Ring in 2012 with New Year's Resolutions for your Pet

As you are considering New Year's resolutions for yourself for 2012, make sure to include your pet! The most common resolutions we make seem to be centered around better physical and mental health so why not try and focus on these things for your pet as well!?

First Resolution: Measure food!

How about having the goal of helping your pet to achieve his or her ideal weight? Obesity is the one factor that can take away years of quality life from your pet faster than any other. One of the most common mistakes that we see is owners free feeding their pets. This is when the bowl is filled without regard to measuring quantity. Find out how much your pet should be eating (FYI your veterinarian can calculate a recommended caloric intake based on age, activity level and body condition) and adapt him/her to a scheduled, measured feeding routine! (Check out Dr. Rainwater's articles on dog and cat weight loss for more information.)

Second Resolution: No more table scraps!

I can't tell you how many times I hear owners confess the junk food that their pets get - ice cream, fast food hamburgers, chips, etc. There are also junk food pet treats such as Pupperoni and extra large Milk-Bones (read: king size Snickers bar) that are just as bad. Believe me; I understand how much joy it brings to see your pet indulging in a special treat! Instead of the "junk food" though, how about trying raw carrots, green beans, or homemade baked sweet potato slices to name a few healthy options?  My dogs still get their chew treats once or twice weekly, but we give vegetables as their daily rewards and my dogs LOVE them! They act just as excited for the vegetables as they did for the store bought treats! Give it a try!

Third Resolution: Exercise your pet more!

Not only will this resolution benefit your pet's physical health, but it will benefit their mental health as well. Take your dog on daily walks or runs depending on his/her ability. Play a daily game of fetch or Frisbee in the back yard! Try a new toy for your cat (ideas: remote control mouse, laser light, or feeding toy) and play with it daily. As you exercise your pet, you are helping their mental health as well. We see so many behavior problems that most likely stem from lack of mental stimulation!

Fourth Resolution: Train for life!

Adopt an attitude that training your pet is a lifelong goal: training is NEVER over for a pet! Have you resolved to put your dog away when strangers come over as opposed to teaching him/her good manners? Have you resolved to let your cat use the sofa as a scratching post because "the sofa's old and we want to get rid of it anyway"? Have you resolved to allow your dog to jump on you to demand attention? Pets thrive when they know what behaviors are expected of them and when they are positively rewarded for those behaviors. I recommend all new puppy owners adopt the philosophy: "nothing in life is free." This means, ask basic commands before rewards such as getting them to sit before they are fed, let outdoors, or before you pet them. Adult dogs and cats can also be taught these behaviors to help treat and/or prevent a few of the behavior problems that are common in adult pets. Try and teach your dog or cat better manners this year! Everyone will benefit!

OH! My aching back!

Well, it has finally come to fruition that I suffer from a disease I readily see in our canine patients. Fortunately, it is not infectious (so no quarantine needed!) and it can be corrected. Unfortunately, I have had to learn the hard way the degree of discomfort some of our four-legged friends have had to deal with (and quite admirably, I might add) What is this often debilitating problem? Inter-vertebral disc disease (IVDD). Some big words for a relatively little, but much needed and ungraciously overlooked (at least in my case) cushion in our bodies.

What is IVDD

Inter-vertebral discs are the cartilage pads that connect the vertebral bones of our spinal column. The disc's job is to act like a shock absorber and spread out the compressive forces we subject our vertebrae to every second of every day and night. Interestingly, they account for 16 percent of the length of the articulated column in dogs and about 25 percent in humans! They are also one of the organs in our body that consistently show degenerative changes with advancing age. Each disc is composed of two parts: the nucleus pulposus (central part) and an outer anulus fibrosus. The nucleus is a semi-fluid tissue that is maintained under pressure by the encircling bands of fibrous tissue of the anulus fibrosus.

Insidious changes occur to both the nucleus and anulus relatively early in life.  Calcification of the nucleus can occur which decreases its shock absorber abilities which imparts less flexibility of the spine. In humans and pets this is noted by a stiff, and possibly guarded, gait.  Pain is not uncommon either, often from surrounding muscles that spasm. Mircofragmention of the anulus may also occur which allows the nucleus to bulge or escape completely ("bulging or herniated disc"). The nucleus most commonly escapes in the direction of the spinal cord where it may compress nerve roots (nerves that innervate our peripheral body) - usually termed "pinched nerve" - or it may cause inflammation or, worse, compression of the spinal cord. Let me tell you from personal experience a herniated disc HURTS!!! Besides pain, it can also cause muscle fasciculations (not visible to the eye), tingling, numbness, paresis (weakness), or even paralysis.  Degenerative changes can occur in any disc, but the effects are most severe in the regions that are most mobile: the neck and the lumbosacrum.

Who is Predisposed

There are particular breeds of dogs that are genetically predisposed for developing IVDD and they typically fall under the category "chondrodystrophic breeds". Some of these are: dachshunds, beagles, Pekingese, basset hounds, and shih tzus. These breeds have a genetic disorder with their cartilage and bone development, hence abnormally developed discs may form. However, any breed can develop a disc problem, so any abnormal gait ("stilted walk", "holding neck funny"), PAIN!, or any weakness or non-use of a leg or legs should prompt an immediate visit to your veterinarian.

How it's Treated

Diagnosing a pet with IVDD is often straight-forward with information gleaned from the physical exam and, often, survey radiographs.  Many cases are mild and can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication (often steroids, since they are POTENT at reducing inflammation), pain control, muscle relaxers, and most importantly, STRICT REST - ideally, the pet is crated. More severe cases are referred to a veterinary neurologist or orthopedic surgeon where surgery may be indicated to extrude the herniated disc material and then fusion of the 2 adjacent vertebrae. Many of these pets recover remarkably well following spinal surgery. 

After my recent disc herniation, I have a renewed and deeper empathy of the pets we see for neck and back pain. Neurologic-related pain is INTENSE and should not go untreated.  We are here to help diagnose and treat the ones that can be managed medically, and we also have 2 specialty groups, Veterinary Specialty Care and Charleston Veterinary Referral Center, in the Charleston area that provide surgical care for those cases that need it.

We Love our Assistants!

We are celebrating all of our technicians and assistants this week for National Veterinary Technician Week! Last year, I wrote an article about the credentials and skills our LVTs possess. This year, I'd like to focus on the other half of our patient care support team, our amazing assistants!

In our hospital, a technician's assistant's primary role is to keep the day running smoothly by helping our veterinarians and technicians wherever needed. You'll often find our assistants checking in appointments, restraining patients, preparing lab samples and vaccinations, and keeping our hospital ship-shape!

We're also honoring our hard-working groomer's assistants this week. These ladies pamper the dogs and cats visiting Teri for their spa day by helping with walking, bathing, brushing, drying, trimming nails, and cleaning ears. They also are in charge of keeping the groom room tidy and tackling all that pet hair!

A big thanks to all of our assistants - Erin, Mary, Vyonne, and Michelle - we couldn't do it without you!



Why there is no such thing as an “all stages” pet food

Have you ever wondered why dog and cat foods are labeled “growth” for puppies and kittens and “mature” for older dogs and cats?  There are very important reasons

  • Do we eat the same foods as a teenager and as a sixty year old? 
  • Do we eat the same way when pregnant and after turning fifty? 

Pets also need food that is formulated appropriately for their specific stage in life – to receive adequate, but not excessive, amounts of important nutrients.  Puppies, kittens and lactating mothers need more protein, vitamins, and minerals than adults to ensure proper growth.  Foods for adults and for senior pets should be formulated differently to meet the changing needs of dogs and cats as they age.

Why is “all stages” written on the label?

The pet food industry is regulated by AAFCO – the Association of American Feed Control Officials, a “voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.”  AAFCO defines an all stages diet this way:  “The pet food has to be suitable for puppies, kittens or pregnant/lactating adults.”  http://www.petfood.aafco.org/ 

Here are some examples of how AAFCO standards for an "all stages" diet (to meet a puppy’s needs) match up to an adult dog’s daily nutritional needs:

  • Protein (% minimum) is 22% higher than recommended daily allowances
  • Crude Fat (% min) is 60% higher than recommended daily allowances
  • Sodium (% min) is 400% higher than recommended daily allowances

Daily recommendations for a senior dog are even lower, and the findings are similar in cats.  Overweight condition is the number one contributor to arthritis pain and mobility problems in dogs and cats.  Excess sodium is related to hypertension (elevated blood pressure) and heart disease.

Also from the AAFCO web site:

  • AAFCO has no statutory authority to regulate pet products.
  • AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way. 
  • AAFCO establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods, and it is the pet food company's responsibility to formulate their products according to the appropriate AAFCO standard.

It is the state feed control official's responsibility in regulating pet food to ensure that the laws and rules established for the protection of companion animals and their custodians are complied with so that only unadulterated, correctly and uniformly labeled pet food products are distributed in the marketplace and a structure for orderly commerce.  

It is up to the company to comply.  Some companies do an excellent job - by using science, doing food trials, employing veterinary nutritionists and other specialists, and formulating foods appropriate for the labeled use.  These companies spend money on food trials and nutritional testing that is not required to put their products on the market. 

These companies share their information with veterinarians so we can educate clients appropriately.  Two companies I trust – two companies from which I purchase foods for my own pets – are:

Some companies do not provide veterinarians with information, even when we ask for it.  Sometimes they do not even have information to provide – no food trials, no nutritional formulas.  They emphasize words that sell products:  “natural” “organic” and “grain free” are some examples of words which are unregulated and unimportant to your pet’s nutritional health.

These buzz words are for your sake – the consumer – because they appeal to you.  The “all stages” foods are marketed to pet owners who look for the convenience of one food for more than one pet.  But it just is not possible to meet their individual requirements at different stages of life with one formula.

These marketing techniques do not benefit our pets nutritionally.  Some of the premium diets sold at boutique pet stores can cause your pet problems.  Most are calorie dense, “filler free” foods without the fiber and carbohydrate our pets need to stay healthy.

Dogs and cats become ever more obese and pet owners find it ever harder to afford their care.  Don't spend money on the wrong things.  Who can help you sort this out?  Your veterinarian, who studied nutrition, physiology, medicine and disease – who spent eight years in college specializing in animal health and wellness, is equipped to help you prioritize your funds devoted to pet care.  We can help when they are sick- and we are the best source of information on how to keep them healthy.

Please don’t fall for marketing schemes and ask the advice of perhaps well-meaning, but untrained employees in the pet food and pet store industry!  They just don’t know.


Why Do Dogs and Cats Eat Grass?

As it turns out, the short answer to this question is “We don’t know.” However, there are lots of fun theories out there about why our carnivorous companion pets eat grass and it turns out that the circumstances of grass or plant eating can be very different between individual animals.

Are they sick?

Many people report that their pets eat grass and vomit afterward, which has led to the commonly held assumption that they eat grass because they have an upset stomach. The idea is that the poky tips of grasses irritate the stomach lining enough to induce a vomiting reflex. Others have theorized that they eat grass because of the effects of internal parasites, and the fiber helps them feel better by mechanically removing the parasites from the intestines. This idea has actually been studied in great ape research, where some chimpanzees have been shown to have decreased fecal parasite loads after eating certain kinds of fibrous plants.

In research surveys, however, grass eating and vomiting don’t necessarily go together. A recent study of clients and veterinary students who’s dogs ate grass showed that only 18% of clients’ dogs that ate grass or other plants vomited afterward, and only 9% of veterinary-students’ dogs showed any signs of illness prior to eating grass.

Another interesting study took normal dogs and treated a small subset of them with a mild, diarrhea inducing drug and then exposed them to different grasses. The dogs not given the drug ate much more grass than the dogs that were given the drug, suggesting that dogs do not eat grass to self-medicate at least that type of GI upset. However, anecdotes abound of people who were first alerted to anything from gastric ulcers to inflammatory bowel syndrome by frequent grass eating behavior. One difference owners seem to consistently notice is that dogs who are seen to suddenly start the habit of gulping down large amounts of grass (and usually vomiting afterward) are more likely to have an underlying illness.

Are they lacking in nutrients?

The ancestors of our modern day dogs and cats probably ate small amounts of plants and grasses as a normal part of the diet. They may also have obtained plant fiber and nutrients indirectly by eating the intestines of wild herbivores (like rabbits or deer). Since most of our dogs and cats are lacking fresh herbivore entrails in their daily diet, some people believe they crave grasses in an effort replace what they would get in the wild by eating plant material directly. Anecdotally, this theory is somewhat supported by the experience ofpeople who have seen that feeding their dogs greens such as small amounts of parsley, kale, or other vitamin C containing foods will curb their dogs’ grass eating habits. In addition, one published report in Japan documented a poodle that stopped eating grass after the owners instituted a high fiber diet.

While they are stricter carnivores than dogs, a similar thought process is used to try to explain grass-eating in cats. Many pet stores now carry barley grasses that are free of pesticides that you can grow at home for your kitties to eat.  Nutritional benefit is questionable, but if it does not cause vomiting or other problems it is probably safe for them to eat small amounts of grass. 

Are they crazy?

Neurologic or behavioral maladies such as obsessive compulsive disorders have been suspected in some cases of grass eating. Pica, a condition characterized by a consistent craving for non-food items (usually dirt, rocks, etc.), may apply to grass eating in some cases, although it is thought that these cases are rare. 

Are they hungry?

Although their intestines are not adapted for breaking down plants for nutrition the way herbivores like cows and horses are, dogs at least (unlike cats) are able to tolerate a much higher fraction of non-meat protein and carbohydrate sources in their diet. Research on wild canid populations (wolves, foxes, dingoes, etc.) has shown that all of them do consume some plant material, including grasses, in the wild.

Owners of dogs that frequently snack on grass without side-effects often say that the dogs are selective about which types of grasses they will eat, including some who will only eat newly grown shoots of certain kinds of grass (which are lower in the bitter tannins and higher in carbohydrates and protein).  There are probably many dogs that just like the taste of grass and eat it as a snack, whatever the larger implications may be.

What do I do about it?

Why, ask your veterinarian of course! If your pet snacks on grass and never or only very occasionally vomits, there less likely to be an underlying problem. However,  if it is a new behavior, they are eating large amounts of grass or vomiting frequently (more than once a month or so), then we would recommend you have your pet seen for a physical examination and possibly some follow up blood work or other diagnostics. Also make sure that any grass eating they do is on grass that has not recently had fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals applied.

As a side note, supplementing pet diets with herbs and vegetables is fine but always make sure that a high quality AAFCO approved, age-appropriate, nutritionally balanced commercial food is the main component of any diet you feed your pets.

If in doubt, give us a call!

Tips for Successful Feline Visits to the Veterinarian

We all want our kitties to have the best possible experience when coming to the vet so I hope you will find this helpful!

“Understand that most cats are pessimists-they assume the worst will happen. Try not to confirm it for them.”

The Cat's Point of View:

  • Your human shoves you into a carrier after chasing you around the house.
  • You endure an upsetting and unfamiliar car ride.
  • You arrive at a strange place where there are a lot of other animals, smells, and sounds.
  • Your senses of smell and hearing are heightened because you don’t like the unfamiliar.
  • A strange person dumps you onto the cold table.
  • You certainly don’t like strangers handling you.
  • These new and unwanted experiences make you fearful and anxious.
  • You are so frightened that you may urinate, defecate, or vomit.
  • You are likely to bite or scratch to defend yourself.
  • If you end of staying at this awful place, when you go home the other cats in the household don’t like you because you smell different.

With thoughts like that, who wouldn't be afraid of the vet?! However, by following the tips below I hope you and your kitty will have an awesome experience! It's best to start young but ANY cat can be trained!

Improving the Cat Carrier Experience:

Always transport your kitty in a carrier. Choose a carrier with a topthat easily opens or lifts off(like the picture to the right), or a soft carrier with sides that don’t sag inward on the cat.

Keep the carrier out at all times in a safe place (you may want to start in “convertible mode” with the top off), and randomly toss treats inside so it becomes seen as an automatic treat dispenser.

Periodically use an interactive toy (a fishing pole-type toy with feathers or fabric) to direct play to the carrier, encouraging the kitty to jump in and out.

Zip up or close the carrier with the cat inside, calmly pick up and take the carrier with you for just two steps, and the open it.  Over time, take your cat on longer tours of your home inside the carrier. If your cat is anxious you’ve done too much too fast; back up to whatever point in training your cat had accepted, and then proceed slowly.

Now that your cat is no longer anxious about the carrier itself, it’s time to teach the cat to jump inside the carrier on cue, using a treat or toy as motivation. For example, toss the toy inside and offer a cue such as “inside your house” as the cat jumps in. If you're still stuffing your cat inside, well, the point is that you shouldn’t need to do that. Remember, cats always do better when they believe something is their idea!

The Car Ride and Vet Visit:

Take the carrier with the cat to the car-but don’t turn on the engine. Sit there a few minutes, popping treats through the carrier telling your kitty how wonderful she is. Then take your kitty back inside the house and give her a meal. Once you get to this point with a still-happy cat, you're ready for a brief drive. 

Try to make the trip as rewarding as possible with calming conversation, treats popped through the closed carrier door or even play.  Keep the car windows closed and avoid loud music on the radio and sharp turns for the first few rides.

Spritz the inside of the carrier and blanket with Feliway (a synthetic copy of a cats friendly facial scents) at least 10 minutes prior to the trip

A big meal just before the car ride could cause an upset tummy for cats that get car sick. At the same time, taking food away for too long before a vet visit can create stress.

If your cat has a favorite toy, bring it along. Also bring a towel or blanket that has the scent of family members as well as your cats cat smell.  Place the blanky in the exam table and put your cat on it. 

In the veterinary waiting room, keep the carrier away from other animals, especially noisy or upset pets. Your lap is a good place for a carrier (the cat sees you and smells you and is off the ground). 

Bring cats in separate carriers: even well-bonded cats may become aggressive to each other if stressed.

Cover cat carriers while traveling, as cats are known to de-stress more quickly in the dark.

We are looking forward to your next awesome kitty visit!!!

What's that lump?


Dogs and cats are notorious for developing lumps and bumps on their bodies over their lifespans. {Ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and rodents are not immune to lump (mass) formations either}. Many of these are benign growths, and often self-resolving, but some may be malignant or infectious in nature so an accurate diagnosis is warranted.

We recommend any new swelling or growth on your pet be examined as soon as possible once detected. We will examine the mass by visual inspection and by palpation. Some common growths may be identified by gross examination alone, for example, oral papillomas and sebaceous adenomas. However, the vast majority of growths need to also have a microscopic evaluation to obtain a diagnosis. This is accomplished by a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) of the mass.

Fine needle aspiration is performed in the clinic during most routine exams and sedation is very rarely needed. A small gauge needle is inserted into the growth and gently maneuvered within it. Gentle suction is often applied to a connected syringe. The maneuvering of the needle and the suction help to obtain a sample of the cells that make up the growth. The sample is then delivered onto a slide which is allowed to dry, then stained, and viewed under the microscope. General veterinary practitioners are able to make confirmed diagnoses a vast majority of the time. There are some instances where suspect diagnoses need to be sent to a veterinary pathologist for further identification and/or confirmation.

I try to inform pet owners ahead of time that growths may be "wall-to-wall" cells, so obtaining and observing a cell sample is relatively easy in that case. However, there are many growths where the cells may not exfoliate well or the growth may be more like a blueberry muffin and the abnormal cells are the blueberries that we are attempting to "blindly poke". In these scenarios we may not always get a diagnostic sample (even after repeated sticks with the needle) and so we'll often recommend that a surgical biopsy or complete excisional biopsy should be performed.

It's important to pay attention to any new growth/lump/bump/swelling on your pet and have it examined as soon as you can.  We will often be able to give you a diagnosis of what it is the day we check it out and then lay out a recommended treatment plan.  Many times we'll recommend "watchful neglect", but there are those lumps that may be cancerous or painful to your pet and so the sooner we diagnose the sooner we can manage it.

Lost and Found Pets


The first thing we do when someone brings in a found dog or cat is to scan the pet for a microchip while crossing our fingers that one has been placed. Microchips are an easy way to provide your pet with a permanent means of identification, even if the collar and tags are missing.

Hurricane Season

Travel with pets and hurricane threats to our region are two compelling reasons to consider permanent identification for your pet. When evacuating for a Hurricane, remember to take two weeks of your pet's food and medications, plenty of fresh drinking water, towels, a harness and leash for dogs and a sturdy carrier for cats and small mammals.  Keep a copy of your pet's medical history from your Pet Portal or ID card for proof of vaccines and plan ahead for a pet-friendly destination. Click here for more great disaster preparedness tips from the ASPCA.

Chip Placement

Microchip placement is a quick procedure, which can be done at an office visit to the vet.  We encourage all dog and cat owners to take this precaution. After placement, we register the number in a national pet recovery database that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year by telephone or on-line. We use and recommend HomeAgain microchips for their anti-migration technology.  Other microchips are much less reliable.

Works even if not registered

Even if an owner has not properly registered a microchip, the registry records where the chip was implanted, and by calling that facility, we can learn the owner’s identity.  One of our patients wandered away while traveling in New Jersey, and a veterinary clinic there called us to get a mobile telephone number for the owner.  The pet was returned home without ever involving animal control authorities.

Hospital information search

Our medical records are computerized, so we are sometimes able to narrow possibilities searching by breed, color and gender, and then telephone clients to ask if their pet is missing.  We have been able to match pets and their families in this way, but it is much slower and does not work if the pet has not been to our hospital.

Exercising Your Dog in Summer

 Your four-legged friend jogs in a fur coat

Charleston is a wonderful location for pet owners, and dogs make great exercise companions for our trails and beaches, but now that we are in another Lowcountry summer, caution is indicated.   

Heat and humidity add to the workload for the heart, lungs, and cooling system of the body.  Dogs do not sweat like humans, so their body temperatures rise more quickly with exertion.  Panting and water consumption are their two most effective methods for keeping hyperthermia in check, and neither one is especially efficient.

Pavement can burn footpads

Dogs walked to our facility for appointments on cool, cloudy days often have body temperatures elevated as much as three degrees. Adding mid-day sunshine, high humidity, or a faster pace puts your pet at risk for serious health problems.  The best time to exercise your pet is before 10:00 AM or after 6:00 PM.

Just as you would condition yourself before tackling a six mile run, dogs need to start with shorter jaunts and build up to longer outings. Never force your pet to go farther than he wants, if he is stopping under every shade tree or lagging behind you, it is time to slow to a walk and head home to the air conditioning. 

Help for Heat Stress

If you think your pet is over-heating, wet the hair coat and allow your dog to drink fresh water and to rest in a cool place. Panting should begin to ease within a few minutes.  Bright red gums and weakness are signs your pet needs help from a veterinarian. 

Body temperatures over 108 degrees Fahrenheit can quickly cause permanent damage to the brain, bowel, and other vital structures. Once that high, the body is unable to get it back under control without medical intervention. 

Have fun in the sun safely

Not all dogs will let you know when they feel tired, so don’t depend on your canine companion to complain. Working breed dogs live to please their humans, and they’ll literally run, hunt, or retrieve themselves to death. Remember to exercise the responsibility that comes with pet ownership, as you exercise your buddy. He depends upon you.

Is Pet Health Insurance Right for You?

When it comes to insurance, people seem to be in one of two camps: those who love it and those who hate it. For those of you who love it, prefer to pay bills in smaller monthly payments rather than occasional large chunks at a time, or for those that simply have accident/illness prone pets - keep reading!

We recently took some time to really dive into plans from the pet insurance company, VPI, to determine if it could be a worth-while investment for our clients. While there are lots of different pet insurance carriers out there, we chose to evaluate (and ultimately recommend) VPI due to its track record and notable financial underwriter, Nationwide. This said, we're happy to accept any pet insurance plan you choose and encourage our clients to shop around to find the deal that's best for them and their pets.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of individual plans, let me start by explaining what pet insurance is, and what it is not. In the eyes of the underwriters, pets are treated as possessions and are therefore insured more like cars and less like people. While I personally may not agree with this philosophy, (my dog, Marlie, is practically human!) it does make insurance significantly less complicated. Another aspect to mention is that all pet insurance plans are by reimbursement only. This means you pay for your pet's care at checkout as usual, submit your paperwork, and then the insurance company will send you a check. Plans are available for pets of any age, but have the best coverage and are most affordable if started when your pet is young and at its healthiest.

To help our clients receive the maximum reimbursement possible, one of our receptionists, Lori, is now our official insurance guru. Before submitting your claim, she will scour your pet's medical record and confer with your veterinarian to find the most accurate and beneficial diagnosis to list. With the safety net of insurance, it is our hope that our clients will have the financial freedom to say 'yes' to our veterinarian's best medical recommendations for your furry companions.

Which VPI plan is best for you?

(This is my personal summary of each plan. Please refer to VPI's website: or call 888-899-4VPI for complete information.)

Major Medical Plan

  • Most comprehensive plan with largest reimbursement allowances (typically allows more than enough to have 100% reimbursement for our service prices)
  • Covers injury and illness including chronic conditions, multiple conditions, and advanced diagnostics
  • Covers hereditary issues after 12-month waiting period
  • New plans available for dogs and cats less than 10 years old
  • Plans activate 14 days after application
  • Average premium $15-$40/month based on deductible size, pet age, and pet breed/size.
  • Annual deductible options of $100, $250, or $500 

Medical Plan

(Similar to the Major Medical except...)

  • No hereditary condition coverage
  • Has reimbursement allowancesthat typically will cover 80-90% of our service fees
  • Monthly premium runs a few dollars less

Injury Plan

  • Coverage for accidents only (not medical illness claims)
  • New plans available for cats and dogs of any age
  • Plans activate 24 hours after application
  • Average premium $12/month
  • Flat annual deductible of $250

Cat Plan

  • Coverage for the 15 most commonly seen medical conditions
  • Reimbursement allowance of $600 per condition per year
  • New plans available for cats less than 10 years old
  • Plan activates 14 days after application
  • Average plan $12-15/month
  • No annual deductible

CareGuard Wellness Coverage

(can be added to the above plans)

  • Coverage for wellness exams, vaccines, heartworm prevention, tests, microchips, and +/- spay/neuter/dental procedures
  • Reimbursement allowances will break even for most of our patients
  • Monthly premium $12-22

As with any insurance, there are some products/services/conditions that are not covered in any plan. For VPI, this includes:

  • Food/Nutritional Supplements
  • Congenital/Developmental Conditions
  • Behavior Problems/Training
  • Breeding/Reproductive Conditions
  • Cosmetic Conditions (including declaws)
  • Pre-Existing Conditions

Please let us know if there is anything we can help you with in regards to pet insurance (or anything else for that matter!) If you decide to purchase a plan, please let Lori know and she will be happy to help you with paperwork after each visit.