Pet Insurance – Is It Worth It?

5/17/16

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The last thing you want to think about when your pet is sick or injured is how much the veterinary care will cost.  Pet insurance helps to cover the cost of unexpected veterinary costs so that you can focus on making sure your pet gets the best care.

Understanding the Cost of Pet Care

Understanding the cost of veterinary care is an important part of making a decision about purchasing pet health insurance.  According to Wallet Hub, dog owners spend an estimated $235 – $776 per year on veterinary care, and cat owners spend $160-$564.  While lifespans vary, that can equate to around $10,000 over the course of your pet’s life!

However, due to the other financial obligations people have, only 3% of dogs and 1% of cats are insured. Of course, those that don’t have pet insurance are asking the question – “Is it worth it?  Is the protection against an unexpected cost of veterinary care worth the monthly premiums?”  There are two basic scenarios to consider:

  • The insurance pays out less than what you paid in premiums because your pet stayed healthy and did not have any accidents.
  • The insurance pays out more than what you put in if your pet does get injured or become ill.

Because either scenario is possible, pet insurance should not be used with the expectation of saving money.  Let’s break down the potential benefits by looking at the numbers:

  • Average life span of a dog:  10-13 years, approximately 11.5 years
  • Average cost of pet insurance for a dog = $32/month (according to pet insurances quotes)
  • Average cost of premiums over a dog’s lifetime = 11.5 years x 12 months/year x $32/month = $4,416
  • Potential estimated savings:  $8,924 (high end of estimated cost of lifetime care for a dog) – $4,416 = $4,508

 

  • Average life span of a cat:  15 years
  • Average cost of pet insurance for a cat = $26/month
  • Average cost of premiums over a cat’s lifetime = 15 years x 12 months/year x $26/month = $4,680
  • Potential estimated savings:  $8,460 (high end of estimated cost of lifetime care for a cat) – $4,680 = $3,780

None of us have a magic 8 ball to know whether or not your pet will get injured or become ill and whether pet insurance will be “worth it.”  However, at Family Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend having health insurance simply to help you soften the financial burden if something unexpected happens, so that you may provide optimal medical care for your pet that you may not otherwise be able to afford.  Pet insurance will provide the peace of mind that you will not have to sacrifice saving the life of your pet due to financial considerations.

What Should I Consider?

When deciding on what insurance is best for you and your pet, consider the following:

  • Do not choose your pet insurance provider based on cost alone. Choose it based on the coverage provided.
  • Choose the right maximum payout structure that first your “worst case scenario costs” (the threshold beyond which you would not be able to pay for your pet’s injury or illness – this will vary for everyone).
  • If possible, choose a plan that has coverage for cancer, hereditary and congenital diseases, continual coverage for chronic disease, medical conditions common to your pet’s species and breed.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered by ANY pet health insurance company. Therefore the sooner you get coverage for your pet the better.
  • Insurance companies have differing deductibles, maximum payouts, and waiting periods and restrictions. Read through policies carefully.

Our Pet Insurance Recommendations

We want pet owners find the insurance that best fits their needs and the needs of their pet.  Here at Family Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend Figo, Embrace, and Trupanion.  (Pet Insurance Review offers a plethora of information to help you choose the right insurance for you and your pet.)

 

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Figo & Embrace at a glance.  Please note that information was pulled from each company’s respective websites and Family Pet Animal Hospital cannot guarantee accuracy of the information.  Please call the insurance provider directly with questions regarding exactly what is covered along with what is excluded.

 

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Sources:

Editor, author, or compiler name (if available).”Article name.”  Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.

Kiernan, John S.  “Is Pet Insurance Worth It?  Pros & Cons Explained.”  WalletHub.  n.d.  Web.  31 May 2016.

“100 Facts About Pet Insurance.”  PetInsuranceQuotes.  n.d.  Web.  31 May 2016.

FDA Update on Jerky Treats

5/5/16

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Update on Jerky Treat Investigation

On May 16, 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update to its ongoing investigation into illnesses and deaths in pets who had consumed pet jerky treats.  According to the statement issued by the FDA, from 2007 through December 31, 2015, the “FDA has received approximately 5,200 complaints of illness associated with consumption of chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, most of which involve products imported from China. The reports involve more than 6,200 dogs, 26 cats, three people, and include more than 1,140 canine deaths.”

Throughout the investigation, the FDA has issued various updates.  The most recent updates indicate a decline in reported incidents in recent years compared to when the initial investigation began in 2007 and the inclusion of all poultry jerky products (versus chicken only) in the Import Alert.  The majority of complaints received involved chicken jerky, but some have included duck or sweet potato, or other treats wrapped with these jerky products.

While the FDA’s testing has attempted to identify a definitive cause or causes of the illnesses, none have yet been determined.  Testing has included analyses for pathogenic bacteria, metals or elements, markers of food irradiation, pesticides, antibiotics and antivirals, mold and mycotoxins, rodenticides, radioactivity, biogenic amines, illegal dye agents, nephrotoxins, and other chemicals and poisonous compounds. “Although it is impossible to conclude definitively in every case whether the events reported were caused by eating jerky pet treats, FDA continues to believe that there is an association between some of the reports and consumption of jerky pet treats.”

The FDA’s investigation into the pet jerky problem continues to be challenging due to a lack of a centralized database for pet illnesses and deaths, the lack of adequate post-mortem information in most cases, and the limited access to market data about food items for pets.  All these factors contribute to the difficulty in evaluating the scope of the issue or accurately determine root causes for the illnesses reported.

 

The FDA “continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet.”  At Family Pet Animal Hospital, our veterinarians recommend that you look for products made in the United States and avoid those manufactured in China.  However, the FDA cautions “Pet owners should be aware … that manufacturers are not required to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products.”

 

Commonly reported symptoms of illness associated with pet jerky treat consumption include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and increased urination.  The symptoms may occur within hours to days of feeding the treats.

What You Can Do:

If you believe your pet has become ill from consuming a pet jerky product, firstly, as always, you should take him/her to his/her veterinarian to be examined.  In order to aid in the FDA’s continued investigation, save the original packaging and file a report electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal.  Additional recommendations for pet owners can be found on the FDA’s website.

 

Sources:

FDA Provides Update on Jerky Pet Treat Investigation.  U.S. Food and Drug Administration. May 16, 2016. Web.  May 18, 2016.

 

The Coconut Oil Myth – Separating Fact from Fiction

5/2/16

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Have you heard of all the magic associated with the addition of coconut oil to your pet’s food?  We know that many people are looking for alternative options to process pet foods.  Unfortunately, much of the hype and misinformation you hear and read will lead you to a diet that is not nutritionally balanced.

Let’s talk about the hype regarding coconut oil.  Television celebrity Dr. Oz has been cheerleading the wonders of coconut oil.  Remember the green coffee bean debacle?  Not everything he promotes is true.  According to Dr. Ken Tudor of PetMD, Dr. Oz claims coconut oil “cures bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, promotes weight loss, promotes ‘good cholesterol,’ and improves the mental skills of Alzheimer’s patients. He stops short of coconut oil getting rid of unwanted facial hair and unwanted house guests, but the implication is that anything is possible.”

Does it sound too good to be true?  You bet.  We recommend that coconut oil not be used as the sole source of fat in a pet’s homemade dog food diets or added to commercial dog food. Why?

Separating fact from fiction about the wonders of coconut oil

Does not provide daily fat requirements for dogs

According to Dr. Tudor, “To meet the daily fat needs of dogs, every 1,000 calories (kilocalories, actually) needs to contain 2,700 mg of the omega-6 fat called linoleic acid, and 107 mg of the omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid. Coconut oil contains only 243 mg of an undifferentiated form of linoleic acid (omega 6).”  Dogs and cats are not capable of efficiently converting omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.  In other words, coconut oil as a sole source of fat in your dog’s diet will be deficient in what he/she needs in regards to essential fatty acids.

Does not protect against bacteria,viruses, or fungi.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has been shown to kill some bacteria, viruses, and fungi in laboratory experiments.  However, the amount needed to kill germs in laboratory culture dishes is greater than can be consumed.  Research has NOT shown that coconut oil protects humans or animals from infection at normal amounts of consumption.

It also raises the blood levels of “bad cholesterol.”

In addition to raising the levels of HDLs, or “good cholesterol,” in the blood, coconut oil also increases the blood levels of LDLs, or “bad cholesterol.” Fortunately this is not a problem for pets since cholesterol is not a factor in their heart disease.

Does not improve congnitive function

According to Dr. Tudor, “Geriatric cognitive disorders, or dementia, are very similar to Alzheimer’s and are real disorders in pets. That cat that howls for no reason at night or the dog that stares at the wall and seems confused are suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like brain change.”  Some human Alzheimer’s patients have shown improved mental function after adding coconut oil to their diets.  However, there are no evidence-based studies that show that coconut oil positively impacts degenerative brain function in pets.

The bottom line is that coconut oil adds 120 calories for every tablespoon without adding any appreciable nutritional value. Adding it to a commercial diet is adding unneeded fat calories, much like an unnecessary treat. And it is certainly a recipe for fat malnutrition for those using it exclusively in their pets’ homemade diets.

Source:  http://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ken-tudor/2015/july/coconut-oil-over-hyped-super-food-pets-32910