Group of approximately 40 Misty Eyes Animal Center volunteers

‘Fosters provide the love. Misty Eyes provides the rest.’

June is National Foster a Pet Month, set aside to recognize the contributions foster caregivers make to animal welfare by providing temporary homes for rescued pets while freeing space in shelters.

Based in Avon, Misty Eyes Animal Center is an all-volunteer organization that relies on a network of nearly 100 foster homes—mostly in Hendricks County and western Marion County—to care for rescued animals from throughout our community, region and state. 

Cherie Fox and Renee Harlor founded Misty Eyes in October 2011. Last year, the group rescued 737 animals. 

Currently about 70 volunteers are actively fostering one or more pets rescued by Misty Eyes. Another 22 or so qualified foster caregivers are “on pause” right now, taking a break from fostering for a variety of reasons. Most will resume fostering as soon as they’re ready to take in the next animal. 

There are an additional 90 Misty Eyes volunteers helping with a variety of essential tasks to rescue, manage and place animals and maintain the organization’s expanding facility at 616 South County Road 800 E.

Brownsburg Animal Clinic has been a longtime supporter of Misty Eyes Animal Center, participating in special events and offering discounted fees for the rescued animals’ veterinary care. 

“Brownsburg Animal Clinic has been with us from the beginning,” said co-founder Fox. “In our time working together, we’ve grown to trust them to give us sound advice and excellent care to every animal we bring in for treatment. 

“We couldn’t do all we do for our rescues without that relationship.” 

There’s No Place Like Home

Even the best-run animal shelters can be lonely, stressful environments for displaced dogs and cats. 

The individual attention rescued animals receive in foster care gives them an opportunity to relax in a home environment, recover from any illnesses or surgeries, relate one-on-one to loving caregivers and other pets and learn the life skills they need to succeed in adoptive homes. 

Foster caregivers get to know the animals as they help them adapt to home life. The information they provide about the fostered pets’ emerging personalities helps adoption counselors match them with potential adopters.

Jennifer McCarty, now a Misty Eyes vice president, has volunteered with the organization almost from the beginning. 

“I’ve been a volunteer for the past 11 years,” said McCarty, “and I’ve been fostering the whole time. At this point, I don’t know how many dogs and cats I’ve fostered. I know it’s a lot. Maybe hundreds.”

McCarty said the need for more foster caregivers is constant. 

“Shelters are more packed than ever right now, and Misty Eyes always needs more foster homes,” she said. “Having more approved foster homes available means we can take in more dogs and cats and puppies and kittens when they need us most. 

“For some of them, the foster home can make the difference between life and death.”

The Rescued Pets

The animals Misty Eyes rescues are strays, owner-surrendered pets and homeless pregnant animals’ puppies and kittens. Some come directly to Misty Eyes and others are “pulled” from overcrowded shelters. 

“There’s always a steady stream of animals,” McCarty said, “and we stay at capacity based on what our approved foster homes are able to take in.”

Misty Eyes retains control and guardianship of fostered pets, providing food, supplies, toys and veterinary care. According to the Misty Eyes web page on fostering, “Fosters provide the love. Misty Eyes provides the rest.”

“We have an area at our center in Avon where our fosters come to pick up supplies—food, collars, leashes, crates—anything they need,” said McCarty. “If an animal needs prescription food or some other special equipment or supply, we order that in and have it ready for the foster to pick up.”

The length of time a pet remains in a Misty Eyes foster home varies. 

“The typical animal that comes in with no major medical problems, I’d say stays with us a month or less,” McCarty said. “A pregnant cat stays at least three months.

“Animals with temporary medical or behavioral concerns won’t be advertised as available until they’re ready for adoption,” she added.

Occasionally, animals have problems that can’t be resolved well enough to offer them for placement in permanent homes.

“We’re not an animal sanctuary,” McCarty explained, “so we don’t deliberately bring in animals that can’t ultimately be adopted. 

“But from time to time, we’ll take in an animal with a medical or behavior problem we didn’t realize was there. It turns out they’re not adoptable and will need to continue indefinitely in foster care.”

As examples, McCarty cites a dog with a heart condition who lived with a Misty Eyes foster caregiver for seven years. Another dog who “doesn’t like other animals” has proved difficult to place. “She’s been with Misty Eyes almost as long as I have, but we haven’t found the right home for her. She’s lived happily with her foster family for so long now, she’s probably there for life.”

What It Takes To Foster

To qualify to foster, McCarty said, “You need to love animals and be willing to care for them responsibly, as if they were your own.”

Becoming a foster caregiver for Misty Eyes begins with completing a detailed online application form.  

The screening questions are thoughtful and thorough, reflecting expectations clearly and demonstrating just how seriously the organization takes its role and responsibilities as guardians of the animals in its care. 

In addition to asking questions about multiple aspects of potential home life for a fostered pet, the foster application offers a checklist the applicant can use to list experience caring for senior dogs and cats, untrained dogs, injured animals, puppies, kittens and pregnant dogs or cats.

Applicants are also asked to indicate the types of dogs and cats they are willing to foster according to gender, size, age and special needs such as heartworm treatment, surgery recovery, blindness, deafness and pregnancy.

The application concludes with a comprehensive series of specific requirements to which the aspiring foster caregiver is asked to agree, one by one. Among the requirements:

  • The applicant affirms they have never been charged with or convicted of animal cruelty.
  •  They agree to keep the pet indefinitely, with no guarantee of how long they will be asked to foster.
  • They agree to “provide a safe, comfortable and healthy environment for their foster pet(s).” This section of the agreement further stipulates, “Our foster dogs should be indoor dogs, and should be exercised and socialized in such a way as to create a positive, well-tempered dog. Foster cats are always to be indoor cats for their safety. Both cats and dogs should be fed healthy food, which will be provided to you, and given appropriate access to water.”
  • Applicants agree “to work with Misty Eyes for medical treatment of the foster pet.” Misty Eyes pays for fostered pets’ medical care, requiring foster caregivers to seek veterinary care only from approved veterinarians, and only after giving prior notice to Misty Eyes “to ensure finances and treatment options are appropriately aligned.”
  • Prospective foster caregivers agree to help Misty Eyes promote the adoption of their fostered pets by bringing them to adoption events and to the adoption center in Avon to meet prospective adopters.
  • Foster caregivers agree to treat the animals they foster as if they were their own pets, ably handling all routine care and any pet-related issues that come up. “As a foster family, you should operate within the fostering guidelines set forth by Misty Eyes, and while you do not own the pet, you should treat the pet as if it were yours.”
  • Foster caregivers agree “to provide regular updates on the status and progress of the foster pet(s), and to inform us immediately of any health issues or behavior problems.” Misty Eyes ultimately determines how to respond to reported issues and problems. 

The foster application continues with a brief description of the centralized screening process Misty Eyes uses to handle applications from individuals and families interested in adopting a pet. If the adoptive applicant passes their initial screening and appears to be a potential match for a particular fostered pet, the Misty Eyes adoption team notifies the foster caregiver and arranges “meet and greets” between the prospective adopter and the fostered pet. 

Misty Eyes encourages foster caregivers to recommend potential adopters interested in giving a foster pet a permanent home, stating, “If you have a friend, family member, neighbor or acquaintance who may be interested in adopting the pet, please direct them to complete an online adoption application to start the approval process. We always welcome the foster family’s recommendations, if they know the potential adopter.”

Jennifer McCarty said some foster caregivers eventually themselves adopt an animal in their care, “but not a high percentage.” In her 11 years of fostering hundreds of animals, she is just now preparing to adopt her third fostered dog. 

To address those situations, the foster application contains a clause advising prospective foster caregivers to “Notify us immediately if you would like to adopt your foster pet. Once external applications have been received and processing has begun, the foster family cannot be given preference.”

Further requirements detailed in the foster application include never turning the pet over to anyone not connected with Misty Eyes, keeping dogs on-leash outside enclosed areas, keeping a Martingale collar with a Misty Eyes tag on dogs at all times, and working with dogs on basic obedience commands and house manners. If needed, Misty Eyes will arrange basic obedience training for fostered dogs.

The application concludes with a detailed liability release and waiver.

Application Follow-Up

If the foster application is approved, the Misty Eyes foster team follows up with a phone call and a home visit.

“The foster team explains how the foster program works, answers any questions and looks around the home for any safety concerns—like a gap in a fence—that need to be fixed before we place an animal,” McCarty said. 

“Our team members also get to know the foster’s pets and start thinking about what pets we might match with them.”

From time to time, pets need to be relocated from one foster home to another. 

“We do our best to make good matches, but occasionally we have to move a pet,” McCarty said. “Sometimes it takes a few dogs or cats to go through and figure out what works well in that particular home.”

Some caregivers develop specialties in caring for pets with particular needs. “Certain fosters are wonderful with pregnant cats or bottle-feeder kittens,” said McCarty. “Others do great fostering puppies, and we have fosters who are great with senior dogs. 

“We do have fosters who definitely have their niche, for sure.”

Is Fostering For You?

Misty Eyes recruits new foster caregivers primarily through word-of-mouth from current caregivers and occasional notices on Facebook. However you hear about the opportunity to foster, if you are seriously interested in serving as a foster caregiver to animals in need, Misty Eyes will welcome your foster application.

McCarty said many animal lovers mistakenly hesitate to apply, believing they can’t foster pets if they have a full-time job or have pets of their own. “If we required that, we’d have very few foster homes,” she said, adding she herself has her own pets and a job in addition to her fostering and other volunteer work for Misty Eyes. 

A good way to get started, once your application is approved and the home visit is done, is to be a “vacation foster” who fills in for foster caregivers who need to be away from home temporarily. 

“Vacation fostering is great way to get started for somebody who’s not quite ready to take on a commitment to be a full-time foster. Their help is super-valuable, and we need them” 

As fostering gets underway, the Misty Eyes foster support team contacts the caregivers at scheduled intervals to make sure things are going smoothly with the pet. “We also have online update forms the fosters can use to keep in touch,” added McCarty. 

Foster caregivers can participate in online workshops covering animal care basics as well as behavior training. Misty Eyes will schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with a trainer as needed to help fosters teach basic commands and resolve behavior problems.

In addition to its public Facebook page, Misty Eyes maintains private Facebook groups for fosters and volunteers to exchange information and build community. 

Letting Go

Many beginning caregivers worry they will form such strong attachments to the pets they foster that they’ll have trouble letting them go to their adoptive homes.

“Some are harder to let go of than others,” admitted McCarty. “You can feel stronger attachments to the first or second ones you’ve fostered or the ones who’ve been with you longer. But it does get easier.

“You just have to focus on the next animal that needs you and know in your heart, from the beginning, they’re going to move on. You’re that bridge to get them from where they are to where they need to be.

“It also helps to think about how happy this animal will make someone else.”

As an example, McCarty told the story of “the chihuahua that got away.”

“I wanted her so bad, but I didn’t keep her. I let her go. She was adopted by a lady whose husband later had a stroke. The dog went with her every day to see him and lay on his bed with him, all day long, until he died. 

“The husband needed the dog to comfort him as he was dying, and the lady needed that dog’s companionship and unconditional love after her husband died, more than ever. It feels good to know the part I played in caring for that dog and how much she ended up meaning to her adoptive family.”

McCarty continued, “For me, fostering has been life-changing—not just for the animals, but for myself as well. Wanting to help these animals has become such a big and important part of my life, and some of these animals really have changed me as a person.

“Besides teaching me so much medical and behavior training knowledge, they’ve given me a purpose, for sure. Animal rescue has definitely become part of my identity.”

Other Ways You Can Help

If you are unable—or not quite ready—to foster a rescued pet, you can still support the work of Misty Eyes Animal Center in a number of vitally important ways.

Volunteer. On their website’s Volunteer page, you’ll find details of current openings for volunteers to help with community outreach, special events and staffing the center’s office and welcome desk. Links to application forms for adult and junior volunteers are on the page. 

Donate supplies. To donate most-needed supplies, visit the Wish List page. There you’ll find lists of supplies needed for animals, along with building maintenance and office supplies for the center. There are also links to online wish lists at Amazon and Chewy.

Donate money. On the Misty Eyes website’s Donate page, you’ll find options to make a one-time gift, a recurring monthly gift or a tribute or memorial gift. Scroll down to see options for corporate sponsorships and naming opportunities for shelter construction projects on the Misty Eyes campus.

Adopt a pet. If you’re interested in adopting a rescued pet, visit the Adoption Process page. There you’ll find out how Misty Eyes places pets in the best-suited adoptive homes, along with links to an adoption application form and photos of available pets. 

‘Fosters provide the love. Misty Eyes provides the rest.’ Read More »

Cat playing with yarn while dogs watch

Preparing Your Pets for Disaster

June is National Pet Preparedness Month—an ideal time to prepare to care for pets, along with the rest of your family, in the event of an emergency.

A Family Emergency Plan

A preparedness plan for your pets, within your larger family preparedness plan, includes:

  • Identifying in advance a safe place where your pets will be welcome in the event of an emergency evacuation.
  • Arranging with neighbors, friends or relatives to care for or evacuate each other’s pets in an emergency if the pet owner is unable to do so. 
  • Having your pet microchipped and making sure your contact information is up-to-date. Provide a secondary contact person who lives outside your immediate area in case local communication is impacted by the emergency.

If officials tell you to evacuate before a storm or other disaster, take your pets and their supplies with you. It may be days or even weeks before you are allowed to return to your home. Animals left behind can be lost, injured or killed. 

Your Pet’s Emergency Supplies Kit

Your pet’s emergency supplies kit should include:

  • Nonperishable food and water. Pack several days’ supply of food in an airtight, waterproof container, replacing the food every time you replenish your main supply to keep it fresh. Rotate bottled water to keep it fresh, too. If you’re packing canned food, bring along a can opener if needed.
  • Food and water bowls.
  • Sanitation supplies. Pack several all-purpose full-size trash bags along with smaller bags for picking up after your dog. For cats, pack a litter box and scoop, along with a supply of litter.
  • Grooming supplies. Pack shampoo and towels in case your pet needs cleaning up.
  • Medicine. Pack a supply of your pet’s medicines in a waterproof container, regularly using up and replacing it as expiration dates approach.
  • Extra collars, harnesses and leashes. Attach ID tags with your contact information to the collars and harnesses. 
  • Copies of vaccination records. Make hard copies and enclose them in a waterproof bag. Make electronic copies for your mobile phone.
  • Photographs of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet, photos will help others identify your pet and establish your ownership.
  • Travel crate or carrier. Be prepared to bring along a crate or carrier to keep your pet safely contained in an emergency evacuation.
  • Stress reducers. Pack familiar toys, bedding and treats to comfort your pet.

Your Pet’s First Aid Kit

To prepare for illnesses and injuries that may befall your pet, we recommend assembling a pet first aid kit.

To build your own kit, we recommend visiting the ASPCA’s “How to Make a Pet First Aid Kit” page and downloading the PDF document as a shopping list. 

The Red Cross provides a more comprehensive list of suggested first aid kit contents, also downloadable as a PDF.

Preassembled pet first aid kits are available online.

For information on pet first aid, see our post, “Pet First Aid Basics.”

More Resources

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has prepared a brief video, “Preparing Makes Sense for Pet Owners,” summarizing recommended pet preparedness measures. 

For much more comprehensive emergency preparedness information including planning forms, supply lists and advice specific to a variety of possible disasters and emergencies, visit Homeland Security’s official website, ready.gov.

Preparing Your Pets for Disaster Read More »

Timea H. Brady, DVM, and her dogs

15 and Counting…

As I went about my day last Saturday, it took me a while to realize just what it was that made the day such a momentous one. Along in the morning, it came to me: 

June 1, 2009, was the day I became the proud new owner of Brownsburg Animal Clinic. 

While I’ve been a practicing veterinarian since 2005, this past Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of my venture into independent practice ownership and management. 

In reflecting on my business anniversary, I wonder how those 15 years could seem to have passed so quickly while at the same time feeling it’s been forever since my earliest days as practice owner. 

I think about the associate veterinarians and team members who have worked with me since I bought the practice, starting with Megan Harris, a Registered Veterinary Technician I hired in July 2009. Megan’s still here, still practicing veterinary medicine to the ever-improving quality standards she helped me establish and build from our very beginnings together.

Through the years, a number of associate veterinarians, relief veterinarians, veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and client/patient service representatives have contributed to the success of Brownsburg Animal Clinic. To all the skilled professionals and animal lovers who have been and who continue to be part of the clinic’s ongoing operations, growth and development, I express my deepest gratitude. 

I could not have done any of this without you.

I think about our patients—the thousands of dogs and cats we’ve cared for during the past decade and a half—many for their entire lives. It’s a privilege and pleasure to work with these animal companions and do our part to help them live the healthiest, happiest lives possible. 

Of course, there would be no practice without the owners of all those dogs and cats—our valued clients. 

Some of the clinic’s most loyal clients still remember Dr. Miller, who founded the clinic in 1970 and practiced here until he sold the business to me in 2009. Many more pet owners have found their way to our practice during these past 15 years, and I’m happy to report once they choose us as their veterinarian, most of them tend to stay. 

It means so much to all of us on the clinic team for our clients to entrust us with caring for our patients—their pets. 

So to all the associates and relief vets, veterinary team members, patients and clients who’ve been part of Brownsburg Animal Clinic since I bought the practice 15 years ago, I say a heartfelt thank you! 

I look forward to our next 15 years together and beyond!

TBsig

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

15 and Counting… Read More »

Dog on a bed with a battery powered fan keeping him cool

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Hot Weather

Typically, Brownsburg’s hottest weather is not until July, but National Heat Awareness Day on May 31 serves as an early reminder of the dangers of heat-induced health threats and suggests precautions to minimize them. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Weather Service originally designated the last Friday in May as National Heat Awareness Day to draw attention to the risks of heat exhaustion, dehydration, heatstroke and even death faced by outdoor laborers when temperatures climb.

As veterinarians, we observe National Heat Awareness Day by drawing attention to the dangers to pets posed by high temperatures and offering our advice on keeping pets safe in hot weather.

The #1 Hot-Weather No-No

No matter how much your dog loves going for a ride and how much you enjoy his or her company while you’re running errands, leaving a dog alone in a parked car—even if you park in the shade—even with all the windows open and the air conditioner running—even if you’re going to be gone for only a minute—even if it’s not that hot—is always a dangerously bad idea. Don’t do it. 

Even if the outdoor temperature is only 70 degrees, the inside of your car may be as much as 20 degrees hotter. When the temperature is 85 degrees outside, it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature to rise to 102 degrees inside a car with all the windows opened slightly. After a half-hour, the temperature will reach 120 degrees, and a pet left in those conditions may well suffer irreversible organ damage or die.  

Don’t risk endangering your pet’s life by leaving him or her in a parked car. Leave your pet comfortably, safely at home.

Comforts of Home

If your pet is outside in hot weather, make sure you provide plenty of open shade and fresh water, adding ice to the water on the hottest days.

Indoors, provide access to water and ideally, air-conditioned spaces.

Skip the Shave

While trimming longer hair on your dog is fine in hot weather, never shave your dog down to the bare skin. The coat’s layers protect dogs from overheating and sunburn.

Easy on the Exercise

Even pets conditioned to fairly rigorous exercise routines in more temperate weather need shorter duration and lowered intensity of activities on hot days. Schedule exercise with your pet in the cooler early morning or evening hours. Carry water with you to prevent dehydration.

Avoid Hot Pavement

Hot asphalt can expose your pet’s body to extreme heat rising off the surface. Contact with hot pavement can burn paws. Check the pavement temperature with the back of your hand before leading your pet onto hot pavement and walk on the grass as much as possible. 

Heatstroke

Dogs exposed to high temperatures can suffer heatstroke. The signs include—

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Profuse salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Brick red gum color
  • A deep red or purple tongue
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness

Animals most susceptible to heatstroke are the very young and the very old, overweight and out-of-shape pets, and those suffering from heart or respiratory disease. Dogs with flat faces, like bulldogs, pugs and shih tzus, and flat-faced cats, like Persians and exotic shorthairs, have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat and are much more prone to heatstroke. Keep them in air-conditioned spaces.

If your pet is showing signs of heatstroke, move him or her to the shade or into an air-conditioned space. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest and run cool water over them from a water hose. Offer small amounts of cool water to drink and ice cubes to lick. Get them to a veterinarian immediately, as heatstroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

Heed the Humidity, Too

Animals pant to cool themselves by evaporating moisture from their lungs, but high humidity interferes with cooling and body temperature rises. 

When the humidity is high, pay close attention to your pet and be prepared to take the same emergency measures you would in the event of a heatstroke.

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Hot Weather Read More »

Dog and cat being held in someone's arms

When—and Why—We Refer to Emergency Clinics

Among the most common sources of misunderstanding and disappointment we hear about from our clients are referrals to emergency clinics—particularly when we make them during our own office hours.

We know when you’re worried about a sick or injured pet, a referral from your “regular vet” to an ER can be upsetting. When you’ve depended on us as your primary care veterinarians for most, if not all your pet’s life, at the very time when you feel you need us most, instead of directing you to come to our office, we send you down the road to an emergency clinic.

When that happens, we understand you may feel we’ve let you down. Why would we do that? Here’s why:

As much as we’d like to care for our patients ourselves, we know the referral is in your pet’s best interests.

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we see patients by appointment only. While we do leave slots open for sick pets every day, those appointments often fill quickly, and our doctors and technicians are booked solid for the day—maybe even for the next several days.

When our schedule is full, we refer you to an emergency hospital if, in our judgment of the symptoms, our next available appointment is too long for you to delay getting help for your pet.

In addition to already-committed team members, facilities and equipment may also be scheduled for use by other patients. If we think your pet may need surgery and we know we already have back-to-back procedures planned for our surgical suite, we refer you to an emergency hospital.

We also refer you directly to an emergency hospital if, based on the symptoms, we believe your pet will likely need continuing care and monitoring after-hours.

Area Emergency Hospitals

Fortunately, there are several nearby emergency hospitals as well as the Pet Poison Helpline available to serve you and your pet when we feel the best option is to make a referral.

For your convenience, we list 24/7 and after-hours emergency hospitals in the right sidebar on every page of our website. Here are the emergency resources we recommend:

24/7 Emergency Hospitals

IndyVet Emergency & Specialty Hospital
5425 Victory Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46203
(317) 782-4484
(800) 551-4879

MedVet Indianapolis
9650 Mayflower Park Drive
Carmel, IN 46032
(317) 872-8387

VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center
7712 Crosspoint Commons
Fishers, IN 46038
(317) 578-4100

Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care West
6136 Crawfordville Road
Indianapolis, IN 46224
(317) 491-1900

After-Hours Emergency Hospital

Airport Animal Emergi-Center
5235 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46241
(317) 248-0832

In Case of Poisoning

Pet Poison Helpline
(855) 764-7661

We suggest you familiarize yourself with these clinic locations and visit their websites to learn more about each one before you may need them.

Tips for Avoiding Referrals

  • As primary care practitioners, we recommend regularly scheduled exams, screening tests, vaccines and heartworm and flea and tick preventives as the best way to detect and prevent developing health problems before they become urgent.
  • As a general rule, the earlier in the week and the earlier in the day you call us, the better your chances of booking an appointment with us for a sick or injured pet.
  • When your pet first shows symptoms of illness, call us without delay so we can assess the urgency of the situation and help you determine your options for diagnosis and treatment. The longer the symptoms have been ongoing when you call, the more likely your pet needs immediate medical attention we may not be available to provide.

Thank You for Your Understanding

Rest assured, all of us at Brownsburg Animal Clinic are dedicated to seeing that all our patients receive the care they need, when they need it.

When we can provide that care, we do not hesitate to do so.

When we feel we are unable to provide the care your pet needs in a timely way, we do not hesitate to refer you to qualified, available caregivers who can.

We appreciate your understanding of our referral policies. Please know when we refer you to an emergency clinic, we are acting in the best interests of your pet. We encourage you to accept the referral without delay.

When—and Why—We Refer to Emergency Clinics Read More »

Old dog resting its head on a person wearing jeans and a gray shirt

Caring for Your Senior Pet

Senior cats and dogs make up 44% of the pet population as advances in veterinary care enable pets to live longer lives than ever before. 

If you are fortunate enough to enjoy the faithful companionship of an older pet, there are a number of ways you can enhance your caregiving to help your pet age more safely, comfortably and gracefully. 

Is Your Pet a Senior? 

Whether or not your pet has reached its senior years generally varies by species and by size.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners considers cats 10 years old and older to be seniors, but your veterinarian may begin treating your cat as a senior at an earlier age if he or she is already showing signs of aging. 

Dogs are considered seniors when they’ve reached the remaining 25% of their estimated lifespan, based on size. 

Given that smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger ones, data from the American Kennel Club suggests dogs achieve senior status according to these guidelines:

  • Small and toy breeds weighing less than 20 pounds are considered seniors at age 8 to 11 years of age.
  • Medium-sized breeds weighing 20 to 50 pounds are classified as seniors when they’re 8 to 10 years old.
  • Large breeds weighing 50 to 90 pounds achieve senior status at age 8 to 9 years.
  • Giant breeds weighing more than 90 pounds are seniors when they’re 6 to 7 years old. 

Home Care for Senior Pets

Keep your senior pet active. Although it’s natural for pets to slow down as they age, you can help them stay mobile and flexible by routinely encouraging an age-adjusted level of physical activity. Your walks together may be briefer and more leisurely, but still enjoyable.

Talk to your veterinarian about potential changes to your senior pet’s diet. You may want to transition to a food that’s easier to digest and enriched with supplements—glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, for example—considered especially beneficial for older pets. 

If your pet has been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, such as liver or kidney disease, we may recommend a prescription diet formulated to help manage the diagnosed condition.

As your pet ages, it’s more important than ever to help your pet achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain and weight loss are both concerning. 

See our posts, “Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health” and “New Year’s Resolutions for Overweight Pets” for more detailed information about evaluating your pet’s body condition and managing your pet’s weight.

Senior dogs are increasingly susceptible to dental disease, so it’s more important than ever to brush your pet’s teeth every day and have dental cleanings and exams under anesthesia when we recommend them. See our post, “Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health” for details. 

Home Comforts for Seniors

Your aging pet may benefit from changes to make your home environment more safe, comfortable and accommodating. You might consider—

  • Orthopedic pet beds
  • Raised feeding platforms
  • Food and water bowls with no-slip bottoms
  • Additional water bowls around the house
  • Pet stairs and ramps to make it easier to access favorite spots
  • Larger litter boxes with ramps or low sides 
  • Litter boxes that don’t require stair-climbing to access
  • No-slip rugs to provide better footing on slippery floors
  • Baby gates to block stairs
  • Covers over swimming pools, fire pits and window wells

Make sure your senior pet has a space where he or she can safely retreat from activities in your home. Put his or her bed against a wall or in a corner or inside a crate with the door propped open.

Veterinary Care for Seniors

No matter how well you care for your senior pet at home, with time he or she will become increasingly vulnerable to age-related health issues. 

A stepped-up schedule of regular veterinary care—even for apparently healthy pets—is essential to detecting, diagnosing and managing any of these issues that may emerge as your pet ages. 

Specifically, once your pet transitions to senior status, it’s time to double up on annual wellness exams and schedule them twice a year. 

Pets taking some medications may require even more frequent check-ups to make sure no side-effects are developing from prolonged drug use. 

When our veterinarians examine your senior pet, we follow many of the same protocols and conduct many of the same tests we have throughout your pet’s life. The difference for a senior patient is a more thorough physical examination and a more extensive blood panel, all with an eye toward detecting common conditions that come with aging. 

Vaccines continue to be important, perhaps on a modified schedule to account for older pets’ weakened immune systems. 

We depend on you more than ever to pay attention and report to us to even subtle changes in your pet’s behavior, activity levels, drinking and eating habits, and stools and urine production. 

Potential Senior Health Problems

Cancer is the leading cause of death in nearly half of dogs and about a third of cats more than 10 years old. Some common signs to watch for—

  • Lumps or bumps (which may be benign)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unpleasant odors coming from your pet
  • Difficulty defecating and urinating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Discharge from body openings, such as the nostrils or anus

Other common health problems that come with age include:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney or urinary tract disease
  • Liver disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hypo- and hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Joint or bone disease
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Dental disease
  • Lipomas

Vision loss. It’s normal for pets to lose some of their vision as they age. Some seniors develop cataracts. Visually impaired pets can still get around well enough in familiar surroundings, so long as you keep your pet’s beds, food and water bowls and litter box in the same places and refrain from adding or rearranging furniture.

Hearing loss. Older pets may also lose their hearing, making it harder for them to hear you call them or come into a room. While your pet still can hear you, consider coupling some simple hand signals with your most-used commands so you can still offer guidance to a hard-of-hearing pet. 

Potential Cognitive and Behavior Changes

Canine cognitive dysfunction causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Common behavior changes that come with canine cognitive dysfunction include:

  • Increased reactions to loud or strange sounds
  • Diminished response to voice commands
  • Increased barking
  • Increased aggressive or protective behavior
  • Increased anxiety
  • Apparent disorientation or confusion
  • Repeating the same actions over and over
  • Increased wandering
  • Diminished memory and learning ability
  • House soiling
  • Changed sleep patterns
  • Diminished interest in playing
  • Hiding

Cats can develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome, too. At 15 years old and older, 80% of cats show signs of cognitive dysfunction. Signs, which are similar to symptoms exhibited by dogs,  include disorientation, vocalizing—especially at night, having accidents in the house, hiding, poor grooming and sleeping more than usual. 

Watch for signs of senility or cognitive dysfunction and address them by engaging more frequently with your pet and providing mentally stimulating games, toys and puzzles. 

Arthritis. An overall reduction in your senior pet’s activity level may indicate disease—most commonly, arthritis. Your older pet may begin to avoid activities like climbing stairs, running, jumping or getting into cars. Other signs of arthritis—

  • Favoring a leg
  • Walking stiffly
  • Having trouble sitting down or standing up
  • Resisting being touched or petted
  • Playing less
  • Sleeping more
  • Showing unusual aggression toward people and other pets

Age is Not a Disease

While aging may come with its share of health and quality of life challenges, your pet’s advancing age is not a disease. 

The team at Brownsburg Animal Clinic is eager to support you and your senior pet, working side-by-side with you to achieve a longer, healthier, happier life throughout your remaining years together.

Call us at (317) 852-3323 to schedule your senior pet’s next appointment. 

Caring for Your Senior Pet Read More »

Deer tick

Lyme Disease, Your Pet and You

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, so we’re offering some basics about the disease—particularly as it impacts Hendricks County. This post also includes symptoms of Lyme disease in people and pets, prevention advice and links to authoritative sources of more detailed information. 

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a potentially severe infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted to people and pets through bites from an infected blacklegged deer tick. It’s named for Lyme, Connecticut, the town where the disease was first identified in 1975.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, “Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in Indiana and in the United States.”

While you can’t catch Lyme disease directly from an infected pet, both you and your pet can catch it if you’re bitten by infected blacklegged deer ticks found in the environment you share—on walks you take together in grassy or wooded areas, for example—or from infected ticks brought home and transferred to you from the pet.

Dogs infected with Lyme disease are considered an indicator of the likely exposure of humans to the disease. As a rule, the more dogs testing positive for Lyme disease in a given county, the higher the frequency of Lyme disease in humans living in that county.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

In humans, the early symptoms of Lyme disease infection are an expanding red skin rash, facial nerve and muscle weakness or paralysis, severe headaches and neck stiffness, lightheadedness, flu-like symptoms, fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations or chest pains, and pain and swelling in large joints. 

As the disease progresses in humans, additional symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, twitching, cognitive impairment, heart problems, neuropathy, headache, muscle aches, memory loss, sleep impairment, gastrointestinal problems, and depression or mood changes.

In dogs, the symptoms of infection—shown by only 5 to 10% of infected dogs—are lameness, fever, joint swelling, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes and loss of appetite. Left untreated, potentially deadly kidney, nervous system and heart problems may develop. 

Fortunately, if caught early, most dogs can be successfully treated for Lyme disease with antibiotics. A vaccine is also available.

Lyme Disease in Indiana

The incidence of Lyme disease among humans in Indiana has generally trended upward over the past decade, from 75 reported cases in 2012 to 314 cases in 2021—a rate of 4.6 cases per 100,000 population. In 2022, 236 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Indiana, for an incidence rate of 3.5 cases per 100,000 population.

Statewide, Lyme disease is most common in May, June and July, when ticks are most active, but cases have been documented year-round.

Cases of the disease are most prevalent in the northwestern part of the state. The number of reported cases among residents of Hendricks County, while not zero, is relatively low. Only two cases were reported in our county in 2022.

The Indiana State Department of Health collected ticks statewide between 2017 and 2023 and had them tested at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Of the 45 adult ticks collected in Hendricks County, none tested positive. However, 20 to 39.9% of ticks collected in Boone, Putnam, Morgan and Marion counties tested positive and 40% or more of the 66 adult ticks collected in Montgomery County tested positive for the Lyme disease-causing bacterium. 

Preventing Lyme Disease

Tick control—primarily by keeping your pet on year-round flea and tick preventive—is the most effective way to prevent Lyme disease infections in pets and people. 

Other measures we recommend:

  • Avoid areas likely to be infested by ticks when they are most active. In Indiana, that’s late April through May, June and July.
  • Ask us which tick repellants are safe to use on your dog.
  • Check yourself and your pet thoroughly for ticks immediately after outings to grassy or wooded areas, and remove any you find right away. 

We suggest you review “How to Remove a Tick From Your Dog” on the American Kennel Club website before removing ticks. 

Ask Us About the Lyme Disease Vaccine

Vaccinated animals are less likely to contract Lyme disease than unvaccinated ones, but it is still possible for a vaccinated animal to be infected. 

We recommend the vaccine only for healthy dogs most likely to be exposed to ticks. 

After asking you about your pet’s environment and activities and evaluating your pet’s overall health, our veterinarians will help you decide if your pet’s potential exposure to deer ticks warrants a vaccine. 

The typical vaccine protocol is an initial injection followed by a booster 2 to 4 weeks later. After that, we recommend annual Lyme disease vaccine boosters. 

More Lyme Disease Resources

For comprehensive general information about Lyme disease, visit lymedisease.org. This site is primarily focused on the impact of Lyme disease on humans, but it dedicates a page, “Pets and Lyme disease,” to information of particular interest to pet owners. 

On PetMD’s website, see “Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment.” The page presents a brief video overview, followed by a more detailed article. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s “Lyme disease: A pet owner’s guide” offers advice for people as well as pets who may be infected.

For more information about the risk of Lyme disease in cats, see “Lyme Disease: A Potential, But Unlikely, Problem for Cats,” published by Cornell’s Feline Health Center. 

Lyme Disease, Your Pet and You Read More »

Cat looking out from inside a crate

Shelter Pets Have Their Day

April 30 is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day—a day set aside to remind us of the thousands of homeless pets waiting in shelters for new homes of their very own. 

Right now, hundreds of adoptable dogs and cats are waiting for homes right here in Hendricks County.

Practically speaking, adopting a shelter pet takes more than a single day. Only after you progress from the decision to adopt to bringing your shelter pet home will you start building a loving relationship that will, ideally, last your new pet’s remaining lifetime. 

For the happiest results, we recommend giving yourself time to commit to the idea of adopting a shelter pet, start gathering the supplies and equipment you’ll need, prepare your home to be a safe, pet-proof environment and finally, search online and visit a shelter to find the pet who’s the best fit. 

Area Shelter Pets Available Now

When the time comes to choose your pet, we recommend the Hendricks County Animal Shelter in Danville and Misty Eyes Animal Center in Avon as two nearby sources of well-cared-for, adoptable dogs and cats. 

Both organizations feature photos of available pets, along with recently adopted pets and their new families, on their Facebook pages. Visit the Hendricks County Shelter page and the Misty Eyes page to see a sampling of pets who currently need loving permanent homes. 

Visit the Misty Eyes website for more photographs of currently available pets

On both Facebook pages, you may find additional posts with photos and notes about medical treatment and training selected shelter pets are receiving to resolve health problems and improve their chances of lasting success in their new homes. 

You’ll also find stories of how these pets came to be shelter pets. Many were strays. Some were surrendered by owners who could no longer care for them. Others were transferred from overcrowded shelters to save their lives. 

There may also be notes about the types of households where they will most likely be comfortable—perhaps as an only pet or as one who’ll prefer living with other pet companions.

Both organizations require applications from prospective adopters and do their very best to place pets in loving households where they will have the best opportunities to thrive. Frequently, there will be a meet-up with any current household pets required to make sure everyone is likely to get along once you get your new pet home. 

How to Adopt a Shelter Pet of Your Own

Visit the Misty Eyes Animal Center website for detailed information on how you can adopt one of the pets in their care as your own.

For much more information about the Hendricks County shelter, including a summary of shelter statistics and details of their adoption process, see our post, “A County Shelter We Can Be Proud Of.

Shelter Pets Have Their Day Read More »

Cat and dog walking along a pathway through a field

How to Get a Lost Pet Back Home

An estimated one of every three pets gets lost during its lifetime. 

Any pet can get lost, but newly-adopted pets are as much as four times more likely to run away, compared with established pets. Taking your pet on vacation or moving it to a new home can also increase the risk of its getting lost.

In observance of National Lost Dog Awareness Day—April 23—we recommend simple actions you can take to reduce your dog’s—or cat’s—risk of being lost and improve your chances of getting a lost pet back home.

See our previous post, “Could We See Some ID?” for recommended ways to identify your pet.

Keeping Your Pet from Getting Lost

There are a number of measures you can take now to keep your pet safely at home where he or she belongs.

Secure your yard, making sure fencing is intact and gates are closed. Fill in any gaps at the base of the fence and, if necessary, install wire mesh above and below to discourage jumping and digging. 

Secure windows and doors. A motivated pet can easily push through a window screen or unlatched door. Be particularly attentive when workers or guests are coming and going and doors may be left open.

When outdoors, keep your dog on a leash. While your off-lead dog may usually stay close and come when called, even the best-trained dog can be startled by loud noises or irresistibly tempted to chase other animals that unexpectedly appear on the scene.

Spay or neuter your pet to reduce the urge to roam. Mating instincts are powerful!

Secure your pet in a crate or carrier when traveling. While your home may be relatively secure, conditions away from home may not be, and the area will be unfamiliar to your pet.

Plan ahead for fireworks, thunderstorms and other noisy situations that could trigger your pet’s flight response. See our posts, “Is Your Dog Noise Phobic?” and “Managing Your Pet’s Noise Anxiety” for advice on keeping your noise-averse pet safe.

What to Do if Your Pet Gets Lost

If you lose a pet, call the Hendricks County Animal Shelter immediately. Be prepared to supply photographs and a description of the pet and details of where and when you lost it. 

For a video overview of preventing pets from getting lost and finding those that do, see “How to prevent and deal with lost pets!” from the Jackson Galaxy YouTube channel. Although the channel is focused on cats, the recommendations apply to dogs as well. 

This 5-minute video from the City of Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter, “How to Find a Lost Dog,” offers practical advice on improving your chances of recovering your lost dog. 

The Sacramento shelter has a similar video, “How to Find a Lost Cat,” that describes how to adapt your search methods to typical lost cat behavior.

If You Find a Pet

If the pet will come close enough to allow it, check for an ID tag and call the phone number listed. If the pet has a digital tag with a QR code, scan it with your phone to access the owner’s contact information.

If you can safely capture the pet, if possible, confine it to your home and/or fenced yard to keep it safe while you attempt to contact the owner. If you are unable to keep the pet in your home while trying to find the owner, make arrangements with the Hendricks County Animal Shelter to bring the pet to the shelter. 

If there are no ID tags, knock on doors to see if neighbors recognize the pet.

Photograph the pet and post on community and neighborhood social media pages.

Have the pet checked for a microchip at a veterinary clinic or shelter. If a microchip is present and the owner has kept contact information current, you can get the information you need to contact the owner from the microchip registry.

How We Can Help

If you’ve found a pet and are unable to contact its owner based on collar tags, call us to arrange a convenient time to bring the pet in to the clinic so we can scan for a microchip.

If you report a lost or found pet to the Hendricks County Animal Shelter as we strongly recommend, we will help spread the news by sharing lost and found Brownsburg pet posts from the shelter’s Facebook page on the Brownsburg Animal Clinic page. 

It’s our way of doing what we can to help get lost pets back home where they belong, and nothing pleases us more than to see “HOME” added to a post we’ve shared.

How to Get a Lost Pet Back Home Read More »

ID tag hanging from a dog's collar

Could We See Some ID?

More than 90% of lost pets who make it back home get there because of ID tags, microchips or other identification like tattoos. In observance of National Pet ID Week—April 17-23—we outline multiple ways to identify your pet.

Photographs

Have a photography session featuring your pet, taking care to capture multiple views and distinctive markings that would help a stranger recognize your pet. If you regularly have your dog’s coat trimmed, shoot photos showing how he or she looks with varying coat lengths. Include yourself in some of the photos in case you need to establish that the pet belongs to you.

Collar Tags

Keep a collar on your pet with identification tags attached at all times. Even indoor pets can easily slip through an open door or window and get lost outside. 

You may choose standard tags bearing the pet’s name and your name, address and phone number. These provide the most easily-accessible contact information to anyone who finds your lost pet. Search online for “pet ID tags” to see a full selection.

A digital tag with a quick-response (QR) code is a relatively new, surprisingly inexpensive pet ID option that allows you—usually at no additional cost—to register multiple contacts and detailed information about your pet, including photographs and medical data. If someone finds your pet, they can scan the QR code with a smart phone to access all your pet’s information. An online search for “digital pet id tags” will generate multiple options.

Most lost pets with an up-to-date ID tag are returned home within a few hours.

GPS Tracking Collars

A number of Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking collars and tags are now available to allow you to track your pet’s location using your cell phone.

This comprehensive article from PC Magazine, “The Best Pet Trackers and GPS Dog Collars for 2024” identifies, ranks and reviews a half-dozen products, weighing pros and cons of each and offering a buying guide to help you choose the best one for your pet. 

Microchips

In addition to external collar tags, we recommend having us implant a microchip to identify your pet even if its collar falls off or is removed. Nearly all shelters and veterinary hospitals—including ours—have scanners that can detect and read the microchip’s registration number. Assuming you’ve registered and kept your contact information up-to-date, a microchip can improve the likelihood your pet will make it back home by 50%.

How We Can Help

If you pet hasn’t yet had a microchip implanted, call the office to schedule an appointment. If your pet is scheduled for any procedure requiring anesthesia, such as neutering or a dental cleaning, you may prefer to have the chip implanted then. 

If your pet already has a microchip, we can scan for it during your next clinic visit to make sure it’s still in place and readable. 

Could We See Some ID? Read More »

Snarling dog

Why Do Dogs Bite?

The second full week in April—the 7th through the 13th in 2024—is National Dog Bite Prevention Week®. In this post, we consider why dogs bite and what you can do to cut your own and your child’s risk of being bitten. 

A Serious Health Risk—Especially for Children

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, with 800,000 of them requiring medical attention. 

At least half of those bitten are children, who are more likely than adults to be severely injured as victims of dog bites.

Half of all children have been bitten by a dog by the time they are 12 years old. 

Most young children bitten by dogs were engaged in everyday activities while interacting with familiar dogs. 

Any Dog May Bite

A dog of any breed, size, gender or age may bite if provoked—especially if they’re sick or in pain or just want to be left alone. 

A dog in a stressful situation may bite to defend itself or its territory.

A dog may bite because it feels threatened, scared or startled.

A dog may bite to protect something it values, like its puppies, its food or its toy.

A dog may bite when overly excited during play.

Preventing Dog Bites

Fortunately, most dog bites can be prevented.

To prevent your dog from biting—

  • Starting in puppyhood, socialize your dog by introducing people and other animals in multiple settings so he or she learns to feel at ease in a variety of situations. 
  • Using humane, reward-based training, teach your dog to obey at least a few simple, basic commands. For more information, see our post, “Training the LIMA Way.”  
  • Provide regular exercise.
  • Provide adequate health care, including spaying or neutering.
  • Never leave young children and dogs unattended. 
  • Do not allow your children to ride or sit on your dog or pull its ears or tail.
  • Supervise your dog when outdoors, even in a fenced yard. 
  • Don’t allow your dog to roam free.

To keep from being bitten, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends avoiding approaching or attempting to pet any dog in these risky situations—

  • The dog is not with its owner
  • The dog is with its owner, but the owner did not give permission to pet the dog
  • The dog is in a car
  • The dog is on the other side of a fence or tethered
  • The dog is running loose
  • The dog is sleeping or eating
  • The dog is sick or injured
  • The mother dog is resting with her puppies, seems protective of her puppies or anxious about your presence
  • The dog is playing with or chewing on a toy
  • The dog is growling or barking
  • The dog appears to be hiding or trying to be alone

Read the Body Language

Learning to read a dog’s body language can also help reduce the risk of being bitten by a dog who’s feeling anxious, fearful, threatened or aggressive. It’s best to withdraw from any dog whose body language indicates potential trouble.

Aggressive dogs often try to make themselves look bigger, with their ears up and forward and the fur on their back and tail standing on end. Their tails may stand straight up and wag. Their stance may be stiff and straight-legged. They may stare at or move toward the perceived threat, baring their teeth, growling, lunging or barking. 

Fearful dogs may try to look smaller by crouching to the ground, lowering their heads and putting their tails between their legs. They may repeatedly lick their lips, flatten their ears back and yawn. They may look away to avoid direct eye contact. They may stay still or roll onto their back to expose their stomach. They may try to move away from the perceived threat. 

Many dogs express confusion and conflict by exhibiting a combination of aggressive and submissive body language. To minimize your risk of being bitten, avoid any dog showing any combination of fearful, anxious or aggressive body language. 

Teach Your Children Well

To reduce the risk to your children of being bitten by a dog—including your family pet—teach them about why dogs bite and the high-risk situations they should avoid. 

Some rules to emphasize—

  • Always ask, “May I pet your dog?” before approaching a dog on a leash.
  • Do not run toward a dog. 
  • Never tease, bark or growl at a dog.
  • Leave sleeping and resting dogs alone.
  • Don’t bother very old dogs.
  • Don’t dress a dog in play clothes.
  • Don’t hug or kiss a dog or pet them on the top of the head. Many of them don’t like it.
  • Don’t hang on to a dog who’s trying to get away.
  • If approached by an unknown, overly friendly or hostile dog, stand still “like a tree,” with your arms close to your body.
  • If a dog jumps on you and knocks you down, “be a rock” and tuck into a crouched position, covering your head with your hands.

Let Us Help

Take any aggressive behavior by your dog seriously, even if no one gets bitten. Our veterinarians will help you address the problem and find the help you need to manage the behavior safely and effectively. 

Why Do Dogs Bite? Read More »

Heartworms

Protecting Your Pet From Heartworms

According to the American Heartworm Society, “More than a million pets in the U.S. have heartworms. But heartworm disease is preventable.”

While one month each year—April—has been designated National Heartworm Awareness Month, keeping your pet safe from heartworms—although not difficult—is a year-round endeavor. 

About Heartworms

Heartworm disease is just what it sounds like it is, caused by a parasitic worm that lives in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of an infected animal. Mosquitoes spread the worms’ larvae after biting an infected animal. 

Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets as well as wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and other wildlife. 

Heartworm disease is not contagious, in that it can’t be directly transmitted by an infected host animal to others. It takes a mosquito bite to spread the disease. 

Once transmitted to a dog’s bloodstream, the larvae take 6 to 7 months to mature into adult heartworms. The adults mate and the females release their offspring into the host pet’s bloodstream. 

A heartworm’s lifespan inside a dog is 5 to 7 years. Adult male heartworms measure 4 to 6 inches long and adult females are 10 to 12 inches long. The mature worms look like strands of cooked spaghetti. 

The number of worms living inside an infected dog, on average, is 15 worms, but the number can range from 1 to 250. 

A heartworm infection can be well underway before a dog shows any symptoms. As the number of worms increases, so does the damage to internal organs. Symptoms may include a worsening and increasingly frequent cough, growing fatigue after activity, trouble breathing and signs of heart failure.

Cats Can Get Heartworm Disease, Too

Cats can get heartworm disease, too, but they are not as susceptible to infections as dogs. Heartworms in cats take longer to mature, have shorter lifespans and do not grow as long as heartworms in dogs. 

An infected cat might have only one or two adult heartworms, but because of their relatively small body size, cats with only one or two worms are considered heavily infected. Immature heartworms can cause a serious condition—heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD)—in cats.

Heartworms are harder to detect in cats, compared to dogs. Blood tests can be inconclusive, and we may need x-rays and ultrasound images of the heart to determine if a cat has heartworm disease. 

Some infected cats spontaneously rid themselves of heartworms. Other infected cats die suddenly of heartworm disease without showing any signs of illness. The death of only one heartworm can trigger an inflammatory response severe enough to prove fatal to a cat. 

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats include trouble breathing, increased respiratory rate, cough, vomiting, decreased activity and appetite and weight loss. 

Prevalence

In the United States, heartworm disease is most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but heartworms have been reported in all 50 states including Indiana. The Companion Animal Parasite Council sets the statewide prevalence rate among tested dogs in Indiana in 2023 at 0.66%. 

In Hendricks County, one of every 300 dogs tested for heartworms in 2023 tested positive, for an overall rate of 0.34%. County-wide, there were 49 reported cases based on 14,481 tests.

Testing

We test your pet’s blood for heartworms by detecting heartworm proteins, called antigens, released by adult females. The earliest we can detect these proteins is about 5 months after the bite by the infected mosquito. 

We use another test to detect microfilariae—an early stage in the heartworm lifecycle—produced by mating males and females and released into your pet’s bloodstream. If we find microfilariae, it tells us there are adult heartworms present. The earliest we can detect microfilariae is about 6 months after the infected mosquito bite. 

When and how often we recommend testing your pet for heartworms depend on several factors:

  • Your pet’s age when started on heartworm preventive 
  • If you skipped or forgot to give one or more heartworm prevention doses
  • If you switched from one type of heartworm preventive to another
  • If the pet traveled to an area where heartworm disease is prevalent

Dogs 7 months old and older should be tested for heartworms before starting a heartworm preventive and again 6 months later. Once using preventives regularly, dogs are usually tested annually. 

Testing is essential before we prescribe a preventive. Giving heartworm preventive to a pet already infected with heartworms can be deadly. 

Treating Heartworm Disease

Treatment for heartworm disease is expensive and time-consuming, requiring multiple visits to the clinic for repeated blood tests, x-rays and injections. The treatment process is hard on the pet as well as the owner. Serious, potentially deadly complications can develop. 

To treat heartworm disease, we use an injectable drug containing arsenic—melarsomine dihydrochloride—approved by the Food and Drug Administration to kill adult heartworms in dogs. Most adult worms die quickly and can be eliminated within 1 to 3 months. We prescribe cage rest and restricted exercise during this phase of the treatment to help minimize complications. 

Because a single course of treatment may not completely clear all heartworm infections, additional testing and injections of melarsomine may be needed. Your veterinarian may first administer heartworm preventives for 2 months to eliminate microfilariae in the dog’s bloodstream before treating with melarsomine. 

While we have medicines available to treat heartworm symptoms in cats, there is no FDA-approved drug to treat heartworm disease in cats.

Protecting Your Pet

Given how devastating and deadly heartworm disease can be for dogs and cats and how difficult and expensive it is to treat, we are fortunate to be able to offer easy-to-use, almost 100% effective preventive treatments by prescription. 

With very few exceptions, we strongly recommend heartworm preventives year-round for all dogs and cats in our care—including those who spend most or all of their time indoors. 

Heartworm preventives work by killing microfilariae and larvae in your pet’s blood. In as few as 51 days, heartworm larvae can molt into immature adults that, like adult heartworms, are not eliminated by preventives. That’s why it’s so important to keep to a strict schedule when administering preventives—to kill larvae before they have a chance to mature to adulthood. 

Preventives we prescribe can be given monthly, either as an oral tablet or applied to the skin as a topical liquid. Injectable products are available lasting 6 months to a full year. The dosage is based on your pet’s body weight. 

Many preventives have additional ingredients to control intestinal worms, such as roundworms and hookworms, as well as other parasites including fleas, ticks and ear mites. 

Our veterinarians will discuss the options for heartworm prevention and recommend the best choice for your pet. 

Recommended Resources

The American Heartworm Society has a Heartworm Resource Center offering authoritative information on heartworm disease in multiple languages. We suggest selecting and applying your preferred language in the search fields before your browse the Resource Center page.

See also our blog post, “Heartworm Prevention Is A Year-Round Commitment.”

Protecting Your Pet From Heartworms Read More »

Dog licking a cat

Pet First Aid Basics

April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. In observance, we’re sharing our suggestions for steps you can take to prepare for, respond to and, best of all, avoid a medical emergency. 

We’ve put together a collection of links you can use as a self-study course on pet first-aid basics. If you read—even just skim—the resources we recommend, you’ll know some preventive measures to take as well as what to do—and what not to do—in common emergency situations. 

First Steps to First Aid Preparedness

Our first recommendation is for all in your household with mobile phones to add Brownsburg Animal Clinic, the Pet Poison Helpline and your choice of area emergency clinics to your stored contacts lists. You can find the contact information you need in the right sidebar on every page of our website, ready for you to transfer to your phones.

Next, we suggest you put together a first aid kit for your pet(s). We like the ASPCA’s recommended list of kit contents.

The Red Cross offers a more comprehensive list as a downloadable PDF, ready to print and use as a shopping list.

We suggest you keep the first aid supplies you assemble in a portable container you can take with you when traveling with your pet. 

If you prefer, you can shop online for a pre-assembled pet first aid kit. 

Preventive Strategies

The best first aid preparation of all is to take steps immediately to avoid needing to administer it! You can take precautions now to prevent illnesses and accidents by making your pet’s environment safe and cultivating good safety habits to keep your pet out of danger.

For ideas on how to protect your pet’s health and safety, we recommend reading and heeding these articles:

See our recent blog post, “Keeping Your Pet Safe from Poisons” to find out which foods, plants, household products and drugs are potentially toxic to pets and make sure they’re all out of your pet’s reach. 

Pet First Aid 101

Ideally, as a loving and responsible pet owner, you’re willing to learn the basics of pet first aid so, in case of an emergency, you will have some idea of how best to respond.

To help you get started learning about pet first aid, we recommend reading “First aid tips for pet owners” from the American Veterinary Medical Association website. The tips page offers a pet first aid overview, with links to more detailed articles. 

Another pet first aid resource we like is from VeterinaryPartner, “Introduction: First Aid.” This comprehensive guide was written by four veterinarians and originally published in 1994, but all 35 of the linked-to pages have been reviewed and revised as needed between 2017 and 2022. 

By systematically reading each of the articles on the AVMA website and the full VeterinaryPartners guide, you’ll have effectively completed a comprehensive home-study course in pet first aid. We hope you’ll plan the occasional refresher course as needed.

Get Professional Help

Your improved ability to recognize an emerging medical crisis, coupled with your basic knowledge of pet first aid techniques, can make the difference between life and death for your pet. 

But keep in mind, it’s called first aid for a reason. Professional veterinary care beyond what you can provide may be needed. 

In the event of a medical emergency, your pet will have the best chances of survival if you seek professional help as soon as possible. 

Even if your efforts at rendering first aid appear to have worked and your pet seems to feel better, it’s still a good idea to consult with a veterinary professional to determine what additional steps, if any, you need to take.

In the event of a medical emergency for your pet, as soon as you are able, we suggest you use those clinic and helpline numbers stored in your phone to call for any professional help you may need.

Pet First Aid Basics Read More »

Canine Athlete

Caring for Your Canine Athlete

The field of sports medicine for people has grown a lot in the past few years, and within veterinary medicine, sports medicine for dogs isn’t far behind. Of course, it makes sense. As people adopt more active lifestyles, they enjoy involving their dogs in activities, too.

Most dogs are more than willing to run and play until they drop. A lot of times, their owners don’t realize inactive or out-of-shape dogs can over-train or hurt themselves just as human “weekend athletes” do.

Major differences in canine and human physiology make dogs more vulnerable to overheating than humans. Dogs don’t tolerate heat as well as people. Instead of sweating, they pant. When the air outside is hot, the panting doesn’t help them cool down as much, so they may be at risk for a heat stroke in situations that wouldn’t normally cause a person to overheat. Most people think if they’re OK in the heat, the dog is OK, too. But that’s not always the case.

Of course, we want our clients to have fun with their dogs. Walking or running and playing together are great for the dog and the owner. We just want people to ask themselves a few key questions before they get into any heavy exercise program with their dog—particularly in hot weather.

Is your dog in condition? Like people, dogs need conditioning to build muscles and cardiovascular fitness before walking or running long distances. If you want your dog to go with you on long-distance walks or runs, start with short distances and increase distance gradually.

Is your dog old enough for running? It takes 12 to 24 months, depending on the breed, for a young dog’s skeletal system to mature. Your veterinarian can advise you about your breed. Until then, limit running, jumping and other strenuous exercise.

Does your dog have hip dysplasia? Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic problem in dogs, especially in the larger breeds. If you have a breed that’s prone to hip dysplasia, or if your dog seems to have trouble getting up and moving around, you need to avoid strenuous exercise until your veterinarian X-rays your dog’s hips.

How’s your dog’s cardiovascular system? Any kind of aerobic exercise works the cardiovascular system. Before you get into a strenuous exercise program with your dog—especially if it’s an older dog—you should have a veterinarian check for heart defects or disease.

Is your dog obese? It’s a great idea for overweight dogs to get exercise, but you should start slowly and build up levels of exertion gradually. To tell if your dog is overweight, you should be able to feel, but not see your dog’s ribs.

Does your dog have access to fresh water? Water is necessary for proper muscle function and flushes out waste products without damaging the kidneys. Water helps keep a dog cool, too. We suggest taking along a water bottle or canteen when exercising with your pet.

Do you know the symptoms of heat stroke? Dogs do not tolerate heat as well as humans. Hot weather can be deadly to dogs if they overheat enough to have a heat stroke. If your dog pants incessantly, feels hot to the touch and has pale or blue gums, you must cool him down immediately. Douse him with cool water and get him to a veterinarian at once. Some breeds are more vulnerable to heat stroke than others. Any dog with a pushed-in face, like a Boston terrier, a bulldog, a pug or a Pekingese, is usually more likely to have serious problems with heat than a breed with a longer muzzle.

The veterinarians at Brownsburg Animal Clinic agree the benefits of exercise for dogs far outweigh the risks, provided owners take the recommended precautions. We don’t want to scare anybody, and we certainly don’t want to discourage people from exercising and playing with their dogs. We just want to be sure dog owners are aware of possible problems before they happen.

Caring for Your Canine Athlete Read More »

Cat eating from bowl while dog watches

17 Ways to Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy on a Budget

We know. Caring for a pet can be expensive. But it’s entirely possible to keep your pet happy and healthy on a budget. Here are 17 ideas for saving money on pet care without compromising your pet’s wellbeing or quality of life.

1. Start with Realistic Expectations

 Most pet owners pay for pet supplies and veterinary care from general household funds without ever separating out and adding up the total costs of pet care. If you’re serious about trimming your pet care budget, the first step is to determine what you’re spending now on your pet. 

Our post “The Costs of Owning a Pet” will help you get started on tallying your ongoing, periodic and one-time expenses.

2. Plan Ahead

Most pet care costs (unrelated to accidents or illnesses) are predictable and can be budgeted for in advance. 

You know you’ll be buying pet food, treats and irresistible toys regularly throughout the year (unless you decide to make your own treats and toys, as we suggest in tip #14). 

If you use professional grooming services, you can anticipate when and how often the appointments will be (until you put tip #13 into practice and learn to groom your pet yourself). 

If you board your pet when you travel on business or for fun, you can probably predict the timing and approximate amount of these expenditures (unless you barter services, as suggested in tip #15).

You know when your pet’s routine wellness check-ups, vaccines and parasite preventives will come due and if you ask us, we’ll give you an estimate of what these essential services and products will cost next time. 

If, after adding everything up, you know you can easily pay these ongoing and periodic expenses as they occur, great! Of course, you can still benefit from our money-saving suggestions to reduce your pet care costs. 

If you find you can afford the relatively minor ongoing expenses but the more substantial pet care costs tend to put you into a financial bind in the months you have to pay them, see our post “Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills” for ideas on generating cash to cover pet care when you need it. 

Our favorite source, by far, is savings you’ve set aside in advance to cover these anticipated costs.

3. Reduce Your Financial Risk

We recommend insuring your pet as the best way to reduce your risk of substantial financial loss in the event your pet has an accident or becomes seriously ill. See our “Pet Insurance” series to find out how to choose the best insurance policy for you and your pet. 

The five-part series includes—

4. Feed Your Pet Well

We recommend feeding the right amount of high-quality, age-appropriate food as foundational to your pet’s health and wellbeing. 

For an overview of nutrition basics, see “Dog Nutrition Tips” and “Cat Nutrition Tips” from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

While there’s no need to buy the most expensive premium foods containing exotic ingredients, you must avoid the false economy of buying cheap food made with inferior ingredients that provide little or no nutrition. These “economy” pet food brands can cause allergies and intestinal problems—conditions that often clear up when our clients upgrade to a better-quality pet food.

For most pets, we suggest feeding a mid-priced food from a reputable manufacturer. You can save money by not overfeeding—not only saving on the food itself but on treating the health problems that can develop with overweight and obesity. 

Generally, but not always, buying food in larger sizes saves you money provided you can store the food properly and use it before it spoils. The best deals on high-quality pet foods may be private label brands at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. We’re happy to read ingredients lists to determine if the food you’re considering will be nutritious for your pet.

You can also save money by having food automatically shipped to your home by subscription. 

Although it may seem counterintuitive, preparing a nutritionally-balanced homemade diet for your pet will most likely cost you more than feeding commercially prepared food from a reputable manufacturer. 

5. Keep Up With Wellness Exams

We consider regularly-scheduled wellness check-ups essential to your pet’s continuing health and happiness. We know it can be tempting to postpone these exams—especially when your pet seems perfectly fine—but the benefits of maintaining a regular wellness check-up schedule are well worth the effort and expense. 

See our post “Preventive Care for Better Health and Lower Costs” to find out how wellness exams can result in a healthier, happier pet at a lower total cost for veterinary care over the pet’s lifetime.

See also “Getting the Most from Your Pet’s Regular Check-Ups.”

6. Keep Up With Vaccines

As part of our wellness exams, we recommend and administer the vaccines your pet needs to avoid the most common, preventable illnesses (and obey Indiana law). For more specifics about vaccines, see our post “Essential Vaccines to Protect Your Pet.”

7. Protect Your Pet From Parasites

As part of your pet’s wellness check-up, we test for heartworms and intestinal parasites and examine your pet for fleas and ticks. 

Keeping heartworms, fleas and ticks under control is a year-round challenge in our part of the country, so we recommend year-round heartworm and flea and tick preventives. We understand preventives can be expensive—especially when you buy a year’s supply at once—but the challenges and expense of treating an infestation as well as the damage to your pet’s health more than justify the costs of preventives. 

See our post “Protecting Your Pet from Heartworms” to learn more about this especially dangerous parasite. 

For more information about protecting your family from diseases your pet can transmit to you—many of which are caused by parasites—see our post “Your Pet Can Make You Sick.”

8. Price-Shop for Drugs

For quality assurance, immediate availability and convenience, you can’t beat our in-house pharmacy and our online store.

We realize, however, that with some research, you may find your pet’s prescription drugs and parasite preventives for sale at a lower price than we can offer. If you’d like to buy from an outside pharmacy, we will provide you with a written prescription or call or fax the prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. Just let us know.

Make sure you buy from a reputable pharmacy. We believe pharmacies in national warehouse clubs, big box stores and major grocery chains are most likely to offer authentic products that have been handled properly. Many of the cheapest online veterinary pharmacies have poor quality control practices and sell counterfeit products that have no medical benefit and may even harm your pet. We suggest you avoid those.

9. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

To reduce the risk of periodontal disease and delay or possibly even eliminate the need for a professional cleaning, we recommend brushing your pet’s teeth every day. See our post “Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health” for more advice about dental health care for your pet. 

10. Keep Your Pet at a Healthy Weight

As with humans, overweight and obesity are associated with a number of serious, often expensive-to-manage health problems. See our posts “Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health” and “New Year’s Resolutions for Overweight Pets” for our advice on helping your pet achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

11. Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Spaying or neutering your pet does have an up-front cost for the surgery, but you are likely to save money in the long run by preventing the birth of unwanted litters and by avoiding serious health problems such as uterine, ovarian and testicular cancers. 

Your veterinarian will answer your questions about spaying and neutering and advise on the best timing for your pet’s procedure. See our post “When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated” to find out more. 

12. Be Careful

One of the very best ways to save money on veterinary care is to keep your pet safe from injury. For more information about pet safety, we recommend reviewing these articles from our blog:

Safety Precautions for Better Health and Lower Costs

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Cold Weather

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Hot Weather

Fire Safety Precautions to Protect Your Pet

Safe Travels With Your Pet

To find more posts about keeping your pet safe, browse our blog’s entire “Safety” category.

13. Groom Your Pet Yourself

If you’ve been paying for professional grooming services, you may be able to save money by learning the necessary grooming skills needed to care for your pet and doing it yourself. 

You’ll need tools and supplies—brushes, combs, shears, clippers, nail trimmers and pet shampoos and conditioners—plus training (for you and your pet), practice and patience. 

You’ll find plenty of tools and supplies for sale online and YouTube videos to show you how to do the grooming. In addition to your own learning curve, your pet may need time to adjust to your newfound interest in grooming at home. We suggest introducing steps in the grooming process gently and incrementally so that you and your pet learn to enjoy grooming sessions with minimal stress.

14. Make Your Own Toys and Treats

You can skip the monthly toy and treat subscription boxes at $15 to $50 a month and make your own toys and treats using low-cost or no-cost materials and ingredients you may already have around the house. Ideas, instructions and recipes are easy to find online, and it can be a fun family project to create entertaining toys and tasty treats for your pet.

Be sure to review lists of foods that are toxic to dogs and cats before cooking up your own treats. And make sure your homemade toys don’t present any sharp edges or choking hazards.

15. Barter Services

If you are currently paying for dog walking, doggie day care, boarding and pet sitting services, you may be able to reduce those costs by swapping services with reliable, pet-owning family, friends and neighbors. 

16. Ask for Help

We maintain a resources page listing nearly 40 organizations that provide grants to qualified applicants to help pay for veterinary care. If despite your best efforts at budgeting for your pet’s care, you find yourself needing financial assistance to cover veterinary expenses, we encourage you to visit our “Financial Resources” page and look for organizations whose missions align with your circumstances and needs. 

Please note: The information we provide about these charitable organizations is based on their websites. You’ll need to conduct your own research to decide if you want to apply for a grant with any of the organizations.

 17. Talk to Us

Our veterinarians and technicians encourage you to ask questions about the costs of various diagnostic and treatment options for your pet. We can also provide printed estimates to help you plan your budget and make cost-conscious health care decisions. 

Admittedly, conversations about money are not always the most comfortable, but we believe it’s important to address not only medical concerns but the related financial issues that come with them. See our posts “The Care-Cost Conversation” and “Is Gold Standard Care Always the Best Option?

To browse all our posts related to the costs of pet care, browse the “Pet Care Costs” category on our blog.

17 Ways to Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy on a Budget Read More »

Two doctors' hands holding stethoscopes

Pros and Cons of Seeing Only One Veterinarian

On a recent in-house survey, a client told us that after seeing one of our veterinarians regularly and repeatedly for her pet’s diabetes treatment, she was surprised that a different veterinarian conducted the annual wellness exam. 

“This is fine,” she assured us, “because we were treated well and the doctor that we saw did a great job. I just think it might be a good idea to ask the client if there’s a certain doctor they would prefer to see, or if not, to let them know which doctor they are scheduled to meet with.”

Great suggestion! We agree! 

In fact, in the normal course of business at the front desk, we do ask about your preference for a particular veterinarian and if you have no preference, we mention which doctor you’ll see at the upcoming appointment. 

From time to time, however, with clients lined up at the counter and on hold on the phone, your choice of veterinarian is a detail that can slip through the cracks. And in setting the appointment date and time, we may not ask about your preference or identify which doctor you’ll see. 

You Have a Choice

Brownsburg Animal Clinic has four veterinarians on staff—Drs. Brady, Mitchell, Williams and Barton. Our four most-often-scheduled relief veterinarians are Drs. Klemens, Griggers, Anderson and Neyenhaus.

You are free to ask to see your choice of doctors every time you visit, and limiting yourself to a single veterinarian does have its benefits:

  • The more encounters you have with a particular veterinarian, the better you and your pet get to know and trust your vet.
  • You may establish a good, trusting rapport with a particular veterinarian and simply enjoy interacting with him or her as your preferred choice.
  • If your pet has an ongoing health concern, it can be easier to work with one doctor who’s familiar with the case and has complete, first-hand knowledge of you pet’s medical history, health issues and temperament. 
  • One study found that veterinary practices that assigned the same veterinarian to the client’s every visit saw an increase in the number of visits over the previous two years, so you may even feel inclined to visit us more often if you expect to see the same vet.

The benefits of being more flexible in your choice of veterinarians:

  • You can often be seen sooner if you’re willing to schedule an appointment with the next available doctor.
  • You don’t have to limit your appointment times to the days and hours when a particular doctor works.
  • You don’t have to wait for your preferred doctor to return from vacation, continuing education or sick leave before scheduling an appointment. 
  • If you have established relationships with multiple veterinarians at our practice, you’re more comfortable seeing any of them in case of an accident or sudden illness requiring immediate treatment.
  • Sometimes two (or three or four) heads are better than one. When you see more than one veterinarian, your pet benefits from their diverse experience and multiple perspectives.

Speak Up!

We leave it to you to decide if you prefer to see a particular veterinarian as exclusively as is practicable, knowing there may be trade-offs in availability. Just let us know your preference.

You may also let us know if you’d rather not see a specific doctor. 

Either way, we’ll note your preference in your pet’s medical record and do our best to accommodate you. 

If you’ve indicated you’re open to seeing the next available vet, and we don’t volunteer the information, ask us which doctor you’ll be seeing.

Pros and Cons of Seeing Only One Veterinarian Read More »

Skull and crossbones with Danger Poison warning

Keeping Your Pet Safe From Poisons

March is National Pet Poison Prevention Month. 

To research and provide you with information to help you keep your pet safe from poisons, we’ve turned primarily to the Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—both offering emergency telephone consultations to pet owners and veterinarians around the clock, 365 days a year. 

We’ve selected lists from both call centers of the most commonly-reported toxins—including human medicines, foods, plants and household products—and the most deadly ones, with links to the source materials to guide you directly to much more detailed information.

We conclude with a “More Resources” section below, in which we recommend specific sections from both organizations’ websites for even more detailed information about all sorts of foods, drugs, plants, household supplies and other toxins known to harm pets. 

We’ve also highlighted some articles from the American Veterinary Medical Association. 

Has Your Pet Been Poisoned?

If you are reading this post because you believe your dog or cat has just eaten or been exposed to something poisonous, before you do anything else, call our clinic during office hours at (317) 852-3323 or call the Pet Poison helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 right now and follow a veterinarian’s instructions for administering first aid and seeking further treatment.

If you know or suspect your cat or dog has eaten something toxic, call immediately! Your pet’s best chances for survival could very well depend on how quickly you get help.

If possible, have on hand a sample of the poisonous substance and the packaging it came in. The ingredients listed on the label may well determine the next best treatment steps.

To learn what to do in case of a possible poisoning, visit the Pet Poison Helpline’s Emergency Instructions page where you’ll find advice on what to do and, just as important, what not to do.

Despite what you may have heard about home remedies—giving your pet milk, salt, oil or hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting—don’t do anything before you speak with a veterinarian. Depending on the toxin, you could make matters much worse.

Most Commonly-Reported Toxins

In its 2023 Annual Report Card infographic, the Pet Poison Helpline named these “Top Ten Toxins of 2023:”

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bromethalin (Rat Poison)
  • Xylitol
  • Marijuana
  • Onions
  • Anticoagulant Rat Poison
  • Vitamin D3
  • Carprofen

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center listed these most-commonly reported toxins during  2022:

  • Over-the-Counter Medications
  • Foods for Humans
  • Prescription Drugs for Humans
  • Chocolate
  • Bouquets and Plants
  • Household Toxicants
  • Veterinary Products
  • Rodenticide
  • Insecticide
  • Recreational Drugs

To see an annotated list of the above toxins, along with an infographic, visit the ASPCA website.  

In years past, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center has released updated lists in March, so look for the 2023 list to appear on the website in the coming weeks.

Based on a list from the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, the American Veterinary Medical Association posted “10 poison pills for pets” on its website—an annotated list of over-the-counter and prescription drugs for humans most commonly generating calls to the Center. The drugs are, in order of report frequency:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®)
  • Tramadol (Ultram®)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax®)
  • Adderall®
  • Zolpidem (Ambien®)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
  • Naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta®)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor®)

If you keep any of these drugs in your household, we encourage you to read the entire article, including details on each drug and a list of safety tips to protect your pet from being poisoned by over-the-counter and prescription medicines.

The AVMA lists these “7 Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Dog or Cat:

  • Xylitol-Containing Products (like sugar-free candy and gum)
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Fatty and Fried Foods
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Avocados

Here’s an alphabetized list from the ASPCA of “People Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Pets:”

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
  • Citrus
  • Coconut and Coconut Oil
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Milk and Dairy Products
  • Nuts
  • Onions, Garlic and Chives
  • Raw or Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones
  • Salt and Salty Snack Foods
  • Xylitol
  • Yeast Dough

See the article for details about the potential dangers of each food and beverage category to your pet.

The Pet Poison Helpline lists these as the 10 most commonly-reported toxic plants from 2017 through 2022:

  • Asiatic Lily, Easter Lily, Tiger Lily, etc.
  • Pothos/Devil’s Ivy
  • Sago/Cycad Palm
  • Tulips
  • Peace Lily
  • Azaleas
  • Aloe
  • Day Lily
  • Hydrangea
  • Philodendron

The Deadliest Pet Toxins

In October 2022, the ASPCA listed these as the 10 deadliest pet toxins:

  1. 5-Fluorouracil, a prescription ointment or lotion used to treat skin cancer in humans
  2. Amphetamines, most often prescribed for weight loss or ADHD treatment
  3. Baclofen, a prescription muscle relaxer for humans
  4. Calcium Channel Blockers, prescribed to treat high blood pressure
  5. Lamotrigine, a drug prescribed to prevent or reduce the severity of seizures
  6. 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, an over-the-counter supplement often used for sleep or mood moderation.
  7. Hops, used by home beer brewers
  8. Metaldehyde, the active ingredient in some slug and snail baits
  9. Blue-Green Algae, found in some lakes, ponds and rivers
  10. Methomyl, found in some fly baits

Visit the posted list for more details.

More Resources

Overall, for the most authoritative, detailed, pet-owner-friendly information on pet poisons, we recommend the Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center websites.

The Helpline’s comprehensive “Poisons” section can be filtered by the type of poison, with links to detailed information of each toxin and its impact on pets.

In its “Owners” section, the Helpline website offers brief videos and safety tips for pet owners. 

The “Vets” section has continuing education information for veterinary professionals as well as links to conference handouts and a collection of infographics you can see and download for free.

In the “Toxin Tails” section, Pet Poison Helpline features a case each month of a pet successfully treated for poisoning. 

See the “Toxin Trends” section for a color-coded interactive map of the United States showing the origin of calls for the 30 most commonly reported plants, along with charts showing the most frequently reported clinical signs and call frequency by month. 

The Helpline’s blog has numerous posts focused on specific types of hazards, with category filters to help pet owners and veterinarians find the most relevant content.

You can sign up for the Pet Poison Helpline’s free emailed newsletter just above the footer on most pages of their website.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control website offers a lengthy, searchable directory of toxic plants, by both common and scientific names, that can be filtered for dogs, cats or horses. Click on any plant name to see a photograph and details about the plant and its toxic properties.

In its “Poisonous Household Products” article, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center evaluates multiple potentially harmful household products, medicines and cosmetics, indicating the potential risks of toxicity associated with each.

Household Hazards,” from the American Veterinary Medical Association website offers a detailed round-up of potential toxins organized by the area of the house and yard where they might be found. There’s also a section on holiday hazards.

Finally, see our blog post, “Protect Your Dog From Xylitol Poisoning.”

Keeping Your Pet Safe From Poisons Read More »

Cat scolding a dog

Managing Your Pet’s Seizures

Seizures—sometimes called fits or convulsions—happen when your pet experiences sudden surges of uncontrollable, mild to violent muscle spasms caused by temporary disturbances of normal brain function. 

Here are a few facts about seizures:

  • Both cats and dogs can have seizures.
  • Your pet will not swallow its tongue during a seizure. 
  • Seizures are not painful unless the thrashing about results in injury.
  • Seizures aren’t contagious.
  • Seizures are not life-threatening so long as they last for less than 5 minutes and happen only once within a 24-hour period.
  • Seizures that last longer than 20 minutes or those occurring in multiple clusters may cause brain damage.

Seizures can be a one-time occurrence, or they can recur with varying frequency at regular or random intervals. They can last for a few seconds, minutes or even hours. 

Possible causes of one-time seizures:

  • Metabolic disturbance or diseases
  • Head trauma
  • Low blood sugar
  • Severe fever
  • Poisoning
  • Brain tumors
  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Electrolyte imbalances

Recurring seizures can indicate epilepsy if all other causes are ruled out. Epilepsy is the most common chronic neurological disorder in veterinary medicine, affecting as many as 1% of dogs and 2% of cats.

Types of Seizures

We classify seizures as either focal or generalized.

A focal seizure—sometimes referred to as a partial seizure—originates in a small area of the cerebral cortex and impacts specific body parts in a variety of ways. Symptoms may appear as twitching on the side of the face or eyelid, loud vocalizations, excessive drooling, aggression, loss of leg function, abnormal head or neck movements, staring off into space, chewing motions or being unable to get up without help.

Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain and affect the pet’s entire body. We further classify generalized seizures as grand mal (French for “big illness”) or petit mal (“small illness”).

Grand mal seizures are the more common and recognizable type, with signs and symptoms including:

  • Falling to one side
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
  • Loss of consciousness

Grand mal seizures usually last less than five minutes.

As the name suggests, petit mal seizures are not nearly as severe as grand mal seizures and may even occur without being noticed. Your pet may stare off into space, seem confused, chew imaginary gum or swat at imaginary flies while having a petit mal seizure. 

What to Do if Your Pet Has a Seizure

Seizures can be disturbing to watch, but your best response is to stay calm and observe what is happening. 

  • Don’t touch or pick up your seizing pet unless he or she needs to be moved to prevent a fall or head injury. If you need to move your pet, take the collar or the hind legs and gently drag him or her away from the hazard.
  • Keep your hands and face away from your pet’s mouth to avoid being bitten.
  • Protect the seizing pet from children and other pets.
  • Be prepared to report how your pet behaved immediately before, during and after the seizure. If there are multiple seizures, note the date, time, duration and description of each one. 

The most important thing to do is time the seizure. If it lasts less than 5 minutes, there’s no need to seek immediate veterinary care. Just call us during regular business hours to let us know the seizure happened and to set up an appointment to evaluate possible causes. 

If a seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if your pet has multiple seizures within a short time—called cluster seizures—your pet needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If this happens during our business hours, call us to determine how best to get your pet the needed care in a timely way. If possible, we will work you in among the day’s scheduled appointments. If we are unable to care for your pet right away, we will recommend visiting an emergency clinic. 

How We Treat Seizures

A brief, one-time seizure lasting no longer than 3 to 5 minutes and followed by immediate recovery may not require treatment.

For recurring seizures, while we’d like to eliminate them entirely, a more realistic treatment goal is to lessen their frequency, duration and severity by prescribing anticonvulsant drugs.  

All oral anticonvulsants take time to build up in your pet’s system before they begin to affect the brain’s susceptibility to seizures. Failure to control seizures before the drug has time to take effect does not mean the drug is not working or the dose should be changed. The length of time needed depends on the drug. Some medications take several weeks to reach therapeutic levels. 

Most anticonvulsants require twice-daily dosing, though there are a few that require only once-a-day dosing. Some require dosing every 8 hours. Your veterinarian may recommend keeping a rescue drug—like valium to be administered rectally—on hand at home to use when a severe seizure is underway. 

Anticonvulsant drugs can help prevent future seizures but are not absorbed rapidly enough from the stomach to have any effect on an ongoing seizure. Giving additional oral doses of medications while your pet is seizing is not helpful. If your pet is experiencing a seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, we may administer anticonvulsants intravenously.  

We can tell how well an anticonvulsant is working by comparing the records you’ve made of seizure frequency and severity before starting the drug with the frequency and severity of seizures you’ve recorded after drug has been maintained for a time at a steady state level in your pet’s brain. 

It can take several months to get the best possible results. Sometimes we need to add a second medication to achieve this.

Here’s our recommended protocol for all patients on anticonvulsant drugs: 

  • Physical exam every 6 to 12 months.
  • CBC/Chemistry profile and bile acids blood tests every 6 to 12 months to detect any drug-related or metabolic issues before they adversely affect your pet. 
  • Blood tests to make sure the dose and frequency of the drug we’ve prescribed is enough to achieve the desired drug level in the brain and to make sure drug toxicity is not occurring. 

As a general rule, once your pet begins taking an anticonvulsant, he or she will need to continue taking it for life.

Living with Your Pet’s Seizures

Pets prone to seizures are usually normal between seizures and if they’re in good health otherwise, can enjoy a good quality of life and a full lifespan. 

For their owners, managing pets’ seizures over a lifetime can be challenging. 

Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College in London recently interviewed 21 owners of dogs with epilepsy. Among their findings:

  • Witnessing a pet’s seizure is distressing. 
  • Not knowing when and how often the next seizures will be adds to owners’ stress.
  • Following the first seizure, owners of seizing pets reported feeling distraught, fearful and uncertain about their pet’s future.
  • Owners may fear leaving a pet prone to seizures unsupervised.
  • Some owners reported having difficulty getting help caring for their seizure-prone dogs.
  • Owners said the people in their lives did not always understand the magnitude of commitment required to care for an epileptic dog.

The researchers concluded, “the commitment required to care for a dog with idiopathic epilepsy, and the lifestyle changes made by their owners, may be far greater than previously estimated. Further consideration of these factors by veterinary professionals and the friends and families of owners of dogs with idiopathic epilepsy could improve owner quality of life and facilitate the provision of additional support.”

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, in addition to offering the best possible medical care for our patients experiencing seizures, we do our best to offer understanding and support to our clients who love and care for them. We appreciate your commitment.

Managing Your Pet’s Seizures Read More »

Bags of Hill's, Purina and Royal Canin brand prescription diets

Price-Shopping Prescribed Diets

We have for many years carried and prescribed two brands of therapeutic pet foods (also known generically as prescription or veterinary diets) at Brownsburg Animal Clinic—Hill’s Prescription Diet and Royal Canin’s “veterinary range.” 

Our veterinarians also prescribe Purina Pro Plan, but until now, we’ve kept very few Purina products in stock at the clinic.

All three of these leading brands’ specially-formulated therapeutic diets contain high-quality ingredients, meet stringent manufacturing standards and are generally proven to be beneficial. We wouldn’t prescribe them if they weren’t trustworthy and effective. 

But in recent months, we’ve seen such a sudden and substantial increase in Royal Canin’s prices that we’ve decided to switch over to Purina Pro Plan, along with Hill’s, as our two primary in-house brands, available for purchase at the clinic.

You can still buy all three brands’ regular and therapeutic formulas online for home delivery through our VetSource store.  

All three companies’ products are available from other online retailers and area brick-and-mortar stores as well.

Why We Prescribe Therapeutic Diets

Even in a state of optimal health, what your pet eats has a direct impact on his or her vitality and wellbeing. For all pets, at all life stages, we recommend feeding good-quality, age-appropriate food from reputable manufacturers, and we’re happy to help you choose from among the many over-the-counter products.

To create therapeutic, prescription or veterinary diets, veterinary nutritionists manipulate nutrient levels and ingredients according to various tested formulas to benefit animals with a broad range of specific health conditions. 

We prescribe therapeutic diets for pets we diagnose with conditions that have been shown to respond to these specially-formulated foods.

Specific conditions treated by therapeutic diets for dogs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome
  • Colitis
  • Critical care
  • Dental
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Epilepsy
  • Food allergy/food intolerance
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Hepatic (liver) diseases
  • Joint disease
  • Obesity
  • Oxalate stones (urolithiasis)
  • Renal (kidney) disease
  • Struvite stones (urolithiasis)

Conditions treated by therapeutic diets for cats:

  • Constipation
  • Critical care
  • Dental
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Food allergy/food intolerance
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Hepatic (liver) diseases
  • Obesity
  • Oxalate stones (urolithiasis)
  • Renal (kidney) disease
  • Struvite stones (urolithiasis)

Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin offer products to provide tailored nutrition for pets with these conditions. If your veterinarian diagnoses any of these conditions and recommends a therapeutic diet, with a few exceptions, you’re likely to have a choice of at least two and more often three brands and, perhaps, multiple products within the brands to compare. Many formulas are available as both canned wet food and dry kibble.

What Therapeutic Diets Are Not

The Food and Drug Administration does not consider therapeutic diets to be “drugs” and does not legally require they be sold by prescription only. It’s the manufacturers and retailers who have chosen to require a prescription from a veterinarian before therapeutic foods can be sold. 

Therapeutic diets are not medicine. They do not contain drugs or ingredients not also used in over-the-counter pet foods. They are more like nutraceuticals—digestible products similar to therapeutic vitamins and minerals that can support and influence your pet’s biological functions. The tested and demonstrated health benefits come from the precise combination of ingredients formulated by veterinary nutritionists to provide the best possible dietary support for pets diagnosed with the targeted medical conditions. 

Therapeutic diets don’t cure diseases. They help us manage them. We use them as a complement to—not a substitute for—more comprehensive medical treatment.

As a rule, these deliberately formulated diets are not appropriate and may even be harmful for pets not diagnosed with the medical problem the diet is intended to support. Some are intended only for short-term use, while others may continue to benefit your pet indefinitely. Your veterinarian will monitor your pet and advise how long to continue with a therapeutic diet.

Marketing strategies aside, we believe this by-prescription-only policy helps minimize possible misuse of therapeutic diets by pet owners who might be tempted to feed them without first seeking sound medical advice and supervision.  If your pet has a health issue that warrants a special diet, your veterinarian should be involved in definitively diagnosing the condition, recommending the right food and monitoring the diet’s impact on your pet over time.

Why Therapeutic Diets Cost More Than Regular Pet Food

As the ingredients lists show, therapeutic diets are made of essentially the same foods and nutrition supplements as regular pet foods.

It’s not the ingredients that make these foods cost more. It’s the science behind the formulation, quality control, testing and tweaking to produce the most medically beneficial results.

Before bringing a therapeutic diet to market, the manufacturer must show through extensive testing that it’s safe and effective for pets with specific conditions. 

Contrary to fairly common belief, therapeutic diets are not big money-makers for most veterinary practices—ours included. Our mark-ups on these products are typically less than mark-ups on the regular pet foods you buy at the grocery or big box store. 

We keep the most commonly-prescribed products in inventory for our clients’ convenience and to get our patients started on their prescription food without delay. In our online store, we aim to keep our prices in line with leading online retailers. 

Our Advice to the Cost-Conscious

Given that specialized therapeutic diets tend to cost more than regular-formula pet foods, we understand feeding your pet a prescription diet—especially if needed over the long term—can strain your budget. 

After the first bag or case of canned food is finished, you may even be tempted to switch back to regular food, saving you money but depriving your pet of the potential health benefits of the prescribed diet. 

Like you, we want what’s best for your pet and your budget. That’s why, if you want or need to be especially price-conscious about your pet’s therapeutic diet, we encourage you to price-shop all three leading brands—Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin—and talk to your veterinarian about costs relative to quality and effectiveness of one brand’s equivalent or similar formula over another. 

All else being equal, so long as the proposed product benefits your pet—our patient—we’re happy to consider prescribing the brand that helps you save some money.

Therapeutic Diet Price-Shopping Tips

There are hundreds of therapeutic pet foods on the market. If you’re shopping online, begin by using filters to display only foods meant for your pet’s specific health condition. 

And yes, we know in your online shopping you will encounter more than the top three competing brands of dog food offering therapeutic formulas of their own. Once you’ve narrowed your choices by health condition, we recommend filtering out all but the three leading brands—Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan and Royal Canin. 

These are the brands our veterinarians know best and trust most. These are the brands we’ve prescribed for countless pets and can confidently recommend to you.

Base your price comparison on unit cost—the cost per pound or ounce—in all the available sizes. Click through as needed to see package size options for your pet’s prescribed food. 

As a rule, larger sizes cost less per pound. If you’re looking only at the price-per-pound for the smallest sized packages, you’re likely seeing the highest unit prices. 

Note, too, that each of the three manufacturers’ smallest available size is different. For one therapeutic dry dog food variety, for example, Purina Pro Plan’s smallest bag is 6 pounds at $7.67 per pound, while Royal Canin’s is 7.7 pounds at $6.10 and Hill’s is 8.5 pounds at $5.41. 

In the largest available sizes, the per-pound prices drop from $7.67 to $3.69 for Purina, $5.41 to $4.18 for Hill’s and $6.10 to $4.32 for Royal Canin. Yes, Purina Pro Plan’s unit cost is highest among the smallest sized bags the three brands offer, but in the largest sizes, Purina has the lowest cost per pound.

So it pays to size-shop, too!

As you narrow your choices, the best way to learn about and compare individual products is by visiting the manufacturers’ websites. 

To shop for Hill’s Prescription Diets for dogs, visit the dog products page with the “Prescription Diet” filter selected and check the “Health Category” option for your pet. Hill’s Prescription Diet products for cats are here. Shop for Hill’s products in our online VetSource store. On the Hill’s site, choose the “Buy Online” button to see other online retailers offering the product you need.

To shop for Purina Pro Plan therapeutic diets, visit the company’s products page for dog foods or cat foods, select the “Health Benefit” menu option in the left sidebar and choose your pet’s health condition. Purina’s “Buy Now” buttons take you to a map showing area retailers and online stores carrying the brand. Search “Purina Pro Plan” in our online store to shop there.

To shop for Royal Canin “precision veterinary dog diets,” visit the dog products page and select your pet’s “Specific Needs” in the left sidebar. Royal Canin’s precision veterinary cat diets products page shows the company’s full line of products for cats. The “Find a Retailer” button on individual product pages displays veterinary practices in your area that sell the food as well as area retailers. Royal Canin products are also available in our online store.

Changing From One Food to Another

Whether you’re changing from over-the-counter pet food to a therapeutic diet or switching between therapeutic diet brands, unless your veterinarian advises otherwise, make the transition slowly over a week or two.

Gradually decrease the old diet while increasing the proportion of the new until the transition is complete and you’re feeding the replacement food exclusively. 

Make sure healthy pets in the household don’t have access to the therapeutic food. Feed it only to pets who have been diagnosed by a veterinarian who prescribed the diet specifically for that pet. 

But Is It Tasty?

Some therapeutic diets don’t taste as good to pets as others. Cost considerations aside, your pet may prefer one brand’s flavor over another. 

To derive the benefits of the prescribed food, your pet has to eat it, so before you commit to a $100+ bag of any particular prescribed diet, you may want to try the smallest size first to make sure your pet finds it tasty. 

If your pet won’t eat the prescribed food, ask your veterinarian about possibly more palatable alternatives.

More Resources

For comprehensive brand comparisons, including discussion of regular as well as therapeutic formulas, check out these articles:

Best Quality Dry Dog Food: Royal Canin vs. Hills Science Diet vs. Purina Pro Plan?

Science Diet vs. Purina Pro Plan: Who Wins? [2024]

Purina Pro Plan vs Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food: Our 2024 Comparison

Royal Canin vs Purina Pro Plan Dog Food: Our 2024 In-Depth Comparison

Purina Pro Plan vs. Royal Canin: Who Wins? [2024]

Science Diet vs. Royal Canin: Who Wins? [2024]

You’ll find some repetition and contradictions among the articles, along with plenty of commission-earning affiliate links, but as you narrow your choice of products to discuss with your veterinarian, these exhaustive reviews can help you identify your own concerns and raise the questions most important to you at your next clinic visit.

Price-Shopping Prescribed Diets Read More »

Dog and cat sitting side-by-side

Getting the Most from Your Pet’s Regular Check-Ups

When was the last time your pet had a wellness exam? 

Ideally, if yours is a relatively healthy adult cat or dog, you’ve been in for a wellness check-up at least within the past year, and that appointment was only the latest in a series of regularly-scheduled exams throughout your pet’s lifetime.

If you’re already following a regular schedule of wellness check-ups, keep it up! 

If you’ve fallen months or even years behind schedule—or even if you’ve never been on a regular schedule of check-ups to begin with—we’re happy to help you catch up with age-appropriate testing and evaluations, followed by personalized plans for regularly scheduled future visits. 

How Often is Often Enough?

Assuming your pet is essentially healthy, how often we recommend you visit us for wellness exams depends primarily on the age of your pet.

Puppies and kittens typically visit us every 3 to 4 weeks, starting when they’re 6 to 8 weeks old and ending when they’re 16 to 20 weeks old. We usually schedule their next wellness exam a year from their final puppy or kitten visit.

For most generally healthy adult pets, we recommend scheduling wellness check-ups once a year. 

 Most senior pets benefit from twice-yearly check-ups as the risk of health problems increases with age. We consider medium-sized dogs to be “seniors” when they’re about 7 years old, with large and giant breed dogs achieving senior status a year or two earlier and small dogs and cats considered seniors somewhat later. Your veterinarian can determine the life stage appropriate to assign your pet. 

What to Expect at a Wellness Check-Up

A wellness check-up covers multiple aspects of your pet’s health and includes your input about your pet’s apparent health and wellbeing and your veterinarian’s observations, hands-on physical examination and testing. Here are the services you can expect:

  • We’ll record your pet’s weight, temperature, pulse rate and respiration rate.
  • We’ll talk to you about what you feed your pet.
  • We’ll ask about your pet’s behavior, lifestyle and medical history.
  • We’ll perform a complete physical examination, checking from nose to tail for any signs of health problems. We’ll do an oral exam, listen to your pet’s heart and lungs, examine your pet’s eyes, look into your pet’s ears, score your pet’s body condition to determine if his or her weight is within a healthy range, feel lymph nodes and organs within the abdomen, check reflexes, watch your pet move, and assess any indications of pain.
  • We’ll order diagnostic tests appropriate for your pet’s age, lifestyle and general health. 

Typical Tests

Most adult dogs and cats should have a fecal exam at least annually to check for intestinal parasites. Puppies and kittens are especially vulnerable to worms and should have fecal tests more often.

All dogs and cats older than 7 months should have their blood tested for heartworms before starting a preventive. Once we’ve ruled out an active heartworm infestation, we recommend year-round preventive protection for the life of the pet. We repeat the heartworm test annually to be sure it’s still safe to prescribe the preventive for another year. 

For cats, we recommend including testing for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). 

Depending on your pet’s age and general health, we may recommend a range of blood tests that generally become more extensive as your pet ages. These tests can indicate potentially serious systemic health problems long before your pet shows any visible symptoms.

Vaccines and Parasite Preventives

We will recommend core vaccines, along with additional vaccines that may be appropriate for your pet based on his or her risk of exposure to disease. Once we’ve begun administering vaccines, you’ll find your pet’s upcoming vaccine and booster schedule printed on our invoices. 

See our post “Essential Vaccines to Protect Your Pet” for much more information about vaccines.

All cats and dogs—including those who spend all their time indoors—are at some degree of risk for heartworms, fleas, ticks, intestinal worms and other parasites. Based on your pet’s age, home environment and activities, your veterinarian will recommend a personalized plan to prevent parasite infestations. 

See our posts “Protecting Your Pet From Heartworms” and “Your Pet Can Make You Sick” to find out more about how common parasites can endanger your pet and your human family. 

More Wellness Exam Topics for Discussion

If you haven’t yet neutered or spayed your pet and you don’t intend to breed him or her, your veterinarian may discuss spaying or neutering at your pet’s wellness check-up. See our post “When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated” for information about the best timing for this generally recommended procedure.

If, during the oral exam, the veterinarian detects problems with your pet’s teeth and/or gums, we may recommend scheduling a dental cleaning under anesthesia followed by regular at-home care to maintaining your pet’s oral health. See our post “Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health” for an overview of your pet’s dental health concerns.

Based on the veterinarian’s physical examination and assessment of your pet’s body condition, the wellness check-up may include advice on helping your pet achieve a healthier weight. See our post “Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health” on the benefits of maintaining your pet’s healthy weight. The post includes links to videos and reference charts showing you how to evaluate your pet’s body weight for yourself. 

If the veterinarian observes potentially problematic behavior by your pet, or if you ask about behavior problems your pet is exhibiting at home, we will offer advice on how to address the issues. Read articles in our blog’s “Behavior and Training” category to learn more about common behavior problems and how to handle them. Keep in mind, some changes in behavior can be caused by medical problems, so further examination and testing may be needed to rule out health-related behavior issues.

If your pet has a microchip, the wellness exam offers a good opportunity to scan the chip to confirm it’s still in place and readable. If your pet doesn’t yet have a microchip, your veterinarian will recommend one. See our post “Microchips Help Lost Pets Get Back Home” to find out more about microchips and why your pet should have one. 

Preparing for Your Pet’s Next Wellness Check-Up

Once you’ve scheduled an appointment for your pet’s wellness exam, take these steps to prepare:

  • If your pet has been treated at other veterinary clinics and you haven’t yet transferred his or her medical records to our clinic, contact the previous providers and have them forward your pet’s records to us. Having the records available helps us learn about your pet’s medical history and avoid duplicating recent tests and vaccines.
  • Make a list or take photographs of all the drugs, supplements, foods and treats you give your pet.
  • Write down your questions about caring for your pet and ask them during the appointment. 
  • If you can collect a fresh stool sample the day of the exam, bring it along.

A Special Note for Our Cat-Owning Clients

While about 80% of pet dogs’ owners report making at least one veterinary trip per year for preventive care, only 47% of cat owners say they seek preventive care for their cat at least annually. 

We know our feline patients are every bit as lovable and worthy of good health care as the canines, so we have to wonder why so many of them are not receiving the wellness care they need. Here are some possible reasons for the disparities:

  • Many people consider cats “low maintenance” pets that don’t require health care at all unless they’re noticeably ill or obviously experiencing a medical emergency. They honestly believe their cats are “just fine” and simply don’t need routine preventive care.
  • Owners who keep their cats indoors sometimes mistakenly assume they’re at minimal risk for health problems. While they are somewhat safer than outdoor cats, even indoor-only cats can experience obesity, urinary tract problems, parasites, dental disease and other serious health concerns. 
  • Cats are more likely to hide their pain or distress than dogs, making health problems harder for their owners to detect. Most cats don’t show obvious signs of pain or such illnesses as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, osteoarthritis and cancer until the problem is advanced.
  • Some cats find being contained in a carrier and transported to and from our clinic to be extremely stressful, causing their owners to conclude their cat “hates the vet.” Understandably, they postpone the trying ordeal of transporting the cat to an appointment. See our post “How to Carrier-Train Your Cat” for advice on helping your cat overcome his or her fears and resistance to being contained and transported in a carrier.

We know our cat-owning clients love their pets and want nothing but the best for their happy, healthy lives. If it’s been more than a year since we examined your cat, we strongly recommend your committing to regularly-scheduled wellness check-ups from now on as the very best way to demonstrate that love and care for your cat.

Your Best Investment in Your Pet’s Health

As you can see, wellness check-ups and the associated services and products needed to evaluate your pet’s health are typically quite extensive. We know the combined costs of a complete physical exam, blood panels, fecal tests, vaccines lasting for one to three years and preventives to protect your pet throughout the entire year ahead can add up to hundreds of dollars—especially for an older pet with comprehensive blood work ordered and multiple vaccines due. 

Fortunately, you can budget for these planned appointments and set aside funds in advance to cover wellness check-ups. If you’d like to know how much to set aside, we are happy to provide an estimate of what your pet’s next wellness check-up will most likely cost.

Still, we understand why you might feel reluctant to spend money on a pet that seems perfectly well and why you might be tempted to postpone the next exam. Here are reasons why the money you invest in regular wellness check-ups for your apparently healthy pet is money well spent:

  • Keeping up with vaccines and heartworm and flea and tick preventives help protect your pet and your family from common, serious and expensive-to-treat diseases.
  • Pets—especially cats—are good at hiding illness. Regular check-ups can detect hidden health problems and give us a chance to treat them before they become more severe, more painful and harder to manage. 
  • We can provide better, more personalized care if we’ve set baselines for test results and examined your pet when he or she is healthy. Based on our familiarity of what good health looks like for your pet, we’re better able to notice subtle signs of illness during the next routine exam or diagnose and treat your pet in an emergency. 
  • If our exam indicates your pet is essentially healthy, you enjoy the peace of mind that comes with confirming your pet’s good health. Our “not finding anything” during a wellness exam is good news!

Building Personal Relationships One Exam at a Time

We see you as your pet’s healthcare advocate and our partner in caring for our patient. Like you, we want the best for your pet in terms of healthy longevity, comfort and quality of life. 

Strong, trusting veterinarian-client-patient relationships are foundational to the best health outcomes for your pet. These relationships are most reliably built on regularly scheduled check-ups over the lifetime of your pet. 

In addition to the medical knowledge we gain from routine testing, observation and hands-on examinations of your pet, regular preventive care visits give all of us opportunities to get to know and trust each other. We use the information we gather as we build our relationships during your regular visits to help guide our conversations and inform our recommendations.

Our growing familiarity with you and your pet combined with our breadth and depth of experience caring for all our other patients and clients allow us to make personalized recommendations about a range of pet care topics, custom-tailored for you and your pet. 

Our shared goal and most likely outcome is a happier, healthier, longer life for your pet.

Starting Here, Starting Now

No matter how long it’s been since your pet’s last check-up, we can start from where we are now and move forward toward your pet’s best possible quality and length of life, using the next wellness exam to catch up on your pet’s physical condition, blood tests, vaccines and preventives. 

No matter how long you’ve postponed a wellness check-up, your pet’s next check-up is our opportunity to make a fresh start on a personalized plan to support your pet’s long-term health and wellbeing.

We look forward to seeing you and your pet soon!

Getting the Most from Your Pet’s Regular Check-Ups Read More »

Close-up of cat's face

How to Carrier-Train Your Cat

Whether they’re consciously aware of it or not, our clients often resist bringing their cats to us for veterinary care simply to avoid the stress and strain of getting the cat into a carrier and transported to and from our clinic. 

This February, in honor of National Cat Health Month, we encourage all our cat-owning clients to devote the month (plus a few weeks more, if needed) to helping their feline friends conquer any carrier fears that may cause their owners to avoid vet visits. 

The training is easy and takes only a few minutes a day. The benefits of having a calm, carrier-ready cat are well worth the effort. 

Choosing the Right Carrier

Even if you already own a carrier, you may evaluate its suitability for your particular cat in terms of design, construction and size by reviewing advice about new carrier selection. 

If you plan to bring more than one cat to our clinic at the same time, we strongly recommend you provide each cat with its own carrier. Even cats that get along well together at home may not be comfortable and peaceable within the confines of a single carrier. 

To help you evaluate a carrier you already own or choose a brand new one to buy, we found an excellent article co-written by a veterinarian, “How to Choose a Cat Carrier,” on WikiHow.com.

A Guide for Choosing the Best Cat Carrier” from Hill’s (the pet food company) more briefly covers the basics of carrier selection.

We also found two recent articles rating currently available carriers:

People recommends one carrier saying, it “Fit our two large cats comfortably.” As noted above, we advise against transporting multiple cats in a single carrier.

Please note, too, that websites publishing product rating and review articles like these typically earn a commission if you purchase a product after clicking a link in the article.

Introducing the Carrier to Your Cat

Once you have the appropriate carrier in hand, carrier training begins with getting your cat familiar and comfortable with the carrier long before you need to contain the cat for transport.

If you’re storing your cat’s carrier in a closet, basement or garage, bring it out now into an area where your cat spends time so it becomes a familiar part of the room’s furnishings. 

If the carrier has been used for previous stressful car rides, there may be stress pheromones still present and detectable by your cat. Before putting the carrier out for your cat to explore, wash and rinse it thoroughly, leaving it to dry in the sun.

Here’s a brief video from the American Association of Feline Practitioners, “How Can I Get My Cat to Become Comfortable With the Carrier?” on the benefits of familiarizing your cat with the carrier well before any trips to the vet.

Seeing Carrier Training in Action

Here’s an easy-to-follow, step-by-step demonstration of carrier training in action. Each of the 6 parts of this video series averages less than 2 minutes’ running time, allowing you to use the embedded link below to watch the whole playlist in less than 15 minutes.

Here are links to the individual steps:

Step 1: Settling on a Blanket

Step 2: The Open Base of the Carrier

Step 3: The Open Door Carrier

Step 4: Closing the Door of the Carrier

Step 5: Building Duration

Step 6: Moving the Carrier

We suggest using the embedded link to the entire series to get an overview of the training process and then using the links to the individual steps to complete each one according to your cat’s own timetable. With patience and lots of treats, you will almost certainly ease your cat’s anxieties about its carrier. 

For more carrier advice from the American Association of Feline Practitioners, see “5 Tips to Help Cats Accept Their Carriers.”

The Day of the Appointment

On the day of the appointment, you may withhold your cat’s food to help reduce the risk of vomiting caused by motion sickness. 

Cats use feline facial pheromones to mark their territory as safe and secure. You may consider spraying a synthetic version of feline facial pheromone into your car and the carrier itself at least 10 to 15 minutes before leaving your house for the appointment. We offer Feliway® brand synthetic pheromone spray for sale in our online store.

You may also place a favorite toy and familiar-smelling bedding or clothing in the carrier to further ease your cat’s anxieties.

The Drive to the Clinic

Once your cat is contained in the carrier, carry it to your car—not by gripping the handle on top—but by supporting the carrier in your arms from the bottom. Use the handle only for lifting off the top half or moving an empty carrier.

In the car, place the carrier on a level, secure surface, such as the floorboard behind the front seats.

Many cats are most comfortable with the carrier covered with a towel or blanket to block unfamiliar sights and muffle unfamiliar sounds during the ride to the clinic. You may leave the carrier covered in the lobby, but we suggest removing the cover after you’re alone with your cat inside the examination room. 

Leave your cat inside the carrier until the doctor or a team member asks you to remove it. As an alternative to having you take your cat out through the door of the carrier, we may remove the carrier top and allow the cat to stay secure in the open bottom half while we conduct our examination.

Getting an Untrained Cat Into a Carrier

If you need to get your cat into a carrier immediately, before you have a chance to complete any training, here are steps you can take:

  • Put the carrier in a small room with few hiding places.
  • Bring the cat in, along with some toys and treats, and close the door.
  • Use the treats and toys to encourage the cat to enter the carrier through the open door.
  • If the cat won’t go in, and the carrier has an opening in the top, gently pick up and lower the cat into the carrier from the top.
  • If your carrier’s top half can be removed, try getting your cat into the carrier base and then replace the top.
  • If necessary, wrap the cat in a towel or blanket to contain it inside the carrier and avoid being scratched.
  • Stay calm, move slowly and don’t chase the cat.

Allow yourself plenty of time to get your untrained cat into the carrier. By remaining calm and being patient, you will reduce your cat’s fears and anxieties and your own stress and frustration.

Bringing Your Cat Home to Other Cats

Cats who’ve visited our clinic may smell different and seem unfamiliar upon returning home to other cats in your household. 

Once you’ve returned home, leave the returning cat in the carrier to see how the other cats react. If they hiss and seem aggressive, put the returning cat into a separate room with food, water, a litter box and a comfortable bed with the cat’s familiar scent on it. 

Within a few hours back home, you may cautiously allow contact with the other cats to see if the returning cat’s normal scent has been restored. If the cats still seem angry or aggressive, or if they run away from each other, separate them for a longer time. 

If problems persist, consider using a Feliway® brand synthetic pheromone diffuser kit to distribute calming pheromones into the cats’ home environment.

More Ways to Celebrate Cat Health Month

This year, we decided to focus on carrier training during Cat Health Month because getting your cat into the carrier is the first step in getting your cat to our clinic. We understand the harder and more stressful it is, the less likely you are to schedule an appointment.

For more general guidelines about cat health, we recommend these resources:

Cat Still Stressed? Let Us Help!

If, despite your best efforts at carrier training, you cat is still overly anxious and stressed by trips to our clinic, talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety drugs you can administer at home before your appointment. 

How to Carrier-Train Your Cat Read More »

Puppy and kitten

When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated.

February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month, with World Spay Day to be observed on the fourth Tuesday. 

Like most veterinarians, we at Brownsburg Animal Clinic generally recommend spaying or neutering any pet not intended for breeding. 

But in recent years, we’ve been following research that indicates we should fine-tune each pet’s most appropriate age for the procedure, ranging from five months to as old as two years, depending on the pet. 

If you’re the owner of a kitten or puppy, our veterinarians will discuss the best time to spay or neuter your pet. 

The Benefits of Spay/Neuter

The practice of routinely spaying and neutering pets has long been recognized as the best way to reduce the pet overpopulation problem while saving pet owners the trouble and expense of unwanted litters.

Spaying helps protect female pets from serious health problems such as uterine infections and breast cancer. 

Neutering male pets can reduce the risk of developing an enlarged prostate and testicular cancer.

Many owners find their pets’ behavior improved after surgery to remove their ovaries or testes. While the procedures have no effect on a pet’s intelligence, activities or performance, spaying and neutering can reduce unwanted behaviors associated with mating instincts, such as roaming, aggression and marking. 

Many people believe spaying and neutering makes pets better companions.

When to Spay or Neuter? These Days, It’s Complicated.

During the past decade, veterinary researchers have come to understand the hormones that make procreation possible and cause undesirable mating behaviors may also affect pets’ overall health. For dogs, it now appears the most appropriate age for spaying and neutering can vary widely from pet to pet. 

While the consensus among feline specialists is to spay or neuter all kittens not meant for breeding before five months of age, evidence is accumulating to suggest routinely spaying or neutering all dogs at the same young age may increase the risk of orthopedic problems and some types of cancer for some animals. 

One 2020 study of 35 dog breeds suggested early sterilization in some dogs appeared to increase the risk of diseases such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma and hip dysplasia. 

According to the study report, “The overall major finding from the present study is that there are breed differences—and sometimes sex differences—with regard to the increased risks of joint disorders and cancers associated with neutering at various ages.”

The study’s authors encourage using data-based information to make case-by-case decisions with your veterinarian about the appropriate age to neuter your puppy or young dog. 

The authors noted, “an elevated risk for a joint disorder or cancer occurs in relatively few of these breeds. In other words, with most breeds or sexes, neutering can apparently be done without referral to a particular age, at least with regard to the joint disorders or cancers covered in this study.

“To just delay neutering by a year or so to lower the risk of a joint disorder or cancer in those breeds where the issue is relevant, is a noteworthy goal, making it worthwhile [for veterinarians] to discuss appropriate ages to neuter with caregivers who have a new puppy.”

Our Advice

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we strongly recommend spaying and neutering at the appropriate age as the best option for any dog or cat not intended for breeding. 

For kittens, we agree with our colleagues specializing in feline medicine that the procedure should be done before five months of age.

As we learn more about the long-term risks of routinely spaying and neutering dogs at a set young age, we are taking a more individualized approach to recommending the ideal age for the surgery based on your pet’s breed, size and gender. We’ll talk with you about what the latest research indicates is the best time to spay or neuter your pet. 

Additional Reading

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers general background information for pet owners on spaying and neutering.  

The AVMA website also has a page about spaying and neutering for veterinarians, offering guidance on making the best recommendations for their feline and canine patients.

The American Animal Hospital Association’s article, “When should I spay or neuter my pet?” outlines the considerations to discuss with your veterinarian when deciding the appropriate age for spaying or neutering.

Frontiers, a publisher of scientific research papers, offers the full text of the 2020 study report referenced above.

The 35 breeds included in the study are, alphabetically, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Beagle, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Corgi (Pembroke and Cardigan combined), Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, Pomeranian, Poodle-Miniature, Poodle-Standard, Poodle-Toy, Pug, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Shetland Sheepdog, Shih Tzu, West Highland White Terrier, and Yorkshire Terrier. 

In addition to general guidelines related to body size, the report includes specific recommendations for each breed. 

When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated. Read More »

Gloved hands pulling back a dogs upper lip to examine teeth

Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health

By their third birthday, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease, leading to progressively worsening infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. Most of this dental disease happens below the gum line, where you can’t see it. 

As the disease progresses to more advanced stages, you may observe these signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Discolored or tartar-covered teeth
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling or dropping food
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Swelling in areas around the mouth

If left untreated, dental disease can cause your pet to lose teeth and, if infection spreads into the bloodstream, can damage your pet’s heart, liver and kidneys with potentially deadly consequences. 

Treating and even preventing periodontal disease is a joint effort between your veterinary team and you. Here’s what we can do. 

How Your Veterinary Team Can Help

Our veterinarians routinely make a dental health evaluation and counseling part of your pet’s regular yearly (or twice-yearly for older pets) preventive exam. 

If, during our visual inspection of your pet’s teeth and gums, we detect signs of periodontal disease, we will most likely recommend a complete dental examination and cleaning, provided our initial physical examination and blood work confirm your pet is healthy enough to undergo the anesthesia necessary to do the exam and cleaning thoroughly and safely. 

Before we begin, we will let you know the estimated cost of the procedure and any possible additional services we may find we need to provide, such as extracting teeth, once we begin the exam. 

We understand you may be concerned about anesthetizing your pet for the dental procedure. Although there are always risks associated with anesthesia, the process is generally safe and we take every precaution to assure the procedure goes smoothly.

If you have questions about our anesthesia protocols, please ask them!

Once your pet is under anesthesia, we proceed with a complete, stress-free, pain-free oral exam with x-rays to show us any problems beneath the gum line such as broken teeth and damaged roots, bone deterioration, abscesses or infections. 

Next, we clean your pet’s teeth thoroughly, including under the gum line, followed by scaling and polishing. 

After the procedure, your veterinarian will give you a full report on the state of your pet’s dental health and advise on any aftercare needed when you come to pick him or her up. 

How You Can Help

Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly—ideally, daily—is the most effective thing you can do to maintain your pet’s dental health between cleanings and slow the progression of any developing periodontal disease. 

Daily brushing at home can reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for professional cleanings, so it is well worth the effort.

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of dog and cat owners brush their pets’ teeth. A 2016 marketing survey conducted in Canada reported only 7% of dog owners said they brush their dogs’ teeth daily. In Sweden, only 4% of dog owners reported daily brushing.

According to the AVMA, “Although daily tooth brushing is advised for dogs and cats, a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry showed that only 2% of dog owners follow through with this practice.”

We haven’t come across reliable research data on tooth brushing by cat owners, but we’d estimate very few of our cat-owning clients brush their cats’ teeth.

Despite the discouraging statistics, we hope you will be willing to give tooth-brushing a try.

For more information from the AVMA, including videos on home dental care and what to expect from a professional cleaning, visit the “Pet Dental Care” page on the AVMA’s website.

While brushing your pet’s teeth is the most effective home dental health care, your veterinarian may also suggest alternatives such as dental treats, chews, diets and water additives. 

The Veterinary Oral Health Council, which has been awarding its VOHC Seal of Acceptance to dental health products for pets since 1998, lists accepted products for dogs and cats on its website.

You’ll find many of these products and more available in our online store. Just search for “dental” to see our full line of dental health care products. 

Your veterinarian will be happy to recommend the best products for your pet. 

A Common, Preventable Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition we diagnose in our adult patients, but as the statistics show, we have plenty of opportunity for improvement! 

Besides the low rate of regular tooth-brushing by pet owners, the AVMA reports a survey of pet owners showed that only 14% of dogs and 9% of cats receive dental care at the veterinarian’s office.

We can do better! 

By working together to provide regular professional and home care, we can detect periodontal disease early and perhaps even prevent it entirely. Your pet will be healthier and more comfortable, and you will avoid the stress and expense of dealing with advanced periodontal disease. So let’s collaborate now to improve and maintain your pet’s dental health. 

Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health Read More »

Overweight cat yawning

Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health

Over the past decade, the number of overweight cats has increased by 169% and the number of overweight dogs by 158%.

As a result, most pets in the United States, including about 56% of dogs and 60% of cats, are overweight or obese.

“Overweight” dogs weigh 10% to 30% more than their ideal body weight. An “obese” dog’s weight exceeds its ideal weight by more than 30%. The definitions are similar for cats. 

The consequences are serious. Obese pets are more likely to have a number of additional health problems, including—

  • Arthritis
  • Respiratory problems
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin infections
  • Shorter life expectancy (2.5 years shorter, according to one study)

These adverse health conditions result in a reduced quality of life for you and your pet as well as increased health care costs. 

Fortunately, the Brownsburg Animal Clinic team can help you help your overweight or obese pet achieve a healthier weight.

Is Your Pet Overweight or Obese?

It sounds like a simple question, but it can be hard for owners to judge their own pets’ weight accurately. 

In a study by Purina, when researchers asked owners of 201 healthy adult dogs to score their dogs’ body condition using the Purina Body Condition System as a guide, the owners said 28% of the dogs were overweight. A professional skilled in body condition scoring who evaluated the same dogs found 79% were overweight. 

You can use Purina’s system to evaluate your own pet’s body condition before your next appointment at the clinic. To help you get started, the Purina Institute offers simple instructions on making your assessment. 

Here’s a brief video for cat owners:

The Purina Institute also provides an illustrated reference sheet to help you assess your cat’s body condition.

Similarly, the Purina Institute offers a video assessment how-to for dog owners. 

Here’s a visual reference chart to help you evaluate your dog’s body condition. 

Also from the Purina Institute, we recommend two free downloadable handouts—“Benefits of healthy weight” and “Maintaining healthy weight.”

More Resources

If, based on your initial assessment, you think your pet may be overweight, we encourage you to visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s web page titled, “Your pet’s healthy weight.” There you’ll find advice on working with your veterinarian to help your pet achieve a healthy weight. 

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association has published a paper as a downloadable PDF, “Nutritional Management of Canine and Feline Obesity,” that provides a fairly comprehensive overview of key aspects of obesity in dogs and cats. Although the paper is written for veterinarians, the language is not overly technical, and any client whose pet is overweight or obese can benefit from reading it.

You may also want to review the post we published last October in observance of National Pet Obesity Awareness Day.

We’re Ready to Help!

Pet obesity has been called one of the most uncomfortable exam room topics for veterinary professionals, but at Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we feel it’s one of the most important. 

Rest assured, if we diagnose your pet as overweight or obese, you have absolutely no reason to feel ashamed, embarrassed or judged. Our primary focus will be not on blame or shame but on collaborating with you to develop a workable plan to address the problem for the greater good of our patient—your beloved pet.

Remember—overweight and obesity are increasingly prevalent problems shared by more than half our patients. We look forward to helping you help your pet achieve a healthier body weight for a longer, happier life!

Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health Read More »

Cat and dog lying next to each other on a bed

The Care-Cost Conversation

Among the many challenges that come with operating a veterinary clinic, the American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes clients’ “disconnect around cost” as one worthy of ongoing research and training for practice owners and their teams. 

With the release of the AVMA’s latest resources on communicating about pet care costs—including webinars, ebooks and pocket guides—we decided to review the new materials to help us fine-tune our approach to conversations with you—our clients—about the costs of veterinary care for your pets.

Our aim in giving ourselves a “cost communications refresher course” is to make all our conversations with you about pet care costs—whether face-to-face, by telephone, text and email, or on our website—as empathetic, informative and personally relevant as we can. 

Why Many of Us Dread ‘Money Talk’

Many veterinarians and their teams find it difficult to talk to clients about money. Some of the reasons veterinary teams cite:

  • We don’t have time to talk about costs during the limited time available for each appointment.
  • We’re afraid any talk of money—especially if we bring it up first—will make our clients think that’s all we care about.
  • We’re health care providers—not financial advisors. It’s not our job to talk about money.

Other reasons our fellow veterinarians say they tend to shy away from conversations about money:

  • We fear emotional reactions from clients, declined recommendations and damage to our relationship. 
  • We sometimes feel guilty about recommending treatments we suspect the client may not be able to afford—especially if we’d have a hard time affording them ourselves.
  • It’s quicker and easier to make assumptions about a client’s ability to pay and adjust our recommendations to fit our best guesses than it is to offer a fuller range of options without regard for cost.
  • We worry that clients interpret any discussion of money to mean we care less about doing what’s best for the patient and more about making money for our clinic. 

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we freely admit to having experienced some of these worries about cost discussions ourselves. In our years of practice, it’s likely every one of our veterinarians and team members may well have inadvertently committed some of the cost conversation “don’ts” in the ideas we’ve expressed and our choices of words. 

But with our current renewed focus on best practices for talking about costs with our clients, we are striving to deepen the knowledge, skills and confidence we need to have ever-more comfortable, productive conversations with you about the costs and affordability of the care we provide your pet. 

Ultimately, we know these frank, good-faith conversations with you will lead to the best possible health outcomes for your pet—the primary goal we all share. 

Balancing Care and Costs

When your pet requires diagnosis and treatment, we most often have more than one approach to offer. The various options may differ in terms of the complexity and invasiveness of testing and procedures and the expected short- and long-term health benefits. Affordability is almost always a concern. 

There is seldom—if ever—a one and only option that is right for every owner and every pet. When we present you with treatment options, we know it can be hard to choose what’s best. In our next conversation about balancing care and costs, we encourage you to ask us about anything you don’t fully understand. We’ll do our best to explain not only estimated costs and exactly what you’ll be paying for, but how and why and to what degree we believe the various approaches can improve your pet’s health and wellbeing. 

See our post, “Is Gold Standard Care Always the Best Option?” for much more information about how we tailor our cost-of-care conversations with you and make our recommendations about treatment options based on your and your pet’s individual needs and preferences.

The Cost-of-Care Conversation On Our Blog

“Research shows us that pet owners’ first association with veterinary care is money, and they want their veterinarian to have more proactive conversations with them around cost of care.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association

If you follow our weekly blog, you know through our ongoing “Pet Care Costs” blog post series, we have long been proactive in acknowledging that veterinary care can be expensive—particularly for owners of multiple pets—and in helping you better understand and manage the costs of caring for your own pet. We’ve written numerous articles containing our best advice about—

Pet Insurance

We strongly recommend pet insurance as a way to reduce the risk of substantial, unexpected veterinary bills that could cause financial hardship and compromise your pet’s care. 

On the topic of insurance, we have chosen to disregard veterinary industry advice to us to pick one or two companies and recommend them to all our clients. Yes, that would be quick and easy and might even result in more coverage for more of our patients—definitely a good thing! 

But based on what we know about pet insurance, recommending only one or two companies to all our clients would be a disservice. We’ve chosen instead to offer you the information you need to choose a pet insurance policy wisely and well. 

We created our “Pet Insurance” series to empower you to make truly informed insurance buying decisions tailored to your own and your pets’ needs. We encourage you to review the series and give serious consideration to insuring your pet. The five-part series includes—

We Want to Hear From You

The latest training materials from the AVMA are based on research conducted with pet owners who, presumably, represent a broad sampling of respondents. We know, when it comes to concerns about the cost of veterinary services, all pet owners have much in common and the results most likely apply to veterinary clients at any typical small animal practice, including ours. 

Still, we’d like to know just what our own clients think.

On the emailed surveys we send you following your appointments, the tenth item measures your level of agreement with, “The quality of service and care given to your pet in relation to the associated cost was a good value.”

In your numerical rating, you can tell us your opinion of the cost-value relationship at Brownsburg Animal Clinic, and in the comments box, you can help us understand the thoughts and feelings behind the number you assign. Ideally, you will also give us your suggestions for doing better.

The Care-Cost Conversation Read More »

Woman's hands offering attentive dog a treat while training

Training the LIMA Way

January is National Train Your Dog Month, sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). 

National Train Your Dog Month logo

The association has a website dedicated to the event and filled with free resources to help you train and care for your dog. On the home page, you’ll find links to several episodes of Speak!, ADPT’s podcast for pet owners. Below the podcast section, you’ll find links to videos offering a range of training tips as well as more general advice on dog care. 

The Tips tab takes you to a page linking to 11 informative training-related handouts—all downloadable as free PDFs.

The Resources tab takes you to a collection of blog posts on the Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ main website. The posts are of interest to trainers as well as pet owners. To narrow your selection, choose the most relevant category listed at the top of the page.

Training the LIMA Way

If you browse the APDT site further, you can learn about LIMA—the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive training technique sanctioned by the organization. 

According to the APDT position statement on LIMA, “LIMA requires that trainers and behavior consultants use the ‘least intrusive, minimally aversive technique likely to succeed in achieving a training [or behavior change] objective with minimal risk of producing adverse side effects.’”

In elaborating further, the association “takes the stance that there are no training or behavior cases which justify the use of intentional aversive punishment-based interventions in any form of training ranging from general obedience and tricks to dealing with severe behavior problems. This is in agreement with the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior and available literature. 

“Trainers who use aversive tools such as choke collars, prong collars, shock collars (including ‘stim-collars’ and ‘e-collars’), bonkers, shaker-cans, citronella spray, water spray, leash-pop/leash-corrections (with any type of collar/harness), yelling, or any other technique designed to cause fear, pain, or startle in the dog are not practicing LIMA as described and used within APDT. 

“Trainers who are unable to train a specific behavior or to a specific outcome without resorting to aversive techniques should use resources such as the APDT community pages to contact and work with trainers who do.”

As of 2021, APDT has required its members to certify they will follow LIMA principles. The Brownsburg Animal Clinic team wholeheartedly supports this approach to training.

Whether you train at home on your own or choose to work with a professional trainer or behavior consultant individually or in a class, we recommend you learn to train the LIMA way. Before hiring a trainer or signing up for a class, ask if they use any of the aversive “old school” tools and techniques named above and if they do, keep looking until you find a more progressive, enlightened professional.

Take a Class

Our friends at Misty Eyes Animal Center in Avon offer training classes based on positive reinforcement principles. Here’s what they have to say about their approach to training: 

“We understand the history and use of punishments in training; however, science has proven positive reinforcement is more effective in every meaningful dimension. Positive reinforcement teaching techniques use non-confrontational methods of training to work a dog’s brain. The focus is on rewarding positive behavior, establishing rituals and training actions that are incompatible with negative behavior—lessening a dog’s anger and frustration while enabling the dog to feel good inside. If you reinforce a dog’s desirable behaviors, there is less of a chance that he/she will indulge in other undesirable behaviors. Decision-making is influenced without use of force, all while strengthening the trust between owner and dog through this non-threatening treatment.”

Misty Eyes course offerings include—

  • STAR Puppy Class for puppies 8 to 20 weeks old
  • K-9 Good Manners for dogs six months old and older
  • AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Therapy Dog training class to prepare dogs six months old and older for CGC certification
  • AKC Trick Dog class for dogs six months old and older with previous training or completion of the K-9 Good Manners class 

For more information about classes at Misty Eyes Animal Center, visit the training page of their website

Let Us Help!

As always, our veterinarians are happy to answer questions and offer guidance about behavior problems and anxiety-related issues your dog may be experiencing. 

If you need more specialized help, we may refer you to Veterinary Behavior of Indiana.

With a sound, positive approach to training your dog, you can vastly improve your dog’s and your own quality of life, build a closer bond and have fun while you’re doing it! We wish you success!

Training the LIMA Way Read More »

Dog looking over the back seat of an SUV

Safe Travels With Your Pet

January 2 is National Pet Travel Safety Day, created to promote safe travels for your pet today and throughout the year.  

We researched the topic and found so much good advice that we decided to link to seven web pages we recommend. See our notes to determine which sites are most relevant to your travel plans with your pet.

The Humane Society of the United States provides a page of pointers for safe travel for cats and dogs by car, airplane, ship or train. The section on air travel is especially detailed.

While The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) discourages air travel with pets too large to fit under your seat in the cabin, their website does offer safety tips if you must fly your pet in the cargo area. There is also a section on traveling with your pet by car. 

As the title suggests, “The Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog” on the American Kennel Club website covers multiple aspects of travel with your dog, including tips for staying in a motel with your canine travel companion.

The American Red Cross website offers advice for traveling with your pet by car and by air, with a link to a page on how to prepare an emergency kit for your pet.

The Centers for Disease Control website has a page dedicated to keeping your pet safe during travel by car and by plane. There is also good advice on keeping your pet safe and healthy once you arrive at your destination. 

WebMD’s Fetch site offers “Car Travel With Pets: 10 Tips for Safety and Security,” with additional notes on travel by plane, train and boat. 

On the Center for Pet Safety website, you’ll find a page summarizing general travel tips as well as specifics for traveling by auto and plane and for staying with your pet in a hotel.

Our Advice

Travel safely every time. Many of the recommended safety precautions are useful for in-town errands and day trips as well as more extended vacation travel. 

Keep your pet inside the car or the cab of your truck. We noticed among the illustrations for these web pages a couple of photographs of dogs with their heads sticking out of car windows—a practice we advise against.

Consider leaving your pet at home. As much as you’d enjoy your pet’s company during your trip, your pet may be happier and less stressed at home with a pet sitter. Our veterinarians can help you determine if your pet’s temperament and general health are suited to travel.

Safe Travels With Your Pet Read More »

Large cat

New Year’s Resolutions for Overweight Pets

The most common New Year’s resolution for humans is to lose weight. With an estimated 58% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, the coming new year could be a great time to resolve to help your pet lose weight.

Why does it matter? As with humans, overweight and obese pets run a greater risk of developing a number of medical problems, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart and respiratory disease
  • Cranial cruciate ligament injury
  • Kidney disease
  • Many forms of cancer
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

We’re Here to Help!

Before you begin a weight loss program for your pet—particularly if the problem is severe and/or the pet is older or has other health issues—we strongly encourage you to visit our office for a physical exam and consultation with one of our doctors to develop a safe, effective, individualized weight loss plan.

Our first step is to determine if your pet actually is overweight and to set an ideal, healthier weight for your dog or cat.

We’ll talk about what you’re feeding your pet—including treats and table scraps—and calculate how many calories your pet should be consuming each day. Then we do the math to translate calorie requirements into the amount of food you should be feeding each day to achieve a healthier weight at a safe, comfortable pace. And we do include treats in our calculations!

We also discuss opportunities for increasing your pet’s physical activity, taking into consideration your pet’s age, general health and present fitness level as well as your lifestyle, interests and ability to exercise alongside your pet. If you’re able-bodied and interested in getting more exercise yourself, we might recommend a gradually increasing regimen of walking or jogging with your pet. If you are not interested in or able to exercise yourself, we may suggest teaching your dog to play fetch or encouraging your cat to chase a laser (if your cat doesn’t find lasers too frustrating) or a string toy (under human supervision only).

Another option for increasing activity levels for cats is to use a puzzle feeder, which is a food-dispensing toy you can buy or make for your cat. We found a great blog post on puzzle feeders that includes instructions on how to make your own.

With the nutrition needs calculated and the plan for increasing activity levels mapped out, we will most likely send you and your pet home to implement our recommendations.  We will schedule an appointment for a recheck to determine how well the weight loss plan is working for your pet.

Happily, for many otherwise healthy pets whose owners stick with our plans, these weight loss recommendations work! As the dog or cat approaches the target healthy weight, we adjust the nutrition and exercise program to maintain success over the long term.

If, at the first follow-up appointment, we find the pet is having difficulty losing weight despite good compliance with the feeding and exercise program, we may test thyroid function—particularly in older animals—to rule out hypothyroidism, which makes weight loss difficult.

Our veterinarians may also recommend a prescription food to promote weight loss, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution—more commonly known as Hill’s Metabolic Diet.

We have recently been trying this food with a number of our overweight patients, and the results have been promising. Before releasing this food several years ago, Hill’s conducted in-home trials with 314 pets. 96% of dogs and 81% of cats lost weight in just two months.

This innovative nutrition formula from Hill’s helps pets lose weight by boosting their metabolic rate, regulating appetite and reprogramming the genes that control metabolism so they behave more like those of lean animals.

For more details about how this product works, we recommend this article on the PetMD web site. And here’s a blog post about Hill’s Metabolic Diet by a veterinarian at mypetsdoctor.com.

Hill’s Metabolic Diet is available at Brownsburg Animal Clinic by prescription in dry and canned form and as treats. To use this food to treat overweight or obesity, our registered veterinary technicians take initial  measurements and continue treatment with required monthly monitoring.

Resolved?

Ready to make that resolution to help your pet slim down? Call us during office hours to schedule your exam and weight loss consultation for the new year!

New Year’s Resolutions for Overweight Pets Read More »

Dog with snow on its face

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Cold Weather

The coldest month of the year in Brownsburg is January, with an average low of 22°F and high of 36°F. 

To help you keep your pet safe when the temperatures drop, we’re linking to six of the best web pages we’ve found on the topic of cold weather safety for pets. We encourage you to visit the pages most relevant to your pet’s needs.

See “Cold Weather Safety Tips” from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) for a range of suggestions, including several on coat, skin and paw care.

Cold Weather Animal Safety” from the American Veterinary Medical Association has a number of thoughtful pointers to help cat and dog owners keep their pets safe in cold weather. This page has tips for keeping livestock safe, too.

The Humane Society of the United States lists “Five ways to protect pets in winter,” including advice on protecting horses and community cats.

There’s also an article on the Humane Society website, “How to care for outdoor cats in winter,” with more detailed advice on caring for neighborhood feral and stray cats in cold weather.

Here are “8 Ways to Keep Your Dog Warm” from the American Kennel Club.

From the Animal Humane Society website, “Keeping pets safe in cold weather” covers safety for indoor and outdoor pets, lists signs of hypothermia and advises against taking your pet with you when running errands in your car during cold weather.

Cold Weather Questions?

The Brownsburg Animal Clinic team has answers!

Call us at (317) 852-3323 to ask for advice on caring for your pet in cold weather and if needed, to schedule an appointment. If you’re not sure if you should bring your pet in, call anyway and we will help you decide.

Keeping Your Pet Safe in Cold Weather Read More »

Dog wearing Santa cap

Pets as Christmas Gifts

Each year, with the best and most generous of intentions, people give pets as Christmas gifts. But if you search for “pets as Christmas gifts” on Google or Bing, you’ll find more warnings than support of the idea.

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we dedicate ourselves to promoting and supporting successful pet ownership. We believe at any time of year, giving a pet as a gift to another person—particularly as a surprise—can potentially turn out to be bad for the people and pets involved. We also believe, with proper consideration and preparation, giving a pet as a gift can result in a happy, mutually-satisfying relationship for the life of the pet.

And research backs us up.

One study published in the journal Animals examined whether receiving an animal as a gift had an impact on the owner’s love for or attachment to the pet and found no significant difference in attachment to pets between gift recipients and people who had acquired their pets themselves. Some owners feel an even greater attachment to the pet received as a gift because a loved one was the giver. Surprise gifts of animals were acceptable to 75% of those who had received them and some said the surprise itself strengthened their attachment.

Other studies have looked at whether cats and dogs received as gifts are more likely to be surrendered to a shelter than those acquired in other ways. Contrary to what you might expect, it turns out animals given as gifts have a significantly lower risk of ending up in a shelter than dogs and cats purchased or acquired by the owners.

In light of these facts, why do so many people warn against pets as Christmas gifts? Here are the major reasons:

  • Bringing a companion animal into a household creates a major responsibility for the lifetime of the pet, which could be 10 to 15 or more years for a dog or cat. Caring for a pet takes time, money and commitment. Only the primary caregiver can decide if he or she is willing and able to take on the responsibility for a pet.
  • Matching the right pet to the household and lifestyle of the owner(s) requires thoughtful consideration. Pets vary in their needs for time, space and attention, exercise and training. Making a sound, thoughtful choice is key to the longterm success of the relationship, and only the prospective owner can say what his or her true requirements and preferences are.
  • Children who receive pets as Christmas gifts may not be ready, willing nor able to take responsibility for the animal’s care. Older children may take on much of the care, but the adults in the household should expect to be the primary caregivers.
  • Holidays can be hectic, and there are often additional household hazards, such as ornaments, electrical cords, potentially harmful plants and foods, to endanger a pet. Bringing an animal into the household at such a busy time of year places unnecessary stress on the pet and can make the adjustment more difficult than it would be at more “normal” times of the year.

We agree these are all critically important considerations. But we believe, with some creativity and common sense, the gift of a pet can work. Here’s how:

  • As appealing as the image of a kitten or puppy under a Christmas tree can be, we strongly prefer the idea of representing the pet with a stuffed animal.
  • New pets need lots of gear–food, food bowls, collars and leashes, beds, carriers, crates and healthful, safe treats. All these can be waiting under the tree in anticipation of the new pet.
  • Matching the pet to the household and owner requires some thoughtful consideration and can benefit from research. Another great holiday gift, instead of the pet itself, is a book about choosing a pet.
  • Finally, once the new owner has considered and clarified the type of pet he or she will most enjoy and appreciate, we strongly encourage giving the pet the gift of a great new home by acquiring it from a shelter or rescue organization.

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, every one of us is dedicated to enriching and supporting our clients’ relationships with their pets. We consider all our animal companions to be gifts, providing us unconditional love and enriching our lives with their playfulness and winning ways. If you are the giver or a receiver of a pet this Christmas, we will be happy to support you in making the relationship a success.

Pets as Christmas Gifts Read More »

Cat with Christmas gifts

Holiday Gifts for Pets

If you are like most of our clients—and, according to a recent Nielsen survey, 95% of pet owners—you consider your pet to be part of your family. And if you’re like 90 percent of cat-only owners and 96 percent of dog-only owners surveyed by VetStreet, you buy holiday gifts for your pet.

According to VetStreet, half the owners who buy gifts for their cat spend $10 to $25, 22% spend less than $10, 19% spend $26 to $50, 7% spend $51 to $100 and 2% spend more than $100.

Nearly half of gift-giving dog owners spend in the $10 to $25 range, 26% spend $26 to $50, 15% spend less than $10, 8% spend $51 to $100 and 3% give their dogs gifts costing more than $100.

Treats were the most popular gift for dogs, followed by toys. Owners said they were less than half as likely to buy holiday-themed gifts for their dogs, followed by leashes, collars, harnesses, bowls, feeders and beds.

The most popular gifts for cats were treats and toys, followed by “home items” like scratching posts, cat trees, beds and bowls and holiday-themed toys and clothing.

Of those who own dogs or cats, 66% also buy gifts for other people’s pets.

A November 2022 survey by online pet supplies retailer Chewy.com found that 94% of pet owners shop for holiday gifts for pets, 58% wrap the pets’ presents and 87% hang Christmas stockings for pets. Among the pet owners responding to the survey, 58% said they usually buy their pets two to three gifts, generally spending about $50.

Gift Ideas

Type “Christmas gifts for pets” into a search engine, and you’ll see dozens of sponsored links to shopping sites, along with multiple rows of images advertising individual products.

We suggest the following articles to guide your gift-giving this holiday season.

What’s Under Your Tree?

What’s on your Christmas shopping list for the dogs and cats in your life? We think treats are a wonderful choice, so long as your pet doesn’t overindulge on Christmas morning. Ideally, the gift of treats will last well into the new year!

In choosing toys, we recommend playthings designed specifically for pets. Avoid toys that can be swallowed, either whole or in parts.

In return, you’ll receive the gifts of love and loyalty from your pet.

Happy holidays from the Brownsburg Animal Clinic family to yours!

Holiday Gifts for Pets Read More »

Two dogs chewing on a stick

Celebrating National Mutt Day

Brownsburg Animal Clinic invites you to join us in celebrating National Mutt Day—December 2—to appreciate, honor and celebrate mixed-breed dogs.

Just what is a mutt?

It’s not a purebred dog, which results from selective mating of only registered stock of the same breed. The American Kennel Club currently registers 200 separate dog breeds. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale—the World Canine Organization or FCI—recognizes 356 breeds worldwide.

It’s not a hybrid dog, which results from the deliberate mating of two purebred dogs from different breeds with the goal of reproducing the most desirable characteristics of each breed in the resulting offspring.

A mixed-breed dog or mutt is born of two dogs that are not from the same breed—or perhaps not from any one particular breed themselves. Usually, a mutt’s ancestry is unknown. Mutts come in all sizes, shapes and colors.

Some of our favorite patients are mutts!

Are Mutts Healthier Than Purebred Dogs?

It is widely believed that mutts are healthier and live longer than purebred dogs, but many of our purebred patients are living long, healthy lives while some of the mutts we care for have seemingly more than their share of health problems.

To determine if mixed-breed dogs are indeed healthier than purebred dogs, a study published in 2013 used medical records of more than 27,000 dogs treated at the veterinary clinic at UC Davis, comparing the incidence of 24 genetic disorders in mixed-breed versus purebred dogs.

The researchers found the incidence of 10 of the 24 genetic disorders was significantly greater in purebred dogs. The incidence of one disorder—ruptured cranial cruciate ligament—was greater in mixed-breed dogs. For the other 13 disorders compared, the researchers found no difference in incidence between mixed-breed and purebred dogs.

So yes, mixed-breed dogs have been shown to be at lower risk than purebreds for some genetic disorders. But for many, there’s no significant difference.

A summary of the study is posted on the Institute of Canine Biology website.

Should Your Next Dog Be a Mutt?

The choice of your next pet is a very personal one, and there is no right or wrong answer. But if you’re open to adopting a mixed-breed dog, you’ll find they generally have all the makings of fine companions and family pets, just as the purebreds and hybrids do.

You’ll also find mutts are more readily available than purebred dogs. About 80% of shelter dogs are mutts.

While the costs of care and feeding purebreds, hybrids and mutts are similar, the up-front cost of acquiring a mixed-breed dog is typically lower than the hundreds or even thousands you’ll pay for a purebred or hybrid dog.

Best of all, your mutt will be one-of-a-kind.

How Will You and Your Mutt Celebrate?

If you are already the proud owner of a mixed-breed dog, we hope you’ll make every day a special day for your mutt.

Some extra pats on the head and tosses of the Frisbee, a longer-than-usual walk, a ride in the car that could include a trip to the drive-through—anything you know your mutt loves (within reason!) will be a great way to celebrate twice-yearly National Mutt Day year-round.

Celebrating National Mutt Day Read More »

Dog looking through glass from outside at cat indoors

National Pet Suffocation Awareness Week

The photographs are heartbreaking, showing so many adorable and obviously adored pets—mostly dogs—who suffocated after getting their heads stuck in snack bags, cereal bags and other types of food bags and containers.

The week after Thanksgiving is National Pet Suffocation Awareness Week. 

In doing our part to make you aware of this often unrecognized and frighteningly common hazard, we visited several websites where we saw the many pictures of pets lost to suffocation. If you click some of the links in this post and browse the pages, you’ll see them, too.

We also found some sadly disturbing facts we want to bring to your attention so you’ll realize just how deadly snack and food bags can be.

Fortunately, once you’re aware of the danger, there are a number of relatively easy steps you can take to reduce the suffocation risks to your own cherished pet. 

After reading this post and making the suggested safety precautions a habit, you can join us in spreading the word among your family, friends and co-workers about the dangers of pet suffocation and how to mitigate them.

Documenting the Danger

According to Dr. Jason Nicholas, president and chief medical officer at Preventive Vet

  • A reported two to three pets die in the U.S. each week from suffocating in chip and other snack bags. We don’t know how many additional suffocation deaths go unreported and uncounted.
  • Many pet owners whose dogs suffocated in snack and food bags were gone from the house for only 20 to 30 minutes.
  • It can take as little as three to five minutes for a pet to suffocate in a snack or food bag.

Preventive Vet goes on to rank the greatest suffocation hazards to pets.

  • 68% are snack or chip bags
  • 6% are cereal bags
  • 6% are pet food bags
  • 5% are pet treat bags

Bread bags, cheese bags and hard plastic and cardboard containers are other common suffocation hazards.

Pets find 24% of these deadly bags in or near home trash cans or recycling bins, 20% were grabbed off a coffee table or side table, 15% were grabbed off a counter and 5% were found outside in the yard. Pets found other bags inside cars or under furniture.

On a web page titled, “Snack Safely—Keep Your Pets Safe from Snack Bag Suffocation,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains why the bags are so dangerous:

“Snack, cereal, food-storage, and other plastic bags are made from different types of plastic materials which are sometimes layered, particularly in the case of potato chip bags. These plastic materials include Mylar (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET), aluminum-laminated polypropylene, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The materials make the bags light and flexible, which is perfect for storing food. However, it’s a bad combination for pets who put their head inside the bags. Bags containing food or that once contained tasty morsels are particularly dangerous because pets can smell the food and are more likely to find the bags when they’re left on the counter, the coffee table, the floor, or in the trash.”

The Need for Awareness

Preventive Vet has documented the need for greater awareness of suffocation hazards, noting on its comprehensive web page on pet suffocation, “73% of people who lost or almost lost a pet to suffocation were unaware of or had never realized the possibility that their pet could suffocate in a chip, snack, cereal, or other food bag until it happened!

“Many people don’t realize that a pet, no matter its size or strength, can have a hard time getting bags off its head once they are stuck. Not only do cats and dogs lack thumbs to help them grab and remove the bag, but the bags quickly form a vacuum-like seal around their head as they breathe in and quickly deplete the air within the bag. As this happens, the oxygen levels quickly decline, and the carbon dioxide levels quickly rise. The entrapped pet panics from not being able to breathe normally and eventually dies from asphyxiation.”

“Many people erroneously believe that a dog can simply remove a chip bag from his head with his front paws or tear through it with his claws. This is just not the case,” writes Bonnie Harlan, who founded Prevent Pet Suffocation, Inc., after her dog Blue suffocated in a chip bag. “Once the bag starts to seal around the dog’s neck, it’s extremely difficult to break the suction of the seal. ALL dogs are vulnerable to pet suffocation—no matter their size, breed, or age. No dog, from a tiny Teacup Poodle to a massive Great Dane, can win a fight with a chip bag or other plastic bag over his head once the bag seals and he starts to lose oxygen.”

Reducing the Risks to Your Pet

Once you’re aware of the dangers, there are a number of simple steps you can take to reduce your pet’s risk of suffocation. The following are selected safety precautions compiled directly from Preventive Vet, Prevent Pet Suffocation and the FDA:

  • Empty packaged snack, cereal and dry pet foods from bags into resealable hard containers immediately after bringing them home. Any foods left in the original packaging should be kept out of your pet’s reach until you’re ready to transfer the contents to safe containers.
  • Keep scissors handy so you can cut up all chip and food bags into pieces that can’t seal around your pet’s nose and mouth before discarding them into secure trash cans your pet can’t get into. If scissors are not readily available, tie the bags in knots or cut open one side and/or the bottom of the bag with a knife.
  • Serve snacks in bowls—not bags—and secure any bagged leftovers well out of your pet’s reach.
  • Don’t let cats play with plastic bags or food cartons, and don’t let them access bags stored on top of counters and appliances.
  • Put lids back on jars and containers before disposing of them.
  • Restrict your pet’s access to the kitchen, pantry or any area where you store snack and pet food bags.
  • Check your purse and briefcase for snack bags and food your pet could find.
  • Keep chip and snack bags and drink cups out of your vehicle, and don’t leave your dog alone in the car with fast food bags, snack bags or food and drink containers.
  • Beware of high-risk events—birthday parties, holiday celebrations, sports events, cook-outs and other gatherings—when snacks packaged in bags are likely to be served.
  • Do your part to increase awareness about pet suffocation among friends and family members of all ages.
  • Teach your children not to leave snack bags and food in their backpacks and bedrooms.
  • Educate dog walkers, pet sitters and baby sitters about the dangers of pet suffocation.
  • Remind overnight guests not to leave food bags and snacks in their handbags and luggage.
  • Follow these guidelines beyond your household to protect wildlife, stray dogs and feral cats.

From Awareness to Action

Now that you are aware of the grave dangers of suffocation posed by snack and food bags, we strongly encourage you to incorporate the simple safety precautions into your household routines—not only to protect your own pet but to honor the memory of the many beloved pets lost to suffocation. 

National Pet Suffocation Awareness Week Read More »

Painting showing the first Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Safety for Pets

Brownsburg Animal Clinic will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Friday and Saturday, November 23, 24 and 25. Normal office hours will resume Monday, November 27.

If this painting depicting the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is to be believed, a dog was happily—and apparently safely—celebrating alongside the guests at the feast.

But Thanksgiving as we celebrate it today can be very dangerous for pets.

Here’s a quick summary of Thanksgiving safety guidelines from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

In less than four minutes, the following video posted on the American Animal Hospital Association’s YouTube channel, “Keeping your pets safe on Thanksgiving,” covers a number of hazards we haven’t seen cited by other sources.

Food Safety Specifics

Our traditional Thanksgiving feasts contain a few foods that can be safely eaten in small portions as treats by most pets, but many more holiday foods can cause serious, potentially deadly health problems. 

Pets access these delicious but dangerous foods not only from countertops, table tops and trash cans, but directly from the hands of indulgent, well-meaning people who want to include pets in the family festivities. 

It’s up to you to recognize and protect your pet from these food hazards.

Turkey. A few bites of unseasoned cooked white meat may do your pet no harm, but turkey skin and fatty dark meat can cause life-threatening pancreatitis.

Raw or undercooked turkey can cause salmonella poisoning, so make sure you keep thawing turkey out of your pet’s reach.

Turkey bones can damage or become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract, possibly requiring emergency surgery. Under no circumstances should you give your pet turkey bones! 

Discarded turkey packaging and trussing strings can also be extremely dangerous when swallowed.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, turkey brine is hazardous to pets. “When you remove the turkey, this salt-saturated solution can be very attractive to dogs and cats, who will readily lap it up resulting in salt toxicosis. Clinical signs are excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and diarrhea. This can potentially result in serious electrolyte changes and brain swelling.”

Garlic, onion, leeks and chives. These common ingredients we humans enjoy to spice up our holiday dishes are toxic to dogs and cats. Don’t give your pet even a single bite of any dish—like green beans, potatoes, stuffing or gravy—containing these poisonous-to-pets ingredients. 

Yeast bread dough. Raw yeast bread dough, when eaten by a pet, can expand internally, blocking the pet’s digestive tract. As fermentation continues, ingested yeast dough can convert sugars into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol, resulting in a bloated, drunken pet who may require life-saving emergency treatment and hospitalization. Keep your rising yeast bread dough out of your pets’ reach. 

Desserts. Pies, fruitcakes, candies and cookies—particularly those containing chocolate, raisins, currants, nuts and the sugar substitute xylitol—should be kept out of your pet’s reach. 

See our post, “Protect Your Dog from Xylitol Poisoning” for more information about this widely-used household hazard.

Alcohol. If your holiday celebrations include alcohol, do not offer alcohol directly to your pet or allow access to unattended drinks containing alcohol.

According to Pet Poison Helpline, “Alcohol must be kept out of the reach of dogs because it can cause severe poisoning. Poisoning may cause symptoms such as seizures or breathing difficulties that need hospitalization and supportive care. Dogs can be poisoned by alcoholic drinks, but did you know they can be poisoned by yeast, too? If a dog eats rising bread dough, they can experience poisoning from the alcohol from the fermenting yeast. Alcohol rapidly absorbs into the bloodstream which results in alcohol poisoning.”

There is nothing cute or funny about a pet under the influence of alcohol, but there is the very real potential for serious health problems.

The Holiday Hazards of Guests

If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, your pet will be exposed to all the noise, confusion and opportunities to bolt out the door that come with receiving and entertaining guests. 

Especially shy or protective pets unused to having company may even growl, snap at or bite guests.

Well-meaning friends and family members may be tempted to feed your pet potentially harmful treats. 

Those not used to keeping doors and gates closed and foods and trash out of pets’ reach may inadvertently endanger your pet.

Overnight visitors may have easily-accessible-to-your-pet prescription and over-the-counter drugs or candies containing chocolate and/or sweetened with xylitol in their handbags and luggage. Keep bags off the floor and guest room doors closed.

To avoid holiday trips to the veterinary emergency hospital, make sure your guests understand basic security precautions to protect your pets. If the holiday festivities are to last only a few hours, you may prefer to protect your pet by restricting him or her to a quiet part of the house or to a crate until the party concludes.

Brigid Wasson from First Street Pets created “Keeping pets safe over Thanksgiving Holiday,” a 7-minute video focusing primarily on holiday safety hazards unrelated to food.

Travel Safety

If you are traveling to celebrate the holidays with your family or friends, you may choose to take your pet with you. See our post, “Safe Travels With Your Pet,” for links to travel-related resources.

If you read the safe travels post to the end, you’ll see our parting advice is to consider leaving your pet at home. Travel can be stressful for pets—especially when the destination is a large gathering of unfamiliar (to the pet) people in an unfamiliar (to the pet) place. 

Your pet may well be happier at home with a pet sitter or in the relatively stable confines of a boarding kennel. Just be sure your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines, and make your reservations well in advance of the busy holiday season.

Helpful Holiday Contacts

We will be closed from Thanksgiving Day through the following Sunday so that our veterinarians and staff can enjoy the holiday with their own families and friends. 

Should you need veterinary care while we are closed for the holiday, see the list of area emergency clinics in the right sidebar of every page on our website.

In case of poisoning, contact the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

Thanksgiving Safety for Pets Read More »

Pug dog with two other dogs in the background

National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month.

While originally designated to raise awareness of diabetes in humans, November is the month when we at Brownsburg Animal Clinic join many of our veterinary colleagues in focusing special attention on diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats.

Signs Your Pet May Have Diabetes

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive and/or inappropriate urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eye lenses (in dogs)
  • Depression or fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Poor skin condition, dandruff or oily coat

If your pet shows any of these signs, schedule an appointment at the clinic right away.

To Find Out More About Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

AVMA graphic listing signs of diabetes in pets

On its website page, “Diabetes in Pets,” the American Veterinary Medical Association provides an excellent summary of diabetes basics for pet owners.

On the PetMD website, you’ll find a comprehensive overview titled, “Diabetes in Dogs and Cats: Everything You Need to Know.”

Visit the “Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs and Cats” page on our own website and follow the links to our post and handout on how we handle blood sugar monitoring.

We’re Here to Help

If you suspect your dog or cat may have diabetes, the next step is to schedule an appointment for an examination. If your pet is diagnosed with diabetes, your veterinarian will explain how we can work with you to treat and manage the condition.

If left untreated, diabetes can be deadly. But with proper diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management, your diabetic pet can enjoy a healthy, happy life.

National Diabetes Month Read More »

Black Labrador Retriever with graying muzzle

ASPCA’s Adopt a Senior Pet Month

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® has designated November as Adopt a Senior Pet Month. The Brownsburg Animal Clinic team joins the ASPCA® in encouraging you to consider welcoming an older dog or cat into your household.

Kittens and puppies are cute! But adopting an older pet has advantages.

  • Adult dogs and cats need less monitoring and training than puppies and kittens do.
  • Many senior pets up for adoption are already house-trained.
  • Senior pets tend to be less destructive than younger ones.
  • Senior pets are already mature and fully-grown, so you know what to expect in terms of size and temperament from the beginning.
  • Opening your home and heart to a senior pet is a nice thing to do.

Senior pets are the least likely to be adopted from shelters. Your decision to adopt a senior dog or cat offers obvious benefits to the pet, allowing them to enjoy their remaining years in the comfort of a loving home.

To help you make a better-informed decision about adopting an older pet—and to help any of our clients provide better care for aging pets—we’re linking to a video from the American Veterinary Medical Association titled, “Elderly Pets and Your Veterinarian.” In less than six minutes, the video provides a good overview of health concerns of older pets.

Finding Your Senior Pet

To find the right senior pet for you, we encourage you to visit Misty Eyes Animal Center and the Hendricks County Animal Shelter.

If you’re interested in adopting a dog of a specific breed, visit the American Kennel Club’s Rescue Network. Visit the Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue website to find surrendered and abandoned purebred cats available for adoption.

ASPCA’s Adopt a Senior Pet Month Read More »

Cat and dog relaxing together on the floor

Pet Wellness: A Year-Round Priority

October has traditionally been designated National Pet Wellness Month, but at Brownsburg Animal Clinic, wellness is a year-round priority. 

Many of our clients think their pets’ wellness begins and ends with the recommended yearly (or twice-yearly for older pets) exam and the vaccines that may come with it. 

But there is so much more to pet wellness than wellness exams! 

In fact, your pet’s wellness depends not only on regular, capable veterinary care, but on the care you provide between clinic appointments, every day, at home. 

Preventive Care

As part of our Pet Care Costs collection of posts and pages to help you manage the costs of pet ownership more effectively, we published “Preventive Care for Better Health and Lower Costs.” In that blog post, we talked about how preventive care—another name for wellness care—can benefit not only your pet’s health but your budget, too. 

The topics we covered:

  • Wellness Exams
  • Vaccinations
  • Deworming
  • Heartworm and Flea and Tick Preventives
  • Spaying and Neutering
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Dental Care

We encourage you to review the post on preventive care for an overview of the basic, year-round responsibilities of keeping your pet well.

Overweight and Obesity

Just weeks ago, we dedicated an entire blog post to the very serious problem of overweight and obesity in pets.

Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more pets whose wellness is jeopardized by excess weight. In fact, these days more than half of pet dogs and cats are overweight. 

We are also seeing many owners who deny their pet’s weight problem and may even get angry with us for bringing it up.

We understand! Nobody wants to hear, “Your dog really needs to lose some weight,” or “Your cat is dangerously obese.” It’s only natural to feel at least a little embarrassed, defensive and insulted when one of our veterinarians says something like that to you.

Just keep in mind—our first priority is your pet’s health, and we would be negligent if we didn’t call out overweight and obesity for the serious health problems they are. 

If we see it, we have to say it. 

Rather than wait for us to evaluate your pet’s body condition, you can judge for yourself if your pet is overweight or obese using resources linked to in our blog post

Once we mutually recognize, acknowledge and evaluate the problem, we can make a plan and work together to help your pet achieve a healthier weight. 

Safety Concerns

We often publish posts on our blog about pet safety, too. 

Keeping your pet safe from potential hazards is another critically important aspect of wellness that needs attending year-round. 

We hope you’ll browse the “Safety” category on our blog to gain an even broader perspective on how your taking safety precautions can contribute to your pet’s year-round wellness. 

We’re in This Together!

Your pet’s wellness is a year-round concern the veterinarians and staff of Brownsburg Animal Clinic take very seriously! 

We see our patients’ wellness as a collaborative effort between our team and our clients. 

With you, we’re in your pet’s wellness together, and we feel honored you’ve chosen us to work with you to provide your pet with the healthiest, happiest possible life.

What’s next? Call us now at (317) 852-3323 to see when your pet’s next wellness exam is due.

Pet Wellness: A Year-Round Priority Read More »

Chihuahua dressed as a witch for Halloween

Halloween Safety for Pets

Halloween can be fun for humans, but to your pet, it can be a scary, dangerous experience.

Noisy bands of masked strangers at your door, bowls and bags filled with tempting candy, unfamiliar decorations to explore and costumes for the entire family can put your pet at risk of being lost, stressed, ill or injured.

Here are some precautions we recommend to safeguard your pet this Halloween.

Don’t Share the Treats

Make sure your children and all the adults in your household know not to share Halloween treats with your pets. Keep the candy you are giving out and the candy your children collect securely out of your pet’s reach.

Just about any sugary or fatty candy, cakes and cookies can cause your pet to experience vomiting and diarrhea, but the theobromine and caffeine in chocolate are especially dangerous and can overstimulate a dog’s nervous system to life-threatening levels.

Treats sweetened with xylitol can quickly lower a dog’s blood sugar level and can lead to liver failure.

“Healthy” treats containing raisins, grapes or macadamia nuts can be toxic—even fatal—to pets. For example, as few as 5 to 20 raisins can cause kidney failure in a small dog.

Depending on your pet’s size and the amount your pet eats, indulging in Halloween treats can cause pancreatitis or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, triggering vomiting and diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration. Both conditions require prompt veterinary care and possible hospitalization.

A pet who discovers a bag filled with treats may well eat wrappers and sticks along with the candy. These materials can get stuck in your pet’s stomach and block or possibly rupture the intestines. Surgery will most likely be required.

And if your pet indulges in an assortment of candy collected throughout the neighborhood, you will have no way of knowing just what potential toxins your pet may have ingested.

Keep Decorations Out of Reach

Strings of lights can cause electrical shocks and swallowed glass and plastic shards.

Candles can cause burns and, if tipped over, can start a fire.

Moldy pumpkins can cause tremors in dogs if they snack on jack-o-lanterns.

Cobweb decorations are especially tempting to cats and kittens, with potentially serious results if the fake web gets wrapped around the tongue. If pets swallow the stringy cobweb material, it may require surgery to remove the blockage.

Mind the Costumes

If you plan to dress your pet in its own Halloween costume, make sure the costume you choose is one your pet can and will tolerate comfortably.

The costume should not block your pet’s sight, hearing, breathing or movement. There should be no rubber bands, tight strings or straps to cut off circulation or breathing. Wide Velcro fasteners are preferable.

A costume can become a choking hazard if the pet chews off and swallows pieces or becomes entangled in the fabric while trying to wriggle out of it. Swallowed costume pieces can cause a blockage that requires surgery to remove.

Supervise your costumed pet at all times. If you need to leave your pet unattended—even for only a few minutes—remove the costume first.

If you and your family are wearing costumes, you may frighten your pet. Make sure you introduce yourselves in costume to your pet in a reassuring, non-threatening way.

Recognize the Dangers of Trick or Treating

For most dogs, trick-or-treating from door-to-door with your family—especially in a busy neighborhood with other trick-or-treaters filling the streets—can be a stressful experience.

Even the calmest, friendliest dog is likely to get spooked by all the strange-looking people, noise and confusion. Some dogs may even try to protect you from costumed, masked people who seem to present a threat.

As a kindness to your pet, we recommend you remove the cute costume and leave him or her at home.

If you stay home to dispense treats, your pet may be startled and stressed by all the doorbell-ringing and shouting for hours on end and may dash out the open door, risking being lost or hit by a car. If weather permits, you may minimize the disruption by greeting trick-or-treaters outdoors on the front porch.

Bring outdoor pets—especially black cats—inside on Halloween to safeguard them from being stolen and possibly abused by cruel pranksters.

All pets will tolerate Halloween best if crated and kept in a quiet room with the door closed.

Just in case your frightened pet does escape through an open door, make sure he or she has proper identification—a microchip and a collar with identification tags—to help get back home.

Halloween Safety for Pets Read More »

Technician handling test samples with gloved hands

Celebrating National Veterinary Technician Week

We invite all our clients to join the Brownsburg Animal Clinic team in celebrating National Veterinary Technician Week October 15 through 21, 2023.

In close collaboration with our veterinarians, veterinary assistants, client/patient service representatives, clinic assistants and office management staff, our registered veterinary technicians (RVTs) play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the clinic, caring for our patients and helping keep our clients well-informed about their pets.

What Registered Veterinary Technicians Do

Our RVTs’ daily to-do lists most often include—

  • Taking the pet’s medical history and understanding current health concerns
  • Giving medicine and vaccines as prescribed by our veterinarians
  • Teaching clients to give medicine and provide home care for their pets
  • Taking x-rays
  • Assisting in surgeries and dental procedures
  • Collecting samples and performing lab tests
  • Cleaning and bandaging wounds
  • Removing stitches
  • Maintaining patients’ medical records

Our RVTs’ Qualifications

To be qualified as an RVT in Indiana, our team members have successfully—

  • Completed an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited two- or four-year program leading to an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology,
  • Earned certification from the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, and
  • Taken and passed the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and a written jurisprudence examination.

The computer-based VTNE presents 150 multiple-choice exam questions plus 20 more questions being tested for future exams. There’s a three-hour time limit on completing the exam.

The questions focus on nine areas:

  • Anesthesia
  • Emergency Medicine/Critical Care
  • Pharmacy and Pharmacology
  • Pain Management/Analgesia
  • Dentistry
  • Laboratory Procedures
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Animal Care and Nursing
  • Surgical Nursing

In Indiana, only those who have met these requirements may use the title “registered veterinary technician” or the abbreviation “RVT.”

Once they’ve earned their license, our RVTs must keep current by completing 16 hours of continuing education every two years.

In Appreciation

We appreciate the commitment and dedication shown by our RVTs and thank them for their service to our patients and clients. We are pleased to recognize and honor their contributions to veterinary medicine during this special week.

We encourage you to express your appreciation for our RVTs on your next visit to the clinic.

Celebrating National Veterinary Technician Week Read More »

Overweight cat sitting on top of a post

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day

October 11 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, sponsored by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

On the association’s website, you’ll find an especially useful “Tools and Resources” section featuring guidelines to help you determine if your pet is overweight or obese, ideal weight ranges for popular dog and cat breeds, daily caloric needs for dogs and cats, and instructions to promote weight loss in dogs and cats.

Particularly useful are two downloadable visual reference charts—a body condition scoring chart for dogs and a scoring chart for cats.

For a 5-minute video overview of the impact of obesity on your pet, we encourage you to see “Obesity and Your Pet” from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Here are “8 Easy Ways to Help Your Dog Lose Weight” from The Preventive Vet.

Let Us Help!

We previously published a detailed post about overweight and obesity in pets—”Overweight, Obesity and Your Pet’s Health.” We encourage you read it to find out more about the potential health impact of overweight and obesity on your pet.

If, based on the guidelines in our post, you believe your pet is overweight or obese, the Brownsburg Animal Clinic team is eager to help you help your pet achieve a healthy weight.

Schedule an exam to assess your pet’s current body condition and ask your veterinarian to recommend the best approach to addressing this critically important aspect of your pet’s health and wellbeing.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Read More »

Corgi emerging from a pile of autumn leaves

Adopt-A-Dog Month®

October is American Humane’s yearly “Adopt-a-Dog Month®.”

For some of the very best reasons to adopt a dog this month, we encourage you to revisit our recent post, “Is Owning a Dog Good for Your Health?” in which we explored the many scientifically-backed benefits of dog ownership.

For more general information on dog ownership—especially if you will be a first-time dog-owner—we encourage you to read “Is a Dog Right for You?” posted on American Humane’s website.

Here’s a top-10 list of the benefits of dog ownership, presented in a 3:33 video from Animalwised, founded overseas in 2015 to educate people about all sorts of animal-related topics.

Where to Find Adoptable Dogs

If you are thinking of adding a dog to your household, we hope you’ll consider adopting a rescued dog from the Hendricks County Animal Shelter or Misty Eyes Animal Center.

See our post about our county shelter in which we interviewed LaDonna Hughes, chief animal control officer and Hendricks County Animal Shelter manager, and Cherie Fox, co-founder, board president and director of animal operations for Misty Eyes.

Visit the animal shelter’s Facebook page or Misty Eyes Animal Center’s Adoptable Animals page to see a sampling of animals available for adoption. (Scroll down to see Misty Eyes’s adoptable dogs.)

To meet available shelter dogs in person, visit The Hendricks County Animal Shelter in Danville at 250 East Campus Boulevard. The phone number is (317) 745-9250. The shelter is open to the public six days a week.

  • Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Thursdays 12 noon to 6 p.m.
  • Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The shelter is closed on Sundays and holidays and in inclement weather.

Misty Eyes Animal Center is at 616 Country Road 800 in Avon. While its facilities are under construction, all available dogs are living in foster homes. As explained on the “Adoption Process” page on the Misty Eyes website, selected pets can be seen in person at the center on weekends. If you are interested in meeting a particular dog pictured online in person at the center, call (317) 858-8022 to arrange an appointment.

If you are looking to rescue a dog of a particular breed, we recommend the American Kennel Club’s Rescue Network. Nearly all national breed clubs maintain regional rescue operations staffed by volunteers dedicated to the good of their breed.

We’re Here for You and Your Newly-Adopted Dog

As far as the Brownsburg Animal Clinic team is concerned, any month is a good month to adopt a shelter or rescue dog, provided you are fully prepared and committed to be a responsible dog owner.

See our post, “Are You a Responsible Dog Owner?” for details of what responsible dog ownership entails.

Typically, shelter and rescue dogs have been vaccinated, spayed or neutered, tested and if necessary, treated for parasites, and microchipped before being released to their adoptive homes. Once you’ve adopted your dog, we recommend scheduling a wellness exam with us at your earliest convenience so we can confirm your dog’s good health and establish a custom veterinary care plan for this new addition to your family.

With your newly-adopted dog established as our patient, you can count on us to be here for both of you, providing the comprehensive primary medical care you need to promote a long, healthy, happy life.

Adopt-A-Dog Month® Read More »

Dog and kitten playing together

Why We Celebrate World Rabies Day

It’s considered “the world’s deadliest infectious disease,” killing almost 60,000 people worldwide each year, even though it’s 100% preventable. 

Since 2007, on September 28, we’ve observed World Rabies Day to raise awareness and further improve efforts to prevent the spread of rabies in communities all over the world. 

A Day to Celebrate

Health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are collaborating to eliminate all human deaths from rabies caused by dogs by 2030.

Meanwhile, Americans have cause for celebration on World Rabies Day, September 28, 2023. 

Rabies is still present throughout the United States, but our high rabies vaccination rates among dogs and cats have made rabies in our beloved pets and other domesticated animals relatively rare. These days, 90% of reported cases in animals occur in wildlife like bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

While about 60,000 Americans get treated every year to prevent rabies infection after being bitten or scratched by an animal that could be rabid, according to the CDC, “The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined, from more than 100 annually in the early 1900s to just one or two per year.” 

How the Rabies Virus Infects People

Rabies is transmitted through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth when they contact the saliva or brain or nervous system tissue of an infected animal. Most often, people contract rabies when bitten by an infected animal. Rarely, people can be infected through scratches, abrasions or open wounds exposed to saliva or other infectious material from a rabid animal. 

Once contracted, rabies infects the central nervous system. Without treatment after potential exposure and before symptoms start, the virus can cause disease in the brain, resulting in death.  

Effective medical care for a person who may have been exposed to the rabies virus is postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), consisting of a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) and rabies vaccine given on the day of exposure, followed by doses of vaccine on days 3, 7 and 14. These days, vaccines are given in the upper arm and are relatively painless.

Contact with infected bats is the leading cause of human death from rabies in the US. According to the CDC, 7 of 10 Americans who die from rabies were infected by bats whose bites and scratches can be so small as to go undetected.  

Petting a rabid animal or contact with its blood, urine or feces are not associated with risk of infection and not treated as an exposure to the disease. Contact with a person infected by the virus and receiving rabies vaccine is also not considered exposure to the disease and does not require treatment.

If you’ve had contact with wildlife or unfamiliar animals—especially if you’ve been bitten or scratched—you should check with a doctor or a public health professional to see if you’re at risk for rabies. 

International Travel Precautions

Rabies remains common in dogs living in many other countries. Most rabies deaths in humans around the world are caused by dog bites. About 25% of reported deaths from rabies among humans in the US were caused by bites from rabid dogs during international travel. 

If you plan to travel outside the country, check the CDC’s Travelers Health Destination List of 244 countries before you go, looking for advisories not only about rabies, but many other potential diseases you might be exposed to in the country you plan to visit. 

As one example of the available information, see the Destination List entry for Mexico.

Once you and your family arrive at your destination, avoid contact with dogs and other animals—no matter how adorable they appear.

How the Rabies Virus Infects Animals

Rabies infects only mammals—warm-blooded animals with fur (like people). Pets and livestock can get rabies—usually from contact with wildlife—and nearly all that do have not been vaccinated or are not up-to-date on their vaccines. 

Fortunately, because laws requiring pets to be vaccinated for rabies are so prevalent, dogs account for only about 1% of rabid animals reported in the US each year. 

Some animals, including rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, rats, mice, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters, almost never get rabies. Birds, chickens, snakes, fish, turtles, lizards and insects never get rabies.

You can’t tell if an animal is rabid just by looking at it. Some infected animals may not appear ill at all. It takes laboratory testing to know for sure. 

Some rabid animals may behave strangely—aggressively trying to bite you or other animals or drooling. Others may seem timid or shy, move slowly and act unusually tame, letting you get close to them when ordinarily they would be afraid. If you see normally nocturnal animals like raccoons and skunks out during daylight hours with no apparent fear of humans, they could be infected with rabies. 

The best way to protect yourself and your pet from rabies is stay away from wild animals—especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes—whether or not they are showing symptoms of illness.

If you suspect an animal you have encountered may be rabid, contact local animal control or the state rabies consultation control contact at (317) 233-7272 Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. After hours, call (317) 233-1325.

The Rabies Vaccine: It’s the Law

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we require any animal visiting our facility to have a current rabies vaccination. Our policy states, “Any pet brought into the clinic with a past-due rabies vaccination will, if health permits, receive a rabies vaccine.” And we mean it!

Besides, it’s the law. 

Indiana state law requires all pet owners to keep dogs and cats up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. According to the rabies information page on the state’s website, “Under Indiana law, all dogs, cats and ferrets older than 3 months of age must be vaccinated against the rabies virus. State law allows the use of 1-year and 3-year vaccines according to approved label directions.”

Although we can use a rabies antibody titer to estimate your pet’s immune response against the rabies virus, either through exposure to the disease or a vaccine, the state’s web page summarizing the law makes it clear there is no legal substitute for vaccinating your pet. “In Indiana, rabies vaccination exemptions are NOT allowed. The rabies titer cannot be used in lieu of rabies vaccination for any dog, cat or ferret.”

Further, Indiana law states, “The rabies vaccine must be administered by a licensed and accredited veterinarian or under the direct supervision of a licensed and accredited veterinarian. Under direct supervision means the veterinarian is on the premises at the time the vaccine is administered.”

We use only state-approved vaccines, complete all the required paperwork and issue you a certificate and a tag. Attach the rabies tag to your pet’s collar to be worn at all times. 

Animals can be considered immunized against rabies within 28 days after the first vaccination, when antibodies peak. Normally, the first booster shot is due one year after the initial puppy vaccines. Then boosters are due every three years. An animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after receiving a booster shot.

If your currently vaccinated dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, we recommend revaccinating your pet within the next four days, followed by 45 days at home under your control and observation. If you see any signs of illness, call us to schedule an appointment right away. 

The state recommends euthanizing unvaccinated animals exposed to rabies.

Do Your Part!

Keeping your pet’s rabies vaccine current protects him or her from catching the disease from wildlife and prevents your pet from transmitting rabies to you, your family and other people. 

To do your part to prevent rabies, once the initial one-year booster has been administered, you simply schedule a booster every third year. That’s it!

To tell when your pet’s next booster shot is due, look on any clinic invoice to see upcoming due dates for all vaccines. Most often, the due dates will coincide with annual wellness exams, so you won’t even have to make a special visit. 

You can also look at the date on the rabies tag we issued the last time your pet had a booster shot. For all but our youngest patients, the next booster is probably due three years from the date listed on the tag. 

To find out exactly when your pet’s next booster shot is due, call us at (317) 852-3323.

Why We Celebrate World Rabies Day Read More »

Two dogs standing side-by-side, with the smaller one looking up to the larger one

Are You a Responsible Dog Owner?

Don’t Let Your Dog Down

You aren’t a dog owner just at Christmas, or on the weekends, or in the afternoon, or when you have spare time. You aren’t a dog owner just when the dog is behaving, or when he’s a cute fuzzy puppy, or when he’s winning awards. When you bring a dog into your family, that dog is yours for life. If you can’t keep that commitment, don’t make it. And once you’ve made it, don’t break it. Your dog’s life depends on you.

Tips for Responsible Dog Owners
The American Kennel Club

That one paragraph from a 45-page ebook published by The American Kennel Club (AKC) captures what we at Brownsburg Animal Clinic see as the essence of responsible dog ownership. 

It’s all about commitment. For life. 

The AKC has designated September as Responsible Dog Ownership Month. Their “Tips for Responsible Dog Owners” ebook provides an overview of multiple aspects of being a responsible dog owner, beginning well before you bring the dog you’ve chosen into your household.

We’re guessing if you’re following our blog, it’s likely you’re a client of ours who already owns one or more dogs—maybe even some cats, too. 

The question is, are you a responsible dog owner? 

If you go by the AKC’s ebook, you’ll see responsible dog ownership is…complicated. In addition to all the basics of owning any dog, the AKC includes a number of activities specific to the world of purebred dogs. 

We believe responsible dog ownership is somewhat simpler than the AKC might have you believe—especially if you have no plans to train and show a purebred dog competitively. 

In our opinion, the essential elements of responsible dog ownership include—

  • Good nutrition to keep your dog’s body weight under control, with a constant supply of fresh, clean water
  • Safety at home, in your yard, your car, and away from home, with a microchip and an ID tag to help your pet get back home if he or she gets lost
  • Creature comforts—a crate, a dog bed, toys, treats
  • Regular grooming to keep your dog’s coat, nails and ears in good condition 
  • Daily tooth-brushing to prevent gum disease and tooth decay
  • Daily exercise appropriate to your dog’s age and physical condition
  • Social interaction and mental stimulation from playing games together, taking walks, training and socializing
  • Observance of all animal-related ordinances and the common courtesy to clean up after your dog and control barking, roaming the neighborhood and other behaviors that might disturb other people
  • Helping manage pet overpopulation by spaying or neutering any pet not intended as breeding stock
  • Including your pet in family emergency plans and arranging in advance for pet care, should you be unable to care for your pet yourself
  • Ongoing veterinary care on schedule, as we recommend it, including wellness exams, vaccines, regular parasite preventives and prompt attention to any health problems that occur
  • Love

Advice from the AVMA

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) lists “Guidelines for responsible pet ownership” including advice for responsibly owning all sorts of indoor and outdoor pets. 

The list shares much in common with the AKC’s, with one additional aspect of responsible pet ownership we find worth calling out.

A common complaint we hear at the clinic comes from owners of multiple pets who say our prices are prohibitive “for three dogs” or “for five cats.” Or more. 

Among its guidelines, the AVMA includes, “Keeping only the type and number of pets for which you can provide an appropriate and safe environment. This includes appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.” 

We greatly appreciate clients willing to provide loving homes to multiple pets, but the total costs of keeping just one pet can be substantial. See our post, “The Costs of Owning a Pet,” and do the math. 

When your heart goes out to every animal in need of a home, it’s easy to forget: For every pet you add to your household, your financial responsibilities increase. Despite your love of animals and the large number of homeless pets right here in our community, if you struggle to afford feeding and caring for your pets, part of being a responsible pet owner requires you to set limits. 

Don’t take in any more pets than you can afford to care for comfortably.

See the AVMA’s entire list of guidelines to look for more opportunities to become an even better, more responsible pet owner.

Owning a pet is a privilege that brings us great rewards. Because our pets can’t speak for themselves, we each take on a responsibility as owners to advocate for them and provide the support and resources they need to live healthy, happy lives.

Pet Ownership
The American Veterinary Medical Association

Another article from the AVMA, “Pet ownership” offers additional thoughts on the responsibilities of pet ownership in a somewhat more readable format than their guidelines list. 

More Resources from the AKC Owner’s Manual Series

Tips for Responsible Dog Owners” is just one in a series of free ebooks published as part of an “Owner’s Manual Series” by the AKC. 

As you consider your role as a responsible dog (or pet) owner—not just during Responsible Pet Ownership Month but year-round, we encourage you to browse the following titles from the AKC and download any of interest. Most are no more than 14 to 18 pages long with very readable text, beautiful photographs and lots of white space. 

Bear in mind the American Kennel Club is dedicated to supporting and promoting purebred dogs. Most if not all the information in the ebooks we’ve selected applies just as well to mixed-breed dogs as purebreds and will almost certainly help you in fulfilling your responsibilities as a dog owner.

Emergency First Aid for Dogs

Puppy Pointers: Tips for Selecting a Canine Companion

Puppy Food & Nutrition

Crate Training

Puppy Socialization

Life with a Senior Canine Citizen

Canine Body Language: Your Dog is Trying to Tell You Something

Why Does My Dog Do That?

What’s He Thinking? The reasons behind your dog’s most interesting habits

The Five Commands Every Dog Should Know

Five Tricks You’ll Want To Show Off

Let Us Help!

No list of guidelines for responsible pet ownership is complete without veterinary care.

The veterinarians and staff of Brownsburg Animal Clinic consider it an honor and a privilege to help you fulfill your responsibilities to your pet. Call us at (317) 852-3323 to see when your pet’s next check-up and/or vaccines are due.

Are You a Responsible Dog Owner? Read More »

Stacks of $100 bills

Part 5. Still Wondering if Pet Insurance Is for You?

This is the fifth of a five-post client information series Brownsburg Animal Clinic is offering on pet insurance—part of our Pet Care Costs collection of posts and pages to help you manage the costs of pet ownership more effectively. As they describe step-by-step processes, we suggest you read the Pet Insurance posts in order from first to fifth.

If you’ve read our four previous posts about pet insurance and remain unsure if it’s for you, we’re guessing you may have become overwhelmed and abandoned our suggested purchase process somewhere along the way. 

As we’ve noted before, choosing pet insurance is a complex purchase decision. Unfortunately, there are few if any shortcuts for a pet owner who wants to make a well-informed choice of coverage for a cherished pet. 

Maybe the complexity of the purchase is part of the reason why only 2-3% of American pets are insured. 

Other reasons reported by pet owners who haven’t bought pet insurance include thinking it’s too expensive, thinking it’s not worth the money, not knowing what it covers or never having heard of pet insurance in the first place.

The best reason not to buy pet insurance is knowing you can easily afford to pay any vet bill that may come your way for the rest of your pet’s life—even bills totaling tens of thousands of dollars. 

So who buys pet insurance? 

According to its “State of the Industry Report 2023,” the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), California leads the way in insuring pets with 18.6% of pets covered as of year-end 2022, followed by New York at 7% and Florida at 6.2%. 

But in Indiana, only 1.3% of pets had insurance coverage at the end of 2022. 

NAPHIA reports most insured pets in the USA are dogs, accounting for 80.1% of the total in 2022. Insured cats’ market share has been growing every year since 2017, with an increase of 19% in 2022, bringing them to 19.9% of all insured pets at year-end.

BBVA, a global wealth management concern based in Switzerland, identifies Sweden as the country with the highest number of insured pets—80%. In the United Kingdom, 30% of pets have insurance. In Spain, fewer than 5%.

Petkeen.com says about 7% of pets in Australia are insured.

Clearly, apart from the Swedes, most pet owners throughout the world elect not to insure their pets. As veterinarians who deal every day with clients who tell us they can’t afford the care we offer, we think that’s a shame. 

Although we’ve elected not to recommend specific policies and companies, we do believe most our our clients would benefit from insuring their pets, and most of our patients would benefit from being insured. If you’re still wondering if pet insurance is for you, read on.

Why Buy Pet Insurance At All?

To address any misgivings you may still have about buying insurance for your pet, we suggest you consider why you became at least mildly interested in buying pet insurance in the first place. 

If you’re like most pet insurance shoppers, your primary motive for buying a policy is to reduce the impact of financial considerations on major, possibly urgent, life-and-death veterinary care decisions you may face in the future impacting the pet you love.

Whether it’s helping pay for expensive emergency surgery or ongoing, lifelong management of a newly-diagnosed chronic condition, a well-chosen pet insurance policy frees you to choose the best treatment options for your pet without having money—or the lack of it—limit your choices or, at worst, resort to “economic euthanasia” because you simply can’t afford to treat your ill or injured pet. 

A sound policy from a reputable insurer with well-chosen policy options lets you enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing the impact of unexpected, potentially sizable vet bills on your finances will be manageable. You know you’ll be able to provide what’s best for your pet as well as what’s best for your bank accounts.

So Is Pet Insurance Really for You?

In his book, Pet Health Insurance: A Veterinarian’s Perspective, Dr. Doug Kenney asks two questions that together, can help you decide if pet insurance is for you.

  • How much would you be willing to spend to save your pet’s life if there is a reasonable chance of recovery and a good quality of life after treatment?
  • How much would you be able to spend to save your pet’s life if there is a reasonable chance of recovery and a good quality of life after treatment?

If you’d be willing to spend more than you are able, Dr. Kenney writes, “you should seriously consider the purchase of pet insurance.”

Dr. Kenney continues, “Whenever you are faced with the decision about whether to go forward with treatment when your pet has a serious illness, you want the decision to be based on prognosis for recovery and quality of life rather than finances.”

If you want to minimize money as a factor in your decisions about your pet’s medical care, pet insurance can help you accomplish that.

Keep in mind, regardless of the type and amount of insurance coverage you ultimately decide to buy, you still need immediate access to cash and an available credit line to cover the up-front costs of your pet’s treatment. After you file your claim, you can use any reimbursement for covered expenses you receive from the insurance company to pay down your debt or replenish your savings.

In Lesson 4, Part 3, of her online “Pet Insurance Guide,” Dr. Fran Wilkerson presents a more comprehensive “Pet Insurance Test” you can use to determine if pet insurance really is for you. If you still have doubts about buying pet insurance, we strongly recommend Dr. Wilkerson’s test as a way to clarify your thinking.

Bad Advice and Dumb Ideas

As part of your research, if you ventured beyond our posts, it’s likely you encountered plenty of additional advice on the pros and cons of pet insurance. Some of the information is accurate and truly helpful, but some of the suggestions are best ignored. For example—

Instead of paying the insurance company, just deposit the premiums into a savings account. Sorry, but this advice to self-insure just doesn’t add up—at least, not for decades, and it surprises and frustrates us when we see this idea passed off as a viable strategy. 

In 2022, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association reports the average annual premium for a policy covering accidents, illness and wellness expenses for a cat averaged $613.67. For a dog, the total was $1,134.29. Accident and illness coverage alone for a cat averaged $387.01 and for a dog, $640.04.

If, instead of paying insurance premiums, you deposited the money in a savings account, by the end of the first year you’d have accumulated a whopping $387 to $614 to meet emergency medical expenses for your cat or $640 to $1,134 to self-insure your dog. 

You do need savings on hand, not only to cover expected expenses for wellness care, but to help pay the policy deductible and co-insurance, bills for treating pre-existing and other excluded conditions as well as any large, unexpected vet bills. You also need available credit to cover any shortfall between cash on hand and the total amount of money you need immediately to pay vet bills up front.

Even if you increased your savings from year to year to allow for premium increases, it would take many years for you to accumulate sufficient savings to cover the costs of just one fairly serious injury or illness. And once you paid the vet bill, your savings would be wiped out—and then some—with no reimbursement on the way.

The idea of self-insurance is certainly valid for those who can afford it. We expect you know who you are. 

If your pet had an injury or illness that ended up costing $10,000—$20,000—$30,000 or more to diagnose and treat and you know you would be willing and able to pay it without a second thought, then you probably don’t need pet insurance. You may want it, though, just as you want other types of insurance to manage financial risk and protect your assets. 

Do the math to see if the policy has paid more in claims than you’ve paid out in premiums. Adding up the premiums you’ve paid so far, measuring it against claims reimbursements you’ve received and declaring pet insurance a mistake—one YouTuber even called it a scam—if your claims don’t exceed the premium total betrays a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of insurance. 

Don’t let any self-appointed “experts” convince you to think in these terms.

You buy insurance to  manage risk—not to make a profit. The more claims you have, the more misfortune you and your pet have experienced. The insurance helps mitigate the negative financial consequences of those misfortunes, but having your claims exceed your premium totals is generally a bad, sad situation. 

If you’re not using your pet insurance, you should cancel it. The whole point of insuring your pet is to protect your financial assets in case of an unexpected, potentially expensive accident or illness. If you don’t have such an expense, that’s a very good thing.

Meanwhile, you are using the protection your policy provides every day the policy is in force, whether or not you ever make a claim. Having insurance gives you peace of mind and the choice of treatment options you would lose if you cancelled the policy and took on all the risk yourself.

The pet insurance company might deny your claim. If you read enough one-star reviews from policyholders on pet insurance review sites, you may begin to wonder if you can really count on any insurer to pay claims. 

The answer is yes—you can count on insurers to pay eligible claims according to the terms of the policy. But no, they won’t cover expenses they’ve explicitly excluded in the policy contract. Disgruntled policyholders do sometimes dispute claims denials and appeal insurers’ decisions. Sometimes they prevail.

More often, you can tell from the commentary that the unhappy policyholders didn’t bother to look beyond the premium quotes and the marketing copy before enrolling their pets. They don’t have a clue what their policies cover, but they’re angry those policies don’t cover what they assumed they would.

If you take the time to read and understand the policy before you buy and are honest with the insurance company when you sign up and later file claims, you can expect to receive your reimbursement as promised. It’s the law.

Ask your veterinarian to recommend a policy and just buy that one. It’s very commonly suggested that you ask your veterinarian for advice about pet insurance. What a handy shortcut that would be!

We are more than happy to answer these kinds of insurance-related questions:

  • What pre-existing conditions are already documented in my pet’s medical records?
  • Do the records show we’ve discussed and treated any common symptoms—like vomiting or diarrhea—that could later be interpreted as an early sign of a condition that gets diagnosed after the policy is in force?
  • What potential health problems will a pet of my pet’s age, breed and current state of health be most likely to encounter in the future?
  • What can I expect to spend on wellness—annual exams, vaccines, parasite preventives, dental cleanings—in the coming year? Can you prepare an itemized estimate for me to compare to a wellness plan reimbursement schedule?

The question we are not qualified to answer: What is the best pet insurance company and/or policy for me to buy for my pet? 

And if you’ve already bought a policy, we’re not qualified to tell you what it will and will not cover.

Even if our doctors were like Doug Kenney and Fran Wilkerson—the two veterinarians who are recognized experts in pet insurance—we would have no business telling you a specific policy to buy. 

While we do know quite a lot about your pet’s past and present state of health, we don’t know exactly what your pet’s health care needs and expenses will be in the future.

We don’t know the pet insurance policy features you would value most and we don’t know your personal financial situation. 

We don’t know all the companies and policies flooding the pet insurance market. 

We don’t know what problems you may encounter with an insurer—even one we have every reason to consider reputable—should the insurer deny a claim, delay a reimbursement or dramatically increase premiums from one year to the next. 

And frankly, we never want to hear a disgruntled client of ours say, “But you told me to buy that policy.”

Instead, with our pet insurance blog post series, we’re suggesting one way to go about choosing the best policy for you and your pet on your own. 

Admittedly, pet insurance is complicated, but if you follow our suggested steps, it’s certainly possible for you to understand well enough to make a sound buying decision. 

Then, it’s up to you to act promptly and insure your pet before any health problems occur. 

Never Too Soon

We’ll leave the final words of our series to Doug Kenney and Fran Wilkerson.

“I’ve never talked to anyone who regretted buying pet insurance too soon,” says Dr. Kenney, “but I’ve talked to many who regret not buying it soon enough.”

“Get pet insurance as early as possible,” adds Dr. Wilkerson. 

Part 5. Still Wondering if Pet Insurance Is for You? Read More »

Multiple $50 bills

Part 4. Value Shopping Pet Insurance Policies

This is the fourth of a five-post client information series Brownsburg Animal Clinic is offering on pet insurance—part of our Pet Care Costs collection of posts and pages to help you manage the costs of pet ownership more effectively. As they describe step-by-step processes, we suggest you read the Pet Insurance posts in order from first to fifth.

September is National Pet Health Insurance Month, and if you’re following our pet insurance series as we publish it and acting on our advice, you should be able to finalize your policy purchase before the month is out.

If you’re discovering these weekly posts after the original publication dates in August and September 2023, we recommend you read them in sequence and follow the process we suggest reasonably closely and in order. 

By the time you arrive here, at the value-pricing stage, you’ll be just a few steps away from choosing your policy. 

Are You Ready to Value-Shop?

If you’ve been following our recommended process and haven’t yet bought a policy—and we hope you haven’t—you should prepare now to make truly meaningful comparisons between the three to five policies you’ve identified from your chosen insurers as the closest matches to your priorities and  preferences. 

If you skipped our previous posts—“Part 1. Understanding Pet Insurance,” “Part 2. Narrowing Your Choice of Pet Insurance Companies,” and “Part 3. Setting Your Pet Insurance Priorities and Preferences,” stop reading this post now and start back at the beginning of the series. 

Only after you learn the basics and take the steps we recommend will you be ready to value-shop.

Sorting the Policies

With your “Must-Haves, Nice-to-Haves, Dealbreakers” worksheet recommended in our previous post complete, sort through online policy features comparison checklists and the notes you made when narrowing your choice of companies to identify which policies best meet your criteria and which policies need to be ruled out. 

Even if you have a favorable overall impression of an insurance company, rule out their policies if the terms include dealbreakers for you. For example, if after considering your priorities and preferences, you know you really want exam fees to be covered, and this company’s policies exclude exam fees—even as supplemental coverage—remove the company from further consideration. It’s not a good choice for you and your pet. 

If you don’t have at least three potential policies left to consider, revisit and adjust your “Must-Haves, Nice-to-Haves, Dealbreakers” worksheet—particularly the dealbreakers section where you may have included provisions no company offers. 

For example, if you’re looking for a policy that covers pre-existing conditions or a company that offers immediate direct pay to any veterinarian you choose without prior arrangements between the insurer and the practice, you will have ruled out all your pet insurance policy options. 

It’s Time to Read Sample Policies

After you eliminate any policies with major dealbreaker provisions, download sample policies from the remaining three to five most promising options. 

As you prepare to value-shop these most promising-looking policies, the only way you can make valid comparisons and an informed buying decision is to read each of the policies that have made your final cut. 

Read every word of every policy.

Otherwise, you won’t understand the value each policy provides in exchange for your premium payments.

Unless you read the policy, you won’t know exactly what you’re buying and paying for, and you may set yourself up for unpleasant surprises when claims you assumed would be covered are rejected for reasons spelled out in the policy you neglected to read.

We’ve all grown accustomed to accepting terms for software products and social media accounts without reading them, and we seldom suffer negative consequences. Even when signing contracts and release forms in person, most of us say, “Just tell me what it is I’m agreeing to,” and sign our names without reading the documents.

An insurance policy is different. The product is the contract. 

Unlike a tangible product or a personally-delivered service, an insurance policy is nothing more nor less than a legal contract. Marketing copy, comparison checklists and heartwarming stories of claims paid are easy reads by comparison, but the policy terms are the only words that count. Many of those terms are not spelled out on the company’s website and in email messages.

Tedious as reading an insurance policy may be, there’s no getting around it: you simply must read the contract to know what you’re getting—and what you’re not getting—in exchange for the premiums you are asked to pay. 

We assure you reading the policies now—before you buy—is your best strategy for choosing the most benefits-rich policy to purchase and minimizing misunderstandings and disappointments in the future as you file claims. 

Knowing the policy provisions—the actual value the insurer is committing to provide and the risks you are expected to cover—is essential to your ultimate satisfaction with your choice of policy. 

So read the sample policies!

Ask Your Questions

Reading insurance policies can be a mind-numbing experience. Keep yourself engaged in the process by highlighting key benefits, noting passages that seem unclear and writing down questions you have for the insurer. 

Then call the insurance company, ask your questions and make notes of the answers. 

In addition to clarifying policy details, your call allows you to evaluate customer service. How many rings before they answered the phone? How many prerecorded system prompts did you have to respond to before you were speaking with a live customer service representative (assuming you actually reached a human)? Did the representative seem to know what he or she was talking about? Was the rep pleasant to deal with? Did the rep pressure you to enroll immediately, even though you said you’re still researching your options?

Based on this exploratory phone call, do you want to do business with this company?

Getting Serious With the Quote Tools

We’re guessing if you’ve explored pet insurance at all—either as we’ve suggested or on your own—you haven’t been able to resist requesting at least a few premium quotes using the online tools available on every insurer’s and aggregator’s website. 

If you used an aggregator’s tool to collect quotes from multiple companies, you probably noticed some pretty significant differences in prices. Remember—those numbers are meaningless until you know what policy benefits you will and won’t receive for the money. 

You may have played around with the quote tools’ settings for policy specifications and recalculated to see the impact of various options on premiums. 

If you’ve adjusted the variables, you may have observed higher deductibles, lower maximum claims payouts and lower co-insurance obligations for the insurer result in lower premiums for you. 

Keep in mind, those lower premiums for a particular policy almost always bring with them greater financial risks for you.

According to Doug Kenney, much more important than the premium amount, “The most important figure to consider is your potential out-of-pocket costs (including the premium) if you have to file a large claim, e.g., $5,000 or $10,000.” Think through the possibilities for the policies you’re considering and do the math to calculate your potential costs.

“Choosing the right policy maximum, deductible, and copay can literally save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your pet,” says Dr. Kenney.

Collect Quotes Directly from Insurers

At this stage in the purchase process, we encourage you to start fresh with quote tools from each insurer’s website, taking an orderly, methodical approach and making notes to compare the information you gather. 

Aggregators’ quote tools will produce results from multiple companies, including some you will have ruled out by now, and may not show the full range of policy options available for each of the policy finalists you’ve identified. 

You will also have direct access to additional details of the policies you’re considering on the insurers’ websites. 

Making Valid Comparisons

Write down the policy specifications you want to explore, noting several deductible amounts ($250, $500, $750 and $1,000, for example), several maximum payout amounts ($10,000, $15,000, $20,000 and unlimited), and several co-insurance amounts (70%, 80%, 90% and 100%). 

All these options will not be available from all companies for all pets. Some options—like a relatively high deductible or a relatively low maximum payout—will not be of enough value to you to consider and so, of course, need not be priced.

You’ll find some companies are not as flexible as others and limit your ability to customize their policies. Some will quote multiple variations on their coverage, allowing you to tailor the policy to suit your preferences. 

Others may offer only one plan or present one take-it-or-leave-it policy option for your pet. For example, if your pet is a 10-year-old bulldog—an age and breed likely to be prone to multiple heath problems—the quote tool might offer as your only available option a policy with a $5,000 maximum payout, 70% co-insurance and $500 or higher deductible. This tells you the company is willing to take on only limited risk for insuring your pet. 

In making your comparisons using the various companies’ quote tools, design policies with identical or at least very similar specifications and note the premiums quoted. 

For at least one set of policy specifications—the specs you’re leaning toward choosing, edit the pet information to add two or three years to your pet’s age and see how much higher the premiums would be at this time to issue a new policy for an older pet just like yours.

No, this won’t tell you what your premiums will be two or three years from now. But collecting quotes on an older version of your pet will at least hint at how the company’s underwriters price policies based on age. 

Shop Value, Not Price

Keep in mind, the lowest price may or may not—and probably won’t—represent the best value. Knowing that most pet insurance buyers take recommendations and shop prices without giving much consideration to the value their policies provide, many insurers feel free to issue contracts with terms that are pretty unfavorable to the unsuspecting policy buyer, compared with other insurers’ policy options. 

Consider the value companies bring. After you’ve collected premium prices for closely comparable policies, go back and review the strength, stability and reputation of each of the companies issuing the policies. You should have found this information in the initial research you did to narrow your choice of companies. 

All other factors’ being equal, a more stable, well-regarded company in business for a longer time provides more value than a relative newcomer with no financial track record and mixed reviews. 

Consider the value of policy provisions. As you may have discerned when you read the sample policies—even with identical deductibles, maximum payouts and co-insurance amounts—some policies are more generous and benefits-rich than others. 

If one insurer covers exam fees, either in the base policy or as a supplement you purchase, and the other insurer doesn’t, the value of exam fee coverage, which reduces your risk, may more than justify a higher premium if your pet ends up needing multiple visits to our clinic for one or more ongoing health concerns.

A company that applies 100% of your payments for eligible expenses toward the deductible is providing more value than one that applies a percentage based on the co-insurance amount in calculating your contribution to the deductible. 

The difference between one policy’s per-incident or per-condition deductible compared to another policy’s annual deductible could make a substantial difference in the value the policy provides over time in exchange for your premium dollars, although this difference is hard to predict.

With an annual deductible, you’ll be expected to meet the deductible by paying all eligible expenses for all veterinary care combined during the policy year. When the annual policy renewal date arrives, your paid deductible total reverts to zero and you start over again. 

With a per-incident or per-condition deductible, you are expected to meet the policy deductible for each new condition before any claims for eligible expenses for treating that particular condition will be reimbursed. 

If your pet has only one or two diagnosed conditions, particularly if the conditions are chronic and require ongoing treatment, a per-condition deductible could work in your favor. 

If your pet ends up having multiple, unrelated health problems, you will be required to meet the specified deductible amount for each problem before the policy will begin reimbursing you for eligible expenses. 

Some companies with per-incident/per condition deductibles require you to meet them only once for your pet’s lifetime, but some reset deductibles to zero every policy year. 

Which approach to deductibles—annual versus per-condition—provides more value? Given the unpredictability of your pet’s future health care needs, we would say the option that provides you with the greatest peace of mind provides more value. 

If you want to cap out-of-pocket costs reliably in the coming year, regardless of the nature and number of your pet’s potential health problems, an annual deductible would be the better choice. If you choose a per-incident/per-condition deductible, it makes sense to choose a lower deductible amount to apply to each potential condition. Otherwise, you may never meet the deductible for any one condition.

A policy that covers curable pre-existing conditions after fewer symptom-free days offers more value than a policy requiring more symptom-free days or one that doesn’t cover curable pre-existing conditions at all. 

Some conditions considered curable include ear infections, urinary tract infections, upper respiratory infections and vomiting and/or diarrhea unrelated to a chronic illness.

Most insurance companies consider a condition cured after 180 symptom-free days, while other insurers require an entire year without symptoms. 

Read the sample policies you are considering to determine if coverage includes curable pre-existing conditions at all, and if it does, how many symptom-free days will be required before a condition is considered cured and eligible for coverage.

Has your pet already experienced a bilateral condition? Some companies consider this a pre-existing condition and won’t cover the same condition if it develops on the other side—even years after the first occurrence. 

Other companies will cover a future occurrence of a bilateral condition, once any waiting period has passed and the policy is in force. 

This difference in coverage of bilateral conditions could have a significant impact on the value a policy provides you—particularly if your pet already has had any of the common bilateral conditions such as hip dysplasia, a torn cruciate ligament, patellar luxation, glaucoma, uveitis (an inflammation of the eye), or cataracts on one side or the other.

Value-Shopping Wellness Coverage

To value-shop a wellness plan, simply get an estimate of the year’s upcoming wellness services and products your pet will need and do the math to determine if the coverage will pay for itself in the benefits it will provide.

If the benefits relative to the known costs of wellness services are close to break-even, or perhaps even likely to result in a small loss, you may still elect to buy the coverage as a way to spread wellness costs out in premium payments over the entire policy year. 

If just before the wellness coverage went into effect, your pet had a dental procedure, received vaccines that won’t require a booster for the next three years and already has a microchip, the benefits may not be worth it to you.  

If wellness coverage will save you only a few dollars this year, you may prefer to include the predictable costs of wellness services and products in your regular household budget or as part of a designated savings account to cover such expenses. 

Although wellness coverage seems straightforward enough, any insurance claim takes time and documentation to file and has the potential of being denied or disputed by the insurer. 

Bear in mind, as with any veterinary service we provide, you will have to pay for wellness care at the time of service, file claims and wait to receive the reimbursements from the insurance company for wellness coverage. 

Keeping Your Chosen Policy Affordable

As you collect quotes for various levels of coverage, you’ll notice the premium costs decline as you assume more risk. 

When you first purchase your chosen policy, we encourage you to buy the best coverage you can afford. 

As the years go by and the premiums inevitably increase, be prepared to downgrade your policy at renewal time to keep it affordable. 

By increasing the deductible amount, decreasing the maximum claims payout and/or increasing your share of co-insurance, you can keep the coverage in force while keeping premiums affordable. Usually, raising the deductible amount has the most impact on premiums. Just take care not to strip so many benefits from the policy that it no longer provides sufficient protection for your pet. 

Call the insurance company a month or so before time for the policy to renew and discuss your options. The customer service representative should be able to quote how various adjustments will impact the premium amount and you can decide what compromises you are willing to make. When you’ve finalized your decisions, the company will issue a new declarations page that reflects the changes you’ve made and the revised premium amount for the coming policy year.

Bear in mind, this process typically works in only one direction. You can make changes to an existing policy to reduce coverage and premium amounts, but most companies will not allow you to enhance coverage on an existing policy. 

You may have the option to cancel the current policy and start fresh with a new, improved policy from this or any other insurer, but you will have new underwriting and waiting periods to face, and you will mostly likely lose coverage of any pre-existing conditions that developed while the previous policy was in force. 

Choose Your Best Policy

Are you overwhelmed yet? 

Are you still weighing the relative merits of the two or three most promising policies, or has an obvious best choice emerged?

Ideally, even if you haven’t identified a clear winner, you’ve done sufficient research to feel confident you most likely won’t go wrong choosing either of the policies you haven’t ruled out by now.

Read the Actual Policy

Once you finalize your purchase, read the actual policy the company issues, along with the declaration page stating the agreed-upon terms, to make sure your understanding of what you’ve bought aligns with the insurer’s. 

We know after all the research you’ve conducted to choose the right policy, the thought of reading yet another insurance policy probably seems burdensome. 

But in Lesson 9 of Pet Insurance University’s “Comprehensive Pet Insurance Guide,” Dr. Fran Wilkerson explains why you should read the issued policy.

“In addition to reading the sample policy before you buy, it is equally important that you read the actual policy you receive after you purchase the policy as things may be different after you apply,” says Dr. Wilkerson. “The underwriter may choose not to cover you for certain things after they receive your application.”

If you encounter exclusions or other terms you don’t remember having read about in the sample policy, contact the company immediately and ask for an explanation.

If you feel you’ve made a mistake with your purchase, cancel the policy. Most companies will issue a full refund if you cancel within the first 30 days, provided you have submitted no claims. 

Some pet owners buy multiple policies at this point with the intention of reading actual policies, requesting medical records reviews and then cancelling the policies they don’t want within the 30-day period.

Part 4. Value Shopping Pet Insurance Policies Read More »

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Part 3. Setting Your Pet Insurance Priorities and Preferences

This is the third of a five-post client information series Brownsburg Animal Clinic is offering on pet insurance—part of our Pet Care Costs collection of posts and pages to help you manage the costs of pet ownership more effectively. As they describe step-by-step processes, we suggest you read the Pet Insurance posts in order from first to fifth.

In the process of narrowing your choice of pet insurance companies and brands from nearly 50 to five or six, you undoubtedly picked up on some key policy features insurers use to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 

Some of these features may be more valuable to you and relevant to your pet than others. Now is the time to consider your own priorities and preferences to narrow your choice of companies and policies to two or three finalists. 

How Much Coverage is Enough?

If your pet has so far been essentially healthy and the veterinary healthcare expenses you’re used to covering are limited to wellness care and the occasional ear infection or torn nail, you may be shocked to learn the potential costs these days of treating more serious injuries, acute illnesses and chronic conditions. 

A July 2023 article on money.com, “How Much is an Emergency Vet Visit?” provides itemized cost estimates for emergency visits for both dogs and cats ranging from $500 to $7,500.

Further down the page, a list of common pet emergencies, illnesses and procedures shows price ranges from $25 for a urine test to $10,000 for treating severe trauma or cardiac conditions. These estimates do not appear to include any follow-up treatment. In some cases, continuing treatment might be needed for the rest of the pet’s life.  

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance has a page on its website, “Cost of Veterinary Care in 2022,” that is well worth browsing to see recent pricing trends and lists of the most common conditions in dogs and cats, along with average cost estimates for treatment. The company paid reimbursement amounts of as much as $30,000 and $40,000 to owners of featured cats and dogs. The owners’ share of the costs would be in addition to the claims amounts.

In its “State of the Industry Report 2023,” the North American Pet Health Insurance Association included among the highlights a list of top 10 claims paid by member companies for individual dogs and cats during 2022. 

At the top of the list of dogs is a 2-year-old male flat-coated retriever in New Hampshire whose case of pneumonia qualified for claims totaling $60,882. A 3-year-old female English bulldog in Houston—also with pneumonia—had claims totaling $60,215. Claims paid to cover heart issues for a 10-year-old male Akita in Pennsylvania totaled $52,659.

The unfortunate cat generating the highest claim amount in 2022—$40,057—is a 2-year-old male Sphynx from New Jersey with conditions including urethral obstruction/cystotomy, renal abscess and perineal urethrostomy surgery, pyothorax, sepsis tail amputation, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, pericarditis and anemia. A 6-year-old male domestic short-hair cat suffering from acquired esophageal dysfunction in California had claims totaling $29,503 for the year. In New York, a 5-year-old male domestic medium hair cat’s foreign body ingestion resulted in $21,941 in claims.

We’re pretty sure the owners of these pets didn’t expect their pets to be the ones out of the entire risk pool to need such expensive care. But because they bought the insurance policies they did, when their pets’ medical needs arose, they were able to provide the level of care of their choosing without having to cover the entire cost from their own resources. 

As you determine the right amount of coverage for you, consider these potential expenses and make sure the policy you buy—particularly the policy’s maximum payout—is adequate to cover worst-case accidents and illnesses. 

Keep in mind, you’ll be expected to pay cash up front, at the time of service, should any of these unfortunate circumstances arise. Our blog post, “Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills,” has suggestions for generating the cash you need up front, with or without an insurance policy.

What Do You Want the Policy to Cover?

Pet healthcare expenses generally fall into two broad categories—predictable wellness or preventive care and diagnosis and treatment of unexpected accidents or illnesses. To help you meet those expenses, pet insurance policies generally provide four types of coverage—

  • Accidents only
  • Accidents and illnesses
  • Accidents, illnesses and wellness care
  • Supplemental riders and endorsements 

Accidents. These are injuries caused by such medical events as poisoning, swallowing a foreign body, broken bones and cuts that happen unexpectedly, by accident. Because of the limited scope of coverage, accident-only policies have the lowest premiums. 

Illnesses. Illnesses of any and all kinds—digestive issues, infections, malignancies, allergies, heart, kidney or lung conditions (to name only a few)—can arise suddenly or develop over time. They can be treatable and resolve within a few weeks or become chronic, lasting the rest of your pet’s life. Sadly, some illnesses can be fatal and will require hospice or palliative care.

Because all pets are vulnerable to illnesses as well as accidents, pet insurance policies covering both are most popular. We strongly recommend you choose a policy providing both accident and illness coverage.

Wellness. Wellness coverage is not so much about risk management as it is about managing your pet healthcare budget. While insurance protects you from unexpected, potentially catastrophic expenses, wellness plans typically offer an annual allowance to cover routine, predictable pet care expenses. 

Given that you’re not dealing with the unknown, you can compare in advance the expected costs of annual wellness exams, blood and fecal tests, vaccines, parasite preventives and dental cleanings to the benefits the wellness coverage provides. Spaying and neutering, microchipping and gastropexy to prevent bloat in vulnerable breeds are also predictable, necessary one-time expenses considered part of wellness care. These may or may not be covered by the wellness plan.

To decide if you want wellness coverage, simply get an estimate of the year’s upcoming wellness services and products and do the math to determine if the coverage will pay for itself in the benefits it will provide.

If the benefits relative to the known costs of wellness services are close to break-even, or perhaps even likely to result in a small loss, you may still elect to buy the coverage as a way to spread wellness costs out in premium payments over the entire policy year. 

Bear in mind, as with any covered expense, you will have to pay for wellness care at the time of service and file claims to receive the reimbursements. Although wellness coverage seems straightforward enough, any insurance claim takes time and documentation to file and has the potential of being denied or disputed by the insurer. 

If wellness coverage will save you only a few dollars, you may prefer to include the predictable costs of wellness services and products in your regular household budget or as part of a designated savings account to cover such known expenses and skip the trouble of filing claims and waiting for reimbursements. 

Supplemental riders and endorsements. You may be surprised to discover some of the coverage exclusions common to the pet insurance industry. While some companies differentiate themselves by integrating commonly-excluded coverage in their policies, others allow you to choose and pay extra for supplemental riders to cover selected exclusions. Some companies simply won’t cover certain expenses. 

Exam fees. Some policies cover exam fees, some offer exam fee coverage as an added option and some always exclude exam fees from covered expenses. 

That’s right. Our fees for your visits to our clinic to have us examine your pet will never be reimbursed by some companies or treated by other insurers as an extra available only at an additional price. It is increasingly rare for exam fee coverage to be included in the standard policy.

Given that exams are an integral part of most visits to the veterinarian, and examinations could be frequent in the event your pet experiences a serious injury or develops a chronic illness, we encourage you to insist on a policy or policy option that covers exam fees. 

Without exam fee coverage, your out-of-pocket costs could grow substantially beyond the specified deductible amount as we diagnose and treat your pet’s injuries or illnesses. We would rule out any insurer offering no coverage for exam fees.

Congenital and hereditary conditions. Some breeds of dogs and cats are known to be predisposed to certain health conditions. Most insurers cover congenital and hereditary conditions, tracking claims for treatment of these conditions by breed and pricing policies accordingly. 

If your pet’s breed is known to have an above-average frequency of certain diseases and disorders, read and compare the policies you’re considering carefully, looking for any special limits on coverage. 

You may also ask if the insurer can provide a list of congenital and hereditary conditions for your breed and disclose if these conditions will be covered before you buy the policy. 

Chronic conditions. Some incurable diseases, such as diabetes, heart failure, kidney failure, Cushing’s disease, arthritis, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and cancer, can be treated and successfully managed over the lifetime of the pet. As the costs of managing chronic conditions can add up to sizable amounts, we recommend continuing coverage for chronic conditions as essential to any policy you’re considering. 

Prescription drugs. Some pet insurance policies cover the cost of drugs you take home from the clinic pharmacy as part of your pet’s treatment or make take-home drug coverage available as an add-on to the main policy. 

Some provide a list or formulary of the drugs they will cover. Our veterinarians may be able to treat your pet using only drugs on your insurer’s list, but if we know your pet will benefit most from a drug not included in the insurer’s formulary, we will discuss the options and trade-offs with you when we write the prescription. 

Make sure you understand the policy’s prescription drug coverage before you buy.

Prescription diets. We sometimes prescribe specially-formulated diets to help manage and treat diseases and to help diagnose food allergies. These diets typically cost more than “regular” pet food and if needed for prolonged periods can strain your budget.

Given their role in diagnostics and treatment, you might assume prescription diets would be fully covered by pet insurance. 

Some companies do cover a percentage of the cost of prescription diets, sometimes imposing a maximum annual dollar amount or limiting the amount of time the food costs will be covered. We recommend you choose a policy that makes prescription diet coverage available either as part of the main policy or as supplemental coverage. 

Alternative therapies. If you want coverage for therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathic or holistic treatments, look for a policy or policy supplement that includes those. Read carefully to understand the insurer’s definition of “alternative” to determine if there are special limits on these types of therapies. 

Rehabilitative therapies. Physical therapy and other rehabilitative therapies common in human medicine are increasingly being used in veterinary medicine. For a fairly comprehensive list of the types of therapies currently available to animals, see the American Animal Hospital Association’s article, “What is veterinary physical rehabilitation?” Then find out if the policy you’re considering covers any of these specific rehabilitative therapies. You may also want to look for a policy or supplement that covers mobility equipment for pets.

Dental care. According to Doug Kenney—the veterinarian who’s written a book and maintains a blog and podcast on pet insurance—“Coverage for dental diseases is ‘all over the map’ and because they are common in pets, you should determine how a company covers these problems by reading a sample policy and/or contacting the company directly.”

Most companies will not cover having your pet’s teeth cleaned and examined under anesthesia except as part of a wellness plan. 

Most insurers will cover treating fractured teeth caused by an accident, but they may or may not cover extractions of fractured teeth or restorative root canals and crowns.

Most don’t cover periodontal disease because they consider it preventable with regular tooth-brushing and check-ups. Companies that do offer coverage may require you to keep up with regular cleanings and check-ups for the coverage to be in effect. 

Because dental health is critically important to your pet’s overall health, and because dental diseases are common, we encourage you to clarify the coverage provided by any policy you’re considering and favor the one that offers the most generous dental benefits.

Behavior therapy. As Dr. Kenney notes, “Behavior problems are among the most common reasons that pets are relinquished to shelters and otherwise healthy pets are euthanized.” He mentions separation anxiety, noise phobias, litter box aversion, aggression and obsessive-compulsive disorders as examples of behavioral problems that could benefit from diagnosis and treatment by an animal behavior specialist.

Make sure you understand any definitions and limits of coverage for behavior therapy provided by the policy itself or a supplemental rider before you buy. 

Discounts. Most companies offer discounts—commonly 5% to 10%—when insuring multiple pets from the same household. If you have more than one pet, this option is worth noting.

Some insurers offer discounts to teachers, first responders, veterans, active military personnel, AARP members and owners of support and therapy animals. If you are part of any of these groups, find out if such premium discounts are available for your policy.

What Are Your Pet’s Pre-Existing Conditions?

Among the most common reasons for an insurer’s denying a claim is that the claims adjuster believes the condition requiring treatment was pre-existing—that even without a previous definitive diagnosis, there were signs or symptoms of the illness or injury in the pet’s medical record dating back to before the policy was in force. 

Some companies ask for medical records from the previous 12 months while others ask to see records from the past 24 months or more. Obviously, the fewer months reviewed, the less likely the insurer will be to find a pre-existing condition.

While you are still in the early stages of shopping for a policy, we suggest you find out for yourself just what’s in your pet’s medical record. Ask us for a copy and read the entire document. If your pet has been treated at other practices, request and read medical records from those providers, too. 

The insurer will expect you to provide records from any veterinary care provider who’s seen your pet during the time period specified. 

You may be surprised at the level of detail you’ll find in our veterinary medical record notes. If you mention to our technicians or doctors a symptom you’ve observed—an occasional cough, a day or two of diarrhea, a single incident of vomiting—even if we weren’t overly concerned about it at the time and it seemingly resolved on its own, we probably noted in your pet’s medical record that you observed the symptom. Our front desk staff makes notes of symptoms you mention in your phone calls to the clinic and front-desk conversations—especially those requiring follow-up with other members of our team.

To a claims adjuster, medical record notes made before your coverage began can be interpreted as early signs and symptoms of what to you—and probably to us, too—is a new condition unrelated to symptoms that emerged and apparently resolved months ago. 

It’s helpful for you to know, in advance, what your pet’s medical records contain.

Bilateral Conditions. As a subcategory of pre-existing conditions, some companies exclude coverage of the second occurrence of a bilateral condition—that is a condition that can impact either or both sides of the body. 

If your pet has previously had hip or elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament issues, a luxating patella or a cataract on one side, the policy may not cover the same condition, should it occur on the opposite side. 

To avoid misunderstandings about coverage—especially if your pet has experienced health problems on one but not the other side of its body—find out the insurer’s coverage of bilateral conditions before you buy the policy.

Medical records reviews. Dr. Kenney encourages policy buyers to ask the insurer for a medical record review after the waiting period for a new policy ends and to inform you in writing of any pre-existing conditions they will exclude from coverage. 

Some companies may be willing to conduct such a review, but many will not examine medical records until you file a claim. Only then will you know if they see early signs of a current illness dating to before the policy was in force. 

Appeals. With most policies, you will have the option to appeal their decisions about pre-existing conditions and other denials of claims. Some insurers have several levels of appeals, perhaps beginning with a review by a veterinarian on staff at the insurance company and escalating to a review by an independent panel of veterinarians who will decide if the claim should be paid. 

Ultimately, our state insurance commissioner is charged with overseeing pet insurance companies’ operations within Indiana. If all else fails, you may contact the Indiana Department of Insurance and ask for help in resolving a dispute with your pet’s insurer. We suspect the support you receive may be limited. We tried searching for “pet insurance” and “pet health insurance” on the department’s website and produced no results beyond being asked if we meant “reinsurance.” 

If you do contact the state insurance department concerning pet insurance, ask to be directed to the division handling property and casualty insurance. Despite how much we love them as members of our families, legally, pets are considered property and pet insurance policies are in the same category as homeowners and auto insurance. 

Read the policy to see how the insurer you’re considering handles appeals.

How Much Risk Are You Willing to Assume?

Think about how much risk you can reasonably afford to cover and how much risk you want to shift to the insurance company. Naturally, the lower the risk to the insurance company, the lower the policy premium.

The main variables for allocating risk are the deductible amount, the co-insurance percentage and the maximum payout. 

A policy including wellness coverage with a $250 deductible and a 90-100% co-insurance benefit and unlimited payout shifts most of the burden of your pet’s veterinary care, excluding pre-existing conditions, to the insurer. You are assuming little risk, because the chances are high that you will meet such a low deductible and have all or nearly all remaining eligible expenses covered and reimbursed by the insurer. The premium for a policy like this one will be relatively high, but you can effectively use such a policy to spread your costs of veterinary care to a fairly predictable monthly payment. 

A policy with no wellness benefits, a $1,000 deductible and 70-80% co-insurance shifts more risk to you, the pet owner. You expect to cover all the largely predictable costs of annual exams, vaccines, parasite preventives and dental cleanings as well as the first $1,000 (or more, depending on how the company calculates the deductible) in eligible expenses during the year. Your premiums for this policy will be much more affordable than the policy in the previous example because you are electing to cover more expenses and assuming more risk. For you, the goal is to cover only substantial and catastrophic expenses, so the maximum payout you choose would still need to be high—preferably unlimited.

It’s up to you to consider how much risk you are willing and able to assume, determining the maximum you could afford to spend on your pet’s healthcare and setting deductible and co-insurance amounts accordingly. 

How Much Risk Is the Insurer Willing to Assume?

The terms of the policy and any supplemental riders, along with the premium quoted, indicate the amount of risk the insurer is willing to assume on your pet’s behalf. 

Insurers carefully calculate the risk they’re taking in issuing your policy based primarily on your pet’s species, breed and age and on the average cost of veterinary care in the market where you live. Their underwriters analyze claims history of pets similar to yours and other relevant actuarial data and set their policy terms, premium prices, maximum pay-outs and co-insurance options accordingly. 

Premiums. Companies and brands set premium prices based on their own claims experiences and chosen approaches to risk assessment. Coverage for higher-risk pets—older pets and those whose breeds have more health problems than average—costs more than coverage for younger pets at relatively low risk of heritable conditions.

Pricing is also part of each insurer’s marketing strategy. When you reach the value shopping stage discussed in an upcoming post, we will encourage you to collect quotes on identical—or as similar as you can make them—policies from different insurers. We expect you’ll find differences in pricing from company to company for essentially the same coverage. 

For all insurers, the goal is to collect enough in premium payments to cover all the expected claims and expenses of running the business while generating a profit for shareholders. 

For you, the goal is to pay enough in premiums to buy the best coverage you can afford from a reputable company.

Your goal is not to find the cheapest policy.

Waiting periods. When you choose your policy and enroll your pet, you will almost certainly have to wait before full coverage goes into effect. 

Typically, insurers impose waiting periods of two days for accidents, two weeks for illnesses and six months for problems with cruciate ligaments. Illnesses and injuries that originate during the waiting period will be excluded from coverage.

These waiting periods protect the insurer from claims by policy buyers attempting to defraud the insurer by knowingly purchasing policies after the animal is already injured or ill. 

Payout limits. While some insurers offer the option of unlimited claims payouts, most policies come with a stated maximum claims payout—most commonly calculated annually for all covered claims but sometimes applied to specific conditions, to each new incident or for specific body systems—digestive, musculoskeletal and nervous. Some use predetermined benefits schedules to establish payout limits to cover specific conditions. Some companies limit the total policy payout over the pet’s lifetime. 

Some companies use a combination of maximum payout provisions. They might limit payouts per incident and cap the total for the year. 

Naturally, the higher the maximum claims payment the insurer risks making, the better the protection and the higher the premium. 

The lower the maximum payout, the greater your risk of running out of coverage in the event of a catastrophic accident or illness. In your attempt to economize on premiums, don’t accept such a low, restrictive maximum payout that your coverage becomes worthless in the event of a serious illness or accident.

Exclusions. All pet insurance policies identify medical conditions not covered, and these may or may not be listed on the insurer’s website or in marketing materials. Expenses related to diagnosing and treating excluded conditions will not count toward the deductible and will not be reimbursed. Pre-existing conditions are always excluded from coverage.

Most insurers also exclude coverage for grooming (bathing, haircuts and nail trimming), boarding and kennel fees, elective procedures like declawing, ear cropping and tail docking, costs associated with breeding and pregnancy, and lost or stolen pets. Coverage for vaccines are generally available only through wellness plans.

For full disclosure of a policy’s exclusions, you must read the policy. Call the company to ask about anything that’s unclear or so vaguely worded as to leave enough wiggle room for the insurer to deny coverage.

Requirements. Some policies set specific requirements you must meet to keep the coverage in force. For example, the insurer may require annual exams, compliance with vaccination schedules and submission of medical records. Or the policy may stipulate that the pet must live at the address listed on the policy. 

These are not the sorts of details insurers typically feature on their websites or in their promotional email messages. The only way to be sure you understand and are willing to adhere to the insurer’s requirements is to read the policy. 

Preventible diseases. Many companies exclude coverage for diseases preventable by vaccines, such as parvovirus and Bordetella, or for diseases caused by parasites for which there are preventives, such as heartworms, fleas and ticks and other internal and external parasites. 

If you routinely follow our recommended testing and vaccination schedules and regularly administer preventives, you probably will be in compliance with any preventable disease requirements. However, if your pet’s vaccination schedule has been altered for some reason—perhaps because of an allergic reaction to a vaccine—you will want to clarify the coverage terms for your pet’s preventible diseases.

Many companies also consider certain dental diseases preventible with home care. 

Breed-specific coverage caps and exclusions. Some companies reduce their risks by limiting coverage for certain breeds and excluding or capping claims for some hereditary disorders, treatments and chronic health conditions associated with some breeds. 

For example, insurers know of every 100 German shepherd dogs they cover, 20 of them are likely to develop hip dysplasia. For every 100 Persian cats they insure, they know 46 will have the genetic mutation associated with polycystic kidney disease. They know for every 100 Bernese mountain dogs and flat-coated retrievers they insure, four or five of the dogs will develop histiocytic sarcoma—a relatively rare cancer in other breeds. 

If you own what the insurer considers a “high-risk” breed, make sure you understand such limits and exclusions on any coverage you’re considering. 

Reimbursement calculations. Insurers may reduce their own risk in the ways they choose to calculate reimbursement amounts. 

They may reimburse your claim based on the amount your veterinarian charges—the best option for you, but the riskiest option for the insurer. 

Some companies reimburse based on a benefit schedule showing the maximum amount they will pay for the conditions and treatments on their list. If your veterinarian charges more than the maximum listed, the insurer will exclude the additional expense from coverage. 

Some insurers reimburse based on “usual, reasonable and customary” charges in your part of the country. As with benefits schedule calculations, the insurer will exclude covering fees your veterinarian charges in excess of what the insurer has determined is usual, reasonable and customary. 

Clarify how the insurer calculates reimbursements and understand how benefits schedules and usual, reasonable and customary limits will impact your covered expenses before buying your policy. It’s generally to your advantage to look for an insurer who reimburses based on the charges shown on our invoices.

Deductible calculations. Most people assume they’ll have met the deductible specified in their pet insurance policy once they’ve paid out-of-pocket for covered expenses totaling that amount. With pet insurance, that’s not always the case. 

Many companies factor in the co-insurance amount when calculating the deductible. For a policy with a $500 deductible and 80% co-insurance, once you’ve paid vet bills totaling $500, these companies apply only $400 to the deductible. You’ll need to pay another $125 in vet bills to meet the $500 deductible. ($625 x 80% = $500)

Read any policy you’re considering purchasing to see how the company calculates and applies your out-of-pocket costs to the deductible.

Dr. Fran Wilkerson’s Lesson on Essential Coverage

Whether or not you completed Dr. Fran Wilkerson’s “Comprehensive Pet Insurance Guide” tutorial we recommended in our first pet insurance series post, now is the time to read or reread Lesson 7, “5 Points of Coverage Your Pet Insurance Plan Must Have.”

“If you do not have these 5 components of coverage,” warns Dr. Wilkerson, “you are literally throwing your money away because you will not be covered for common, core diseases.”

Your ‘Must-Haves, Nice-to-Haves, Dealbreakers’ Worksheet

As you review this post, begin compiling a worksheet listing policy features you definitely want—the Must-Haves, the features that would be nice to have but not essential—the Nice-to-Haves, and the features or requirements that are Dealbreakers for you. 

To give you an idea of what your worksheet might contain, here’s a sample worksheet one pet insurance shopper compiled:

Must Haves

  • Covers accidents and illnesses, including coverage for cancer, continuing coverage for chronic disease, coverage for hereditary and congenital diseases and conditions common to my pet’s breed*
  • Benefits based on actual invoice from my vet
  • 80% or 90% reimbursement
  • No less than $20,000 maximum annual pay-out, preferably unlimited
  • Annual deductible of $1,000 or less
  • Exam fee coverage included or available as a supplement
  • Quick, easy claims process
  • Willing to pre-certify a claim
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Covers rehabilitation therapy and equipment
  • Ability to customize and downgrade coverage when premiums increase without starting over with pre-x
  • Customer service available promptly by phone and willing and able to answer questions
  • Apparent company stability, experience—in business at least three years

Nice-to-Haves

  • Medical records review available immediately after any waiting periods conclude, ideally in time to cancel policy for a full refund
  • Annual deductible based on covered expenses before co-insurance applied
  • 24/7/365 customer service available, preferably by phone
  • Availability of claims processors nights and weekends
  • Covers “curable” pre-ex after specified time with no recurrence
  • Generous, clearly explained dental coverage
  • Wellness plan if reimbursements more than recover the premium cost and justify the hassle of filing claims
  • Prescription diet coverage
  • Alternative treatments coverage

Dealbreakers

  • Claims based on usual/reasonable/customary or benefits schedule
  • Per-incident or per-condition deductibles 
  • No exam fee coverage
  • Maximum policy payouts based on per-incident or benefit schedules
  • Overly-aggressive definitions of pre-x as indicated by policy terms and customer reviews
  • Possible premium increases or policy cancellation based on individual claims history
  • Numerous reviews indicating lost claims, multiple demands for veterinarian to submit the same records multiple times
  • Difficulty connecting by phone, getting questions answered
  • Very limited or no ability to customize the policy
  • Only policy offered has low maximum payout ($5,000) and 70% co-insurance—probably because they don’t want to insure older pets

*As you can tell, this pet insurance shopper completed Dr. Fran Wilkerson’s “Comprehensive Pet Insurance Guide” tutorial before compiling her list.

Your “Must-Haves, Nice-to-Haves, Dealbreakers” lists may be similar to our sample or very different. The whole point of working through this post is to identify your own priorities and preferences for your pet’s policy. 

How to Customize Your Policy

In his book, Pet Health Insurance: A Veterinarian’s Perspective, Doug Kenney offers these guidelines, in priority order, for designing a policy that provides the coverage you want at a price you can afford. 

  • Get the highest annual maximum you can afford. 
  • Make your share of co-insurance the lowest percentage you can afford.
  • Get the lowest deductible you can afford.

In his book, Dr. Kenney includes charts illustrating the sometimes dramatic impact these variables can have on the policyholder’s out-of-pocket costs—ultimately, the most important consideration when customizing your policy. You can also do these calculations yourself to explore your share of costs for vet bills of various amounts under various policy configurations.

Part 3. Setting Your Pet Insurance Priorities and Preferences Read More »

Corners of several $100 bills

Part 2. Narrowing Your Choice of Pet Insurance Companies

This is the second of a five-post client information series Brownsburg Animal Clinic is offering on pet insurance—part of our Pet Care Costs collection of posts and pages to help you manage the costs of pet ownership more effectively.  As they describe step-by-step processes, we suggest you read the Pet Insurance posts in order from first to fifth.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports there are now about 25 pet insurers doing business in North America, including several companies that “also market and/or underwrite multiple white label or co-branded products representing at least 20 additional pet insurance product brands.” 

That’s nearly 50 companies and brands—far too many for most pet owners to research individually—so we recommend you start your search for your pet’s ideal policy by narrowing your choice of companies to a more manageable number—say, no more than five or six. 

With further, more focused research into those five or six companies and their product offerings, you’ll narrow your list to your personal top two or three and, finally, identify the company offering the policy you’ve identified as best for you and your pet.

Beware the ‘Best’ Lists

The internet is teeming with articles, blog posts and “complete guides” naming the “best” pet insurance companies. Many websites featuring these lists offer truly useful, unbiased information to help you understand and navigate the complexities of buying a pet insurance policy. We encourage you to learn from them as your time permits.

Many also have thoughtful evaluations of the companies on their lists—why they’re “the best,” the types of pets they’re best-suited to cover and the pros and cons of their product offerings. This commentary is well worth reading, too, while writing down the most relevant points for you and your pet. 

Most “best” company lists include established industry leaders as well as relative newcomers to the marketplace. What you’re looking for at this stage is the names of companies that appear on multiple lists and, most important, the ones offering policies that appear to be the best-matched to you and your pet’s needs. Those will be the companies you research further, using ratings and reviews from policyholders and unbiased, knowledgeable sources not trying to sell you a policy. 

Most “best pet insurance” websites encourage you to use their easy online tools to collect quotes from multiple companies. Those tools are there because the website will be paid a sales commission if their recommendations convince you to buy a policy using an affiliate link on their site. 

We advise you to proceed with caution at this stage of the buying process. If you’re following our recommended purchasing process, you’re not yet ready to make a purchase.

Your ‘Personal Best Companies’ Short List

With your guard suitably up and a determination not to buy a policy until you’ve had a chance to do further research, we recommend you visit several of these “best company” sites, linked to below, and start your own “personal best companies” list. 

While we can’t vouch for the accuracy or objectivity of any of these sites—and we’re not endorsing any of them—we’re providing links to get you started on narrowing your choice of companies. 

For your personal best companies list, look for insurers that get mentioned again and again and see if any rationale behind the ranking aligns with your pet’s needs and your preferences so far. (Presumably, the following links are “evergreen” and will take you to the most recently updated content.)

MarketWatch Guide’sThe Best Pet Insurance Companies“ and “The Best Pet Insurance Companies in Indiana.”

Forbes Advisor’sBest Pet Insurance Companies Of [the current month and year]” and “Best Pet Insurance In Indiana Of [the current year].”

Nerdwallet’sThe 9 Best Pet Insurance Companies for [the current month and year].”

Money.com’sBest Pet Insurance Companies of [the current month and year].”

Be forewarned, most of these sites are filled with entreaties for you to request instant quotes. Play around with the quote tools if you like, but don’t buy anything just yet. 

If you do request a quote from an aggregator site (a commission-earning website that connects to online quote tools from multiple companies and collects the results for your review), be prepared for your email inbox to fill immediately with marketing messages from the companies providing the quotes—and sometimes multiple messages from the same insurer to promote several different policies or “plans,” as they’re often called. You can unsubscribe to the messages later if you decide you no longer want to hear from a particular company.

Pawlicy Advisor. Another website worth visiting as you finalize your short list of companies is Pawlicy Advisor —the site that claims you can get a quote, choose a policy and buy it in five minutes. 

If you read our previous post, “Understanding Pet Insurance,” you know while we don’t encourage dawdling on your way to getting your pet insured, we do advise against rushing to make such a complex and important purchasing decision.

Still, we appreciate Pawlicy Advisor’s relatively powerful quote tool, designed to provide what they claim is a more personalized recommendation of the best of their partner insurers’ policies for your pet based on breed, age and other factors specific to your pet. You can find a list of their eight partner companies in the footer of the website.

We suggest you use the Pawlicy tool and consider including the companies their database matches with your pet on your list of companies to explore further.

Canine Journal. Canine Journal has a comprehensive pet insurance review page that starts by designating the companies they consider best overall, best for young pets, best no-cap payouts, best coverage, best value and best newcomer. Many details follow about pet insurance in general and individual insurers. 

Keep scrolling!

About two-thirds of the way down the page is an alphabetical list of links to insurers with the year the companies were founded. 

The page concludes with charts showing customer service options, support hours, deductible options, payout options and reimbursement options for each of the selected companies. This section also lists each company’s year founded, headquarters location and underwriter(s).

Canine Journal discloses at the top of the page that they do receive commissions if you buy a policy through one of their affiliate links.

Pet Insurance Review. A website pet insurance expert and veterinarian Dr. Fran Wilkerson recommends, and one we also suggest you visit, is Pet Insurance Review. Use this site to see reviews presumably written by policyholders for each of the companies on your short list. Keep in mind, review sites can be be vulnerable to manipulation by companies and individuals posting fake reviews.

In the reviews that appear authentic, look for the most common compliments and pay particular attention to the most common complaints, additional customer comments and the company’s responses, if any. If you’re pressed for time, skip the glowing reviews and filter to see only the most negative feedback. Look for repeated warning signs of bad coverage, harsh definitions of pre-existing conditions and poor customer service. 

As you learn more about pet insurance policies, you’ll realize many of the most negative reviews are from policyholders who didn’t do any tutorials or read their policies before buying them. They didn’t take the time to understand that pre-existing conditions are not covered, or that there would be a waiting period between the time they bought the policy and the coverage went into effect, or that the company they bought their policy from applies the deductible per condition—not per year.

Because they didn’t take the time to understand pet insurance in general and the terms of the policies they bought in particular, they experienced unpleasant surprises that wouldn’t have been surprises at all if they’d made better-informed purchase decisions. 

However, a pattern of complaints about sharp premium increases from year to year, bad customer service, a complicated claims process, lost claims or delays in receiving reimbursements are more noteworthy because they will impact you as a policyholder no matter how carefully you read your policy. 

Credible accusations of a company’s changing policy terms or terminating coverage because of claims history for an individual pet should be taken seriously. If you see multiple reviews for a company from policyholders who had this experience, we advise you to eliminate this company from consideration.

Note the dates the reviews and comments were posted. Sometimes companies improve their policies and resolve administrative problems talked about in older reviews. More recent ratings are likely more relevant to current conditions.

Check with HR. Many employers offer pet insurance as an employee benefit, so it may be worthwhile to ask about pet insurance benefits where you work. Keep in mind, the company your employer has contracted with may or may not offer the best coverage for you and your pet. Put the company on your short list, but be willing to buy from another insurer if the coverage provides better value and is a closer match to your particular needs.

Planning Travel? If you plan to travel out of state with your pet, make sure the insurer you’re considering covers eligible expenses for visits to a veterinarian outside your home state. 

If you plan international travel with your pet, check to see if veterinary treatment in the country you plan to visit will be covered. 

Also look for coverage limits—like the number of days your pet can be away from home—specific to interstate and international travel.

Planning an Interstate Move? If you anticipate moving to another state, check to see if the companies you’re considering are licensed in the state where you’re planning to move as well as the one you live in now. 

Once you relocate, the terms of your policy and the premium amount may change. If the company makes it to your personal short list, it will be well worth a call to customer service to find out how your move will impact your pet’s coverage.

Now, Read Fran Wilkerson’s Company Fact Sheets and Reviews

After you’ve narrowed your list of companies to consider to no more than a half-dozen or so, we strongly recommend a return visit to Dr. Wilkerson’s Pet Insurance University website. 

There you can read her unbiased reviews of your choice of 26 companies and see her detailed Comparison Fact Sheets on those same companies by clicking on the company name under the “Compare Pet Insurance” heading in the left sidebar of every page on the site. 

An important aspect of Dr. Wilkerson’s company reviews is her interest in the financial stability of policy underwriters. She includes A.M. Best ratings in her company evaluations.

She also notes the year each company started doing business in the USA, observing, “it can take time for a company to settle in on consistent premium pricing and policy terms.”

Keep in mind, Dr. Wilkerson has been a practicing veterinarian for many years in a number of different clinical settings. Unlike the people running all those aggregator sites, she does not receive any compensation from any insurance company for a listing or review on her site, and she earns no commission on the sale of any policy. 

See also points 6 and 7 in Lesson 9, “Additional Things You Need To Know Before You Buy,” in Dr. Wilkerson’s “The Comprehensive Pet Insurance Guide.”

Part 2. Narrowing Your Choice of Pet Insurance Companies Read More »

Corners of three $100 bills

Part 1. Understanding Pet Insurance

This is the first of a five-post client information series Brownsburg Animal Clinic is offering on pet insurance—part of our Pet Care Costs collection of posts and pages to help you manage the costs of pet ownership more effectively. As they describe step-by-step processes, we suggest you read the Pet Insurance posts in order from first to fifth.

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we know pet insurance could help a number of our clients afford better, more advanced care for our patients, should they ever experience a serious, unexpected illness or injury. If you worry that because of financial constraints, you might not be free to choose the best possible care for your pet, we encourage you to consider pet insurance.

In researching our pet insurance series, we encountered multiple websites pushing us to get premium quotes and buy a policy immediately. One site urged us to collect quotes, review the results and buy a policy—all within the next five minutes!

Yes, if you can get your hands on your credit card fast enough, you really can price, choose and buy a pet insurance policy in five minutes. This advice was posted on the homepage of an aggregator site.

Aggregators tap into data from other sources—in this case, multiple pet insurers’ online quote tools—and collect the information for you to see and compare in one place. If you buy after clicking on an affiliate link on the site, the website owners earn a commission from whichever insurance company you choose. 

Unless you are an expert on pet insurance and familiar with all the nearly 50 companies and brands and the policies they are currently offering, it’s foolish to rush your purchase decision! 

Instead, we encourage you to read our pet insurance posts in order and take the time you need to explore your options. The concepts we explain, the tutorial we encourage you to complete when you’re finished reading this page (in less than an hour) and the company and policy selection processes we recommend should lead you to a sound purchasing decision by the time you finish the 5-week series.

If you’re discovering these posts after the entire weekly series has been published, you may follow our suggestions, in the order they were originally presented, to choose your best policy in even less time. 

Our goal is to help you identify and get the best choice of policy in force for your particular pet as soon as possible without rushing to a potentially faulty decision. 

Key Concepts

Before we proceed with our discussion of the finer points of pet insurance, there are several key concepts we want to be sure you understand from the outset:

You may not know what you don’t know about pet insurance. Because so much of the terminology is the same as with human health insurance, as you begin to consider health insurance for your pet, you may too quickly conclude you know all you need to know to buy your pet’s policy because after all—insurance is insurance, right? 

Throw in some instant online quotes, cute cartoons, feature comparison checklists and clever marketing copy, and you’ll be very tempted to buy a policy right then and there, without really understanding just what it is you’re buying. 

It’s true—some general knowledge of insurance will help you understand pet insurance. But pet insurance companies often apply familiar human insurance terminology, customs and concepts to animals in ways that may surprise you. Even if you think you know what familiar insurance terms mean and how insurance policies work, make no assumptions about pet insurance. 

Take the time now to learn pet insurance basics and see what policyholders and impartial reviewers have to say about how the various companies do business before choosing an insurer and buying a policy. 

Keep in mind, conditions can change quickly in the pet insurance industry. New companies and policies come on the market. Established companies are acquired and/or change underwriters. Management changes a company’s marketing strategy and direction. Greater-than-expected claims payouts in a given year necessitate unexpectedly large premium increases in years to come. Companies go out of business. 

Pet insurance policies typically do not supply ready cash to pay vet bills. Whether or not you have pet insurance, nearly all veterinary clinics—including ours—expect you to pay their invoices in full, at the time they render services. Any insurance benefit your policy provides will be paid directly to you later, after you file a claim and the company approves it, as a reimbursement. 

You will not be reimbursed for your share of the eligible expenses—the policy deductible and the percentage of the co-insurance you agreed to pay. You will not be reimbursed for ineligible or excluded expenses.

(One insurer we know of pays benefits directly to participating practices at check-out, and another will, with permission from the policyholder, arrange to pay reimbursements directly to veterinarians who have signed up ahead of time with the company and are willing to hope the claim is covered and wait for payment. We have elected not open our client records and billing system to outsiders nor to align our clinic with any one insurance company. Our policy is, as it has always been, to be paid in full by the client at the time of service.)

To be prepared to cover potentially considerable costs up front, you will need access to ready cash, supplemented as needed by a credit line and/or personal loans. The reimbursement provided by the pet insurance policy will help you pay back at least some of the money you borrowed and replenish your savings account. Bear in mind, the insurer will deny your claim if the claims adjuster determines services your pet received are not covered under the terms of the policy contract. 

See “Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills” for our suggestions on generating the cash you need up front, with or without an insurance policy.

You are free to choose the licensed veterinarian and the insurer you prefer. You needn’t worry about provider networks or whether or not ours or any other veterinary practice accepts a particular brand of insurance.

The policy contract is between you and the insurer. While we will provide medical records and answer medical questions about your claims, we won’t file your claims or be involved in the financial relationship between you and the insurer. You’ll already have paid us for our services and will be reimbursed for any eligible expenses under the terms of the policy you choose. 

Pet insurers do not cover pre-existing conditions. Should you file a claim for reimbursement for a vet bill you’ve paid, the insurer will review your pet’s medical records and deny coverage for any condition that appears to have originated before the policy’s effective date. 

Most companies date the condition’s onset at the first recorded sign or symptom of the problem, regardless of the date of diagnosis. After any waiting periods have passed, and barring any specific exclusions or inclusions the various companies make for “curable” pre-existing conditions, eligible expenses for any new health problems that develop will then be covered as the policy specifies. 

If you decide to cancel a policy and start fresh with a new insurer, any conditions that originated while the previous policy was in force will be treated as pre-existing conditions by the new company and will not be covered by the new policy. 

This is one of the main reasons we encourage you to choose the company and policy carefully. Once you’ve committed to a policy, it’s to your advantage to keep it in force in case your pet shows any symptoms of a developing health problem. Even without a diagnosis, if the signs and symptoms were there before the new policy is in force, the condition will most likely be considered pre-existing by the future insurer. 

Pet insurance is not an investment. It’s a risk management tool. Your pet’s policy allows you to share some of the risks that your pet may have an expensive accident or illness with other pet-owning policyholders whose pets face similar risks. You should no more hope your pet insurance policy pays out more in benefits than you pay in premiums than you hope to have a wreck or a house fire so your auto and homeowners insurance claims exceed premium totals. 

Based on the costs of veterinary services where you live, the species, breed and age of your pet and the company’s claims experience, premiums will likely rise each year—some years by a little and some years by a lot. For example, the premium for one pet insurance policy issued on an 8-year-old poodle mix increased by 15% after the first policy year, 19% after the second, 8% after the third year and 39% after the fourth. 

Naturally, as pets get older, their risks of health problems increase and premium costs rise. If you relocate to a higher-priced market, your premiums will likely increase. The rising costs of veterinary care, changes in company ownership, management and/or underwriters may also result in increases in policy rates and other terms.

For more insight into rising pet insurance premium costs and what policyholders may reasonably expect in the future, see “Jump in pet insurance prices tests appetite for coverage,” on the Veterinary Information Network’s news service website.

There is no “best pet insurance company” or “best pet insurance policy” for all pets and their owners. If you ask us to recommend the best pet insurance, some of our doctors and team members may well name a company or two. We may even tell stories of clients and patients who had good experiences with their pet insurance policies.

Just keep in mind—we are not licensed insurance agents. We are familiar at most with only a few companies and policies of the fast-growing number available. While we know a lot about your pet’s medical condition and health risks, we don’t know your personal financial situation, priorities and preferences.

And we are not able to foretell the future.

That’s why our clinic’s official policy is to refrain from aligning with or recommending specific insurance companies and to encourage you to do your own research to find the best policy for you and your pet. 

We’re publishing this series to help you do just that.

It takes learning, self-reflection and value shopping to make a sound pet insurance policy purchase decision. In the world of consumer behavior, buying a pet insurance policy would be classified as a “complex purchase.” If you approach the purchase as we suggest, you will conduct fairly thorough research before you buy a policy because of the relatively high degree of economic and psychological risk involved in insuring your cherished pet. 

Of course, you can skip the research, buy from among the first policies you find online—maybe the policy with the lowest premium—and hope for the best. 

Or you can leave your pet uninsured, as most pet owners in America do. Many of them are clients we see every day whose pets could benefit from treatment they tell us they can’t afford. 

The Insurance-Buying Process We Recommend

Step 1. Make your own short list of best-for-you insurers. Narrow the list of nearly 50 companies and brands of pet insurance in the market now to a list of five or six that appear to be the best matches for you and your pet.

Step 2. Identify what policy terms are best for you and your pet. Based on your initial exploration of the various insurers’ policy features, set your personal priorities and preferences for the pet insurance coverage you most want your policy to provide.

Step 3. Value-shop the policies. After narrowing your choices to the three to five most promising-looking policies,  collect and compare quotes and read sample policies to help you understand the coverage you will—and won’t—receive in exchange for your premium payments.

Step 4. Choose the best policy for you and your pet. Once you’ve identified the policy that delivers the best value for your money, you’re ready to enroll your pet and get started on the waiting periods.

Step 5. Address any lingering doubts, objections or misgivings you may have about your policy purchase. 

Help With Finding the Best Insurance Policy for Your Pet

Two experts we trust to provide our clients with accurate, unbiased information about pet insurance are Dr. Frances Wilkerson and Dr. Doug Kenney—both veterinarians who have considerable expertise in pet insurers and policies.

Dr. Wilkerson has maintained her Pet Insurance University website since 2008, and it appears to be up-to-date these days with some of the newer companies and brands listed and reviewed.

Before you browse the rest of the site, we suggest you begin by reviewing “The Comprehensive Pet Insurance Guide,” Dr. Wilkerson’s online tutorial that can be completed in less than an hour. 

Seriously. Do this tutorial. 

You may also find Dr. Wilkerson’s glossary of pet insurance terms helpful as you conduct your research.

In 2016, Dr. Kenney published a book, Pet Health Insurance: A Veterinarian’s Perspective, available from Amazon. An edition updated in 2021 is available on Apple Books.

Dr. Kenney’s book covers pet insurance in somewhat greater detail than Dr. Wilkerson’s tutorial and is well worth reading if you want to develop an even deeper understanding of multiple aspects of pet insurance before settling on the company and policy that’s best for you and your pet. Both the print and the digital editions of the book have links connecting you to additional resources.

Dr. Kenney maintains a blog with posts dating back to 2009 at the Your Pet Insurance Guide website. As host of The Pet Insurance Guide Podcast since 2012, he has interviewed founders and executives from many of the industry’s leading companies. 

Dr. Kenney’s Pet Insurance Toolkit is available on his website for $15.

We suggest, once you’ve mastered pet insurance basics, you browse Dr. Kenney’s blog posts and podcast episodes to get to know some pet insurance industry leaders and to clarify topics of interest.

Part 1. Understanding Pet Insurance Read More »

Cat and puppy lying side-by-side in the grass

Microchips Help Lost Pets Get Back Home

Each year on August 15, we join the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in observing National Check the Chip Day—a day set aside to remind owners of microchipped pets to confirm the accuracy of the information on file at the chip registry.

Given that only about 6 of every 10 microchips are registered, it’s also a great day to register your pet’s chip number if you haven’t yet done so. The chip is worthless unless you register it and then keep the information current.

And if you haven’t yet had your pet microchipped, Check the Chip day is ideal for scheduling an appointment with us to implant your pet’s microchip.

Why Have Your Pet Microchipped?

One of every three family pets will get lost at some point during their lifetime. 

Dogs with microchips are more than twice as likely to be returned home to their owners.

Cats with microchips are more than 20 times as likely to be returned home to their owners.

American Veterinary Medical Association

Because of microchips, pets and owners have been reunited from hundreds of miles away, sometimes years after the pets were lost.

While one study found owners’ efforts were successful in recovering a lost dog only 13% of the time, the detection of a microchip by an animal shelter resulted in a 74.1% return rate to owners.

Researchers have also found that the owners of nearly three-fourths of lost, microchipped cats and dogs were located because of the microchip.

When lost or stolen microchipped pets don’t make it back home, it’s usually because of incorrect or missing owner information in the microchip registry.

One former shelter manager estimates as many as half of pets with microchips entering shelters have chips that haven’t been registered at all, have disconnected phone numbers and outdated contact information in the registry or are registered to former owners who don’t have contact information for the current owner.

That’s why it’s so important to check the chip!

How Microchips Work

Microchips are cylindrical devices about the size of a grain of rice implanted under your pet’s skin using a hypodermic needle. The microchip device has a capacitor, an antenna, connecting wire and a covering. When activated by a low-power radio frequency signal from the scanner, the microchip transmits its unique identification number to the scanner display. 

Microchips are not tracking devices and contain no information about you or your pet. All they can transmit is the identification number.

The AVMA classifies the implantation of microchips as “a veterinary procedure that should be performed by a licensed veterinarian or under supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Veterinarians and trained veterinary technicians know precisely where and how microchips should be placed. Improperly inserted microchips have been known to malfunction and can cause serious disabilities or even death. 

Unlike external identification tags on pets’ collars, which can easily be lost, removed, altered or replaced, microchips provide permanent, unalterable identification for an animal. Your pet should have both.

Once the microchip is implanted, you must register the chip number and keep the registration updated for the life of your pet. 

More About Microchips

In less than 15 minutes, you can learn even more about microchips by watching “How do pet microchips work?”—a YouTube video by Brigid Wasson of First Street Pets. 

Wasson’s companion article to the video is on the First Street Pets website.

Here’s Wasson’s article, “Which pet microchip registry is the best?” listing the top five microchip registries. See the accompanying video, “Top 5 pet microchip registries for 2023” on YouTube.

Finally, see Wasson’s video, “Register Your Pet’s microchip in 5 minutes” for a quick overview of the registration process.

How to Check the Chip

If your pet has already been microchipped, step one is to find your pet’s microchip number. 

Look for the paperwork you received when you had the chip implanted or log in to the account you set up when you registered the chip with the manufacturer. 

The microchip number may also be displayed on a tag on your pet’s collar, if the chip manufacturer supplied one. (Since anyone can register any chip number using any contact information, you may choose not to display your pet’s microchip number on a collar tag.)

If you can’t find the microchip number, ask us to scan your pet the next time you’re at the clinic for an appointment. Assuming your pet’s microchip transponder is still working, the scanner will reveal the microchip number. We suggest you write it down for future reference. 

After this initial scan for the chip number, ask to have your pet’s microchip scanned each year as part of the annual exam to confirm it’s still working and can be detected.

Next, to confirm where your pet’s microchip is registered, visit the AAHA Microchip Registry Lookup website. This is the database veterinarians and shelter personnel consult when trying to find the owner of a found microchipped pet. 

Type in your pet’s microchip number and, if the number is registered with any of nearly 40 registries, the manufacturer and any registries associated with that chip number will be displayed, showing the date the registration was last updated and contact information for the registry. 

The AAHA Microchip Registry does not provide owner information. To register, review and update your registration information, you must call the registry or visit the registry website and log in to your account. 

The Downsides of Microchipping

Problems with properly implanted microchips are very rare. 

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association has tracked adverse reactions to microchips since 1996. Of more than 4 million animals microchipped, only 391 adverse reactions have been reported.

Of these, the most common problem reported is the migration of the microchip from its original implantation site. Other, much less common problems reported included failure of the microchip, hair loss, infection, swelling and tumor formation.

Odds Are, Your Pet Isn’t Yet Microchipped

While many dogs and cats wear external identification tags on their collars—as they all should—on average, only 3-4% of dogs and fewer than 1% of cats arriving at shelters are microchipped.

If you are like most pet owners and haven’t yet had a microchip implanted in your pet, we strongly encourage you to do so. 

To minimize your pet’s possible discomfort from the injection, we suggest having us implant a microchip when your pet is under anesthesia for surgery or a dental procedure. 

If you don’t anticipate the need for anesthesia anytime soon, ask us to implant a microchip at your next visit to the clinic or schedule an appointment expressly for us to insert the microchip. And register the microchip right away.

Should your pet be lost or stolen, you’ll be glad you did!

Microchips Help Lost Pets Get Back Home Read More »

Close up of person's eye and cat's eye, side by side

Is Owning a Cat Good for Your Health?

Those of us who own and love cats don’t need researchers to affirm the value of our cherished pets in our lives. Still, it’s gratifying to find so many science-backed videos and articles to confirm what we already know about the many benefits of cat ownership.

Among the most amusing research-based videos is “Prescription Cat” from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute’s Pet Effect campaign

According to HABRI, “Scientific research demonstrates that cat ownership can confer benefits to both mental and physical health in their owners. Specifically, cat ownership can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and improve heart health, alleviate social isolation and loneliness, and reduce stress. In children, living with cats can strengthen immunity in the first year of life, and a pet cat can help those with autism and their families.”

“The Scientific Benefits of Owning a Cat: 5 Reasons to Welcome a Feline Friend” from the Pet in the Net YouTube channel includes links to research studies supporting each of the benefits.

From the YouTube channel AnimalWised, “5 Benefits of Having a Cat for Health and Happiness” also cites research to back each of the benefits discussed.

In “10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Cat Owner,” published by Mental Floss, those benefits include:

  1. Owning a cat is better for the environment than owning a dog.
  2. They’ll help you cope with loss and pain.
  3. They may help you find a significant other.
  4. Cat owners are smart.
  5. You’ll have a healthier heart.
  6. Cats fulfill your need for companionship.
  7. Cats can tell you (and others) a lot about your personality.
  8. You’ll sleep better.
  9. Cat ownership could mean fewer allergies.
  10. Cats can quite literally save your life.

The All Cats YouTube channel has compiled this same information in a video, “10 Scientific Benefits Of Being A Cat Owner,” covering all 10 benefits in less than 9 minutes.

“The Psychological Benefits Of Owning A Cat” on the Animal Discovery YouTube channel focuses on mental health benefits of cat ownership.

In “Americans Note Overwhelming Positive Mental Health Impact of Their Pets in New Poll; Dogs and Cats Equally Beneficial,” the American Psychiatric Association reported owners of both dogs and cats said their pets offer many mental health benefits. 

In response to the APA’s March 2023 Healthy Minds Monthly Poll of 2,200 adults, 86% of pet owners said “their pets have a mostly positive impact on their mental health.” Among the benefits those pet owners cited:

  • 69% said their pets help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • 69% said their pets provide unconditional love and support.
  • 69% said their pets offer companionship.
  • 66% said their pets providing a calming presence.
  • 63% said their pets are true friends.

According to the APA, “Cat owners were more likely than dog owners to say their pets offer companionship, provide a calming presence and help reduce stress and anxiety. Dog owners were twice as likely as cat owners to say their pet encourages them to be physically active.”

For more details of the March 2023 Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, see the survey report on the American Psychiatric Association website.

For a more personalized testimonial to the demonstrated benefits of cat ownership, see Kira M. Newman’s article, “The Science-Backed Benefits of Being a Cat Lover,” published by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Newman covers cats’ contributions to general well-being, stress reduction, relationship skills and physical health in some detail. 

How We Can Help

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we support the bond between you and your cat by providing the veterinary care needed to maintain your cat’s longest, healthiest life. Through regular check-ups, recommended vaccines and prompt attention to symptoms of ill health, our goal is to help you enjoy the many benefits of cat ownership for as long as possible.

Is Owning a Cat Good for Your Health? Read More »

Four fire fighters and a dog in front of a Brownsburg fire truck in front of Brownsburg Animal Clinic

Fire Safety Precautions to Protect Your Pet

The National Fire Protection Association reports at least 40,000 pets die each year in house fires, often because of smoke inhalation. 

In observance of National Pet Fire Safety Day on July 15, with help from Brownsburg Fire Territory Public Education Manager Nina Powell, we’ve compiled a number of precautions you can take to help keep your pet safe from fire.

Fire Prevention

According to American Humane, more than 500,000 pets are affected each year by house fires, including more than 1,000 fires started by pets. 

One of the most common ways pets start fires results from their access to open flames from candles or fireplaces. One cat knocked burning candles off a bedroom shelf onto a mattress, starting a fire that destroyed most of the house. Other cats and dogs have suffered serious burns by brushing too close to a candle or fireplace flame and setting their fur on fire. 

To avoid such mishaps, we advise you never to leave a pet unattended around an open flame. Protect burning candles with hurricane glass holders with heavy bases and use a fire screen to shield pets from fireplace fires. Better yet, use battery-powered flameless candles and enclose your fireplace in glass to eliminate this risk.

Pets sometimes start fires by pawing stove burner knobs. A dog jumped up on a stove to get a slice of pizza from a box left on the stovetop and in the process, turned on a burner. The pizza box caught fire, quickly spreading flames through the rest of the kitchen. If your pet is able to reach the stove or climb onto the control panel from a countertop, cover or remove the knobs and activate child safety lock features, if available.

Electrical fires can start after a pet chews the insulation off a loose power cord. Use cord covers to protect exposed cords from chewing. Search online for “dog and cat power cord covers” to see the many options available. 

“Although we haven’t had any incidents here in Brownsburg, nationwide one of the concerns is with heating lamps for pet reptiles,” said Powell. “If those lamps aren’t properly managed according to the manufacturers’ instructions, they can start fires.”

One dog started a fire by pulling his bed up against a portable space heater. The bed ignited, and the fire spread, damaging the house and sending both the dog and owner to the hospital. If you use a portable heater, make sure yours stays relatively cool to the touch and automatically shuts off if knocked over. 

“All the modern space heaters have the tip-over feature with automatic shut-off,” said Powell. “I would definitely tell someone who is using an older model space heater to replace it with a newer one with that tip-over feature.”

Don’t leave your pet unattended in a room with a portable heater.

Install smoke detectors monitored by an emergency response service. Whether or not you are home to report the fire, fire fighters can be dispatched quickly after the alarm is activated to help save your home and family—including your pet.

“I’m 100% in favor of interconnected smoke alarms so when one goes off, all go off,” said Powell. “Even better are interconnected smoke alarms that are monitored.”

Brownsburg fire truck next to Brownsburg Animal Clinic sign
Photos courtesy of Nina Powell, Public Education Manager, Brownsburg Fire Territory

Sadly, two pets—a dog and a cat—died in Brownsburg house fires this year. “It’s very devastating for us personally and hard to tell the owners,” said Powell.

“Fortunately, we’ve had several occasions this year where we’ve saved pets from fires,” said Powell. “Every one of our fire trucks has O2 masks for pets so we can resuscitate them.”

Fire Emergency Preparation

Make and rehearse an emergency home evacuation plan that includes your pet. 

See our blog post “Preparing Your Pets for Disaster” for general information about planning for emergencies.

“Practice your fire escape plan with your family and your pet,” advised Powell. “With your smoke alarm in test mode, let your pet hear the sound the alarm makes and show them where they’re supposed to go when they hear that sound.” 

Powell emphasized that step one in any emergency is to call 911. 

“The sooner you call 911, the sooner the fire fighters can get to your house and rescue you and your pet.”

Family members should not endanger their own lives attempting to rescue a pet. If the pet can’t be found and brought to safety immediately, leave the door open and call to the pet from a safe distance outside. 

“Of course, if the pet is right there and can safely exit the house along with the people, that’s great,” Powell said. “But some pets are programmed to hide in an emergency like a house fire, and we don’t encourage people to delay their exit while they search inside a burning house for a pet.

“Please exit the home and call us immediately.”

Once fire fighters arrive, let them know a pet is still inside. “It helps if you describe the pet to the crew and tell them its name and any words it might respond to,” said Powell.

In case your pet gets lost in the confusion of a house fire, make sure he or she is microchipped and wearing a collar with identification tags attached. For details, see our post, “How to Get a Lost Pet Back Home.”

For Owners of Service Animals

Owners of service dogs may call the Brownsburg Fire Territory’s non-emergency number at (317) 852-1190 to have notes about the presence of a service animal added to the records for their address. 

As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a “service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

“It helps us to know about the service animal at that address ahead of time and anticipate any possible delay in the owner’s exiting due to a disability,” Powell said.

Fire Safety Precautions to Protect Your Pet Read More »

Silhouette of a woman with two dogs by water

Is Owning a Dog Good for Your Health?

We’ve all heard and read news stories affirming the health benefits of dog ownership. Here’s a one-minute video that humorously sums up prevailing beliefs about the positive impact of dog ownership on human health.

The “Prescription Dog” video is from The Pet Effect campaign of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). Founded by animal health company Zoetis, HABRI is a non-profit research and education organization that gathers, funds and shares scientific research demonstrating health benefits of companion animals. Visit the HABRI website for highlights of pet-related research on human health.

This video from Insider Science, “What Having a Dog Does To Your Brain and Body,” features Meg Olmert, author of Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond.

Olmert’s commentary helps explain our physiological response to our dogs. 

How Dogs Benefit Our Health

An article from the American Kennel Club, “10 Science-Based Benefits of Having a Dog,” lists these benefits:

  1. Dogs make us feel less alone.
  2. Dogs are good for your heart.
  3. Dogs help you stop stressing out.
  4. Dogs help us cope with crisis.
  5. Dogs encourage you to move.
  6. Dogs make you more attractive—even virtually.
  7. Dogs make us more social.
  8. Dogs are so adorable they make us love them.
  9. Dogs make us happier.
  10. Dogs help seniors with cognitive function and social interaction.

Read the AKC article to learn more about the science behind these assertions.

In a blog post from pharmacy savings card marketer SingleCare, “9 health benefits of owning a dog,” the listed benefits include:

  1. Dogs help you stay active.
  2. Dogs can help reduce risk of heart attack and heart disease.
  3. Dogs can help reduce triglyceride levels.
  4. Dogs can help reduce cholesterol levels.
  5. Dogs can help lower blood pressure levels naturally.
  6. Dogs can help lower stress levels.
  7. Dogs can help fight loneliness.
  8. Service dogs can save lives and help people live more independently.
  9. Dogs can help bolster your microbiome.

See the SingleCare blog post for details on each of these nine points and the research supporting them.

Mixed Results?

Despite so much scientific research supporting the idea that dog ownership is good for your health, there have been studies suggesting the opposite. Some studies have found no difference between the health of people who do and do not own pets. 

In a CNN article, “The benefits of owning a dog—and the surprising science behind it,” psychologist Harold Herzog, a Western Carolina University professor who studies the human-animal connection, noted there are studies that indicate pet owners “are more likely to be lonely, depressed and have panic attacks, more likely to have asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, gastric ulcers, migraine headaches, and use more medicine, et cetera.”

Quoted in the same article, Co-Director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction Megan Mueller said, “A lot of us who have pets think, ‘Oh, they must be uniformly good for us.’ We’re finding is it is a little bit more complicated than we originally thought.

”I always say that it’s not a great question: ‘Are our pets good for us?’ It’s who are pets good for, under what circumstances, and is it the right match between the person and the pet?”

Are You and Your Dog a Match?

While the CNN article says, “Research in this area is booming,” those of us who already own and love our dogs are free to enjoy and benefit from their companionship now, regardless of what researchers report. 

Our advice is to make the most of your relationship with your dog. Focus on cultivating mutual love and loyalty, provide good care and most important of all, have fun!

Is Owning a Dog Good for Your Health? Read More »

Kitten with feather toy

Celebrate Adopt-A-Cat Month

Every June, American Humane observes Adopt-A-Cat Month®, timed to coincide with peak “kitten season.” Many of those kittens end up in shelters where they join adult cats waiting to be adopted.

Where to Find an Adoptable Cat

We recommend the Hendricks County Animal Shelter and Misty Eyes Animal Center as excellent sources of healthy, adoptable cats and kittens. 

The Hendricks County Animal Shelter is in Danville at 250 East Campus Boulevard. The phone number is (317) 745-9250.

For much more information about the county shelter, see our post, “‘A County Shelter We Can Be Proud Of.’”

To see a sampling of cats (and dogs) available for adoption, visit the shelter’s Facebook page.

Misty Eyes Animal Center is at 616 Country Road 800 in Avon. The phone number is (317) 858-8022.

Misty Eyes is currently putting the finishing touches on Kitty City, a spacious new building that can house as many as 400 cats.

Selected pets available for adoption now at Misty Eyes are posted on their website.

Both organizations are open to the public during visiting hours, allowing you to meet and greet adoptable animals in person. 

For First-Time Cat Owners

American Humane has an excellent 10-point “Cat Adoption Checklist” we strongly recommend—especially to first-time cat owners. 

To Introduce a New Cat to Other Cats in the Household 

If you already have one or more cats at home, we encourage you to read American Humane’s “Introducing Cats to Cats.”  

The article offers detailed step-by-step instructions for selecting and bringing a new cat or kitten into your current cat’s home. 

To Introduce a New Cat to Dogs in the Household

Required reading for dog owners planning to introduce a new cat or kitten to the household is American Humane’s “Introducing Dogs to Cats.” This detailed article offers sound advice on matching cats and dogs, step-by-step instructions to facilitate the introduction process and warning signs that the proposed relationship may not work out after all. 

Other Ways You Can Celebrate

Even if you’re not prepared to adopt a cat right now, you can celebrate Adopt-A-Cat Month® by donating food and supplies to the Hendricks County Animal Shelter or Misty Eyes Animal Center. It’s best to call first to find out what’s needed most. 

Both organizations depend on volunteers, so if you’re an animal lover looking to make a difference in the lives of pets waiting for their permanent homes, call to ask about volunteer opportunities.

Celebrate Adopt-A-Cat Month Read More »

Hands holding stethoscope against small puppy

Preventive Care for Better Health and Lower Costs

If you’re like most pet owners, you’re at least somewhat concerned about the costs of pet ownership. An all-too-common money-saving strategy is to postpone or skip preventive care. 

But attempting to lower costs by delaying or cutting back on preventive care—wellness exams, vaccinations, deworming, heartworm and flea and tick preventives—risks not only your pet’s health but also your budget. 

In fact, your regular, ongoing investment in timely preventive veterinary care for your pet is likely to save you money in the long run while helping your pet enjoy a healthier, happier life. 

At home, between visits to the clinic, your ongoing management of your pet’s nutrition, exercise and dental care can further improve quality and length of life while actually reducing the total cost of care over your pet’s lifetime.

Wellness Exams

One survey found that more than half of cat owners and nearly a fourth of dog owners had not visited the veterinarian in the past year. Yet, for adult dogs and cats, nearly all small animal practitioners—including us—recommend an annual wellness exam, with more frequent check-ups for older pets or those with chronic medical conditions. 

These regularly-scheduled exams allow us to detect health problems early when treatment is likely to be easier and less expensive, with the best chances of success. 

Vaccinations

One of the wisest investments you can make in preventive veterinary care is in vaccines to prevent such deadly illnesses as distemper, hepatitis, rabies and Lyme disease. The potential costs of treating any of these conditions far outweigh the cost of the vaccines and, in some cases, protect your family from disease as well. 

Your veterinarian will advise you on the core vaccines recommended for all dogs and cats as well as any additional vaccines worth considering based on your pet’s potential exposure to other, less common diseases. 

Deworming

Dogs and cats can pick up and play host to worms found in their environment—tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and others. Some of these worms can be transmitted to humans.

To avoid the potentially serious and costly health problems that come with worm infestations, we recommend regular testing and deworming as part of ongoing wellness care. 

Heartworm and Flea and Tick Preventives 

One worm in particular—the heartworm—is so debilitating and potentially deadly that it merits annual testing and year-round preventive care. 

See our post, “Protecting Your Pet From Heartworms,” for information about the dangers of heartworms and the preventives you can use to protect your pet.

For detailed information about fleas and ticks, see the ASPCA’s “Fleas and Ticks” page.  

The ASPCA article includes tips for treating your house and yard for a flea infestation, but we recommend a proactive approach to flea control, using preventives to stop a full-blown infestation before it starts. See also the article’s directions for removing a tick from your pet. 

Our veterinarians recommend preventives as a cost-effective way to control both fleas and ticks as well as heartworms year-round.

Spaying and Neutering

Besides preventing unwanted pregnancies, spaying and neutering reduce the risk of mammary tumors and prostate disease and can make your pet calmer and less likely to roam. 

For details on the ideal ages for spaying and neutering your pet, see our post, “When to Spay or Neuter? It’s Complicated.”

Nutrition

The most common nutrition problem we see is overfeeding. The resulting overweight and obesity are associated with arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes. These chronic health problems can be debilitating for your pet and costly to treat.

Consistently feeding your pet the right amount of food (and treats) to maintain a healthy weight not only saves you money on the food itself, but on the treatment your pet would otherwise need to address any of the related health concerns that could develop from overfeeding. 

We also see food-related health issues—especially allergies and intestinal problems—in pets fed low-quality “economy” pet food brands. By upgrading to a higher-quality food, you may well see your pet’s chronic skin and digestive problems resolve over time as a result of improved nutrition. The investment in better food is more than offset over time by the reduced need for medical care. 

Your veterinarian can help you choose an affordable, nutritious pet food and recommend the amount to feed to achieve and maintain your pet’s ideal weight. 

Exercise

Like people, pets benefit from regular, age-appropriate exercise. Walking and playing fetch with your dog benefit you as well as your pet.

See Everyday Health’s “10 Cat Exercises Your Pet Will Enjoy” for ideas on planning an exercise routine for your cat.

Dental Care

Keeping up with your pet’s professional and home dental care can ultimately save you money long-term by reducing the risks of oral and systemic infections and organ damage. 

While only 10% of owners say they brush their pets’ teeth every day, those pets receiving regular home dental care need professional cleanings less often and tend to have fewer problems with their gums and teeth. 

For more information about dental health care for you pet, see our blog posts, “Time to Focus on Your Pet’s Dental Health,” and “Dental Health Care.”

Let Us Customize Your Pet’s Preventive Care Plan

Our veterinarians are happy to recommend a preventive care plan tailored specifically for your pet based on age, breed, general health and lifestyle. Let’s discuss your pet’s plan at your next appointment.

Preventive Care for Better Health and Lower Costs Read More »

Currency featuring $10 bill

Crowdfunding and Grants to Pay Vet Bills

In a previous post, “Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills,” we listed eight possible sources of relatively quick cash to pay for veterinary services. 

In this post, we explore two additional fund-raising options, leading with brief discussions of several crowdfunding platforms, followed by an overview of charitable organizations offering grants to help qualified applicants pay vet bills. 

If you are having financial difficulties and need help paying for your pet’s veterinary care, rather than taking an either-or approach focused on either crowdfunding or applying to charitable organizations for grants, our research suggests you take a both-and approach and explore both crowdfunding and applying for need-based grants you determine you are eligible to receive.

Please note: We’ve prepared this post on crowdfunding platforms and charitable organizations and our “Financial Resources” page for your information only. In most cases, other than verifying their websites are currently up and running, we have no direct experience with the organizations we’ve listed and linked to and do not intend to endorse nor vouch for any of them.

While we’re happy to help you get started on your search for funding your vet bills, it’s entirely up to you to do your own careful, thorough research before setting up a crowdfunding campaign or applying for a grant with any of these organizations. 

Now, let’s look at several crowdfunding platforms.

GoFundMe

You can ask “the crowd”—that is, your family, friends, social media and email contacts, and compassionate strangers—for charitable contributions to cover your pet’s vet bills by setting up a page on GoFundMe, a leader in crowdfunding which has collected a total of $25 billion in donations to individuals and nonprofits since its beginnings in 2010.  

It’s free and easy to set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for your pet’s medical care. A transaction fee of 2.9% + $0.30 will apply to every donation. 

Read about how GoFundMe works.

See also the website’s section on animal-related fundraisers and these two GoFundMe blog posts:

Waggle

Waggle is a crowdfunding platform dedicated exclusively to fundraising to help pay pets’ medical bills. Once you create a free Waggle campaign, supplying your veterinarian’s contact information, your pet’s medical costs estimate and photos of your pet, Waggle reviews your case and if approved, posts it on the Waggle website. 

You can then share the link to your campaign on social media and via email with your contacts. As with GoFundMe campaigns, you may receive donations from people who know you as well as strangers touched by your story.

Instead of sending the money raised to you to pass along to your veterinarian, your veterinarian sends your pet’s invoice to Waggle, and Waggle pays the bill directly to the veterinarian from your campaign proceeds. Your campaign goal cannot exceed the total on the estimate or invoice provided by your veterinarian. The maximum amount a campaign can raise is $2,000.

According to its website, “Waggle’s operating expenses are supported by donors who contribute a small fee at checkout along with an optional tip. This allows us to pass 100% of every donation directly to the chosen pet.”

Our Thoughts on Crowdfunding

In researching this post, we learned of a study of GoFundMe medical fundraising campaigns published in the American Journal of Public Health early in 2022. Researchers analyzed 437,596 GoFundMe campaigns conducted over a five-year period and found only 12% of all campaigns to raise money to pay for human health care services met their goals, and 16% received no donations at all. 

All the campaigns in the first two years analyzed raised at least some money, but in 2018, 0.1% of campaigns raised no money. By 2019, the campaigns producing zero contributions increased to 4.1% and by 2020, to 33.8%.

We know of no comparable study of GoFundMe campaigns to pay for veterinary services. Given the 88% failure rate of human medical care GoFundMe campaigns to reach their goals and the upward trend in recent years toward zero campaign proceeds, we suggest you not only follow the platform’s advice for making your campaign most effective, but explore additional resources, such as charitable foundations, to supplement proceeds from any crowdsourcing campaign you set up for your pet. 

If you find you don’t meet charitable organizations’ eligibility requirements to qualify for need-based grants, revisit our post, “Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills” to explore options for borrowing the money you need.

We also suggest you review crowdsourcing platforms’ “how it works” descriptions carefully and compare fee structures before choosing the one where you’ll set up your campaign. Several of the platforms we reviewed had fairly complicated processes and made it difficult to find complete information about fees that would be applied to donations and distributions.

For example, the pet-focused CoFund My Pet platform differentiates its service by distributing donations through debit cards that work only at veterinary clinics to assure donors their gifts will be used exclusively for veterinary care. 

In trying to determine CoFund My Pet fees, we found information spread among three different frequently-asked-question section responses:

  • “CoFund My Pet has an administration fee of 5% of all donations to support our thorough campaign administration to ensure funds are used only as intended.”
  • “Our credit card processor requires merchant transaction fees of 2.9% and a $0.30 processing charge. This is the industry standard and is common with all platforms.”
  • “CoFund My Pet charges a small administration fee to access the payment networks associated with your campaign. We have purposely tried to keep these costs to a minimum. Simply, we charge a $1 per month campaign maintenance fee as well as $1 per transaction fee each time you use your debit card.”

Like GoFundMe, CoFund My Pet charges a 2.9% merchant transaction fee plus a $0.30 processing charge—standard in the industry, just as CoFund My Pet says. The additional 5% administration fee, monthly campaign maintenance fee and the debit card transaction fees reduce the spending power of your campaign proceeds, compared to GoFundMe. 

Similarly, the Fundly platform deducts a 4.9% fee from each donation, along with the usual credit card processing fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation. 

Before you set up your campaign, dig around the crowdsourcing websites to find the actual fee amounts and do the math. 

Financial Aid Organizations

United by a common cause of animal welfare, there are dozens of charitable organizations dedicated to supporting pet owners who need help paying their vet bills. Most charities’ individual missions focus on the financial circumstances of the people they serve and the nature and urgency of the need. Some limit their grant-making based on the pet’s disease, disability or breed. Some serve only dogs or only cats.

Most charitable organizations’ websites present stories of their founding—often inspired by the founders’ own pets—along with detailed information about eligibility for their grants and the types of expenses they will and will not cover. 

It’s a good idea to read this material carefully before submitting an application to make sure the organization’s mission, policies and procedures align with your particular case. 

While a few charities ask simply for an email message or a “pre-application” with the basic facts of your situation to get the application process started, most have fairly lengthy applications for you to fill out, often requiring input from your veterinarian and documentation of your financial need. Be prepared to invest considerable time in researching each charity you plan to approach and completing each one’s application process as directed.

Many grant-makers pay veterinarians directly, to help make sure funds are used only for paying for medical care. Most will not reimburse you for an invoice you’ve already paid. 

You will most likely be expected to pay at least a portion of the vet bill yourself, and some charities encourage or require you to have made other efforts to get help. Some list other charities for you to consider on their websites. 

Many of these organizations are small and run by volunteers. They have usually registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofits and depend entirely on donations to fund grants and cover operating expenses. They typically report receiving many applications each day and do their best to review them in a timely way. 

Although a few charities make grants of as much as $1,500 or more, most grant amounts tend to be fairly modest, topping out at $250 to $500. 

Brownsburg Animal Clinic has for many years maintained a “Financial Resources” page in the Client Information section of our website where we list organizations dedicated to helping financially strapped pet owners pay vet bills and meet other pet-related needs. Rather than duplicate the list of financial aid organizations in this post, we refer you to our recently updated and expanded list.

We’ve visited all the websites listed and highlighted information we could find to help you choose the most promising organizations for further consideration. 

Please note: We are not able to recommend or endorse specific charities. 

Visit our “Financial Resources” page now.

Crowdfunding and Grants to Pay Vet Bills Read More »

Currency, including $10 and $100 bills

Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills

In a recent post, “The Costs of Owning a Pet,” we cited wide-ranging estimates of first-year and ongoing average costs of dog and cat ownership. 

In two posts that followed, we considered the most and least expensive dog breeds and most and least expensive cat breeds to own.

In this post, as part of our ongoing Pet Care Costs series, we offer ideas for how to pay actual vet bills “in real time”—particularly for those clients who might experience financial hardship if faced with a relatively substantial vet bill.

If you are among those clients, you’re not alone.

The Impact of Vet Bills on 2,000 Pet Owners

In a 2022 Forbes Advisor survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners, 42% of surveyed pet owners said a vet bill of $999 or less would require them to go into debt. 

A bill of $499 would cause 28% of those pet owners to incur debt. 

Only 12% answered “none of the above” amounts, ranging from $1 to $5,000+, would require them to borrow money to pay the bills, with another 5% declining to answer.

While it’s certainly not our place as veterinarians to intrude into the financial affairs of our clients, we do encounter clients every day who tell us they’re struggling financially and having a hard time paying for their pets’ medical care. 

Our hearts go out to them and to their pets—our patients. We hope by sharing some of the solutions they’ve found, we can help other clients find ways to pay for the veterinary services their pets need when they need them.

Expected Costs

Keeping up with exams, vaccines and parasite preventives are the best veterinary care strategies for minimizing potential future costs for treating undetected, advanced illnesses. 

Barring unforeseen screening test results that might indicate a need for further testing or treatment, these preventive care costs are predictable. Your veterinarian can provide written estimates for what you can expect to pay for these services in the coming months. 

Be prepared to cover these predictable costs with readily available funds, either as part of your general household budget or by regularly setting aside savings designated for veterinary care. 

Unexpected Costs

Should your pet get sick or hurt, the additional costs for diagnosis and treatment could cause emotional upset and real financial hardship if you find yourself unprepared to pay unexpected vet bills. 

We assure you, we’ve encountered these situations many times before. Based on the solutions other clients have found to raise the money needed to pay their vet bills, we offer these suggestions for your consideration.

Personal Savings

Ideally, you have regularly set aside some easily-accessible cash in a savings account, either as part of a general-purpose emergency fund or in an account designated specifically for veterinary care. 

Having the cash on hand when you need it is the best way to keep from going into debt because of an unexpected vet bill. Replenish and keep building the account when you’re able to keep yourself prepared for future needs.

Selling Personal Property

Selling personal property—like collectibles, jewelry, electronics, clothes, musical instruments or antiques—to raise cash is easier now than ever before with such online advertising options as eBay, craigslist and Facebook Marketplace—to name only a few. 

You might consider implementing this strategy to liquidate assets now to build your veterinary care savings account before your need for cash is urgent.

CareCredit

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we have for many years accepted CareCredit, a credit card especially designed to cover veterinary care costs. (CareCredit offers cards to pay for medical and dental care for humans, too.) 

CareCredit is different from most “regular” credit cards in a number of ways, offering more favorable terms for veterinary care charges as explained on the company’s website. Also on this page, you’ll find information about the payment terms offered and how to apply for the card. 

If, after visiting the CareCredit website, you believe CareCredit is a good option for you, we suggest you go ahead and apply for your card before you need it. Once you’re approved, you can use the card to pay any invoice at our clinic. Please note, we apply a $5 transaction fee to CareCredit charges of less than $50.

0% APR Credit Card

You may consider opening a new credit card account to be used primarily, if not exclusively, for veterinary expenses. Many cards are available with introductory promotions of 0% finance charges for an initial period of time.

Shop for the most favorable credit card offers online at sites like NerdWallet and BankRate.

Pay attention to when the introductory period ends and do your best to clear the debt before the higher interest rate kicks in. Otherwise, you may find yourself saddled with high-interest credit card debt that takes you years to repay.

Existing Credit Card Accounts

If you prefer not to open a new credit card account, you can rely on credit cards already in your wallet to pay vet bills so long as you have available credit to cover the charge. You may request an increase in your credit limit if needed.

Personal Loans

A NerdWallet survey report, published in October 2022, revealed that 24% of Americans took out personal loans within the previous year, borrowing an average of $5,046.

If you have an acceptable credit history and a dependable source of income, you may qualify for a personal loan from an online lender, bank or credit union.

Personal loans are typically unsecured, requiring no collateral. They often have lower interest rates than credit cards. 

Borrowers make a set monthly payment over an agreed-upon number of months. Some lenders tack on fees, like origination or late fees, to payment amounts.

Most lenders offer online applications and will usually approve or reject your loan request promptly. If you qualify, you could have the money available within as little as a week.

Interest rates vary by lender, and the rate you’ll be offered depends on factors such as your credit score, income and debt-to-income ratio. 

Search online for “best personal loans” to shop for the most favorable terms currently available.

Loans and Gifts From Family and Friends

Asking your family and friends to help you pay your vet bills can be an easy quick-fix for you, but accepting their gifts and loans can potentially complicate your relationships. The wisdom and feasibility of this option depend on the personalities, relationships and resources available to the people involved.

If you accept money from family and friends, make sure all involved clearly understand the terms. Is it a gift? A loan? If it’s a loan, what’s the plan for repayment? When will you begin paying the money back, by how much, over what period of time? Will you pay interest? 

To minimize the risk of damage to your personal relationships, get all these answers in writing before you accept the money, and do your best to honor any commitments you make to repay it.

Paycheck Advance or Loan From Your Employer

Your employer may be willing to give you an advance on your salary or a loan. You may arrange to repay the advance or loan in the coming months through payroll deduction. 

The Worst Ways to Raise Cash

When you are under the emotional stress of having a sick or injured pet and facing a vet bill you can’t immediately pay, you may feel desperate to raise quick cash. 

Options like payday loans, loans against your car title and other loans that don’t require a credit check are among the riskiest and most expensive ways to borrow money. Avoid them if you possibly can.

Sources of Cash to Pay Vet Bills Read More »

Blue-eyed cat

Most and Least Expensive Cat Breeds

As we did in our previous post on “Most and Least Expensive Dog Breeds,” we’re discussing in this post estimated purchase prices and projected health care cost estimates for various cat breeds. 

The estimates we found for the costs of acquiring and caring for various cat breeds are wide-ranging and frankly, may or may not be reliable. As you’ll see, the same estimated purchase prices for several breeds were considered both “expensive” and “affordable,” depending on the article. We’ve included links back to the source articles we found so you can review them for yourself. 

In considering potential health care costs over the lifetime of your cat, remember, generalities about specific breeds are just that—generalities. Your own purebred cat may or may not experience any of the common health issues associated with its breed.

With this post, we mean simply to get you thinking about potential costs associated with buying and caring for various cat breeds. We encourage you to do further research before purchasing a purebred cat of your own so you’ll have a better-informed idea of the potential risks and rewards unique to each breed.

The Most Expensive Cat Breeds to Buy

We found three estimated purchase price lists—one listing the “most expensive” cat breeds, and the other two listing the “most affordable” breeds. 

The list of the priciest cat breeds starts with the Ashera—a breed currently recognized by neither The Cat Fanciers Association, nor The International Cat Association. These cats reportedly sell for $75,000 to $125,000. 

Another cat on the “most expensive” list, the Savannah, reportedly costs $25,000. The rest of the “expensive” breeds are priced at anywhere from an estimated $400 to $5,000. 

Interestingly, on the two lists we found of the “most affordable” cat breeds, several breeds estimated to cost as much $1,000 to $1,500 are included. Clearly, there are no standard definitions of “expensive” and “affordable” when it comes to buying cats.

A 2019 Yahoo.com article, “The Most and Least Expensive Cat Breeds in the World,” quotes what it calls “sometimes staggeringly high prices” for 15 cat breeds. Here are the acquisition cost estimates the article listed for the world’s most expensive breeds:

  • Ashera $75,000 to $125,000
  • Peterbald $1,700 to $3,000
  • Savannah $25,000
  • Bengal $2,000 to $5,000
  • Persian $3,000
  • Sphynx $900 to $1,200
  • California Spangled $800 to $3,000
  • Maine Coon $1,000 to $3,500
  • Egyptian Mau $500 to $800
  • Russian Blue $400 to $3,000
  • British Shorthair $800 to $1,000
  • American Curl $800 to $1,200
  • Korat $600 to $800
  • Ocicat $800
  • Scottish Fold $800 to $1,500

Visit the Yahoo article for commentary on each breed.

In the same article, Yahoo.com included a list of these 15 least expensive breeds: 

  • Oriental Shorthair $400 to $500
  • Turkish Van $200 to $600
  • Manx $200 to $500
  • Havana Brown $300 to $500
  • Himalayan $300 to $500
  • Ragdoll $400 to $1,100
  • Munchkin $300 to $500
  • Snowshoe $200 to $1,000
  • Cornish Rex $700 to $800
  • Siamese $200 to $600
  • Burmese $550 to $1,000
  • Birman $400 to $700
  • American Bobtail $500 to $700
  • Tonkinese $600 to $1,200
  • Abyssinian $500 to $700

As you see, within this article, there’s some overlap of purchase prices considered expensive and those considered affordable.

PetKeen.com published an article, “11 Most Affordable Cat Breeds (with Pictures)” listing these affordable breeds and their estimated purchase prices:

  • Turkish Van $200
  • Ragdoll $400
  • Siamese $200
  • Burmese $500 to $1,000
  • Manx $500 to $800
  • Himalayan $300
  • Cornish Rex $100
  • Oriental Shorthair $400 to $500
  • Havana Brown $300 to $1,500
  • Snowshoe $200 to $250
  • Domestic Shorthair <$50

See the article—with pictures—for estimated lifespan, temperament, colors and commentary on each of the 11 listed breeds.

Note the overlap of affordable breeds named on the Yahoo list with the above list from PetKeen as well as the substantial ranges in purchase price estimates for some of the breeds. To determine actual purchase prices for the breed you’re interested in buying, contact individual breeders.

As a cost-saving alternative to buying a purebred cat from a breeder, consider looking for an adoptable cat at the Hendricks County Animal Shelter or Misty Eyes Animal Center. Purebreds are available from time to time at both facilities.

The Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue organization is a foster-based program with foster homes in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan. Visit the website to see cats currently available for adoption.

What Makes a Cat Breed Expensive to Care For?

Any cat can inherit a genetic disorder, but pedigreed cats tend to be at higher risk than mixed-breed cats for certain known heritable health problems because purebreds are selectively bred from limited gene pools.

In a blog post identifying the seven cat breeds most prone to hereditary diseases, Pawlicy Advisor, a pet insurance marketing company, posted “Which Cat Breeds NEED Pet Insurance?” listing these breeds:

  • Siamese
  • Persian
  • Ragdoll
  • Bengal
  • Sphynx
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Scottish Fold

Following the list is detailed health information, including the most common known hereditary conditions, for each breed.

From a VetHelpDirect.com article, “Do cats get genetic diseases?” a list of common genetic diseases associated with specific cat breeds includes:

  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Osteochondrodysplasia
  • Deafness
  • Hypokalemic Myopathy
  • Diabetes
  • Lymphoma and Small Intestinal Adenocarcinoma
  • Feline lower urinary tract disease
  • Asthma
  • Strabismus
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

See the article for details on these diseases and the breeds most likely to inherit them. 

Keep in mind, while the breed predispositions for certain heritable diseases may be stronger than average for some breeds, all Burmese and Norwegian Forest Cats do not necessarily develop diabetes. All Siamese cats do not develop lymphoma and small intestinal adenocarcinoma, nor are they all asthmatic. And mixed-breed cats can develop these disorders, too. 

Insurance Claims Rankings By Breed

An indicator of breed-specific health care costs is pet health insurance claims data. 

For an article published on PetCareRx.com, pet health insurer Trupanion provided information on the five cat breeds with the highest total lifetime average claims submitted:

  • Siamese $74,638
  • Bengal $73,408
  • Himalayan $69,449
  • Maine Coon $63,683
  • Ragdoll $40,442

See the article for details on common health problems experienced by each of these cat breeds, based on claims submitted. The information about cats starts about halfway through the article.  

Another list based on insurance claims data was published by Forbes Advisor as part of a more general article on pet health insurance. On that list, the ten breeds with the highest average pet insurance claim amounts included: 

  • Siberian Forest Cat $457
  • Bengal $404
  • Mixed Breed Medium-Haired Cat $403
  • Mixed Breed Long-Haired Cat $397
  • Ragdoll $381
  • Mixed Breed Short-Haired Cat $380
  • American Shorthair $376
  • Maine Coon $374
  • Russian Blue $369
  • Domestic Medium-Haired Cat $356

As the individual and lifetime claims averages show, several breeds—Bengal, Ragdoll and Maine Coon—made both lists. Note that four of the ten cat breeds listed as having the highest claims amounts are actually mixed breeds. 

Also bear in mind that claims amounts do not include deductibles and co-insurance—typically 20 to 30%—covered by the pet owner. 

Our Observations

  • As suggested in a previous post, the lifetime costs of buying and caring for any pet can easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Regardless of pedigree and initial purchase price, all cats need to be fed and cared for properly throughout their lives. Before you add any pet to your household, be prepared financially to provide these essentials.
  • Any cat will experience poor health if not fed and cared for properly. You can do your part to keep your cat’s lifetime total healthcare costs affordable by scheduling regular preventive exams, having us administer recommended vaccines and addressing any illnesses and injuries promptly.
  • While breed and breeder research is helpful before you buy, it’s impossible to predict the health outcomes for any individual cat you acquire.

For more information about cat breeds, visit the website for The Cat Fanciers Association, a breed registry founded in 1906. CFA currently recognizes 45 cat breeds as well as non-pedigreed companion cats that make up more than 95% of the cat population.

Another cat registry organization, The International Cat Association (TICA), currently recognizes 73 cat breeds for championship competition. Visit their site for photographs and details about the breeds they register.

Most and Least Expensive Cat Breeds Read More »

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Most and Least Expensive Dog Breeds

In this post, we consider two aspects of expense for owning various dog breeds as pets—acquisition cost and estimated total cost of ownership over the expected lifespan of the dog. 

The figures we’ve included are wide-ranging and perhaps not completely reliable. Click the links back to the source articles to decide for yourself.

Keep in mind, regardless of the reliability of the numbers, the estimated average expenses presented here for buying and caring for dogs of a particular breed may or may not apply to individual dogs. 

The goal of our post is to provide an overview of typical costs of acquiring dogs of various breeds and help you understand health risks by exploring known health issues for the breeds you’re considering. With this information, particularly if the cost of pet ownership is an issue, you can improve your odds of spending less by choosing a breed likely to be more affordable. 

What Makes a Dog Breed Expensive to Buy?

Many variables influence pricing of purebred dogs, and most breeds have a going rate range in the marketplace based on popularity, availability and breeding costs.

On a practical level, prices reflect the breeder’s out-of-pocket costs for the litter, and reputable breeders typically invest substantially more in their litters than do puppy mills and backyard breeders. In addition to food and supplies, medical exams, vaccines and deworming expenses that are typically incurred by all puppies, there could be additional expenses such as stud fees, artificial insemination costs and breed-specific genetic screening tests for the breeding stock chosen to produce a purebred litter.

At least among dog show enthusiasts, purebred pricing is influenced by the breeder’s prestige and record of producing multiple generations of winning dogs. Dogs with impressive pedigrees from leading kennels command higher prices than dogs from less prominent breeders and those not involved in competitive showing. 

The most popular dog breeds are, naturally, most likely to be the most readily available, possibly—but not necessarily—at relatively affordable prices, compared with less popular and more obscure breeds. Labrador Retrievers, French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs and Poodles are likely in greater supply and perhaps more affordable than Norwegian Lundehunds, English and American Foxhounds, Belgian Laekenois and Sloughis.

For any breed, the laws of supply and demand can impact pricing and availability if a breed experiences a sudden surge of popularity because of media exposure. 

Most Expensive Dog Breeds to Buy

One website we found in our research listed “20 Most Expensive Dog Breeds That Are Worth Every Penny.” The list, ordered from least to most expensive to buy, includes breeds with average estimated initial costs of $2,200 to $3,500. 

The 20 breeds, listed in order of estimated average acquisition costs, include:

  • Portuguese Water Dog $2,200
  • Chow Chow $2,250
  • Afghan Hound $2,250
  • Brussels Griffon $2,300
  • Saluki $2,400
  • Leonberger $2,400
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog $2,500
  • English Bulldog $2,500
  • English Toy Spaniel $2,500
  • Giant Schnauzer $2,500
  • Miniature Bull Terrier $2,500
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever $2,500
  • Azawakh $2,500
  • Tibetan Mastiff $2,500
  • Xoloitzcuintli $2,750
  • German Pinscher $2,800
  • French Bulldog $2,800
  • Norfolk Terrier $3,250
  • Norwich Terrier $3,500
  • Neapolitan Mastiff $3,500

Besides estimated average purchase price, the article presents photographs and additional data on each of the 20 breeds, including typical height and weight ranges, personality, activity level, grooming requirements, life expectancy and average lifetime costs ranging from $14,000 to $34,000, along with summary descriptions of breed highlights. 

GoBankingRates published a list of 28 most expensive dog breeds, based on estimated purchase price range, projected grooming expenses, average lifespan and potential healthcare costs for common issues faced by each breed. 

Here are the 28 breeds, with estimated purchase price ranges: 

  • Akita $1,000 to $2,500
  • Alaskan Malamute $1,200 to $2,000
  • Bernese Mountain Dog $1,500 to $3,000
  • Black Russian Terrier $1,000 to $2,500
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel $1,500 to $2,500
  • Chow Chow $1,200 and $2,000
  • Dogo Argentino $1,500 to $2,500
  • English Bulldog $2,000 and $4,000
  • French Bulldog $2,000 and $4,000
  • German Shepherd $800 to $2,000
  • Golden Retriever $1,000 to $2,000
  • Great Dane $1,000 to $2,000
  • Ibizan Hound $2,000 to $2,500
  • Irish Wolfhound $1,500 to $2,500
  • Kerry Blue Terrier $2,000 to $2,500
  • Lakeland Terrier $1,500 to $2,800
  • Miniature Bull Terrier $2,500 to $3,500
  • Newfoundland $1,700 to $2,500
  • Old English Sheepdog $1,800 to $3,000
  • Pharaoh Hound $1,800 to $2,500
  • Portuguese Water Dog $2,000 to $3,000
  • Rottweiler $1,200 to $2,000
  • Saint Bernard $1,000 to $2,000
  • Samoyed $1,500 to $3,000
  • Spinone Italiano $1,200 to $2,000
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier $1,500 to $2,500
  • Tibetan Mastiff $2,500 to $4,000
  • Yorkshire Terrier $1,500 to $3,000

See the article for brief summaries of each breed.

Are Purebreds More Expensive Than Crossbred Dogs?

We define a purebred dog as the product of mating two dogs of the same breed. We define a crossbreed (also known as a hybrid) as resulting from a deliberate mating of two different-breed purebred dogs, such as a Cockapoo from mating a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle, a Labradoodle from a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle or a Puggle from a Pug and Beagle mating. Technically, these are mixed-breed dogs, but in this article, when we refer to mixed-breed dogs, we’re talking about dogs of diverse parentage that most likely was not deliberately selected.

Are purebreds more expensive than crossbreds? In terms of purchase price, it appears the answer is yes.

An article at Worldofdogz.com compared purchase prices for popular purebred and crossbred dogs, demonstrating that purebreds are indeed more expensive than crossbred dogs to buy. 

  • The article listed these estimated price ranges for popular purebred dog breeds:
  • Labrador Retriever $650 to $4,000
  • French Bulldog $3,000 to $10,000
  • Golden Retriever $750 to $5,000
  • German Shepherd $300 to $3,200
  • Standard Poodle $300 to $3,000

Average purebred price $1,000 to $5,040

For comparison, the article listed these estimated purchase prices for popular crossbred dogs:

  • Cockapoo $800 to $3,200
  • Labradoodle $151 to $2,000
  • Goldendoodle $750 to $2,900
  • Puggle $250 to $3,665
  • Shepadoodle $350 to $3,000

Average $460 to $2,953

As these numbers illustrate, the crossbreds—while still potentially somewhat pricey—tend on average to be priced more affordably than purebreds. 

Alternatives to Buying From a Breeder

As an alternative to buying a purebred dog from a breeder, consider adopting a purebred rescue or shelter dog.

Most dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club are available for adoption through the AKC Rescue Network. Locations, availability and adoption fees vary, but procuring your purebred dog through the rescue network can be a lower-cost and more satisfying alternative to buying from a breeder.

About 25 to 30% of shelter dogs are purebreds, so with patience and persistence, you may find a dog of the breed you’ve chosen at the Hendricks County Animal Shelter or Misty Eyes Animal Center.

As you plan your budget, keep in mind adoptable rescue and shelter pets have most likely already been spayed or neutered, fitted with a microchip, vaccinated, dewormed, started on parasite prevention and treated for at least the most urgent health and behavior problems presented when they arrived at the rescue organization or shelter. These initial expenses are usually covered by the adoption fee.

What Makes a Dog Breed Expensive to Care For?

When you choose a purebred dog, you have a good idea of its size at adulthood. As a general rule, the larger the dog, the greater the expense for feeding, equipping, grooming, boarding, insuring and providing veterinary care. 

Because they are more likely to be inbred from relatively small populations, some purebred and crossbred dog breeds may be at greater risk than mixed-breed dogs for developing particular heritable health conditions. These conditions, which can be debilitating for the dog, heartbreaking for you and costly to treat, are generally well-documented for the various breeds and should be a central focus of your breed research. 

For example, as a group, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known to be more prone than average to develop heart disease. German Shepherds have more than their share of canine degenerative myelopathy. Dachshunds have relatively more spinal issues. Boxers have an above-average incidence of cancer. 

While the most reputable breeders select to improve health by screening breeding stock and attempting to eliminate defective genes, some breeders either carelessly or unknowingly disregard such considerations, and some may even select problematic traits on purpose. Bulldogs and Pugs often experience respiratory difficulties because they’re deliberately bred for their short, flat faces. German Shepherds selected for their sloping backs tend to have more hip dysplasia. Shar-Peis selectively bred for their skin folds often suffer from chronic skin infections. Such breed-specific health risks can result in higher veterinary care costs. 

Health Insurance Claims by Breed

One indicator of the cost of care for dogs of various breeds is claims paid by pet health insurers. For example, based on claims filed in 2020, Embrace Pet Insurance reported the five breeds with the highest vet bills were Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Bullmastiffs and Newfoundlands.

On a more detailed short list of dogs with the highest average insurance claims, Rottweilers placed first with an average claim amount of $567.53, followed by Bernese Mountain Dogs with average claims of $412.85, Great Danes at $385.49, English Bulldogs at $370.57 and French Bulldogs at $355.63.

Another list based on insurance claims data was published by Forbes Advisor as part of a more comprehensive article on pet health insurance. On that list, the ten breeds with the highest average pet insurance claims include: 

  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog $425
  • Rottweiler $401
  • Dogue de Bordeaux $395
  • Cane Corso $386
  • American Bulldog $376
  • Irish Wolfhound $375
  • American Staffordshire Terrier $373
  • Mixed Extra Large Breeds (111 Lbs +) $368
  • Bernese Mountain Dog $367
  • Bull Mastiff $366

The dog breeds identified with the lowest average pet insurance claims are actually crossbreds including the Australian Labradoodle at $226, followed by the Miniature Goldendoodle at $230 and the Shichon at $241.

Bear in mind, these figures reflect individual claims amounts—not the total vet bills which would typically include the owner’s deductible and typical 20-30% share of the cost. 

Projected Lifetime Costs of Ownership

Marketwatch.com’s “Most and Least Expensive Dog Breeds” lists these five breeds (including two crossbreeds) as having the highest total estimated ownership costs:

  • Giant Schnauzer $34,410 over a 14-year lifespan
  • Goldendoodle $32,675 over 13 years
  • Tibetan Mastiff $32,485 over 11 years
  • Black Russian Terrier $30,200 over 11 years
  • Labradoodle $29,475 over 13 years

Many additional details about costs of ownership for each breed and crossbreed are included in the article.

Least Expensive Dog Breeds

A 2021 article published on Yahoo’s finance site listed these 30 least expensive dog breeds and their estimated average purchase prices:

  • Manchester Terrier $600
  • Schipperke $650
  • Irish Terrier $650
  • German Wirehaired Pointer $700
  • Border Collie $525
  • Beagle $650
  • Australian Terrier $550
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi $550
  • Otterhound $550
  • Dalmatian $700
  • Chihuahua $650
  • Cesky Terrier $400
  • Field Spaniel $550
  • Redbone Coonhound $650
  • American Pit Bull Terrier $600
  • Pekingese $500
  • Bichon Frise $525
  • Affenpinscher $400
  • Dachshund $500
  • Papillon $400
  • Pug $350
  • English Setter $350
  • Treeing Walker Coonhound $500
  • Miniature Pinscher $500
  • American Foxhound $475
  • Parson Russell Terrier $400
  • Plott Hound $275
  • Black and Tan Coonhound $350
  • Rat Terrier $350
  • Harrier $300

Visit the article to see photographs and find additional details about life expectancy, potential ailments and estimated healthcare and grooming costs for each of the 30 breeds.

In an article on Marketwatch.com, these are listed as the five least expensive dog breeds based on estimated total costs over the lifetime of the dog: 

  • Japanese Chin $13,695 over 11 years
  • Boston Terrier $14,620 over 12 years
  • English Toy Spaniel $14,980 over 11 years
  • Toy Fox Terrier $15,255 over 14 years
  • Jack Russell Terrier $15,405 over 13 years 

See the article for more cost of ownership details for each of the five least expensive breeds.

Our Observations

  • As noted in a previous post, the lifetime costs of owning any dog can easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars. All dogs, from the most to least expensive, need nutritious food, exercise, training, basic equipment like crates and leashes and a safe, secure environment in which to live. All dogs also need ongoing veterinary care including regular medical exams, vaccinations and parasite preventives and diagnosis and treatment of any illnesses and injuries along the way. Supplying the essentials for whatever dog you choose costs money.
  • While many genetic diseases are more common in purebreds, any dog—purebred, crossbred or mixed breed—can inherit genetic diseases that disable the dog, upset you and your family and require possibly extensive, expensive veterinary care.  
  • Maladies associated with a particular breed will typically manifest in only a percentage of the dogs, perhaps with a higher prevalence in some bloodlines. All German Shepherds won’t necessarily develop hip dysplasia. All dogs of the Belgian breeds will not develop epilepsy. All Flat Coated Retrievers will not have cancer. 
  • No amount of research can predict the health outcomes of an individual dog you acquire. Doing research to determine common health problems prevalent in a particular breed will help you understand the risks associated with owning a dog of that breed, but there are no guarantees that any individual dog—purebred, crossbred or mixed-breed—will or will not experience a genetic disorder during its lifetime. 
  • Any dog can suffer ill health if not fed, kept safe and cared for properly. Besides providing basic food and shelter, seeking timely ongoing preventive care by our veterinarians is your best strategy for helping control the total cost of veterinary care and improving the quality of life for your dog and yourself over your dog’s lifetime.  

For more information about dog breeds, visit the American Kennel Club website. Since 1884, the AKC has been registering dog breeds, keeping track of pedigrees and working with breed clubs, local kennel clubs and obedience clubs to organize dog shows year-round throughout the country. Of the 340 dog breeds known throughout the world, the AKC currently recognizes 199 breeds.

Most and Least Expensive Dog Breeds Read More »

Close-up of a $100 bill with a coin in the background

The Costs of Owning a Pet

How much does it cost to own a dog or cat?

Our online research shows the answer depends on whom you ask, and most of the estimates we’ve found are so wide-ranging as to be of limited value to anyone trying to budget accurately for cat or dog ownership. 

Still, we hope our research findings will be useful as you consider the financial obligations that come with pet ownership and make best estimates of your own based on your experience and typical purchasing choices. (You know if you’re the sort who would buy the basic $20 litter box or the $650 self-cleaning model.)

In two upcoming posts, we’ll focus on breed-specific acquisition and health care costs for dogs and cats to identify the most expensive and most affordable breeds. 

In this post, we look at some average cost estimates for owning any dog or cat, regardless of breed, and conclude with some ideas for saving money on pet care. 

Please Note

As noted, the annual cost estimates range widely—sometimes by factors of 10 or more—with differences amounting to thousands of dollars. Some of the lowest figures and several of the highest estimates seem too low to us, based on our experiences caring for our own and our clients’ pets. Especially for larger pets and breeds prone to health problems, the upper-range estimates for some services and procedures may be substantially lower than real-world prices in our area of the country. In particular, the estimated maximum prices for spay/neuter surgeries seem unrealistically low.

We also note that regardless of the adoption fees listed in the articles we found, the Hendricks County Animal Shelter’s current adoption fees are $70 for adult dogs, $150 for puppies, $20 for adult cats and $70 for kittens. We’ve included the other adoption fee estimates we found for comparison. (See our National Shelter Appreciation Week post for more information about our county shelter.)

As you plan your budget, keep in mind adoptable shelter pets have most likely already been spayed or neutered, fitted with a microchip, vaccinated, dewormed, started on parasite prevention and treated for at least the most urgent health problems presented when they arrived at the shelter. These initial expenses can be considered covered by the adoption fee.

For accurate, written estimates of our clinic’s fees for exams, vaccines and medical procedures for your dog or cat, talk to your veterinarian. 

Whether or not any of the following general estimates align with the precise amount you’ll end up spending on your pet, our goal is to raise awareness of the financial obligations that come with pet ownership. If you’re thinking of adding a pet to your household, we hope this post will give you an overview of the potential financial obligations that come with owning a cat or dog before you finalize your plans and bring your new pet home.

A Range of Cost Estimates

In a web page published in 2021, “Cutting Pet Care Costs,” the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals itemizes average ongoing costs for both dogs and cats as well as initial and “special” costs.

The ASPCA estimates total initial costs for dogs and cats—not counting what you pay for the pet itself—to be $1,030 for dogs and $455 for cats. Ongoing annual maintenance costs are projected at $1,391 for dogs and $1,149 for cats.

The special costs listed are $300 for professional dog grooming and dental care estimated at $500 for dogs and $300 for cats.

On the Money Under 30 website, “The Annual Cost of Pet Ownership: Can You Afford a Furry Friend?” sets estimated annual expenses at $400 to $4,000 plus one-time costs typically incurred during the first year. 

In itemizing cat costs, the article lists these first-year expenses:

  • Adoption fee $40 to $300 
  • Vaccinations $65 to $200 a year
  • Spay/neuter surgery $150 on average, $50 to $500 depending on the individual case
  • Microchip $45 average
  • Initial supplies $86 to $580
  • Litter box $6 to $350
  • Collar $20 to $50
  • Bed $15 to $50
  • Crate $20 to $40
  • Scratching post $15 to $50
  • Food and water bowls $10 to $40

The article estimates total first-year costs of cat ownership at $386 to $1,335 and suggests budgeting at least $1,000.

Ongoing annual cat care costs include:

  • Cat food $120 to $500
  • Toys and treats $30 to $100
  • Litter $30 to $300
  • Medical expenses $100 to $750
  • Insurance $108 to $360

These yearly cost estimates for owning a cat amount to $388 to $2,010.

Money Under 30 estimates first-year costs of dog ownership as follows:

  • Adoption fee $100 to $800
  • Vaccinations $115 to $230 a year
  • Spay/neuter surgery $35 to $500
  • Microchip $50
  • Training $30 to $1,250
  • Initial supplies $90 to $290
  • Collar, harness and leash $30 to $75
  • Bed $20 to $75
  • Food and water bowls $30 to $100

The site estimates total initial costs of dog ownership between $420 and $3,270 and suggests a minimum budget of $2,000.

Ongoing annual dog care cost estimates include:

  • Dog food $120 to $900
  • Toys and treats $30 to $200
  • Medical expenses, including check-ups, dental care and vaccines $750 to $1,750
  • Insurance $280 to $1,030
  • Additional supplies $30 to $250

In all, Money Under 30 estimates ongoing yearly costs for dog ownership at $1,210 to $4,130 and suggests budgeting at least $2,500.

For both cats and dogs, Money Under 30 suggests setting aside savings to cover ongoing expenses and building an emergency fund to cover unexpected illnesses and accidents. Pet health insurance, estimated at about $45 a month for dogs and $25 a month for cats, can provide reimbursements for unexpected medical treatments provided the condition is covered by the policy.

More Dog Cost Estimates

In an August 2022 article published at Money.com, “How to Budget for a New Dog,” the author discusses a broad range of estimated upfront costs as well as recurring expenses over the ten or more years you’re likely to be caring for your dog. 

Upfront costs cover such essentials as spay or neuter surgery, vaccinations and basic equipment and supplies. One rover.com survey, cited in the article, reported that 38% of dog owners estimated upfront costs at about $500 when actual costs ranged from $1,050 to $4,480.

Money.com projected recurring expenses to range from $480 to $3,470 a year with optional expenses like pet health insurance, dog walkers and sitters potentially adding $1,210 to $4,040 to the total.

Variables noted as impacting expenses are the dog’s age, size and health as well as where you live.

The Money.com article continues by comparing the cost of acquiring a dog from a pet store or breeder to the cost of adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization. Acquisition costs vary among breeds as do feeding and health care costs. We will explore these breed-related variables for both dogs and cats further in future posts.

In an article ranking states for “spoiled dogs” (Indiana dogs ranked 20th), Forbes Advisor reported on a survey of 5,002 dog owners that asked about spending on such extravagances as costumes, birthday parties, strollers, perfume, pedicures, homemade dog food and restaurant treats, and health care and grooming, relative to expenditures on human members of the household. See the article for details of the survey responses.

In a section titled, “How Much Does It Cost to Own a Dog?” Forbes Advisor reported survey respondents said they spend an average of $730 a year on their dogs, with 41% saying they spend $500 to $1,999 a year and 8% reporting spending more than $2,000. More than a third—36%—reported spending only $200 to $499. 

Dog food topped the list of expenses, at 47%, followed by vet bills at 28%, treats and toys at 10% and professional grooming at 6%.

Visit the page for a complete break-down of survey responses about annual expenditures. Bear in mind, these figures are based on the owners’ self-reports of their spending and may not accurately reflect actual costs. 

More Cat Cost Estimates

On the ASPCA brand pet insurance website, “How Much Does It Cost to Have a Cat?” the post author discusses the potential costs of adopting a cat from a shelter ($50 to $175) and buying from a breeder (possibly $750 or more) as well as listing one-time purchases of such essentials as a litter box, a cat carrier, collar and ID tag, scratching posts or mats and food and water bowls. Optional accessories listed include a bed, water fountain, cat shelves, window perches and tech gadgets such as computerized toys and two-way video. No price estimates are included for these items.

The article cites ASPCA annual cost estimates of $634 for routine medical exams, vaccines and parasite preventives, food, treats and toys plus a few extras such as catnip or an extra scratching mat.

Unexpected costs may include fixing household damage caused by your cat’s scratching and territory marking as well as unexpected medical expenses for treating illnesses and accidents.

There follows a brief discussion of pet health care insurance as a way to mitigate unexpected veterinary care costs.

Money-Saving Suggestions

In “Cutting Pet Care Costs,” the ASPCA offers these suggestions:

  • Schedule regular check-ups
  • Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines could safely be eliminated for your pet
  • Spay or neuter your pet
  • Brush your pet’s teeth
  • Protect your pet from parasites
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes around your pet
  • Consider pet health insurance
  • Buy high-quality pet food
  • Groom your pets at home

Visit the page on the ASPCA website for details on each tip.

In the Money.com article, money-saving suggestions include:

  • Making your own toys and accessories
  • Buying accessories like crates and water bowls second-hand
  • Do-it-yourself grooming
  • Buying food at a discount by subscription
  • Using reward and cash-back credit cards to pay your pet’s expenses
  • Hiring bargain-priced friends, neighbors and family members as dog walkers and pet sitters
  • Taking advantage of senior and military discounts when purchasing products and services for you pet
  • Researching grants, financial aid and other resources to help pay for unexpected illnesses and accidents

The ASPCA Pet Insurance article on the costs of owning a cat offers five cost-saving tips:

  • Buy in bulk
  • Shop around
  • Make your own toys
  • Make your own cat treats
  • Consider pet insurance

In its survey report about spending on dogs, Forbes Advisor advocates buying pet health insurance as the one suggestion for “taming veterinarian bills.” We agree, pet health insurance is a wonderful idea. Be advised, however, that the Forbes Advisor website earns commissions if you buy a policy through one of its links. 

Our Money-Saving Advice

The Brownsburg Animal Clinic team reiterates and adds these cost-saving suggestions:

  • Consider the costs before you bring a new pet into your household
  • Adopt a shelter or rescue animal rather than buying from a breeder
  • Let us recommend an affordable, nutritious food for your pet
  • Schedule wellness exams when recommended
  • Brush your pet’s teeth to reduce the risk of periodontal disease and delay or possibly even eliminate the need for a professional cleaning
  • Prevent illnesses (and obey Indiana law) by having us administer the appropriate vaccines for your pet
  • Give recommended parasite preventives year-round
  • Prevent accidents by keeping your pet indoors or in a fenced yard and keeping potential hazards out of reach
  • Consider buying pet health insurance to reimburse you for unexpected major medical costs of treating covered illnesses and injuries. 

For a list of charitable organizations serving pet owners facing unexpected major medical costs, visit our Financial Resources page.

The Costs of Owning a Pet Read More »

Three kittens looking out a door

Calling All Cat Lovers

Since being domesticated more than 9,500 years ago, cats have remained popular pets valued for their grace, beauty, independence and companionship. Currently, about 25% of American households are home to an average of 1.8 cats.

Cat Care Resources

Our team is dedicated to supporting all our feline patients in living long, healthy, happy lives. We’ve chosen the following links as some of the most informative and helpful sources of sound, reliable cat-care advice for our cat-loving clients.

Especially helpful for relative newcomers to cat ownership, the ASPCA’s General Cat Care guide provides a good overview of the basics of caring for a cat.

PetMD’s Complete Cat Health Guide for Every Life Stage offers cat-care advice organized by life stage—kittens from birth to 12 months old, adult cats from 1 to 8 years old, senior cats from 8 to 15 years of age and geriatric cats aged 15 to 20 years.

From the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, here’s an overview of recommended preventive care for cats.

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Feline Health Center conducts feline-related research and provides authoritative educational resources for cat owners and breeders and veterinary professionals.

How You Can Help Our Feline Friends

Unfortunately, cat overpopulation is a sadly serious issue. About 3.2 million cats are taken into shelters each year. Only about 100,000 are reunited with their owners. About 2.1 million cats are placed annually in adoptive homes. About 850,000 are euthanized.

If you have room in your home and heart to take in a feline companion, we encourage you to adopt a cat from Misty Eyes Animal Center or the Hendricks County Animal Shelter. If you’re not interesting in adopting, you can still support cats at either or both organizations by offering cash donations and volunteer help.

Calling All Cat Lovers Read More »

Older woman with yellow Labrador retriever

‘Make A Wag’ Helps Elderly Clients and Their Pets

Jeff Sutarik, DVM with a brown dog
Jeff Sutarik, DVM

I recently returned to the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine campus for a conference. There I met the mother of one of my Purdue vet school classmates, Jeff Sutarik, DVM. 

The Class of 2005 was hit hard back in Fall 2019 when we learned Jeff had died unexpectedly. 

During his 15 years in practice, Jeff had become passionate about helping aging pet owners care for their pets. To honor his memory, his family founded Make A Wag—a charitable organization that helps elderly pet owners of limited means pay for unexpected and/or emergency veterinary care for their pets. 

At the conference, Jeff’s mom asked any of us with our own clinics if we would help spread the word about Make A Wag. Of course, as owner of Brownsburg Animal Clinic, I am happy to oblige.

How Make A Wag Works

Make A Wag logo

Make A Wag reimburses veterinarians and veterinary clinics to cover the costs of unexpected and/or emergency care for pets whose owners are 65 years old or older and of limited financial means. 

A veterinarian fills out the Make A Wag application and supplies documentation to request reimbursement of expenses already incurred. 

Clinics with multiple veterinarians can apply multiple times, but each veterinarian is limited to a maximum reimbursement of $2,500 per calendar year to cover costs of veterinary care for one or more elderly clients’ pets.

Make A Wag distributes funds directly to the veterinarian or clinic making the application. The veterinarian then reimburses the client or credits his or her clinic account for the amount of the Make A Wag grant.

If You Need Help

If you are 65 years old or older and struggling to pay for your pet’s veterinary care, talk to your veterinarian about applying for reimbursement from Make A Wag. 

If You’d Like to Help

To make a tax-deductible donation to Make A Wag, visit the organization’s website.

Jeff was a great person and veterinarian, and Make A Wag is a worthy cause. I encourage you to join me in honoring Jeff’s memory by supporting elderly pet owners and their pets through this organization.

‘Make A Wag’ Helps Elderly Clients and Their Pets Read More »

Cat inside shelter cage reaching for a man's fingers outside the cage

‘A County Shelter We Can Be Proud Of’

Brownsburg Animal Clinic joins the Humane Society of the United States in celebrating National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week November 6 through 12.

In particular, we honor our own Hendricks County Animal Shelter for its many years of dedicated service to our county.

“I’m really proud of our shelter,” said Cherie Fox, co-founder, board president and director of animal operations for Misty Eyes Animal Center, an all-volunteer rescue organization based in Avon that collaborates with shelters to save lives and place pets in loving homes.

“The Hendricks County Animal Shelter is a government-run shelter,” said Fox, “but it’s not a 1950s dog pound any more. They are doing a remarkable job. It’s a county shelter we can be proud of.”

LaDonna Hughes is chief animal control officer and Hendricks County Animal Shelter manager. She’s been in charge of running the shelter since mid-2013.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Hughes, “but I still hear the word ‘pound’ a lot. We get called the dogcatcher. There’s so much more to what we do than catching dogs.”

Besides capturing and providing a safe haven for stray animals county-wide, our county shelter takes in pets from owners who can no longer care for them and makes homeless pets available for adoption. The Hendricks County Animal Shelter is also charged with investigating abuse and neglect cases and following up on reports of injured animals. They are responsible not only for domestic pets but livestock and wildlife, too.

Shelter Facts and Figures

There is currently no organization officially charged with tabulating statistics for animal shelter operations in the United States. The following nationwide figures are estimates from several sources.

  • As of 2021, there were more than 3,500 animal shelters.
  • About 6.3 million companion animals are taken into shelters each year, including about 3.1 million dogs and 3.2 million cats. Of those, about a quarter are pets surrendered to the shelter by their owners. About half are captured as strays.
  • The average shelter admits more than 1,100 animals a year.
  • About 10% of shelter animals have been spayed or neutered.
  • About 25% of dogs in shelters are purebreds.
  • About 810,000 stray animals taken into shelters, including 710,000 dogs and 100,000 cats, are reunited with their owners.
  • About 4.1 million shelter animals, including 2 million dogs and 2.1 million cats, are placed in new homes each year.
  • Indiana shelters house 2.11% of the nation’s shelter animals and account for 2.07% of shelter adoptions.
  • About 920,000 animals are euthanized each year, including 390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats.
  • About 65% of dogs entering shelters are adopted and 13% are euthanized.
  • About 66% of shelter cats are adopted and 17% are euthanized.

The Hendricks County Animal Shelter

Our county’s animal shelter is in Danville at 250 East Campus Boulevard. The phone number is (317) 745-9250. The shelter is open to the public six days a week.

  • Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Thursdays 12 noon to 6 p.m.
  • Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The shelter is closed on Sundays and holidays and in inclement weather.

Local Statistics

During 2021, the Hendricks County Animal Shelter took in 1,490 animals. Of those, 455 were placed in adoptive homes. 

Rescue organizations pulled 338 animals from the shelter in 2021, including about 300 rats and small animals confiscated in two hoarding and neglect cases handled by the county last year.

The euthanasia rate in 2021 was 6%. Only severely ill and dangerously aggressive animals were euthanized.

“I am pretty proud of that 6% euthanasia rate,” said Hughes. “There was a time about 10 years ago, when our rate of euthanasias was 77% of our total admissions.”

Admissions to the Shelter

The shelter has 34 dog kennels and 60 cat cages to accommodate animals admitted to the shelter.

Animals come to the shelter as strays or from owners who can no longer care for them. Owners who want to surrender their pets to the shelter may be referred to a rescue organization or put on a waiting list until space is available. 

The intake process involves a basic medical examination and essential health care.

“We check them over the best we can,” said Hughes. “We give them core vaccines and start them on flea and tick preventives. We test for heartworms and start them on preventives or treat them if they test positive.”

The shelter has to hold animals taken in as strays for three business days before making them available for adoption so that owners have a chance to claim them. “We take their picture and put up a shelter alert on our Facebook page in hopes of finding the owner,” said Hughes.

Animals surrendered by their owners may be placed for adoption 24 hours after being admitted to the shelter. 

“People still ask, ‘Are you going to kill it after three days?’” said Hughes. “We get that a lot. 

“If they’re adoptable, they will be cared for and kept safe either here or with a rescue organization until they’re adopted. We don’t set deadlines on these animals, and we don’t euthanize for space. Only if an animal is dangerously aggressive or too ill for treatment, will we euthanize.”

To Adopt a Shelter Pet

Some pets available for adoption from the Hendricks County Animal Shelter are listed on Petfinder.com.

You can also see available pets as well as recently-adopted pets and their new families on the shelter’s Facebook page

For your convenience, the shelter makes the adoption application available online for you to complete and bring with you when you visit the shelter.

“We’re open to the public six days a week, and we invite anyone looking to adopt a dog or cat to stop by for a visit to see all the pets available now for adoption,” said Hughes. 

“Sometimes we have multiple applications for the same animal. We go through those and try to get the best fit, based on the applicant’s situation and their interactions with the animal. For some, we might suggest a better fit—maybe encourage them to go home and do some research to find a breed that might be better-suited to their activity level and lifestyle. 

“We always do our best to place each animal into the best possible adoptive home.”

Current adoption fees, set to help defray the costs of vaccines, spaying or neutering and any needed medical treatment, are $70 for adult dogs, $150 for puppies, $20 for adult cats and $70 for kittens.

To Donate to the Shelter

The shelter welcomes donated supplies. While needs change over time, some supplies are always welcome. “Right now, the most helpful donation would be regular chlorine bleach,” said Hughes. “We can always use any kind of dog food as long as it doesn’t contain red food dye, and any kind of cat and kitten food. We also need clay litter.”

Tax-deductible cash donations to the Hendricks County Animal Shelter can be made to the Hendricks County Friends of the Shelter, a 501(c)(3) organization.

“All the money given to Friends of the Shelter goes directly into a medical fund for the animals,” noted Hughes.

To Volunteer

The shelter welcomes volunteers to help care for and play with the animals, clean cages, launder blankets and towels, do clerical work and staff special events. 

To volunteer at the shelter, you must be 18 years old or older or at least 16 years old and accompanied by a parent. You must complete a Volunteer Application Form and attend a volunteer orientation session before starting to work.

“Right now, I would most love to have more volunteers in here walking the dogs,” said Hughes. “We walk them all in the morning, but sometimes we can’t get to all of them in the evenings.” 

If you are interested in providing a temporary foster home for a pet, the shelter will connect you with a partner rescue group in our area, such as Misty Eyes.

Other Ways You Can Help

“We have a huge pet overpopulation problem and the pandemic has intensified it,” said Fox.

“In central Indiana we have five low-cost spay and neuter clinics that had to shut down for months at the outset of the pandemic. That left us with thousands of animals that haven’t been fixed and thousands of unwanted litters. Despite everything we’d done to get ourselves ahead with spays and neuters, the pandemic set us back about 10 or 15 years.”

“I agree 100 percent,” said Hughes. “We’ve been over capacity for a good year now.”

You can do your part to help reduce the pet overpopulation problem by spaying or neutering your own pet.

You can also minimize the chances your pet will be taken in as a stray at the shelter by taking these simple steps:

  • Do not allow your pet to run loose.
  • Keep a collar with identification tags on your pet at all times.
  • Have an identification chip implanted in your pet.

In Appreciation

We at Brownsburg Animal Clinic appreciate the vital role the Hendricks County Animal Shelter plays in looking out for the welfare of all the animals in our county.

We applaud the progress the shelter has made in recent years to reduce the euthanasia rate to 6%—a direct result of their commitment to find homes for every adoptable pet, whether through direct placement from the shelter or through a rescue organization such as Misty Eyes.

We hope you will consider supporting the shelter and the dogs and cats waiting there to be adopted into their new homes.

‘A County Shelter We Can Be Proud Of’ Read More »

2022 Word Rabies Day logo

World Rabies Day

September 28 is World Rabies Day.

The day is celebrated annually by the World Health Organization to raise awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight progress in defeating this deadly disease.

This year’s theme, ‘Rabies: One Health, Zero Deaths,’ will highlight the connection of the environment with both people and animals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an informative page about rabies on their website. We encourage all our clients to visit the page and learn more about how to protect themselves and their families from this deadly, but vaccine-preventable disease.

In Indiana, all dogs, cats, and ferrets three months of age and older must be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. After their initial vaccine, dogs and cats receive boosters according to the vaccine manufacturer’s recommendations. Although there are rabies vaccines for dogs and cats that specify annual boosters, more often only the first booster is due after 12 months, with remaining boosters due every three years after that.

Visit the Indiana state website for additional information about rabies.

Besides risking your pet’s and your family’s health, keeping a dog six months old or older that has not received a rabies vaccination is against the law. For complete information about Indiana’s laws concerning rabies vaccines, visit the state web site.

To make sure your pet’s rabies vaccines are up-to-date, call our office. We will be happy to check your pet’s records and let you know when the next vaccine or booster is due.

We require all patients visiting the clinic to have current rabies vaccinations. If you bring in a pet whose vaccine is overdue, we will administer the vaccine if the pet’s health permits. Read about our policy here.

World Rabies Day Read More »

White cat nose-to-nose with cream-colored dog

All About Appointments

Like most general veterinary medical practices, we manage our workflow and minimize our clients’ waiting time by seeing patients by appointment only. We offer several types of appointments to accommodate the pet’s and the owner’s particular needs.

Among the options:

  • Wellness visits
  • Sick visits
  • Emergency visits
  • Work-in visits
  • Drop-offs
  • Tech Visits
  • Referrals

To keep things running smoothly, we have established policies for dealing with scheduling, delays, cancellations and “no-shows.”

For details of the types of appointments we offer and how we manage them, visit the Appointments page in the Client Information section of our website.

All About Appointments Read More »

Screen shot of WebMD's Fetch website home page

WebMD for Pet Health

Many of you may be familiar with WebMD as a source of reliable online information about human health.

But did you know WebMD also maintains a pet health web site with specialized sections for dogs and cats?

While we haven’t reviewed every single veterinary health-related article on the site, the information we have seen appears to be accurate. And some of the topics on the site and in the emailed newsletters look interesting and fun.

As with your human family’s health care,  however, we encourage you always to look to your own doctor as the primary source of definitive information about preventive care, diagnosis and treatment.

The doctors and staff at Brownsburg Animal Clinic are here to answer your questions about the specifics of your pet’s health. We hope you’ll use the information you find online at WebMD and other pet health sites to start a conversation with us.

WebMD for Pet Health Read More »

Hand holding a cutaway model of a dog's ear

The Ears Have It

One of our favorite sources of information for clients is the American Veterinary Medical Association YouTube channel.

Today’s topic is ear care for dogs and cats.

First, here’s a brief overview on ear care for dogs. Please note at about a minute and a half in, there’s a recommendation NOT to use cotton swabs. We agree! Cotton swabs can push debris further into the ear canal and possibly injure the ear.

And here’s a video on ear care for cats.

The Ears Have It Read More »

Dog trainer Ian Dunbar speaking

Ian Dunbar on Dog-Friendly Dog Training

We came across this very insightful TED* talk by Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, dog trainer, animal behaviorist and author. Over the past several decades, Dr. Dunbar has written many books and DVDs about puppy and dog behavior and training, including AFTER You Get Your Puppy, How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks and the SIRIUS® Puppy Training video.

For much more information and free resources by Dr. Dunbar, including a comprehensive online dog training textbook, visit Dog Star Daily.

*TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged.

Ian Dunbar on Dog-Friendly Dog Training Read More »

Three border collies hugging

Hugs May Be Stressful for Dogs

We came across a Psychology Today blog post in which author Stanley Coren suggests that most dogs find hugs stressful.

The research involved analysis of photographs posted on the Internet. More than 80% of dogs being hugged showed signs of discomfort, stress or anxiety.

We encourage all our dog-owning clients–especially those with children in the household–to read the article. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort when being hugged, it’s a good idea to find other ways to show your affection.

Hugs May Be Stressful for Dogs Read More »

Doggone Safe homepage

Reduce the Risk of Dog Bites

We’ve discovered an organization dedicated to teaching dog lovers like you how to educate children—and adults, too—about reducing the risk of being bitten by a dog.

This website belongs to a non-profit organization called Doggone Safe, founded to promote education initiatives to prevent dog bites and increase child safety around dogs. The organization also provides tools and resources for professional dog trainers, behavior consultants and pet care professionals to support dog bite prevention education. 

You don’t have to be a pet care professional to become part of Doggone Safe’s efforts to prevent dog bites. We encourage you to visit the Doggone Safe website to find out how you can become a certified Dog Bite Prevention Educator right here in the Brownsburg community.

Reduce the Risk of Dog Bites Read More »

A blue-eyed reclining cat

Behavior Issues for Cats

We joke about “herding cats” as an impossibly difficult task, but behavior problems in pet cats can be serious and, fortunately, can be addressed.

A good overview of behavior issues in cats is on the ASPCA’s web site. Covered topics include—

Let Us Help

Call us for additional insights on how to address these and other behavior problems your cat may be having.

Behavior Issues for Cats Read More »

Google home page screen shot

Calling Dr. Google

Within the medical community, doctors and staff sometimes refer disparagingly to “Dr. Google”  and the clients who search the Internet for medical information.

67% of pet owners bring Internet research on their phone or web page print-outs.

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we choose a more enlightened view of our Internet-based colleague. We appreciate it when our clients take the initiative and try to learn more about their pets’ health so they can ask better questions and make better-informed decisions.

To get the greatest benefit out of online resources as a complement to the medical advice you receive from our veterinarians and staff, we suggest you stick to mainstream veterinary medical sites. In our experience, sites maintained by professional societies and colleges of veterinary medicine offer more reliable information than sites maintained by individual veterinarians.

Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite online sources:

The American Heartworm Society’s web site has a pet owner resources section that is ideal for learning the basics about heartworm disease and its treatment and prevention.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) maintains an informative web site with guidelines for controlling internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. There are sections for dog owners and cat owners and one containing articles of interest to families. Clickable maps show the prevalence of various kinds of parasites in the United States. Click on Indiana and see a county-by-county breakdown. The Resources tab reveals a list of brochures and articles.

VeterinaryPartner.com has a wealth of reliable veterinary medical information for pet owners. While the site design is busy and dated, the search function makes it easy to find articles about specific topics.

The Cornell Feline Health Center web site,  published by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, focuses on all major aspects of caring for cats.

Cornell’s Canine Health Center web site offers similar resources to help care for dogs.

Calling Dr. Google Read More »

Medical records folders on a shelf

HIPAA for Pets

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we maintain detailed medical records on every one of our patients. From time to time, our clients ask us to share those records with veterinary specialists, emergency clinics, breeders, groomers and training clubs. By state law, we cannot release your pet’s records without a signed authorization from you.

Doctors’ handling of human patients’ medical records are subject to HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. While HIPAA does not apply to veterinary records, many states—including Indiana—have implemented similar regulations to protect the privacy of animals’ medical records and information about their medical condition.

Here are the specific regulations for Indiana, as summarized by the American Veterinary Medical Association:

An animal’s veterinary medical record and medical condition is confidential and may not be furnished to or discussed with any person other than the client or other veterinarians involved in the care or treatment of the animal without written authorization of the client with the following exceptions:

An animal’s veterinary medical records and medical condition must be furnished within five (5) business days without written client authorization under the following circumstances:

(1) Access to the records is specifically required by a state or federal statute.

(2) An order by a court with jurisdiction in a civil or criminal action upon the court’s issuance of a subpoena and notice to the client or the client’s legal representative.

(3) As part of an inspection or investigation conducted by the board or an agent of the board.

(4) As part of a request from a regulatory or health authority, physician, or veterinarian:

(A) to verify a rabies vaccination of an animal; or

(B) to investigate a threat to human or animal health, or for the protection of animal or public health and welfare.

(5) As a part of an animal cruelty report and associated applicable records that are part of an abuse investigation by law enforcement or a governmental agency.

(6) To a law enforcement agency as part of a criminal investigation.

An animal’s veterinary medical records and medical condition may be furnished without written client authorization under the following circumstances:

(1) To the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, the animal disease diagnostic laboratory, or a state agency or commission. However, an animal’s veterinary medical records remain confidential unless the information is disclosed in a manner allowed under this section.

(2) Veterinary medical records that are released by the board of animal health when in the judgment of the state veterinarian the disclosure is necessary or helpful in advancing animal health or protecting public health.

(3) For statistical and scientific research, if the information is abstracted in a way as to protect the identity of the animal and the client.

Authorize Now

We have a multi-purpose form that includes an authorization to release your pet’s records when you ask us to.

For your convenience, we encourage you to download and complete the form now and return it to our office so we may respond without delay any time you ask us to share your pet’s medical records.

You can also use this form to notify us of changes in your address or phone number.

HIPAA for Pets Read More »

Assorted capsules and pills for humans

Medicines for Humans Can Be Dangerous for Pets

Nearly half the calls to the Pet Poison Hotline involve pets who have ingested over-the-counter or prescription drugs for humans.

In some cases, the pet got into the pill bottle or daily dose holder on its own. In others, a well-meaning owner deliberately gave the drug to the pet to relieve pain, nausea or other symptoms. Owners who store their pets’ prescription medicines next to their human family members’ prescriptions sometimes pick up the wrong bottle and accidentally give the pet a dose of a drug prescribed for a human in the household.

And pet owners sometimes use a drug prescribed for one pet to treat another. This is especially risky when using a drug prescribed for a dog to treat a cat.

Surprisingly dangerous are common over-the-counter pain relievers, including non-sterioidal anti-inflammatories–NSAIDS–such as Aleve, Advil and Motrin, and acetaminophen–the active ingredient in Tylenol. Even one or two pills can be seriously damaging and even deadly for pets.

For a top-ten list of medicines for humans and their damaging effects on pets, visit the Pet Poison Helpline.

Although aspirin is not on the Poison Helpline’s top-ten list, treating your pet with aspirin before coming in for an office visit can delay treatment with a more effective drug because we have to wait for the aspirin to clear the pet’s system before starting the appropriate drug. In these cases, using aspirin as a “home remedy” in hopes of avoiding an office visit keeps your pet in pain longer and slows recovery.

Before using a drug intended for humans to treat your pet, call our office to confirm it is safe and effective and to determine the proper dosage.

If you discover your pet has ingested a drug meant for humans on its own, and it’s during our office hours, call us immediately. We need to know the name of the drug, the dosage and how many pills you believe your pet has swallowed. We may have you bring your pet in right away, or we may refer you to an emergency clinic. We may have you call the Pet Poison Helpline, or we may call on your behalf to consult with the toxicologists on the most effective treatment.

After hours, call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 and be prepared for a trip to the emergency clinic.

Medicines for Humans Can Be Dangerous for Pets Read More »

Fireworks display

Managing Your Pet’s Noise Anxiety

Over the upcoming extended Independence Day weekend, chances are at least 40 percent of our canine patients will experience anxiety during the celebratory fireworks—the most common trigger for dogs with noise aversion.

Fireworks are a source of suffering for 81% of dogs diagnosed with noise aversion. That’s why the busiest day of the year for intake of runaway dogs in animal shelters is July 5 and why we strongly recommend that you not take your pet to any holiday celebration that includes a fireworks display.

Unlike most people, noise-averse pets do not enjoy fireworks, and may become anxious enough to break free and run away. Trying to find a lost pet after dark in a large, crowded public space is a challenge we don’t want any of our clients to face!

Summer thunderstorms can trigger similar fears, causing panic and dangerous reactions, destruction of furniture and fixtures, self-inflicted injuries and frantic escapes.

Cats can be noise-averse, too, but their fear responses are usually not as pronounced. A cat may retreat to a favorite hiding place when frightened by noise, but otherwise appear unfazed. So most of our clients’ concerns about noise anxiety involve dogs.

Diagnosing Your Dog’s Noise Aversion

Illustrations Showing Noise Aversion Symptoms

The manufacturer of Sileo, a drug we prescribe to treat noise aversion, offers a checklist you can download and print to diagnose your dog. (Hit the back button on your browser to return to this page.)

Home Remedies for Noise Aversion

Home remedies we recommend in mild to moderate cases include playing soft music to mask the noise and carrying on as usual. It’s tempting to comfort a fearful dog, but a better approach is to signal all is well by engaging in normal behavior. A little cuddling is fine, but anything you can do lighten the mood is most helpful. If you can, just be present to your dog.

You may create a “safe spot” for your pet in a windowless interior room, like a closet or bathroom, complete with bed and blankets, where he or she can feel secure while riding out the storm or fireworks display.

Making favorite treats and toys available can help—especially toys that might distract, like a peanut-butter-filled Kong toy. In administering treats, just be careful not to reward fearful behavior.

Thundershirts, which work by applying gentle, constant pressure to the pet’s body, similar to swaddling a baby, are also popular and have helped many dogs and cats.

Helpful Medical Treatment

If noise makes your dog anxious, and home remedies aren’t working as well as you’d like,  we can help.

For more severe cases, there are drugs we can prescribe to reduce anxiety and keep your dog relaxed and safe during fireworks, storms and other noisy conditions.

The drugs we most often prescribe to alleviate anxiety symptoms are Xanax and Sileo, and for the best effect, we recommend administering them 30 minutes prior to the anticipated noise.

If home remedies are not effective and you would like to see if drug therapy is indicated, the first step is an office visit to assess the severity of the anxiety and discuss treatment options with you.

While we can’t promise a quieter summer, we may well be able to provide a calmer, more relaxed summer for your noise-averse dog. If you’d like our help, call to schedule an appointment today.

Managing Your Pet’s Noise Anxiety Read More »

Fireworks display

Are You Ready for July 4?

With Independence Day fast approaching, are you prepared to protect your pet from the anxiety and injuries that can come with exposure to fireworks?

Fireworks are Noisy!

While most humans enjoy the lights and sounds of a fireworks display, many pets experience the noise as unnerving or even terrorizing.

If you think your pet may be afraid of fireworks, see our recently updated post about how to diagnose and treat your pet’s noise anxiety.

Order Anti-Anxiety Refills Now

If your pet takes a prescription drug to manage anxiety, we encourage you to call in your refill request today to make sure we have the drug you need in stock and are able to dispense it well before the fireworks begin.

Fireworks Can Burn!

Lighted fireworks can cause severe burns and trauma to the face and paws of a curious pet. Keep your pet safely away from the area where fireworks are being ignited.

Fireworks Can Be Swallowed!

Unlit fireworks can be swallowed, obstructing your pet’s digestive tract and introducing potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals. Make sure any fireworks you’ve purchased for your celebration are stored safely out of reach of pets (and children).

Are You Ready?

We encourage you to protect your pet from fireworks this Independence Day! If you have questions or need our help in evaluating your pet for noise anxiety issues, learning about home remedies or discussing medical treatment, call now.

Are You Ready for July 4? Read More »

Timea H. Brady, DVM, and her dogs

Summer Safety Tips

June 21 marks the beginning of summer.

We found an AVMA video that gives a great overview of how to keep your pet safe during the summer months. Even if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, we encourage you to watch the first two and a half minutes for a good description of heat stress, including emergency measures you can take.

Summer Safety Tips Read More »

FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system

Better Care for Diabetic Pets

For owners of diabetic pets—about one of every 300 dogs and one of every 230 cats—monitoring blood glucose (blood sugar) levels is a familiar part of diagnosing and managing the disease. 

Traditionally, veterinarians have relied on blood glucose curves to evaluate diabetic pets’ blood glucose levels. To set the data points for the curve, we would draw blood every 2 hours during a day-long stay at the clinic, providing us with 4 to 6 separate test results to chart the pet’s blood glucose levels at intervals throughout the day. 

Many patients tolerated the repeated blood draws well, but some were understandably uncooperative. After all, who wants to spend an entire day at the hospital having blood drawn every couple of hours? 

The resulting struggles with resistant pets were not only stressful for patients and team members but sometimes caused blood sugar to rise—a condition called stress hyperglycemia—making the results potentially unreliable as an indicator of the pet’s blood glucose levels on a normal day at home. 

We also had no convenient way to use traditional blood glucose curves to monitor fluctuations in blood glucose levels after-hours and during the night.

A Better Way

We’ve recently adopted a faster, easier, more comprehensive and less painful way to monitor diabetic pets’ blood glucose levels—a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system that uses a sensor applied to the pet’s skin and a hand-held reader or a smartphone app the pet owner uses at home to scan and automatically upload data from the sensor. 

Used in human medicine for nearly a decade, Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 14-day CGM system is now Brownsburg Animal Clinic veterinarians’ method of choice for monitoring pets’ blood glucose levels to help diagnose and manage diabetes. 

How it Works

To get started, we call in a prescription to the client’s pharmacy for a FreeStyle Libre 14-day sensor to bring to the pet’s appointment to have the sensor applied. The pet owner also needs to buy a reader or download a smartphone app to use at home to collect readings from the sensor. 

Dog with blood glucose sensor attached

Readings can begin about an hour after the sensor is applied and activated with the reader or compatible smartphone. The pet owner scans data by holding the reader or phone within an inch or two of the sensor. The scanned data is automatically uploaded to an online account the pet owner shares with our veterinarians to give them access to test results. 

We recommend taking readings at least every 8 hours for continuous monitoring. Except in cases of medical emergency, our veterinarians usually wait 5 days before reviewing the pet’s blood glucose graphs and will contact the owner only if adjustments to the pet’s insulin dose need to be made. After the initial review, the doctors may monitor additional reports stored in the account to calibrate changes in the insulin dose.

While the sensors can potentially collect data continuously for as long as 14 days, most sensors do not stay in place on companion animals for the full 2 weeks. Ideally, a newly-applied sensor will stay put and keep tracking for at least a few days as we adjust insulin dosages, leading to better glucose regulation sooner. Even a single day of data from a sensor provides us considerably more information than the 4 to 6 data points provided by a single blood glucose curve.

Over time, we anticipate the cost of using FreeStyle Libre for ongoing monitoring and management of a diabetic pet’s blood glucose levels will be comparable to and perhaps even somewhat lower than the cost to administer a single traditional blood glucose curve. 

The ability to take continuous readings around the clock in the pet’s home environment, the pet’s reduced stress and discomfort, and the quality and quantity of data provided by FreeStyle Libre, added together, are priceless. 

We’ve created a handout for owners of diabetic pets to explain in detail how the FreeStyle Libre system works and will be happy to answer questions about how this technology will improve ongoing care for your diabetic pet. 

Visit our Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs and Cats page to learn more about symptoms to look for and how we collaborate with our clients to manage their pets’ disease successfully. 

Better Care for Diabetic Pets Read More »

Face mask being held by someone wearing a white coat and gloves

Mask Requirement Update

In response to recent revisions to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for managing COVID-19 risks, face masks are now optional inside our building.

Our masks-optional protocol aligns with CDC recommendations for Hendricks County—currently classified at “low” for our community level—a county-by-county rating based on new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.

To check the current community level for Hendricks and other counties of interest, use the CDC’s online tool.

What This Means to Our Clients and Team

As long as our community level stays at “low,” our clients and team members will no longer be required to wear masks indoors.

In keeping with the CDC guidelines, should the Hendricks County community level rise to “medium,” we will expect clients and employees who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease to talk to their healthcare provider about whether or not they need to wear a mask and act accordingly.

If Hendricks County’s community level rises to high, we will once again require everyone to wear a mask indoors.

Regardless of our current community level, we expect some clients and team members will continue to wear masks simply because they feel more secure wearing a mask indoors.

CDC Guidelines for All Community Levels

At all three community levels, the CDC advises everyone to stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and to follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested, if exposed to or having symptoms of COVID-19.

Free at-home tests are available from the U.S. government at COVIDtests.gov. We encourage all our clients and employees to order these tests for their households and keep them on hand to use if someone develops symptoms, has a close exposure to someone with COVID-19 or wants to spend time indoors with someone who would be at high risk if they were to catch the coronavirus.

If you are sick or test positive for COVID-19, or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, we ask that you stay home. Call the clinic at (317) 852-3323 to reschedule your appointment.

Curbside Service Still an Option

For clients who prefer not to come inside, given the new masking protocol, we will continue to offer curbside service.

Curbside service is also a convenient option for prescription and food pick-up and technician appointments.

Whether or not you plan to come inside with your pet for your appointment, we ask that you call (317) 852-3323 when you arrive in our parking lot.

Mask Requirement Update Read More »

Belgian Malinois

Choosing Your Next Dog

Channing Tatum’s new movie “Dog” features the popular actor co-starring with a Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) named Lulu, portrayed onscreen by three different dogs. 

If the movie’s a hit, the Brownsburg Animal Clinic team won’t be at all surprised in the coming months to see an uptick in the number of Belgian Malinois among our new patients. 

We know Mals can be great pets, but we also know they could potentially be “too much dog” for many of our clients. Whether or not these “Dog”-inspired adoptions will work out well for the dogs and families involved depends on how good a fit this intelligent, high-energy herding breed is with the clients’ households and lifestyles as well as on the temperaments of the individual owners and their dogs. 

Before you go looking for a Lulu of your own—or a Lassie (Collie), a Toto (Cairn Terrier), a Marley (Labrador Retriever), a Beethoven (St. Bernard), a Rin Tin Tin (German Shepherd Dog) or any other breed that strikes your fancy—we strongly encourage you to do plenty of research on the breed you’re considering before bringing home a puppy!

Researching the Breeds

A Google search for “choosing a dog” produces approximately 179,000,000 results, with some pages far more authoritative and informative than others. We suggest the American Kennel Club website as a great place to begin learning about established dog breeds. There you’ll find reliable information about each of the 197 breeds currently recognized by the AKC. 

For example, if you leave the theater after seeing “Dog” convinced your next dog must be a Belgian Malinois, your first stop on the internet should be the Belgian Malinois breed page on the AKC website. There you’ll find a summary of key breed characteristics that should alert you to the realities as well as the rewards of ownership of a typical Belgian Malinois. 

Midway down the page, you’ll find a link to the American Belgian Malinois Club website. The first heading on the homepage says, “This is NOT Your Typical Pet Dog,” and after briefly summarizing the breed’s assets, the first paragraph in that section concludes, “But, the Malinois is NOT for everyone.”

In the page footer, you’ll find links to related pages of interest, including a firsthand account by a Belgian Malinois owner, “Is the Belgian Malinois a Good Fit for You?

Suppose after reading these pages you realize, despite your enthusiasm for the three well-bred, professionally-trained dogs you enjoyed watching play Lulu for two hours on the big screen, in real life a Belgian Malinois in your home 24/7/365 for the next 14 to 16 years will almost certainly require more time and attention than you can realistically expect to offer. 

As a next step, you might enjoy visiting the AKC’s online Dog Breed Selector. After answering a series of simple questions, the selector tool will recommend several breeds for your consideration. Chances are you can find a more suitable breed to consider for yourself and your family. Browse their breed pages to see if the recommended breeds might be a better match for you and your household.

Also on the AKC site, we encourage you to read “What Dog is Right for Me? How to Choose the Perfect Breed.” Then browse more breed pages. Watch dog shows online or on TV. Better yet, visit shows in person and talk to the breeders and exhibitors (after they’ve finished showing for the day). 

A Look at the Bigger Picture

For even more practical advice on choosing a pet dog, offered from the veterinary perspective, see “Selecting a Pet Dog” on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website. To get the most from this page, answer all the questions presented as thoroughly and honestly as you can.

Let Us Help

Finally, in addition to online research, we encourage you to talk to us before you finalize your decision to acquire a dog of an unfamiliar, potentially challenging breed. 

We’ve devoted our careers to caring for pets and their owners, and we have observed relationships between a variety of clients with a variety of breeds. We’re happy to share what we know about what it’s like to own and care for all sorts of purebred dogs.

We see many clients who are happily devoted to their mixed-breed dogs and recommend you also consider adopting a mixed-breed dog from Misty Eyes Animal Center in Avon or some other reputable rescue organization. 

As always, as your veterinarian, our primary mission is to support you in your relationship with whatever dog you choose. We wish you and all our clients the happiest of endings to all your pet adoption stories.

Choosing Your Next Dog Read More »

Dead mosquito

Heartworm Prevention is a Year-Round Commitment

One crisp winter day, I spotted—and swatted—a mosquito in my kitchen. As much as a I love all creatures great and small, I am first and foremost a doctor dedicated to protecting my loved ones, including family members and patients, from the many diseases mosquitoes carry—not to mention, the discomfort of itchy mosquito bites.

Long before the mosquito-borne Zika virus became such a concern in human medicine, heartworms, which are also carried by mosquitoes, have been a concern for veterinarians.

Fortunately, the proverbial ounce of prevention for dogs and cats is readily available in the form of heartworm preventives, such as the many brands we carry in our online store.  We also stock heartworm preventives at the clinic. Our doctors are happy to discuss how these products work and help you choose which one is right for your dog or cat.

All the pets in our household are on heartworm preventive year-round, so even if the mosquito I encountered had managed a bite,  the risk of their being infected would have been quite low.

But some clients insist their pets need heartworm preventive only during the summer months because mosquitoes are not a problem at other times of the year. A few insist their pets don’t need heartworm preventive at all because they stay in the house all the time.

The fact is, while there are more mosquitoes during the warmer months, there is no time of year when mosquitoes are not present in our climate.

And mosquitoes can and do come indoors, looking for people and pets to provide the protein and iron found in blood to make their eggs.

To learn more about heartworms, visit The American Heartworm Society’s “Heartworm Basics” page.

Heartworm Prevention is a Year-Round Commitment Read More »

Pet owner shaking hands with ddog

New Job Title for Front Desk Staff

During Brownsburg Animal Clinic’s more than 50 years of operation, the team members who work at the front desk have been called “receptionists.” While they do indeed receive clients and patients visiting the clinic, they do so very much more!

To recognize and reflect the role played by our front desk staff more accurately, we have created a more fitting job title: Client/Patient Service Representative—CPSR for short.

“The new title suggests a much more accurate and complete description of the role our front desk team members play in our relationships with clients and patients,” said Brownsburg Animal Clinic owner Timea Brady, DVM. “Most often, they are the first team members our clients interact with when they call or visit the clinic and the last ones they see when they check out. But there’s a lot more to the job than that.

“They have always been much more than receptionists,” added Dr. Brady. “They are also listeners, educators, advocates, scheduling gurus, decision-makers and liaisons between clients and the rest of the team. The Customer/Patient Service Representative title does a better job of conveying that.”

The Job Description

Receiving human, canine and feline visitors to the clinic is only one of many duties of a CPSR. Here’s a more complete list:

  • Greet clients and patients on arrival at the clinic and let technicians know they have arrived
  • Check out clients after appointments, prescription and food pick-ups
  • Answer phones, check voicemail messages and return phone calls
  • Monitor and respond to email messages to the main clinic account, mail@brownsburganimalclinic.com
  • Monitor the fax machine and send faxes as needed
  • Answer and assess the urgency of clients’ questions in person, by phone and by email, conferring with technicians and veterinarians as needed to see that the patient receives timely, appropriate care
  • Log clients’ questions and concerns into the medical records and bring the information to the attention of the veterinarians as needed
  • Log prescription refill requests and forward them for approval by the prescribing veterinarian
  • Schedule appointments, dental procedures and surgeries
  • Manage the clinic’s prescription diet orders to make sure the foods our patients need are always in stock
  • File charts and loose paperwork from the previous day
  • Print appointment check-in sheets for the next day and retrieve the patients’ charts
  • Keep the front lobby and reception area clean and organized
  • Unlock the building in the morning and lock up at the end of the day

A Focus on Patients as Well as Clients

While many veterinary clinics have adopted the Customer Service Representative or CSR title for their front desk staffs, the new, more complete title includes patients as well as clients, an idea Dr. Brady approved. 

“When we began considering the title change, I suggested making us not just client service reps but client and patient service reps—CPSRs—because we don’t just advocate and act as liaisons with the rest of the team for the client. We are always advocating for the best possible care for the pets—our patients—as well.”

The CPSR Team

“I think one of the most challenging parts of the job for me is the constant need to switch between tasks,” said Katherine, who joined the clinic team in late 2017. “It can certainly make the day go by quickly, but toggling between the variety of tasks we have, such as checking clients in, checking clients out, scheduling appointments, entering prescription refill requests and passing patient updates and concerns on to the doctors—just to name a few—all while answering sometimes non-stop phone calls—certainly keeps us on our toes!

“We love helping all our patients, but I think one of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing a sick patient regain their health with the help of our team. Nothing beats seeing a happy wagging tail or hearing a happy purr from a patient who was really feeling under the weather.”

For Stephanie, who came to work at the clinic in September 2021, the primary challenges are in learning a new field. “Fortunately, I love having the opportunity to learn new things every day and I find it very rewarding to use my growing knowledge to help people and their pets.”

CPSR Kelly, who joined the team in December 2021, finds it challenging to be thought of as “just a receptionist.” She said, “I have been in this field for more than 25 years, and I work hard every day to learn and provide the best care to all—pets and people.” For her, the greatest satisfaction comes with “knowing that at the end of the day, I have provided the best quality of care that I possibly could to clients, pets and co-workers.”

We’re Here to Help You and Your Pet

To contact any member of the Client/Patient Service Representative team, call (317) 852-3323 or send email to mail@brownsburganimalclinic.com.

New Job Title for Front Desk Staff Read More »

Dog looking at camera next to the word xylitol superimposed over a large red X

Protect Your Dog from Xylitol Poisoning

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Xylitol (which also may be known as birch sugar or wood sugar) is a sweetener used in many foods and products for people (things like certain gum, sugarless ice cream, candy). Though safe for humans, xylitol can be deadly to dogs and other pets.”

Here’s a brief video from the FDA, warning pet owners of the dangers of xylitol and offering tips on protecting your dog from xylitol poisoning:

For details, including a more comprehensive list of products containing xylitol and more information on the danger the sweetener poses to dogs, read the FDA’s accompanying article, “Paws Off Xylitol; It’s Dangerous for Dogs.”

Protect Your Dog from Xylitol Poisoning Read More »

Reclining dog sniffing reclining cat's ear

New Clients to Deposit Exam Fees Before Scheduling Appointments

Effective immediately, Brownsburg Animal Clinic is collecting advance payments from prospective new clients before scheduling their first appointments.

The payment amount is $58 per pet to be seen at the appointment—our standard fee for a physical examination—and will be credited to the prospective new client’s account and applied to the first invoice.

How It Works

  • The prospective new client calls our clinic to schedule a first appointment for one or more pets.
  • After gathering the basic information about the client and pet(s), our team member asks for credit or debit card information and authorization to charge the exam fee(s) to secure the appointment.
  • If the prospective new client needs to reschedule the appointment and lets us know during our normal office hours at least 24 hours in advance of the scheduled appointment time, we will reschedule the appointment and the prepayment will remain as a credit in the new client’s account.
  • If the prospective new client decides to cancel the appointment and lets us know during office hours at least 24 hours in advance of the scheduled appointment time, we will refund the advance payment.
  • If the prospective new client cancels without sufficient notice or simply fails to show up for the appointment, the advance payment is forfeited and there will be no refund.

Why the New Policy?

Like any veterinary practice that works by appointment, we have always had the occasional “no call-no show” client who scheduled an appointment and then failed to show up. Sometimes an emergency or an unexpected delay occurs or the client loses track of time or simply forgets. We understand. Life happens.

Unfortunately, as demand for veterinary services has increased and scheduling backlogs have built up during the pandemic, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of scheduled appointments that are neither cancelled nor kept—particularly among prospective new clients.

In addition to all the usual reasons for failing to keep appointments, we believe these pet owners may be calling multiple practices and scheduling multiple appointments, planning to keep only the one with the first available veterinarian at any clinic in town. Unfortunately, they sometimes neglect to cancel the appointments they don’t plan to keep, and one or more veterinary teams is left waiting to care for the new patient who never arrives.

We find this especially frustrating at a time when there are so many clients who would have been happy to have that unkept appointment for their pet, and we would have been happy to spend that time caring for our patient sooner rather than later.

We hope by implementing this advance payment policy for prospective new clients, we will encourage them to be more mindful of the appointments they make while reducing the number of appointments that go to waste.

This policy also applies to established clients who have a history of failing to keep scheduled appointments.

New Clients to Deposit Exam Fees Before Scheduling Appointments Read More »

Sleeping cat and dog

Policy Update for Prescription Refills

To make sure our patients have uninterrupted access to their prescription drugs, Brownsburg Animal Clinic has recently updated our prescription refills policy, asking clients to allow at least 48 hours or two full business days for us to process refill requests.

Previously, we expected to refill most prescriptions within 24 hours—and we often still do.

But in these times of increased demand for our services, we’ve determined a more realistic turnaround time is 48 hours, or two full business days.

For drugs we don’t normally keep in stock, the lead time required could be even longer.

If we haven’t examined your pet recently, we may not be able to approve the refill until you’ve scheduled an appointment for an exam.

And if the prescription is for a controlled substance, Indiana law requires us to comply with strict regulations to help prevent drug abuse and drug trafficking, creating additional paperwork and documentation before we can dispense the drug.

What This Policy Change Means to You and Your Pet

If your pet has an ongoing need for a prescription drug, we ask for your cooperation in making sure you have it on hand when you need it. That means:

  • Keeping an eye on your supply and requesting the refill well before you run out.
  • Calling or emailing to ask if an examination will be required before the refill can be approved and if so, scheduling an appointment.
  • Being prepared to supply identifying information and a photo ID of the pet’s owner and/or the person to whom we’ll be dispensing the drug if the prescription is for a controlled substance.

To request a refill, email us at mail@brownsburganimalclinic.com or call us at (317) 852-3323.

For more details about how we manage prescription drugs—including Indiana’s Prescription Monitoring Program for controlled substances—visit the Prescriptions and Refills page on our website.

Policy Update for Prescription Refills Read More »

Gloved hand holding two test tubes containing blood

How We Manage Lab Test Results

If your pet has needed laboratory tests lately, you may have been impacted by yet another of the many continuing consequences of the pandemic: It usually takes longer for us to receive, review and interpret test results now than it did in the days before March 2020.

Here’s why:

  • Like our veterinary colleagues throughout the nation, we are experiencing unprecedented demand for our services. 
  • In the earliest weeks of the pandemic response, we were allowed to offer only “essential” services, creating a backlog of demand for wellness visits and elective procedures. 
  • Clients spending more time at home with their pets continue to notice more health issues and call for more appointments. 
  • We (and many of our colleagues) are seeing more new clients and patients who need our services. 
  • Although we’ve improved with experience, curbside service is still somewhat less efficient than face-to-face interactions, reducing the number of appointments we can offer in a given day and lengthening the time required for each visit. Phone lines are often tied up. Hold times are longer. Nerves are frazzled. This situation has eased since we reopened our exam rooms to clients, but we are still offering curbside service to clients who prefer it and for tech appointments and prescription and food pick-ups.

Through it all, Brownsburg Animal Clinic has been and steadfastly remains here for you and your pet. Our mission is to care for as many patients as we can capably manage while upholding our standards for safety and quality of care. While it may not be “business as usual” as we and our long-term clients had come to know it before the onset of the pandemic, our veterinarians and team remain committed—as always—to providing uncompromising patient care to the very best of our abilities.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Laboratory Test Results

Every laboratory test result requires careful scrutiny and thoughtful evaluation by the veterinarian handling the case. The process cannot and should not be rushed. 

How soon our veterinarians and team members are able contact you to discuss your pet’s test results depends on a number of factors. To manage these factors and address the many competing priorities demanding our time and attention every day, we rely on a triage (pronounced TREE-ahzh) system to manage our workflow, including review and analysis of laboratory test results. 

When you bring your pet in for an appointment and the doctor or technician take tissue, urine or a fecal sample, or draw blood, we send the specimen to the laboratory—either in-house or outside, depending on the test. How soon we receive test results can vary depending on the lab’s case load and the type of test.

Once the results are in, how soon the veterinarian or a team member can be ready to discuss test results with you varies, too, depending on our current workload and the potential urgency of the case.

In the past, each of our doctors typically had one or two test reports to review and interpret each day. Currently, we are each receiving results from as many as five to seven lab tests a day, and we have to review and interpret each report, formulate a diagnosis and treatment plan options for every case, and contact each owner to discuss next steps. 

Using our triage system, we fit this higher volume of lab report-related tasks in among our other duties—seeing pets at regularly-scheduled appointments, performing surgical and dental procedures, completing medical records, reviewing requests for prescription refills, offering medical advice, answering questions and, if necessary, handling emergency cases that may come in.

Within the context of all these daily duties, here’s how we apply triage principles to lab reports:

  • Test results for more urgent cases and sicker pets take priority over more routine tests, such as wellness blood tests for apparently healthy pets. A veterinarian treating a seriously ill pet will typically make time to review lab test results at the first opportunity.
  • Depending on the purpose of the test and the pet’s medical history, we can sometimes analyze a lab report showing all results within normal ranges more quickly than we can evaluate a report showing one or more abnormalities. A pet who shows symptoms of illness yet tests normally may require further consideration and analysis.
  • Regardless of the pet’s apparent state of health, lab reports showing concerning abnormalities may prompt a full review of the pet’s medical records and, perhaps, additional research and consultation to arrive at a diagnosis and develop treatment plan options. 

We realize waiting for test results can be agonizing—especially when you’re worried about a sick pet and anxious to find out the diagnosis and get on with treatment. We share your concern and assure you, we always do our very best to process lab test results in the most insightful and timely way possible. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding!

How We Manage Lab Test Results Read More »

Puppy resting its head on a kitten's head as they snuggle

Steady As We Go With COVID Precautions

We are—for now—continuing the policies we implemented last June 1 when we welcomed clients back into our exam rooms. Here’s a reminder of the basic protocol:

  • Call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 when you arrive in our parking lot for your appointment.*
  • If you want to come inside with your pet, a team member will come out and escort you into the building, straight to an exam room.
  • Please plan on having no more than two people come in with your pet.**
  • We will be wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from you throughout your visit.
  • Regardless of your vaccine status, we expect you to wear a mask covering your nose and mouth all the time you’re in our building.
  • Once you’re in the exam room, we ask you to remain seated.
  • Check-out will happen in the exam room.

*Forgot your cell phone? Please come knock on the front door when you arrive.

**Euthanasia appointments can be an exception to the two-person-inside rule, should more than two members of your family wish to be present. Just tell us how many will be coming inside when you call to let us know you’ve arrived.

Curbside service is still an option for those of you who prefer to wait in your cars while we take your pet inside for examination, diagnosis and treatment.

Curbside service is the only option for clients who are unwilling to wear a mask while inside our building.

We are also relying exclusively on curbside service for technician appointments and food and prescription pick-ups.

We appreciate your continuing cooperation!

Steady As We Go With COVID Precautions Read More »

Reclining chow chow with standing cat

We’re Welcoming Clients Back Into Our Exam Rooms June 1

On Tuesday, June 1, we will reopen our exam rooms to clients who want to come inside for their pets’ appointments.

That’s right! The eye-to-eye interactions we’ve all missed so much during the many months of curbside-only service are once again an option so long as the infection rates in our area stay reasonably low and our clients are willing to follow a few simple precautions.

Curbside service will still be available to clients who prefer to stay in their cars. If you’d rather stay outside and communicate with us by phone, we’ll be happy to take care of getting your pet inside for the appointment and returned to your car when we’re done.

Curbside-only service will continue for technician appointments and food and prescription pick-ups.

Starting Tuesday, June 1—

  • Call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 when you arrive in our parking lot for your appointment.
  • If you want to come inside with your pet, a team member will come out and escort you into the building, straight into an exam room.
  • Please plan on having no more than two people come in with your pet.
  • We will be wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from you throughout your visit.
  • Regardless of your vaccine status, we expect you to wear a mask covering your nose and mouth all the time you’re in the building.
  • Once you’re in the exam room, we ask you to remain seated.
  • Check-out will happen in the exam room.

If you are unwilling or unable to take these precautions once you’re inside our building, we will ask you to return to your car for the rest of the appointment.

Why the Masks?

We expect everyone to wear masks because it’s a simple, easy, effective way to continue to minimize risks for everyone—especially for those who are not vaccinated and those who are at high risk of complications from COVID. Masks still are the best precaution we can all take to keep everyone safe and make sure we can continue to care for our patients without interruption.

We will continue to monitor area infection rates as well as clients’ compliance with our guidelines and will revert to curbside-only service if necessary.

Our lobby remains closed until further notice.

Thank you for your continuing patience and understanding. We truly look forward to seeing you again!

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

We’re Welcoming Clients Back Into Our Exam Rooms June 1 Read More »

Pug dog with chin resting on a car window frame

Curbside-Only Continues

Despite the decline of COVID-19 new case and death rates from winter highs to levels close to those experienced last summer, Brownsburg Animal Clinic will continue curbside service exclusively until further notice.

We will also continue following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control regarding wearing masks and keeping physical distance from colleagues and clients.

Like most of our clients, we strongly prefer the more efficient and satisfying face-to-face interactions of indoor appointments. Several of our team members and their pets have recently visited specialty clinics where curbside service was the only option. In sharing their experiences of curbside as clients, they’ve helped all of us understand better than ever our own clients’ frustrations with curbside service.

Other team members have shared recent experiences with providers of human healthcare and dentistry, citing continuing restrictions on family members allowed into exam and hospital rooms.

Within the veterinary industry, we are seeing many clinics and veterinary teaching hospitals continuing to offer curbside only, until further notice—as we have elected to do. Others have reopened their facilities to the public while still making curbside service available to clients who prefer it,. We tried that from last July 6 until November 10, when we reverted to curbside-only as infection and death rates soared.

As a healthcare professional and clinic owner, I am solely responsible for setting policies for our clinic. I consider the current risks of infection too great to reopen our building to the public right now and for the foreseeable future. That’s why curbside-only service will continue at Brownsburg Animal Clinic.

All year long, my first priority has been and remains the health and safety of our staff, our families and our clients. Infections within the clinic could not only make any number of us sick and jeopardize our own and our families’ health, but also shut us down for weeks. I want to keep that risk as low as possible so we can continue to be here for our clients and patients without interruption. I also want to minimize confusion about what our clients can expect when they come for an appointment by continuing the policy we’ve had in place for the past four months until infection and death rates stabilize at lower levels.

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, I am encouraging all on our team who wish to be vaccinated to schedule their appointments promptly. We will track the dates their shots are administered and wait for full efficacy for all vaccinated staff members before we consider reopening the building. We will also continue to monitor the infection and death rates as well as vaccination rates for Hendricks and surrounding counties as we look to restore full access to our building as soon as we feel it’s reasonably safe to do so.

Meanwhile, we are allowing clients into the building for euthanasias. If you observe clients entering the building, we ask that you understand this is the most likely reason for their visit and offer them the same respect and compassion you would appreciate if you were saying goodbye to your pet for the last time.

We will notify our clients by email, website post and Facebook post when we feel it is safe to reopen our building to clients. We apologize for any inconvenience and frustration our continuing curbside-only policy may cause you as a client.

Curbside Protocols

As a reminder, here’s how curbside works:

  • Call in advance to make an appointment for your pet’s visit.
  • When you arrive for the appointment, call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 to let us know you’re in our parking lot.
  • A technician will call you to discuss your pet’s history and the reason for the appointment. 
  • A technician will then come to your car and bring your pet into the clinic for examination and treatment.
  • Cats must be in a secure carrier—not loose in your vehicle. We provide secure leads for dogs.
  • Our staff will not reach into your vehicle for your pet. We’re asking you to place cat carriers on the ground by your vehicle for the staff member to pick up or stand by your vehicle with your dog on a leash until the staff member secures the slip lead and you can safely hand the dog off.
  • Unless it’s a drop-off appointment or special arrangements have been made in advance and approved by the veterinarian, we expect clients to remain in their vehicles in our parking lot throughout the appointment.
  • All communication concerning diagnosis, treatment options and check-out will take place on the phone. Because of the increased call volume, you may experience delays in having your call answered and long hold times. Please know we are doing our best to manage phone calls as quickly and efficiently as we can.
  • At the conclusion of the appointment, after you’ve paid your bill, a staff member will return your pet, along with any prescribed medicines or foods, to your car.
  • We ask that you maintain a distance of at least six feet from anyone you encounter during your visit to our clinic.
  • We expect you to wear a snug-fitting mask covering your nose and mouth while interacting with our staff members and other clients who may be waiting in the parking lot.

Food Orders and Prescription Refills

If you need to visit the clinic to pick up food or medicine, we ask for more than the usual 24-hours’ advance notice. Call well ahead of time, charge the merchandise to your credit or debit card, and we will let you know when your order will be ready. Call the front desk when you arrive for pickup and we will bring it out to you.

You can also order supplies for delivery directly to your home from our online VetSource store.

Thank you!

We all join you in looking forward to the time when we can safely reopen the building to our clients—and we most certainly will—just as soon as we feel it is prudent to do so again.

Thank you for your continuing patience, cooperation and understanding.

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

P.S. My team and I understand waiting can be frustrating! I assure you, we are doing our very best to respond promptly to every call we receive, in order of urgency, and to operate as efficiently as we possibly can. Regardless of your wait time, we expect you to be civil to our team members, once they are able to help you.

Curbside-Only Continues Read More »

Seresto flea and tick collars for dogs and cats

Are Seresto Flea and Tick Collars Safe?

On March 3, 2021, USA Today published an article with this alarming headline: 

‘Popular flea collar linked to almost 1,700 pet deaths. The EPA has issued no warning.’

The collar in question is Bayer brand’s Seresto flea and tick collar for dogs and cats, now sold by Elanco, which acquired Bayer Animal Health in August 2020. Since Bayer introduced the collars in 2012, more than 25 million have been sold in the U.S. The collars are effective at controlling fleas and ticks for eight months.

We understand how clients reading the USA Today article would be deeply concerned—especially if their pets wear Seresto collars!

On our first read-through, we found the article concerning ourselves! 

After all, we’ve been recommending these collars for years as a convenient, effective alternative to monthly oral and topical preventives. We sell them in our online store. 

However, in all our years of recommending Seresto collars for our patients, we’ve witnessed no such severe side-effects as described in the USA Today article. We’ve heard no such stories from other veterinarians, nor have we read about them in veterinary medical publications. The clients who use Seresto collars for their pets seem to love them.

So are Seresto flea and tick collars safe? 

Rather than look to the popular press for definitive veterinary medical information, we decided to find out what veterinary toxicologists—none of whom were interviewed for the USA Today article—have to say in response to the article. 

Here’s what we found:

While the article alluded to numerous consumer reports to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implicating the collars in the deaths of nearly 1,700 pets, injuries to tens of thousands of pets and health problems for hundreds of pet owners, there is no way to know for sure, based solely on raw, unverified anecdotal evidence, that the collars actually caused such a myriad of problems. 

’The signs are very random.’

Quoted in an article published by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) on March 5, 2021, Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and a toxicology consultant for VIN, said, “Looking at these reports, these are very random things, ranging from ruptured eardrums — which I can’t make fit really at all — to liver failure, to heart problems, to kidney failure. The fact that the signs are very random makes me think that probably [the collar] is not involved.”

‘You cannot make a cause-effect connection.’

A second VIN toxicology consultant, Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, pointed out that consumer reports to the EPA are often anecdotal and unverified. “Anyone can report anything to regulatory agencies,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it’s true or accurate. This is why looking at the raw data from these agencies is so dangerous — they reflect only the reports, not any ancillary information required to determine if there’s actually any merit to the report.” She added without a veterinary examination or necropsy (an animal autopsy) to rule out other potential causes of illness or death, “you cannot make a cause-effect connection.”

‘The toxicity of these collars is extremely low.’

On a listserv for veterinary toxicologists, Gwaltney-Brant said her colleagues expressed surprise at the concerns about Seresto collars. Even when pets ingest the collars—which happens fairly often with dogs—she said, “the toxicity of these collars is extremely low, and they have no ‘red flags’ on this particular product.” 

‘You don’t necessarily know where these collars are coming from.’

Both toxicologists agreed the prevalence of counterfeit products could make it difficult to interpret the incident reports. Fake collars, packaged to look like the real thing and usually priced somewhat lower than the genuine product, may not only fail to protect pets from fleas and ticks but contain ingredients that do harm pets.

“You don’t necessarily know where these collars are coming from and what actually is in them,” Wismer said. “And that could explain a lot of the different kinds of clinical signs we are seeing.”

‘We feel very comfortable with the safety profile of these collars.’

An article titled “Collar-Gate,” published on March 5, 2021, in The Canine Review called the USA Today report “flawed, incomplete, and misleading.” 

The article quoted American Board of Veterinary Toxicology President-Elect Dr. Ahna Brutlag as saying, “We feel very comfortable with the safety profile of these collars.” 

Dr. Brutlag is the Director of Veterinary Services at the Pet Poison Helpline and has worked with the Helpline since 2004. During that time she said she has not seen any examples of serious adverse events connected with Seresto collars. “Our data has really shown that the collars are not associated with severe adverse events.” 

Dr. Brutlag noted that the active ingredients in Seresto collars—imidacloprid and flumethrin—are widely used and based on experience, have “a pretty wide and favorable safety profile for the collars.”

Until we see solid scientific proof, and until our own profession issues warnings, we intend to keep recommending Seresto collars.

Veterinarians weighing in on a VIN message board about the matter have been contacted by concerned clients—as we have. Like us, after years of recommending the collars, they have had very few if any serious adverse reactions to the collars reported. 

And until we see solid scientific proof of a direct, causal connection to serious adverse reactions, we intend to keep recommending Seresto collars.

Rest assured, if any solid medical evidence of harmful effects of Seresto collars does emerge in the aftermath of the USA Today article, we veterinarians will be among the very first to know and to respond immediately and appropriately to keep our patients safe. The safety and wellbeing of your pets always has been and always will be our first priority!

Meanwhile, here are a few more points to keep in mind:

In our part of Indiana, we strongly recommend some form of flea and tick control year-round.

All flea and tick preventives come with some degree of risk of adverse reactions, but the risks of discomfort and diseases spread by fleas and ticks to animals and humans far outweigh those risks.

If you are currently using Seresto collars and the concerns about them have you feeling uneasy, we encourage you to click through and read the articles linked to on this post. Then talk to any of our veterinarians about oral and topical alternatives to protect your pet and your family from flea- and tick-borne diseases. 

Before using Seresto collars—or any other pet product or medication, for that matter—discuss the risks to your particular pet with your veterinarian, read the entire label and follow instructions to the letter. 

Counterfeit pet care products are widely offered by independent sellers through Amazon, Ebay and other online sources, usually at a lower price than the genuine product. Make sure you buy genuine Seresto collars and other pet supplies only from reputable sources. We guarantee any products you buy in our office and through our VetSource online store are the real thing. 

With any flea and tick preventive in any form, watch your pet closely after administering it—especially for the first time—and call us immediately if you see any signs of discomfort or distress. 

Are Seresto Flea and Tick Collars Safe? Read More »

Cat with eyes closed being petted on the head

Back to Curbside Service

To you, our valued client:

As Hendricks County’s rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to climb to the highest levels yet, my team has expressed growing concerns for their own and our clients’ safety.

I’m concerned, too, and have made the difficult decision to take a step back and revert to curbside service only, effective immediately.

It’s become clear since we reopened the building to our clients on July 6, about three-quarters of them prefer to come inside. We prefer the more efficient and satisfying face-to-face interactions with our clients, too, although we have become increasingly anxious interacting with a growing number of clients who refuse to wear masks properly and consistently.

Meanwhile, we have been happy to continue offering curbside service to the 25-30 percent of our clients who have preferred to play it safe and not risk coming inside.

I now see returning to curbside service exclusively as the safest, most efficient way to continue to be here for you and your pet while doing our very best to keep our clients, ourselves and our families safe. 

Curbside Protocols

Our curbside service protocols have continued to work well since we first implemented them last March, and we greatly appreciate your cooperation with us as we revert to allowing only staff inside the clinic for the foreseeable future.

As a reminder, here’s how curbside works:

  • Call in advance to make an appointment for your pet’s visit.
  • When you arrive for the appointment, call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 to let us know you’re in our parking lot.
  • A technician will call you to discuss your pet’s history and the reason for the appointment. 
  • A technician will then come to your car and bring your pet into the clinic for examination and treatment.
  • Cats must be in a secure carrier—not loose in your vehicle. We provide secure leads for dogs.
  • Our staff will not reach into your vehicle for your pet. We’re asking you to place cat carriers on the ground by your vehicle for the staff member to pick up or stand by your vehicle with your dog on a leash until the staff member secures the slip lead and you can safely hand the dog off.
  • Unless it’s a drop-off appointment or special arrangements have been made in advance and approved by the veterinarian, we expect clients to remain in their vehicles in our parking lot throughout the appointment.
  • All communication concerning diagnosis, treatment options and check-out will take place on the phone.
  • At the conclusion of the appointment, after you’ve paid your bill, a staff member will return your pet, along with any prescribed medicines or foods, to your car.
  • We ask that you maintain a distance of at least six feet from anyone you encounter during your visit to our clinic.
  • We expect you to wear a snug-fitting mask covering your nose and mouth while interacting with our staff members and other clients who may be waiting in the parking lot.

Food Orders and Prescription Refills

If you need to visit the clinic to pick up food or medicine, we ask for more than the usual 24-hours’ advance notice. Call well ahead of time, charge the merchandise to your credit or debit card, and we will let you know when your order will be ready. Call the front desk when you arrive for pickup and we will bring it out to you.

You can also order supplies for delivery directly to your home from our online VetSource store.

Thank you!

We all join you in looking forward to the time when we can safely reopen the building to our clients—and we most certainly will—just as soon as we feel it is prudent to do so again.

Thank you for your continuing patience, cooperation and understanding.

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

P.S. My team and I understand waiting can be frustrating! I assure you, we are doing our very best to respond promptly to every call we receive, in order of urgency, and to operate as efficiently as we possibly can. Regardless of your wait time, we expect you to be civil to our team members, once they are able to help you.

Back to Curbside Service Read More »

Dog being held in owner's arms

Our ‘New Normal’ Continues

To you, our valued client—

Thank you for your patience and goodwill as our “new normal” continues to evolve.

Like veterinary practices nationwide, we are busier than ever! Pet adoptions have been on the increase, and since people have been spending more time at home, they’ve been paying closer attention to their pets and noticing more potential health problems.

Demand for our services is at an all-time high, and all of us are grateful for the opportunity to keep doing the work we love, caring for our patients and clients!

Wellness Visits

Many practices—ours included—built up a backlog of deferred wellness visits during March and April, when we were able to offer only essential care.

I’m happy to report the backlog of deferred wellness visits has eased somewhat. Wellness appointments are now available within a week or two—particularly to those who call to schedule early in the week.

Getting ‘Back on Track’

The adjustments we made following the July 4 holiday are working out well as level 4.5 of the governor’s “Back on Track” plan continues.

Since we reopened our building to clients—while continuing to offer curbside service to those who prefer it—we’ve received positive feedback for both types of appointments.

Those 70-75% of clients who are choosing to come inside tell us they feel safe, and they appreciate our stepped-up precautions—continuing to wear masks and maintain physical distance and sanitizing all exam room surfaces, including doorknobs, after every visit.

We still have about 25-30% of clients choosing curbside service for scheduled appointments, and curbside service continues for food and prescription pick-ups.

Our check-in process remains the same.

  • Whether you plan to come inside or wait in your car, call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 when you arrive in our parking lot for your appointment.
  • If you want to come inside with your pet, wait for a team member to escort you into the building, straight into an available exam room.
  • Please plan on having no more than two people come inside with your pet. (Additional family members may be present for a euthanasia.)
  • We will be wearing masks and doing our best to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from you throughout your visit, but keeping our distance may be a challenge during the exam. That’s why we expect you to bring and wear your own mask and stay as far away as possible from our team members to protect all of us! 

Expect Delays

Call volume remains extraordinarily high.

When you call the clinic, if you are not calling about a medical emergency, you may be placed on hold—even if you’re calling simply to let us know you’ve arrived in our parking lot for your appointment.

Please be patient as we handle our calls as efficiently as we can. One of our team members will reconnect with you as soon as possible.

There may also be delays in our technician’s arrival at your car to bring you and/or your pet into the building. With the return to inside service, additional sanitation measures have to be completed between appointments. We need extra time to keep everyone safe!

My team and I understand waiting can be frustrating!

I assure you, we are doing our very best to respond promptly to every call we receive, in order of urgency, and to operate as efficiently as we possibly can while handling a combination of curbside and in-house appointments.

Regardless of your wait time, we expect you to be civil to our team members, once they are able to help you.

Drop-Offs to Minimize Your Wait Time

In many cases, dropping off your pet and returning later that day for pick-up is a great way to minimize your wait time while getting your pet the care he or she needs in a timely way.

If your pet’s medical needs are not urgent, a drop-off can be a convenient way for you to avoid a potentially long wait on a busy day.

Dropping your pet off frees you to make better use of your own time, knowing a veterinarian will see your pet as soon as possible and you’ll be notified immediately when your pet is ready for pick-up.

Welcoming Our New Associate

To further meet the increased demand for services, I’m  pleased to announce Kelli M. Barton, DVM, will be joining our team as an associate, working on Wednesdays and Thursdays, starting October 7.

Dr. Barton has been in practice since 2012, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the clinic. We’ll be introducing her to you more fully in the coming weeks.

For the Good of Your Pet

Throughout the past seven months, our dedication to caring for our beloved pet-patients while keeping everyone safe has remained the first priority for our entire team.

We are all under unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty, making it more important than ever to treat each other with kindness and consideration. 

Thank you for entrusting us with your pet’s care. We look forward to continuing to serve you, and we hope you and your loved ones are staying well.

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

P.S. We have been experiencing a higher-than-average number of “no-call/no-show” appointments in recent months. If you find you are unable to keep a scheduled appointment, please call or email us—ideally, at least 24 hours in advance of the appointment time—so we can offer the appointment to another client.

Our ‘New Normal’ Continues Read More »

Six St. Bernards lying in the grass

Emergency and Specialty Referrals

Have you ever brought your pet here or to some other general veterinary practice and been referred to a specialist or advised to head over to the local emergency clinic?

There was a time, 30 or 40 years ago, when small animal general practitioners did, or at least tried to do, everything. We still do a lot. Most of us do some dentistry and many are comfortable and capable handling some orthopedic procedures.

But with the recent advances in veterinary medicine, specialization has flourished. The American Veterinary Medical Association currently recognizes 22 veterinary specialty organizations. These range from veterinary dermatology to surgery to ophthalmology to dentistry to critical care.

If you bring your pet in, and one of our doctors refers you to a specialist, or an emergency clinic or a 24-hour veterinary care facility, chances are it’s because we believe your pet would benefit from specialized and/or round-the-clock care.

So, you ask, what do we “regular vets” learn in vet school then?

We learn a little bit of everything! In many areas of veterinary medicine, we actually learn a lot, and we keep on learning through continuing education. Our veterinarians are all very knowledgeable and comfortable diagnosing and treating many common ailments. But from time to time, we recommend a specialist as the best person to diagnose and treat rare, complicated, chronic or severe cases.

For example, if your pet has been hit by a car and has multiple fractures, like most regular clinics, we do not have bone plating materials that may be indicated for the types of injury your pet has. So we send you to an orthopedist who has what’s needed to care for your pet.

Or if your pet has severe allergies, and we’ve tried dozens of diets and medications, and your pet is still itchy, we may send you to a dermatologist for allergy testing.

If you come in at 5:45 p.m. and the clinic closes at 6:00, and your pet has been vomiting non-stop for 24 hours, we may send you to an ER as they offer 24-hour care plus a critical care specialist who can take the time and apply the specialized expertise to be sure your pet has the best possible chance of recovery.

So if you come to the clinic and one of our doctors recommends a specialist or sends you to the ER, rest assured it is because in our best judgment, we believe your pet will experience the best outcomes being cared for by someone with more experience and more sophisticated, specialized equipment for diagnosing and treating the particular illness or condition. And that means your pet has the best chances of healing in the shortest amount of time.

Emergency and Specialty Referrals Read More »

Puppy cradled in owner's arm

Moving Toward ‘the New Normal’

To you, our valued client—we hope you and your loved ones (both human and animal) are staying well as the pandemic continues to impact all our lives.

As healthcare professionals, we know the threat of infection by the coronavirus remains very real. At the same time, we feel ready to take a few cautious steps toward “the new normal.”  

The following are some adjustments we’ll be making when we return after our July 4 holiday, when the clinic will be closed.

Effective Monday, July 6

  • Our weekday office hours will revert to 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with the final appointment of the day at 5:00.
  • While the lobby remains closed, we are opening our facility back up to clients who wish to come inside with their pets, directly to exam rooms, for their appointments.
  • Curbside service will still be available to clients who prefer to stay in their cars.
  • Curbside service will continue for food and prescription pick-ups.

Here’s how our revised check-in will work:

  • Call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 when you arrive in our parking lot.
  • If you want to come inside with your pet, a team member will come out and escort you into the building, straight into an available exam room. Please plan on having no more than two people come inside with your pet.
  • We will be wearing masks and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from you throughout your visit, and we ask that you wear a mask and stay 6 feet away from our team members to protect all of us! 

Expect Delays

An unusually high volume of incoming telephone calls to the clinic continues to be a challenge as we communicate by phone during appointments with pet owners in our parking lot, answer more called-in health-related questions than ever before and process requests for prescription refills.

Even with two additional phone lines to help your calls get through, we are still having a hard time keeping up, and we are well aware the longer-than-usual hold times are aggravating to many of you.

Please know we are doing our very best to respond promptly to every call we receive, in order of urgency. And despite the longer hold times, we ask that you please be civil to our team members, once they are able to take your call.

We are also still working through a backlog of deferred wellness visits that built up in March and April when we were able to offer only essential care. While we set aside times in our daily schedule to take care of sick pets and administer timely puppy and kitten vaccines as needed, our next available wellness appointments are several weeks from now.

Returning to our former schedule and staying open an additional hour every weekday will help ease the situation, but it will still take time to clear the backlog to pre-pandemic levels. 

Until we are able to get fully caught up, you may expect delays in scheduling a wellness appointment. We ask for your patience with our team members when you call.

Collaboration for the Good of Your Pet

Caring for our beloved pet-patients has always worked best as a collaborative effort among our clients, our veterinarians and the entire clinic team.

Ideally, our interactions take place in a cordial atmosphere of trust, respect and goodwill on all sides.

These days, when all our nerves are frayed because of the continuing threat of COVID-19 and the stress of not knowing just what the future holds, it is more important than ever to be kind and courteous to each other as we continue to get through this unprecedented time in our history together.

Thank you for entrusting us with your pet’s care. We look forward to continuing to serve you.

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

Moving Toward ‘the New Normal’ Read More »

German shepherd dog looking out a car window

Why We Are Continuing Curbside Service—For Now

As safeguards to minimize the spread of the coronavirus are being relaxed statewide, several of our clients have asked when we will reopen our lobby and exam rooms to the public.

The answer is, not yet.

When we implemented curbside service on March 20, we saw it as the safest, most efficient way to continue to be here for our clients and patients while minimizing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

So far, the curbside strategy—combined with stepped-up sanitation protocols and social distancing—appears to be working. Our doctors and staff have stayed well during the past two months while continuing to keep our patients healthy and ourselves, our families and our clients safe.

Meanwhile, as our state moves to re-open, the infection continues to spread.

According to the Indiana COVID-19 Data Report dashboard, as of noon Monday, May 11, the Indiana State Department of Health had reported 25,127 known cases of COVID-19 and 1,444 known deaths caused by the virus in our state. Hendricks County accounts for 984 of those positive cases and 55 deaths. Next door, Marion County reports 7,632 positive cases and 429 deaths.

Of the statewide total COVID-19 cases,  the State Department of Health confirmed 566 new cases between March 23 and May 11.

Those numbers remind us the risk of infection is still very real and, in my opinion as a health care provider, now is not the time to cut back unnecessarily on sensible, effective precautions aimed at keeping all of us safe. Despite some inconveniences, our curbside service is working well and we intend to keep it in place until we see a definite, persistent downward trend in new cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, as clinic owner, I remain committed to keeping my team and our clients safe and the clinic open for business, caring for patients. If just one of  our team members contracts the virus, we’ll be forced to shut down for as long as two weeks, delaying and denying much-needed care to all our patients.

We all look forward to the time when we can safely reopen the lobby and exam rooms to our clients—and we most certainly will—just as soon as we feel it is prudent to do so.

Thank you for your continuing cooperation and understanding.

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

Why We Are Continuing Curbside Service—For Now Read More »

Pug on bed with sleeping owner

COVID-19 May 4 Update

To you, our valued client:

Governor Holcomb recently issued an executive order allowing health care providers, including veterinarians, to resume offering elective procedures, provided we have adopted policies and best practices that protect patients, doctors and staff against COVID-19 and also have sufficient gloves, masks and surgical gowns on hand.

At Brownsburg Animal Clinic, we meet the conditions stated in the governor’s executive order, so we have resumed scheduling elective procedures, preventive care exams and tests essential to your pet’s continued wellbeing.

Now Scheduling Elective Procedures and Preventive Care Exams

In addition to all essential diagnostics and treatments listed in my April 11 update, we are now scheduling—

  • Dental procedures
  • Elective surgeries
  • Preventive care exams
  • Heartworm tests
  • Adult vaccines
  • Other tests, exams and procedures we may have postponed

If you have postponed an elective procedure or preventive care exam during the past few months, we encourage you to call the clinic at (317) 852-3323 to schedule an appointment.

Given the backlog of demand that has built up over the past two months for elective procedures and preventive care, we have some catching up to do!

You may experience a somewhat longer-than-normal wait time for an available appointment as we do our best to accommodate clients who have deferred care while keeping enough time slots open for sick and injured pets. With help from our relief vets, we look forward to getting everyone taken care of and back on preventive care schedules soon.

Office Hours

For the time being, we will continue opening at 8:00 a.m. and closing an hour early at 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. Saturday hours are 8:00 a.m. to noon. We will let you know when we plan to resume our normal weekday office hours once the decision is made.

Curbside Service to Continue

We remain strongly committed to keeping our clients, doctors and staff safe!

To minimize the risks of infection, we plan to continue allowing only staff inside the clinic until we are confident new cases of COVID-19 are definitely on the decline in our immediate area.

For full details of how our curbside service works, please review the “Curbside 2.0” section in my April 11 update.

If You Are Ill

If you have an appointment scheduled and are experiencing coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue or fever, or if you know you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, we ask that you call us to reschedule.

If your pet has a medical emergency and you are ill, we strongly encourage you to have a healthy family member or trusted friend bring your pet to the clinic for treatment.

If you are unable to make these arrangements, call us to let us know you’re ill and discuss options for getting your pet the care needed while protecting our team.

While it appears highly unlikely you can catch COVID-19 from your pet, there are several known cases worldwide of pets who appear to have contracted the disease from their owners. If you are ill, you can minimize the risks of infecting your pet by wearing a face mask and washing your hands thoroughly before any interactions. Better yet, ask a well family member or friend to take over caring for your pet until you are well.

Thanks Again!

We greatly appreciate the ongoing cooperation and understanding you’ve shown as we’ve worked together to make sure your pet is well cared-for while minimizing the risk of infection for all the humans involved.

We look forward to getting caught up on any deferred exams and procedures in the coming weeks. And as always, it means so much to us for you to entrust us with your pet’s care!

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

COVID-19 May 4 Update Read More »

Woman reading magazine with dog

COVID-19 April 11 Update

To you, our valued client:

We’re still here for you and your pet!

And we deeply appreciate that you continue to be here for us as we work together to keep your pet happy and healthy in these challenging times.

We’re continuing to take extra precautions to minimize the risks of infection for you and our staff, including curbside service (see details of some fine-tuning below), and still closing an hour early at 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Essential Services

Under our governor’s stay-at-home order—now in effect until Monday, April 20—it’s still OK to bring your pet to our clinic for essential veterinary care that can’t safely or feasibly be delayed.

Here’s what that includes:

  • Care for sick and injured pets
  • Emergency care
  • Rechecks for follow-up and ongoing treatment
  • Puppy and kitten wellness visits for essential vaccinations
  • Rabies vaccinations required by state law
  • Required recurring visits for medicines such as Cytopoint, Adequan and ProHeart and fluids for kidney disease

Surgeries and Dental Procedures

As directed by our governor, we are doing our part to conserve personal protective equipment—masks, gloves and gowns—in support of our counterparts in human medicine.

As long as this vital protective gear remains in short supply, we are rescheduling elective surgeries and dental procedures for later in the year.

Our doctors are examining and diagnosing patients and advising clients case-by-case on whether a recommended procedure can be safely deferred without impacting the pet’s wellbeing and quality of life. If it can’t be deferred, we will encourage you to schedule an essential procedure sooner rather than later.

Preventive Care Exams and Vaccines for Adult Pets

Essential preventive care exams and routine vaccination boosters for adults pets, other than rabies vaccines, can be safely postponed for a short time, but not indefinitely!

As always, for most adult pets, we recommend annual preventive care exams, including heartworm checks. For older pets and those with serious chronic health conditions, we recommend more frequent exams.

If you’re not sure when your pet is due for an exam and vaccines, call the clinic at (317) 852-3323 to find out and discuss options. If your pet needs prescriptions refilled before you can schedule an exam, our doctors may be able to prescribe a limited quantity of some medications to see your pet through the coronavirus crisis.

Our doctors will assess your pet’s situation and prescribe as needed to assure the pet’s safety and wellbeing—typically prescribing a one-month supply at a time until you can bring your pet for an exam.

For heartworm preventives, if your dog has missed more than one or two monthly doses, a heartworm blood test will be needed before we can safely restart the prescription. If you’ve forgotten or fallen behind on monthly heartworm preventive doses, call the clinic at (317) 852-3323 to schedule a test.

Curbside 2.0

Our curbside service protocol has been working well, and we greatly appreciate your cooperation with this “new normal” intended to protect all our clients and staff from the coronavirus. We plan to continue allowing only staff inside the clinic for the foreseeable future.

Now that we have some experience with curbside service, we’ve done a bit of fine-tuning. Here’s how it works now:

  • Call in advance to make an appointment for your pet’s visit.
  • To make check-in as efficient as possible, a technician will call you before the visit to discuss your pet’s history and the reason for the appointment. As time permits, we are normally making these calls the afternoon before morning appointments and the morning before afternoon appointments.
  • When you arrive for the appointment, call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 to let us know you’ve arrived in our parking lot.
  • A technician will come to your car and bring your pet into the clinic for examination and treatment.
  • Cats must be in a secure carrier—not loose in your vehicle. We provide secure leads for dogs.
  • Our staff will not reach into your vehicle for your pet. We’re asking you to place cat carriers on the ground by your vehicle for the staff member to pick up or stand with your dog on a leash by your vehicle until the staff member secures the slip lead and you can safely hand the dog off.
  • Unless it’s a drop-off appointment or special arrangements have been made in advance and approved by the veterinarian, we expect clients to remain in their vehicles in our parking lot throughout the appointment.
  • All communication concerning diagnosis, treatment options and check-out will take place on the phone.
  • At the conclusion of the appointment, a staff member will return your pet, along with any prescribed medicines or foods, to your car.
  • We ask that you practice social distancing throughout your visit to our clinic, refraining from any physical contact and maintaining a minimum distance of six feet from our team members and other clients who may be waiting in the parking lot.

If you need to visit the clinic to pick up food or medicine, we ask for more than the usual 24-hours’ advance notice during these challenging times. Call well ahead of time, charge the merchandise to your credit or debit card, and we will let you know when your order will be ready. Call the front desk when you arrive for pickup and we will bring it out to you.

You can also order supplies for delivery directly to your home from our online VetSource store.

If You Are Ill

If you have an appointment scheduled and are experiencing coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue or fever, or if you know you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, we ask that you call us to reschedule.

If your pet has a medical emergency and you are ill, we strongly encourage you to have a healthy family member or trusted friend bring your pet to the clinic for treatment.

If you are unable to make these arrangements, call us to let us know you’re ill and discuss options for getting your pet the care needed while protecting our team.

Thank you!

Personally and on behalf of the entire Brownsburg Animal Clinic team, I want to thank you for continuing to entrust us with your pet’s care and for collaborating with us to keep all the humans involved safe as well!

We’re all in this together, and we appreciate your support!

Sincerely,

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

P.S. We’re receiving more than the usual number of phone calls from clients these days. We appreciate your patience as our team works as efficiently as possible to field your questions while handling our appointments and other patient care responsibilities.

COVID-19 April 11 Update Read More »

Man on sofa with cat

COVID-19 March 25 Update

Now that Indiana’s stay-at-home order is in effect at least through Monday, April 6, you may be wondering how the order impacts your access to veterinary care for you pets.

The good news: In Indiana, veterinary clinics have been declared essential businesses, and even with the stay-at-home order in place, Hoosiers are allowed to seek medical care for pets, should they need it.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health has provided us with further clarification, advising, “Veterinarians may continue to provide care and treatment to animals as a matter of health and welfare.”

That means Brownsburg Animal Clinic is here for you! We’re open for business and, as mandated, continuing to maintain the health of our patients.

As always, if your pet is sick or injured, call us at (317) 852-3323 to ask for advice and if needed, schedule an appointment. If you’re not sure if you should bring your pet in, call anyway and we will help you decide.

Vaccines and boosters—especially rabies vaccinations—should continue on schedule for pets of all ages.

We are still limiting access to our building to staff only. If you have a scheduled or drop-off appointment, call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 to let us know you’ve arrived in our parking lot. A technician will come out to your car and bring your pet into the clinic for examination and treatment. Please be sure your cat is in a secure carrier. We’ll provide leads for dogs. All communication and check-out will take place on the phone before a staff member returns your pet, along with any prescribed medicines or foods, to your car.

It’s still critically important to continue giving your pet heartworm and flea and tick preventives, along with any other prescribed medicines or diet. If you need to visit the clinic to pick up food or medicine, we will deliver it to your car. Just call the front desk, charge the merchandise to your credit or debit card, and we will bring it out to you. You can also order supplies from our online VetSource store.

We are mindful of the nationwide shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves used by all health care providers. We have enough PPE on hand to care for our patients in the immediate future, but we may postpone some elective procedures to conserve these supplies until it becomes clear when we can replenish them.

So far, thankfully, we all are symptom-free, and the team is under strict orders to stay at home if they experience fever, cough or shortness of breath.

We are continuing to stay at least six feet away from clients and fellow staff members and following stepped-up sanitation and hand-washing protocols.

The Board of Animal Health has prepared guidelines for pet owners who have been or may have been exposed to the coronavirus. If you believe you or someone in your household has COVID-19, I encourage you to read this document and, as the letter recommends, call us before bringing your pet in to the clinic.

For those of you who are concerned that your pet could contract or spread the coronavirus, there is currently no evidence that animals can do so. The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has provided detailed information about pets and COVID-19 on their website.

If you have any questions about your pet’s health and whether or not you need to visit the clinic, please feel free to call the front desk at (317) 852-3323. We are happy to advise you and, if needed, schedule an appointment.

And for those of you who are working from home, we hope this additional time with your pet will make your human-animal bond even stronger!

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

P.S. On weekdays we are closing one hour early—at 5:00 p.m., with the last appointment at 4:30.

COVID-19 March 25 Update Read More »

COVID-19

How We Are Further Reducing COVID-19 Risk

Dear Valued Client,

Rest assured, we are still open and here to care for your sick and injured pets as well as those with ongoing medical conditions.

However, we are making a few key changes to our routines to further reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Based on the latest recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we will shift to all curbside service, effective Friday, March 20. That means only the clinic staff will be allowed inside our building.

If you have a scheduled or drop-off appointment, call the front desk at (317) 852-3323 to let us know you’ve arrived in our parking lot. A technician will come out to your car and bring your pet into the clinic for examination and treatment.

All communication and check-out will take place on the phone before a staff member returns your pet, along with any prescribed medicines or foods, to your car.

While essential puppy and kitten wellness visits for vaccines will continue on schedule, we will reschedule wellness visits for adult dogs for after April 6.

If you need to visit the clinic to pick up food or medicine, we will deliver it to your car. Just call the front desk, charge the merchandise to your credit or debit card, and we will bring it out to you.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as together, we get through these difficult times.

Timea H. Brady's signature

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

How We Are Further Reducing COVID-19 Risk Read More »

COVID-19

A Message from Dr. Brady About COVID-19

For those of you who share our concerns about COVID-19, we want to assure you we’re taking measures at the clinic to minimize the risk of introducing or spreading the virus to team members and clients while continuing to care for our patients.

  • In addition to following our usual cleaning protocols, we are doing even more frequent and thorough disinfecting of surfaces everyone touches—phones, keyboards and door handles—than ever before.
  • We are refraining from handshakes and hugs.
  • We have advised our team members to stay home if they are experiencing any respiratory symptoms and to return to work only after going at least 24 hours fever-free without medication.
  • We are asking our clients to stay away from the clinic if they or anyone in their household have symptoms of the virus or believe they may have been exposed to it.  We will be happy to reschedule the appointment.

This situation is evolving rapidly, and there is much uncertainty ahead. We are committed to doing our best to keep our team and clients healthy and will remain flexible in our response to COVID-19 in the coming days. Updates will be posted on our website and Facebook page as needed.

We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Timea H. Brady, DVM
Owner, Brownsburg Animal Clinic

A Message from Dr. Brady About COVID-19 Read More »

Owner hugging dog

COVID-19 and Your Pet

Please note: This information is current as of March 13, 2020. As more is learned about COVID-19, advice may change.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said there is no evidence that companion animals, including dogs and cats, spread the COVID-19 virus, the organization does suggest that people showing symptoms or in quarantine because of the virus limit their contact with pets, just as they do with people.

Specifically, that means people showing symptoms of the virus and being cared for at home should avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

“If possible, a household member should be designated to care for pets in the home,” according to the CDC website. “If the individual in home care and isolation must care for pet(s), they should ensure they wash their hands before and after caring for pets and wear a facemask while interacting with pets, until they are medically cleared to return to normal activities.”

We encourage all our clients and staff members to take every possible precaution to lower the risk of infection. But in the event an infection does occur, we recommend treating pets with the same degree of caution as you do other family members.

COVID-19 and Your Pet Read More »

Owner hugging cat

Preparing for a Possible Quarantine

Are you prepared for a possible quarantine because of COVID-19?

The following is a list of items the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends keeping on hand in the event of an emergency evacuation, and we think most of the contents of the pet evacuation kit would be equally handy in the event of an at-home quarantine.

Because the incubation period for COVID-19 is thought to be 14 days, we suggest stocking up on at least a two-week supply of pet food, medicines and preventives, kitty litter if needed, and cleaning supplies for your pet.

Most likely, your pet would be remaining at home with you during a quarantine, so some items will probably not be needed. We suggest you collect them anyway to be better prepared for anything!

The AVMA’s Pet Evacuation Kit

Food and medicine

  • 3-7 days’ worth of dry and canned (pop-top) food*
  • Two-week supply of medicine*
  • At least 7 days&