Ask-A-Vet Put 24/7 Professional Pet Care at Your Fingertips

Raising a pet is a 24 hour job. We think you should have a support system to match. That’s why PetPlus is launching the Ask-A-Vet service, powered by whiskerDocs – a service dedicated to giving you around-the-clock access to pet professionals. With licensed vets and vet technicians on staff, getting expert answers tailored to your specific pet care needs is now just a phone call, web chat, or email away.

Picture this – it’s late Sunday evening and out of nowhere your dog starts whimpering and lumbering around. What do you do?

Oftentimes pet care questions cannot wait until Monday. Sure, you could scour the internet looking for an answer – but who is on the other end providing the information? And how can you tell if it is relevant to your individual situation? Taking pet care advice from an unknown source that is unaware of your pet’s unique circumstance is never a good idea.

You could also rush over to an emergency vet hospital and spend upwards of $500 just to walk in the door.  Any way you slice it, getting reputable pet care advice when you need it can be tricky. That is what makes the Ask-A-Vet service  such a useful tool. Rather than sifting through thousands of websites for a half-baked solution or paying top dollar for a trip to the emergency room, now you can tell a licensed veterinarian or technician exactly what is going on with your pet.

What makes the PetPlus Ask-A-Vet service even better? For PetPlus members, this service is 100% free! Now that’s something to bark about.

You can learn more about how to use the Ask-A-Vet service by checking out the Member Area of PetPlus.com.

The PetPlus Ask-A-Vet service is not a replacement for routine vet care. If you pet is having a true emergency, please take your pet to the nearest emergency hospital right way.

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Top 5 Reasons to Take Your Pet to Their Annual Vet Visit

Some pet parents may wonder if the annual vet visit is really worth the time and the cost. The short answer? Yes! Your pet’s annual vet visit plays a big role in maintaining their overall health, and can go a long way in preventing and treating diseases before they become serious or expensive.

So what are the top 5 reasons to take your pet to an annual vet visit? Let’s take a look.

1. A Thorough Once-Over

Your pet’s annual vet visit gives your veterinarian an opportunity to thoroughly examine your pet, from head to paw. Many pets hide symptoms of illness and injury (cats especially are famous for staying quiet when they’re unwell), but your veterinarian knows what to look for, and how. Your vet will feel your pet’s body, coat, and skin, check their ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and listen to their heart and lungs. They will also take your pet’s temperature, weigh them, and may carry out blood tests. A thorough once-over not only allows your vet to make sure that all parts are in working order, it also gives your vet a chance to detect problems before they become serious or costly to treat.

2. Vaccination Boosters

Vaccines keep pets protected from certain diseases, and after your pet’s initial doses, they may require boosters to keep the vaccines effective. Most pets require 2-4 boosters per year and receive them at their annual vet visit; if you slack on making an appointment, you are putting your pal at risk. Don’t wait!

RELATED STORY: All About Vaccinating Your Dog

3. Heartworm Test and Fecal Exam

These are two important tests that your pet will undergo at the annual vet visit. The heartworm test is a blood test that checks for heartworm disease, which is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by parasitic worms. A fecal exam checks for gastrointestinal parasites that could harm your pet (and in some cases, you) if left untreated.

4. Additional Services

Some pets may require additional services at their annual vet visit, such as dental cleaning if your vet notices signs of dental disease, or allergy testing if you mention that your pet has been itching, scratching, or rubbing their face. The annual vet visit is the perfect time to cover all the bases and take care of outstanding issues.

RELATED STORY: Symptoms of Allergies in Cats and Dogs

5. Opportunity to Ask Questions

Maybe you’ve been wondering if your cat sleeps too much or if your dog’s food is right for them. While you should always contact your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health or habits, many pet parents wait when the question doesn’t seem pressing. The annual vet visit is a great time to bring in a list of questions and talk to your veterinarian candidly about your pet’s routines, behaviors, and nutrition. You might end up with answers that can help your pet live a happier, healthier life.

What are you waiting for? Contact your veterinarian now to schedule your furry friend’s next appointment. And if you want to save 25% on vet visits, sign up for PetPlus! Find out more at PetPlus.com.

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6 Tips for a Stress-Free Vet Visit

It’s the rare pet who actually enjoys a trip to the vet. In fact, such an animal is probably rarer than a unicorn. However, there are ways to make trips to the vet slightly more pleasant for everyone, although it will take a little more work and foresight to pave the way for a smooth vet visit.

1. Touch your pet like a vet would.

One of the reasons vet visits are so startling to pets is that the vet touches them in ways and places they aren’t accustomed to. You can help your pet feel comfortable with these unusual methods of touching by playing doctor and rehearsing a veterinary exam.

Your vet will examine your pet from head to tail, and may palpate – or gently press down using the hands – different areas of your pet’s body, like the neck and the belly. Lift up your pet’s tail, and run your hands all over your pet, including the feet and nails.

RELATED STORY: The Ever-Important Dog Physical Exam

2. Don’t get nervous.

Be aware of you own energy, because your pet can feed off your anxiety. If you realize you feel nervous on the day of the vet visit, be sure to take some deep, cleansing breaths to lower your heart rate. Stick to your regular routine, including walks, which will help to burn off that nervous energy.

3. Use a calming collar.

If your pet seems to really panic at the idea of a trip to the vet, then consider purchasing a calming collar for your cat or your dog. The soothing scents of chamomile and lavender may help to comfort and relax your pet.

RELATED STORY: How To Know If Your Dog Has Anxiety

4. Don’t use a carrier only for vet visits.

If your pet only sees the inside of the carrier when it’s time for the vet, then that little box is going to represent a cage of panic and grief for your animal. If you use a carrier at home as a safe place for your pet to snuggle and nap, then it won’t seem like such a big, stressful deal to hop in the carrier for transportation to the vet.

5. Practice car rides for other fun reasons.

Likewise, if your pet only rides in the car on the way to the vet, it’s going to be a very long car ride for both of you. Try taking your pet on other excursions in the car, for example, to drive your dog to a meadow for a hike.

RELATED STORY: 5 Steps To A Safe Drive With Your Dog

6. Use treats strategically.

If your cat enjoys catnip, then plan on using it strategically, because the effect only lasts about 5 to 15 minutes. Figure out the worst part of the vet visit for you; is it coaxing your cat into the carrier, or the part where you open the carrier for the vet? Use your kitty treats or catnip with those circumstances in mind to keep the effectiveness high.

Likewise, if you know you have a visit to the vet approaching, get a little stingy with your treats for your dog until it’s ‘go time’ for maximum effect. A dog with a belly that’s already loaded with treats isn’t going to be too interested in your bribery.

How do you keep your pet calm for a vet visit? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Sign up for PetPlus and save up to 75% on your pet’s medications plus discounts on boarding, supplies, and more. 

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6 Common Pet Health Myths Debunked

Pet health is a complicated topic, and with so much information at our fingertips these days, it can sometimes be difficult to separate fact from fiction. There are a lot of myths floating around, and in some cases, believing them could be harmful to your pet’s well-being. Here we’ll look at 6 of the most common pet health myths, and then give you the facts!

Remember: never hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you have ANY questions about your pet’s health. Making that phone call can not only save you time and anxiety, it could also save your pet’s life.

MYTH #1: If a dog’s nose is warm or dry, it means that they are sick.

FACT: The temperature or wetness of a dog’s nose is no indication of their health status. Many dogs have a warm and dry nose when they first wake up, for example, and a wet and cold nose after drinking water. While a warm or dry nose is no indication of a health problem, you should contact your veterinarian if you ever notice any unusual changes to your dog’s nose, such as crusting, bleeding, or discharge.

MYTH #2: Cats get sick less often than dogs.

FACT: Cats can get sick just as often as dogs (even indoor cats), but they are more likely and more capable of hiding their symptoms than dogs — in fact, they are famous for doing so. This makes it all the more important to keep up with your cat’s annual visits to the vet so that your veterinarian can give your cat a thorough once-over and check for any health conditions that they might be hiding.

RELATED STORY: The Importance Of Taking Your Cat To The Vet

MYTH #3: Pets only need to be protected from heartworms in the summer months when mosquitoes are active.

FACT: The American Heartworm Society suggests that all pets — regardless of where they live — should be protected all year round. Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition, so make sure that your pet is protected with a heartworm preventative, such as a tablet or topical treatment.

MYTH #4: Dogs eat grass to make themselves throw up.

FACT: This myth gets a lot of play, but the truth is that while eating grass CAN cause vomiting, it is most likely not the reason that your dog is consuming it. Many dogs consume grass because they simply like the taste, because they are bored, or because they have learned that eating grass will start a fun game in which you chase your pal to get them to stop. Eating small amounts of grass shouldn’t be harmful to your dog, but make sure that they aren’t also eating poisonous plants or foxtails, and contact your veterinarian if the habit seems to be getting worse.

RELATED STORY: Dog Vomiting Mucus? Here’s Why, And What You Can Do About It

MYTH #5: Feeding your pet garlic can rid them of tapeworms.

FACT: This myth most likely got started because of garlic’s pungent smell. It has also been suggested that garlic can treat and prevent fleas. The truth is that garlic won’t do a thing for tapeworms or fleas, and in fact, garlic is poisonous to pets and can cause anemia if consumed in large quantities. If you ever notice tapeworms (they look like small grains of rice) in your pet’s stool or near their rear end, contact your veterinarian. They will most likely prescribe a deworming medication. To protect your pet from fleas, use an oral or topical treatment.

MYTH #6: Pets take care of their own dental health, so you don’t need to brush their teeth.

FACT: Pets need all the help they can get when it comes to dental care. Most veterinarians agree that 75% or more of the health problems they see in pets are related to periodontal disease or gum disease, and studies have shown that most animals have signs of dental disease by 3 or 4 years old! While feeding crunchy dry food and giving your pet healthy chews or dental chews like Greenies can help to reduce some tartar buildup, you still need to brush your pet’s teeth. Brushing your pet’s teeth every day is the best course of action, but doing it at least once a week can go a long way in preventing dental problems.

Know any other pet health myths? Leave a comment and let us know, and consider signing up for PetPlus to save on your pet’s health care and more.

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10 Questions To Ask Your Vet About Your Senior Dog at Your Next Visit

Senior dogs have special needs, and asking the right questions at their annual vet visit will ensure that all bases are being covered. Since geriatric dogs are at a higher risk for disease, you’ll want to not only ask about their current health, but also about what you can do to prevent and identify future problems. Here are the top 10 questions you should be prepared to ask the vet about your senior dog.

1. “Is my dog a healthy weight?”

This question should really be asked at any vet visit, regardless of your dog’s age. Of course, with an older dog comes higher health risks, so be aware of any significant weight gain or weight loss, as it could be symptomatic of hypothyroidism, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, congestive heart failure, bladder stones, or diabetes. A healthy weight is also important for a senior dog’s joint, bone, and cardiovascular health.

2. “Is my dog’s food OK?”

Many owners of geriatric dogs pick out their dog food by selecting a bag labeled “senior,” and calling it a day. While many foods formulated for senior dogs will be perfectly fine for yours, others might not meet their specific nutritional needs. Bring a bag of your dog’s food with you to the vet and they will let you know if you can keep feeding it to your dog or if you need to make a switch.

3. “Is our exercise appropriate?”

Exercise can help keep senior dogs from developing arthritis, congestive heart failure, and obesity. However, your dog’s exercise routine will likely change as they get older, and they may not be able to be as active as they were once. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an exercise routine that is appropriate for your dog.

4. “Do the hips look OK?”

Because dogs evolved to hide their pain as a survival mechanism, there may not be any signs if your senior dog is suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia. Osteoarthritis in the knees can ultimately result in hip problems, as can crepitus, which is a buildup of air where it should not normally be. Your veterinarian will give your dog a once over to assess their bone health and provide tips on how to detect joint pain even if your dog is trying to hide it.

5. “Could supplements benefit my dog?”

Supplements can work wonders on a number of health conditions that plague senior pets. For example, the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin can help relieve joint discomfort and slow the progression of arthritis. After your vet has examined your dog, ask if they would recommend any supplements.

6. “Is my dog’s urine OK?”

This everyday act can say a lot about your dog’s health. Dogs who begin urinating more or less may be suffering from a condition such as kidney disease, cancer, or diabetes, and many age-related diseases such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, bladder stones, urinary tract infection, and cystitis can all have an affect on how your dog urinates. Talking to your vet about your dog’s peeing habits can help in determining if an urinalysis or other testing is needed.

7. “Does my dog have tumors?”

Cancer is not uncommon in senior dogs. In fact, fifty percent of all dogs over the age of ten will have cancer at least once. The initial symptoms of cancer can be difficult to spot, but asking your vet to check for tumors at each visit will help in early detection, which can greatly benefit your dog’s chances of survival. Watch how your vet examines your dog for tumors so that you can do it at home between visits. Many lumps and bumps felt on senior dogs will end up being benign cysts, but it is better to be safe and contact your vet for final diagnosis.

8. “Are my dog’s teeth and ears OK?”

A dog’s dental health can have a huge impact on their overall wellness, and periodontal disease is the number one condition affecting senior dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean, or how you can treat an already infected mouth.

Ear infections are the second most common health problem treated by vets. Most veterinarians will check your dog’s ears as part of the physical examination, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. When your vet checks your dog’s ears for infection they will also be checking their hearing, which can get worse with age.

9. “Is blood work needed?”

Many veterinarians recommend that senior dogs get blood tests every 6 to 12 months. These tests allow your vet to examine your dog’s blood chemistry, blood count, and thyroid condition. Regular blood testing can also help to identify kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes before they become severe. As with many other things, prevention is often the best treatment.

10. “What vaccinations does my dog need?”

Most dogs will receive vaccinations when they are puppies and then continue getting boosters for the rest of their lives to keep the vaccines effective. Of course, not all vaccinations are appropriate for all dogs, so ask your veterinarian which are right for your senior.

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What are the Average Vet Visit Costs?

Every pet parent should take their pet to the veterinarian once a year for a check-up. The annual vet visit is essential to maintaining your pet’s overall health — it is not only an opportunity for your vet to catch any problems during an examination, it is also when your pet will receive their vaccination boosters and undergo important health tests. You might be avoiding these routine visits because of the cost, but the fact of the matter is that regular maintenance of your pet’s health can save you money in the long run. So just how much does a vet visit cost? Let’s crunch the numbers.

Standard Vet Visit Costs Include:

There are standard services and costs built in to every annual visit to the veterinarian, and pet parents should budget accordingly.

Office Call: The office call cost includes the appointment and the examination performed by your veterinarian. This cost can vary depending on your geographic location and the veterinarian, or clinic, that you visit. The average cost of the office call is $45-$55.

Vaccine Boosters: Vaccine boosters are the shots that are given to keep vaccines effective after the initial dose. Some vaccinations require boosters while others do not, but most pets end up needing 2-4 boosters per year. Booster shots generally range between $18-$25.

Fecal Exam: A fecal exam is conducted to check for gastrointestinal parasites, and it generally costs $25-$45.

Heartworm Test: This important test checks for heartworm disease, which is an often fatal condition caused by parasitic worms. The average cost of blood testing for this disease is $45-$50.

Extra Vet Visit Costs

Some cats and dogs may require additional services at the annual vet visit, and these can vary depending on your pet’s age and medical condition.

Dental Cleaning: Many pets undergo a dental cleaning during their annual check-up. Your veterinarian will usually recommend it if they see signs of gingivitis or if you mention that you have noticed bleeding during teeth brushing. The cost will vary between dogs and cats, but the procedure typically costs $70-$400.

Allergy Testing: Dogs and cats suffering from allergies will often exhibit symptoms such as licking, itching, and sneezing. If you or your veterinarian suspect that your pet has developed allergies, testing may be ordered. Allergy testing is performed with either a blood test or an intradermal skin test. The average cost of a blood test is $200-$300, and an intradermal skin test usually costs $195-$250.

Geriatric Screening: Pets who are older — usually 7 years and up — must undergo geriatric screening. This thorough exam typically includes blood work and chemistry, urinalysis, x-rays, and other testing. Geriatric screening generally costs $85-$110.

Surgery and Other Treatments: Certain medical conditions and injuries may require surgery or other treatments. Depending on your pet’s specific health issue, a bill north of a thousand dollars could be expected.

Your pet relies on you to keep them healthy, and there is no excuse for not visiting the veterinarian once a year. If you are finding it difficult to pay for your pet’s health care, you may want consider purchasing pet insurance or signing up for a pet health care savings plan such as PetPlus.

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