For the grieving mother of a Marine who died in Afghanistan, a special dog provides a unique link to her son.

“I know that Colton passed his love on to this dog, and that's why he's so loving,” said Kathy Rusk at a ceremony honoring the bond between Eli, a bomb-sniffing black Labrador Retriever, and Pfc. Colton Rusk.

At the ceremony, Eli mustered out of the military, just months after his human partner, Pfc. Rusk, 20, of Texas, died in a firefight in Afghanistan. Pfc. Rusk’s family members adopted Eli.

During their time together, Pfc. Rusk and Eli are credited with saving the lives of other troops by uncovering bombs, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The New York Times has reported the Marine Corps is increasingly relying on dogs on the battlefield. In 2007, just nine bomb-sniffing dogs worked with Marines in Afghanistan. That number is expected to reach nearly 650 by the end of the year.

U.S. Air Force spokesman Gerry Proctor said the trend reflects dogs’ effectiveness in reducing the threat posed by bombs.

“There is no technology that can replace a dog for its sense of smell. Mechanical means are only about 50% effective, and the dogs have to certify at 95% effective,” Mr. Proctor said during a Washington Post live chat earlier this month.

Mr. Proctor, who is stationed at the base in Texas where the dogs are trained, said soldiers often develop a deep bond with their animal partners.

“It depends on the individual,” Mr. Proctor said. “But I have never known a handler that said they didn’t have a close significant bond with their dog. These people aren't put into this program, they ask to be part of it.”

To see a photo essay of war dogs in action, visit ‘War Dogs,’ from Foreign Policy magazine.

Send us your patriotic photos of your pet and tell us your story about ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Watch our blog for a July 4 tribute!

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Pet Health Insurance Headlines

Photo Friday: Relaxing Tabby

“My cat has suffered from bladder problems. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance has helped us pay for the costly veterinary procedures so he could get back to being healthy again.” 

—Submitted by: An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Pet Parent*

Photo Friday is a weekly column that showcases photos we receive from loving ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customers of their pets. If you want to see your pet featured, please email me!


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Customer Stories

Help Animal Flood Victims

In the wake of historic flooding and storms that have devastated the Southeast, the ASPCA® is asking for help to continue its efforts to save displaced animals. Our friends at the ASPCA have established a special fundraising campaign to support this lifesaving work that spans nine states.

Tim Rickey, senior director of field investigations and response for the ASPCA, said the flooding and tornadoes that have ravaged the Southeast are the worst he’s ever seen. Tens of thousands of animals have been affected along with residents, Mr. Rickey said.

“We see entire communities flooded. Animals are stranded on dog houses, in trees and other small patches of dry space,” Mr. Rickey said. “For many of these victims, rescue is their only hope for survival.”

ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres said the ASPCA has focused its work in Pemiscot County, Mo., and Shelby County, Tenn., at the request of local authorities and animal welfare groups. The ASPCA has assisted other communities with sheltering needs, transporting displaced animals to temporary shelters, conducting field assessments and offering supplies such as pet food to residents. Staff and ASPCA volunteers had helped nearly 6,600 animals as of May 23. Through one Memphis, Tenn., warehouse, workers assisted more than 3,000 animals and provided supplies to 12 communities in six states.

The ASPCA has established a dedicated contribution area to help support this effort.

The ASPCA also is carrying out plans to move animals who were in shelters before the storms to make room for others displaced by the disaster. So far, 46 dogs from shelters in eastern Arkansas and 70 dogs from Georgia and South Carolina have moved to shelters in New York and New Jersey.

“The ASPCA’s Animal Relocation Initiative moves animals from areas of oversupply to areas where there are few, if any, similar pets available in shelters for adoption,” Mr. Sayres said. “In this case, moving shelter animals out of the weather-affected areas increases local organizations’ abilities to rescue or shelter animals until they are reunited with their families.”

Mr. Sayres says the ASPCA is committed to continuing to help the communities in need.

“Our responders’ tireless work, expert care and unyielding commitment to the protection of animals are playing an integral role in the relief efforts in the Southeast,” Mr. Sayres said. “Disasters of this scale can cause widespread, unpredictable devastation, but our staff has stepped forward and seized the opportunity to help these communities both prepare for and respond to the needs of the thousands of animals affected. We will continue to do everything we can to help these communities as long as we’re needed.”

Click here or on the image below to help with the ASPCA‘s relief efforts.

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ASPCA Happenings

Yesterday, we quizzed your knowledge of spaying and neutering benefits.

Here are a few more points to consider:

5. Spaying or neutering affects personality.
False: Spaying or neutering won’t change a pet’s core personality traits like friendliness, playfulness or curiosity. However, it could reduce some unwanted behaviors, like frequent urination in females (to attract males) spraying in male cats (to mark territory).

6. You should spay or neuter your pet earlier rather than later.
True: You should talk to your veterinarian about the best age to spay or neuter your pet, but there are advantages to having it done while your pet is young. Younger pets may be less likely to experience complications from surgery. Shelters often spay or neuter pets as young as 6 weeks to 8 weeks old to help ensure that they don’t contribute to pet homelessness.

7. Pets who get “fixed” get fat.
False: Spaying or neutering does not necessarily mean your pet will pack on the pounds. The major culprits of obesity are inactivity and poor diet. Spayed, neutered or neither, your pet should eat a well-balanced pet food, go easy on the treats and get enough exercise to stay fit and trim. Ask your veterinarian for specific diet and exercise recommendations for your pet.

Want to know more about spaying or neutering? Check out this article in our Pet Health Library or read the Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet at the ASPCA’s website.

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ASPCA Happenings

Spaying and Neutering Benefits That May Surprise You

As a pet parent, you’ve probably heard about the importance of spaying or neutering your pets to avoid unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of dogs and cats without good homes. The ASPCA® estimates around 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide each year, and about  3 million to 4 million are euthanized. Spaying or neutering also offers health and behavioral benefits for your pet that may surprise you.

Check your spaying and neutering smarts with this true or false quiz. Ask your veterinarian for advice about your pet.

1. Spaying or neutering is risky and painful.
False: Like any surgery, spaying or neutering can have complications, but it’s a routine procedure and the risks are relatively low for healthy pets. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, so there shouldn’t be any pain during the operation. Your veterinarian can tell you more about the procedure and give you specific instructions for post-surgery care.

2. It can help prevent cancer.
True: Spaying a female pet prevents ovarian and uterine cancer and reduces the risk of breast cancer. Neutering will keep a male from getting testicular cancer and decrease his risks of developing prostate cancer. Spaying or neutering can also help your pet’s health in other ways by reducing the urge to roam and fight with animals that could pass on contagious diseases.

3. Spaying or neutering is expensive.
False: Spaying or neutering doesn’t have to be costly, and the significant health and behavior benefits can outweigh the expense. Plus, it’s an important step in reducing pet overpopulation and homelessness. Both Level 3 and Level 4 cover spay or neuter surgery. The ASPCA has a searchable database that can help you locate a low-cost spay/neuter program in your community.

Stay tuned for more spaying and neutering truths and myths over the next few days!

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ASPCA Happenings

Resting Easy after Illness

“This is my precious cat, a faded tortoiseshell mixed with tabby. She was ill earlier this year and ASPCA Pet Health Insurance really helped us pay her veterinary bills. My cat is happy to be feeling better, and I’m thankful to ASPCA Pet Health Insurance for the financial support.”

—Submitted by: An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Pet Parent*

Photo Friday is a weekly column that showcases photos we receive from loving ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customers of their pets. If you want to see your pet featured, please email me!

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Customer Stories

A Pet Parent Asks:
Which level would cover the Lyme vaccine for my dog?

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Answers:
Level 4 will cover your dog’s Lyme vaccine.

This level is our most comprehensive option, providing coverage for accidents and illnesses, plus deluxe wellness care. Other wellness care benefits include bordetella (kennel cough) vaccines, feline infectious peritonitis vaccine, feline leukemia vaccine and test, flea and heartworm medication and an annual dental cleaning.

Learn more about all of our levels here!

Pet Parent Q&A is a regular column that answers customer questions in an effort to educate others. This is not a forum to receive responses to specific inquiries. Please call Customer Service at 1-866-204-6764 or email for immediate assistance.

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Hartville Group News & Info

Pet parents should keep an eye out for ticks, especially if they or their dogs have been walking through high grass.

As spring gets under way, lingering cool temperatures in parts of the US provide no refuge against one of summer’s worst scourges—ticks.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and bug specialist Dr. Kirby Stafford is advising pet parents to be vigilant.

“Oh yeah, the ticks are coming in,” said Dr. Stafford, chief scientist at the Department of Entomology at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, according to “They are out. Once temperatures hit even 40 degrees, the adult ticks will start moving.”

Every year, ticks sicken thousands of dogs, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The blood-sucking arachnids are vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, and their bites can cause painful wounds.

Diseases caused by ticks can be fatal if they are not treated, according to experts at the ASPCA ®. Other complications can include

• Blood loss
• Anemia
• Tick paralysis
• Skin irritation and infection

Ticks, like this adult female western blacklegged tick, can cause serious illness, including Lyme disease in dogs and humans.

Keeping an eye out for ticks
It’s important to thoroughly check pets for ticks after a romp in the woods.

Though tiny, ticks are visible to the naked eye. They typically live in tall brush and grass, attaching themselves to passing hosts, including dogs and humans. The parasites prefer to feed on the head, neck, ears and feet, but they can hitch a ride on any part of the body.
If you spot a tick on yourself or your dog, the CDC recommends that you remove it as quickly as possible. Here are some tips:

• Do not touch the tick with your bare hands. Instead, protect yourself with a tissue or gloves.

• Using tweezers, pull the tick upward with steady, even pressure. To avoid leaving parts of the tick within the skin, do not twist or jerk the tick. You may have to remove the tick’s mouth parts from the skin.

• After removing the tick, clean and disinfect the wound and your hands.

• Check with your veterinarian if you have questions.

To find out more about ticks and the diseases they cause, visit the CDC’s website. Learn more about Lyme disease and dogs from the ASPCA.



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ASPCA Happenings

A Pet Parent Asks: 
Three months ago, we sadly had to put our dog to sleep. However, at that time, we did not realize that euthanasia could be covered by our insurance. I just discovered this when I was getting in touch to have him removed from our coverage. Is it still possible to get reimbursed?

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Answers:
Please accept my condolences. I know there are few things in life more difficult than losing a pet.

We understand that when something happens to a pet, your first thoughts are about caring for your pet and your family instead of filling out insurance forms. Therefore, all customers have 180 days from the date of service to file a claim. For an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance claim form, click here.

Also, all of our plans allow for end of life coverage. Please refer to your individual policy for specifics.
You can submit the completed form to us by mail, fax or email (you’ll find the contact information on the claim form). You also must submit a copy of the invoice from your veterinarian, but your veterinarian does not need to sign the form.

Call us if you have more questions at 1-866-204-6764.

Pet Parent Q&A is a regular column that answers customer questions in an effort to educate others. This is not a forum to receive responses to specific inquiries. Please call Customer Service at 1-866-204-6764 or email for immediate assistance.


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Hartville Group News & Info

Photo Friday: Expenses Mount for Resilient Puppy

“Though I have pet insurance for my dog now, I wish I had purchased it when she was puppy. My little trouper had three surgeries before her first birthday! All together, the veterinary bills maxed out my credit card, which is hard to pay since I’m on a fixed income. I advise everyone to enroll their pets with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. Our furry family members are worth it!”

—Submitted by: An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Pet Parent*

Photo Friday is a weekly column that showcases photos we receive from loving ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customers of their pets. If you want to see your pet featured, please email me!


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Customer Stories


As we’re dedicated to making a difference for pets, we want to keep you informed about pet health topics and your ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Our blog will provide you with fresh, interesting and informative topics—from pet health tips and customer stories, to the latest industry news and a Pet Parent Q&A column. Most of all, we encourage you to share comments and join the discussion!

Meet the Author

Julia H.

Social Media Coordinator

Pet Parent to:

Lucy, an 8-year-old rescued Golden Retriever/Chow Chow mix

Blog Guidelines

While we’ll strive to present all viewpoints on this blog, comments will be reviewed before posting. Offensive or inappropriate language, off-topic remarks and comments containing personal policy information will not be featured.

Also, conditions discussed in this blog aren’t necessarily covered by every ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. For full coverage terms, conditions and exclusions, please refer to your plan.

As always, if you have a question about your plan, call us at 1-866-204-6764.

*Note: While these testimonials may include examples of recent claims payouts, reimbursement is subject to the terms and conditions of your plan. Identifying information has been changed.