Many people run in the dark after work; some run in the dark before work!  And while runners pay attention to their own safety, what about the safety of their dog?




Phil is an early-riser, and thus so is Joey. Since Joey was a puppy, Phil has been taking Joey out running at 5 a.m. In the winter and autumn, it's dark at this hour. Also, it's often dark in the late afternoon when Joey gets walked or run again.

Phil has his own see-in-the-dark vest and wears caps with see-in-the-dark stripes. And what about Joey?

First, he has purchased little lights for runners - and he clips them on Joey's collar. Joey wears two or three of these lights - one on either side of his collar. Dad turns them on to flash quickly.

This was especially helpful when Joey was recovering from his car accident, as you see below.


The blinking lights serve two purposes: They help Phil to see where Joey is, and they help cars to see where Joey is. Though there aren't many cars at this hour of the morning, when a car is out, the last thing a driver expects to see is a dark chocolate Labrador Retriever running on the street, so the flashing lights are a great warning beacon.

Occasionally, Phil places a bicyclist's reflective leg band around Joey's (somewhat thick) neck - fastening two together with the velco portions to go fully around.

In this case, it's everybody's safety that is of concern.



There is no doubt that Joey loves running - and we aim to keep him running as long as possible!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cesar Millan and Good Books about Dogs

I never was much interested in Cesar Millan, his books or his show. That was all to change, and Joey had something to do with that.

The months after our dog was hit by a car provided me the time to read and learn a lot about dogs. How much have you read about dogs? About your breed? Here are some of the books, and what I learned from each:

I read the book How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind, by Dr. Stanley Coren, in which Dr. Coren said that dogs, being pack animals, would need to hide any signs of weakness or pain from the pack, as doing otherwise would put them at peril and at risk of being abandoned by the pack. Of course Joey would come home and sit quietly, never whimpering, always stoic, his tail wagging in gratitude and friendship.

I think it's important to understand the pack mentality. Dogs are not people, no matter how many little coats and socks we put on their feet. They are animals and have a long history that precedes domestication. And I believe we need to value and appreciate that history.

Cesar Millan is one of my favorites. I don't read his books but I do see the NatGeo shows and I love watching whether it's on the TV or if I'm on an air flight and his program is being shown. I really recommend you watch his shows. Cesar writes a lot about the energy from a human to a dog. People are not aware of the energy that emanates from them - but a dog is. They sense it, they smell it, they know it in ways we cannot possibly perceive. And they react to it. And one of the things that I really like about his show is that the owners go through a process of understanding themselves, how they react to their dog and what kind of energy they put out, and how the dog reacts in turn. He is clear that dogs are not humans, and we need to work with THEM and what they bring into life and into the relationship.

A lot of people are very opposed to Cesar. I've read comments on blogs - they think he's mean! I think he respects the dog, and out of this respect comes love, and that his perspective is something we all need to learn from. Any time I can watch one of his episodes, I do.