Understanding Pet Insurance

Top Dog Medical Conditions

  1. Ear Infection
  2. Skin Allergy
  3. Skin Infection/Hot Spots
  4. Gastritis/Vomiting
  5. Enteritis/Diarrhea
  6. Bladder Infection
  7. Arthritis
  8. Soft Tissue Trauma
  9. Non-cancerous Tumor
  10. Eye Infection

I found some helpful links explaining pet insurance. The best article comes from Consumer Reports (CR). CR says go with pet insurance if it’s less than your yearly vet bill. You can look up yearly averages for vet bills on the ASPCA’s web site (see links below). CR pointed out the negative aspects of pet insurance including the exclusions for preexisting and breed specific conditions. The best source of information explaining what pet insurance is can be found in a guide for veterinarians. You have to take it with a grain of salt because the source is sponsored by the pet insurance industry. This article was very displeased with Consumer Reports and ignored CR’s mention of exclusions for coverage. Still, it was very informative. Here’s an excerpt:

Pet health insurance is not true medical insurance. It is fee-for-service indemnity insurance, similar to your auto or homeowner policies. Indemnity insurance policies provide compensation for accidents or other losses covered by the policies. Persons insured by these policies have contracts with the insurance provider and submit claims to their insurers for reimbursement of costs they incur. The insurers generally pay only a portion of the costs incurred by the policyholder as specified by the policy.

Complications of debarking surgery

Someone forwarded me a link to a recent news article about debarking. I noticed this article fails miserably in providing dog owners relevant information regarding this surgical procedure. The article only mentions the possibility of difficulty breathing as a result. Yes, this is a serious consequence and there many more. The medical term for debarking is vocal cord cordectomy. Here is a list of complications.

Risks of Vocal Cord Cordectomy (Debarking)

  • Compromised airway
  • Dysphagia (problems swallowing)
  • Adhesions
  • Formation of granulation tissue
  • Stenosis (hardening) of the windpipe
  • Infection
  • Cutaneous fistula (hole in the windpipe)
  • Bleeding
  • Aspiration pnuemonia
  • Gastrostomy tube dependence (relying on a feeding tube)
  • Tracheotomy dependence (relying on a breathing tube)
  • Death


  • Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery, 4th ed., Cummings, (2005)
  • Management of Early-Stage Laryngeal Cancer, Nishant Agrawal, MDa, Patrick K. Ha, MD, Otolaryngol Clin N Am 41 (2008) 757–769
  • Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology (7th Edition), Editors: DeVita, Vincent T., Hellman, Samuel, Rosenberg, Steven A., (2005)

Weather Related Paw Injuries

Rock salt
Rock salt
I have trouble walking my cocker Hoshi during the winter because of snow and ice. I experience more paw problems during this season. First, wet snow sticks to Hoshi’s paws making it uncomfortable to walk. It’s only a matter of time before Hoshi has to stop his walk and chew snow or ice from his paws. His chewing and licking actually worsens the problem below zero because his saliva freezes on the paws too. Secondly, repeated exposure to snow and ice will cause paw problems. The skin may crack and painful sores may form. Sometimes these sores become infected–that was my experience with my first cocker Gabby. Hoshi’s coat is much longer than Gabby’s making it difficult to keep dry. I’ve started a habit of blow drying Hoshi’s coat when he comes home wet from his walks. I’m hoping this may prevent infections.

Another wintertime problem is irritation from rock salt and ice melters such as calcium chloride. The combination of exposed unprotected paws, wet sidewalks, and ice melters can cause serious injuries. If you Google calcium chloride, you’ll find out it can cause skin ulceration and necrosis under the conditions mentioned above. You certainly wouldn’t want your dog licking off all that salt from his paws either.

Yesterday’s walk was a disaster. The streets and sidewalks were all messy with melted snow along with rock salt the city spread along the street and salt my neighbors laid on their sidewalks. I had to zigzag down street avoiding as much salt as I could. Sometimes I had to pick Hoshi up and carry him over salted sidewalks.

Wintertime Paw Hazards:

  • Difficulty walking from snow and ice buildup on paws.
  • Frostbite from unprotected skin.
  • Cracked paws from repeated exposure to icy conditions.
  • Skin injury from rock salt and ice melters.


  • Limit time outdoors.
  • Avoid getting paws wet.
  • Avoid salt on street and sidewalks.
  • Rinse and dry paws off after walk.
  • Apply skin protectants to paws such as Bag Balm or Musher’s Secret.
  • Apply dog boots to protect skin.
  • Inspect your pet’s paws for sores, cracks, swelling or discoloration. Are your pet’s paws painful? Are they licking or chewing their paws? If so, contact your veterinarian.

Summertime Paw Hazards:

  • 1-2 degree burns from hot surfaces such as asphalt or truck bed.


  • Be mindful of your environment. If it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your pet.
  • Inspect your pet’s paws for sores, swelling or redness. Are your pet’s paws painful? Are they licking or chewing their paws? If so, contact your veterinarian.

Puppy Stew (home cooked version of Spot’s Stew)

  • 1 whole chicken (I also chop up the heart etc. and put that in) OR 10 chicken thighs. If using thighs, add a few chicken livers
  • ¾ head of garlic (not one clove but a head)–( use 1 TBS. minced garlic)
  • 1 handful of broccoli (cut up)–or ½ package frozen
  • 4 carrots (cut up)–or ½ bag frozen, sliced
  • 2 whole zucchini (cut up with skin on)
  • 1 whole yellow squash (large, cut up with skin on)
  • handful of green beans, fresh, (OR ½ bag frozen)
  • 3 stalks of celery (chopped)
  • 1 handful of peas (or canned or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon of parsley
  • 2 cups of oatmeal (put in the last ½ hour cooking time)

In a 10 qt stock pot (stainless steel ONLY) put 2-3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil, heat and add the chicken, bones, skin and all. Fill pot with water to cover chicken. Add veggies and more water to cover. Cook over low to low-med heat for 2 hours. Add oats at the end or they tend to stick. After the stew has finished cooking (carrots are soft), take the chicken out of the mix and let cool…when cool debone it and mix it back into the stew. I then use an electric mixer thing to mush all of it together.

Freeze what you don’t need immediately after it has cooled. (One batch makes about 30-34 cups of stew)

You will notice an improved dog. More energy, better coat, skin, ears and most of all, you will see them acting like a puppy again. Breakfast and dinner will be a fun event.

Our dogs actually watch us making this and their little noses twitch in delight all day long.

As a side note, if your dog doesn’t do well on chicken, you can substitute a different protein source. For instance, beef cubes or ground beef, turkey or ground turkey, etc.

If you compare the price of homecooked to store bought, this is by far a more reasonable way to go.

We also use some raw foods in the dogs diet.

It is recommended that you also use supplements and vitamins when home cooking. Some suggest ¼ of a centrum vitamin. Some use Missing Link. We usually mix this in with their Evo Kibble or Merrick kibble.