How to Tell Your Pet’s in Pain

It’s often hard to tell pets may be in pain since they can’t tell us. For many pet parents, a cat or dog’s discomfort can be hard to spot—unless there are visible indicators like limping or bleeding.

Our friends at the ASPCA® have some examples of common pain indicators:

• Lack of normal behaviors, like grooming or eating
• Loud vocalizations, hiding or abnormal posturing
• Change in reaction to touch
• High heart rate or temperature change

If your pet is in pain or if you are unsure about a behavior change, contact your veterinarian. You can learn more about recognizing an animal’s pain here.

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How to Make Homemade Cat Toys

If you’ve ever lived with cats, you probably know how much fun they can have with a paper bag. Here is a list of some of the other common household items that make excellent cat toys.

•   Plastic Eggs- Fill them with unpopped popcorn kernels, peppercorns, dry beans, grains of dry rice or coins. These are great for visually impaired cats, and all cats love the sounds.
•   Empty Cardboard Rolls- Pull treats or toys through the opening or place them inside the roll. Your cat will have fun chasing the rolls or swatting at the toys inside. 
•   Crinkled Tin Foil- Crumple up a sheet of tin foil to provide an interesting change in texture and sound from a cat’s usual ball toys.
•   Rope/Cable/Tubing- To make string-like toys that are safe for unattended play, use materials that are thick and short, such as mountain climbing rope, bicycle break cables (with caps on the ends) and flexible plastic tubing. 
•   Drinking Straws- Look for straws in colors that contrast your flooring. Brightly colored straws are very popular with kittens!
•   Driftwood/Firewood- Both are excellent, natural scratcher options that can last for decades. 
•   Corks- Corks are loads of fun to chase, and they also absorb scents. Store them in a bag of catnip for a few weeks to make them an even more enticing toy.
•   Tissue Boxes- Place toys or treats in side to make these recyclable options irresistible to curious cats. Most pet supply stores carry studier, ready-made holey boxes.
•   Finger Puppets- These toys are especially fun when filled with catnip and sewn shut. Be sure the puppets don’t have loosely attached beads, buttons or other baubles. Also, painted features should only contain non-toxic paint or fabric dye.
•   Wrist Watches- Offer your cat your old, broken watch before throwing it out. Cats love them because your scent is on the band.
•   Pom-Pom Balls- It is important to select balls that are too large to be a choking hazard. You can store pom-pom balls in catnip for an extra treat.

What other toys have your cats found around the house? Share with us in the comments or on Facebook!

Find more ideas about homemade cat toys here.

This blog post was written by guest blogger Kari Kells, a professional pet sitter and pet parent to Raggedy Andy, Emma and Rumi. Read more tips and advice from Kari on her blog.


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A Tale of Two Cats

“I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for the compassion, attention to detail and response time exhibited by the folks at the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program. I lost my job in February, and in May I sadly lost a young cat to cancer. I would not have been able to give Kit a dignified and humane end without his insurance plan. The customer service representatives were so compassionate during my time of grief. The kind words and the beautiful card I received helped me get through that awful week.

In December, my other cat was diagnosed with a blockage, and the thought of losing another young cat in the same year—on Christmas Eve no less—was unbearable. I took him in right away and got him the proper care he needed. He's now back at home and doing well.

I will always cover my pets with pet insurance. I've recommended the plan to several people. They’ve all had a wonderful experience enrolling.” -Grace V., Peekskill, NY

We'd love to hear if we've helped your pet. Share your story and it may be featured on our blog.

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Customer Stories

Silly Kitty Sweepstakes

Cats are our best friends and our favorite comedians. We want to hear the silliest thing your feline friend has done—be sure to include a photo! You could win a Cat Prize Pack!

To enter our sweepstakes, like us on Facebook and fill out our short entry form

Prize ($20.95 value) courtesy of the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program. Sweepstakes ends June 29, 2014. No purchase necessary. See official rules. Void where prohibited. 

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ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Motherly Love Sweepstakes

We’re celebrating all moms with our Motherly Love Sweepstakes! Enter on our Facebook page for your chance to win a heart-shaped pendant necklace.

Prize ($34.99 value) courtesy of the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program. Sweepstakes ends May 29, 2014. No purchase necessary. See official rules. Void where prohibited.

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Disaster Planning with Your Pet in Mind

Calamity can strike at any time. Whether it is a flood, tornado, blizzard or heat wave, it is important to keep our pets in mind when making disaster preparedness plans. Our friends at the ASPCA® offer some great advice on how to prepare for a disaster.

It is especially important to keep in mind these top tips:

•   Plan Ahead for Evacuation - Know your exits and keep emergency kits and leashes handy.
•   Find a Safe Haven- Research pet-friendly shelters or emergency animal shelters in your area ahead of time.
•   Update Identification- Be sure to include your telephone number and any urgent medical needs on your pet’s ID tag.


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happy dog with tongue out

Dogs and cats rely heavily on nonverbal signals to communicate their moods and needs. Their facial expressions, ear position, tail position and movement, as well as their overall body stance convey their feelings. It’s important to understand what a dog or cat is trying to tell you so you can best respect their needs. 

To understand your pet’s nonverbal cues, it’s important to take all of these components into consideration together. After all, one cue can convey different meanings when it’s paired with different nonverbal expressions. For example, dogs wag their tails when they’re feeling aggressive and also when they’re feeling friendly. Cats purr to indicate that they’re nervous and also to tell us that they’re content.

What are some easy ways to read a pet’s mood?

Generally speaking, the position and movement of a pet’s ears and tail are the easiest details to observe from a safe distance. These clues, along with body stance, provide the most information about the pet’s mood. Of course, some types of tails are more expressive than others! For instance, a Black Lab’s long, straight tail moves differently than a Pug’s shorter, curly tail.

Here are some common signs of a friendly, approachable dog:

   • Relaxed face, possibly slow panting
   • Corners of the mouth slightly turned up (smiling)
   • Relaxed body position
   • Tail wagging from side-to-side or in a circular motion
   • Standing: a neutral, happy stance (relaxed with weight evenly balanced) or a play bow stance (front end down, rear end up)
   • Sitting or lying down: one paw folded and tucked under

Here are some common signs of a friendly cat:

   • Eyes half-closed, blinking leisurely with narrowed pupils
   • Ears positioned slightly to a side and forward
   • Tail mostly still    
   • Paws kneading
   • Purring
   • Standing: tail straight up or curled forward at tip, possibly twitching side-to-side

Learn more about dog and cat body language here.

This blog post was written by guest blogger Kari Kells, a professional pet sitter and pet parent to Raggedy Andy, Emma and Rumi. Read more tips and advice from Kari on her blog.

 

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Pet Poison Safety Twitter Party

Learn important poison safety tips for your pet and get 3 chances to win at our Pet Poison Safety Twitter Party. The party will be held on Wednesday, March 26 from 7-8 pm EST. Use the hashtag #PetSafety to join the conversation and play our trivia contest.

Tips for joining a Twitter party:

   • Sign up for a Twitter account 

   • Follow the party hosts. For the Pet Poison Safety party, make sure you’re following ASPCA Pet Health Insurance and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

   • Twitter parties are easiest to follow if you’re using a dashboard like TweetChat, TweetDeck, or TweetGrid

   • Use the party hashtag (#PetSafety) in every tweet to be a part of the conversation.

No purchase necessary. See official rules.

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While some cat and dog behaviors can be quite amusing, others can be cause for concern. Here are four you shouldn’t ignore:

1. Excessive belching– Your pet might suffer a burping spell after drinking too quickly, but a lot of belching can be a sign of acid reflux.

2. Obsessive licking– Constant licking may be due to a simple skin irritation, but left untreated it can lead to sores and infections.

3. Compulsive pacing– Pets sometimes pace or circle when getting ready to sleep, but done obsessively, it can indicate anxiety.

4. Litter box issues– Going outside the box could be your cat’s way of telling you it needs cleaning. However, it can also point to a bladder problem.

Behaviors like these can result in stress for the whole household. That’s why we include coverage for behavioral issues with plan Levels 3 and 4. Get a quote to see your plan options.

And, be sure to consult with your veterinarian if your pet has these or any other concerning behaviors.

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Orange cat playing with a toy

Has your cat put on a little extra weight during these cold winter months? We’ve found some tips to help you get your kitty back on track.

Your Cat is Not Alone
Nearly 58% of cats are obese, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). When determining whether your pet is overweight, the best way to judge is on a scale at the veterinarian’s office, but you can use points 3 & 4 from our friends at the ASPCA® to assess your pet at home.

Visit Your Veterinarian
Any time your cat is dealing with obesity, consult with a veterinarian first to rule out any medical conditions such as hypothyroidism or other disorders. Your veterinarian can help you gauge your cat’s body condition and create an approved weight loss program for your cat.

Practice Patience 
A cat’s diet should not be changed drastically overnight, and you should be sure to follow your veterinarian’s nutrition recommendations. A staged food transition could take approximately two weeks. To help your furry family member adjust and accept his new meal plan, try to spice his chow up by adding ketchup or salmon juice.

Get Moving
Unlike our canine pals, cats aren’t the perfect companions to take along for a morning jog or swim. They’re more of the relaxing type. One great motivator to get your cat moving is to use their mealtime as exercise time. Try walking around the home with their bowl for a few minutes before giving them a portion of the meal. See if you can stretch mealtime out to 20 minutes with this tactic.

As with humans, cats also need some motivation to lose weight. These cat toy ideas from our friends at the ASPCA may be useful to help your cat get and stay active. 


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WELCOME,
PET PARENTS!

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.