95 The Truth about Pet Insurance

One in three pets will need unexpected veterinary care each year. Wouldn’t it be great if there were Pet Health Insurance?

There really is a pet insurance industry, and it works much more efficiently than human health insurance. I think of it more like car insurance or property insurance. You enroll online; no exam need, pick a plan and deductible, and pay a monthly fee. Most plans reimburse at 80-90%, after a deductible. This switches pet medical expenses to a planned monthly budget item.

We all know that veterinary expenses can add up, especially if your pet has an emergency (like gets into rat poison or in a dog fight), or even a chronic problem (like skin allergies, frequent ear infections or thyroid problems), or gets cancer. No company covers preexisting conditions. So I usually suggest signing up when the pets are puppies or kittens. I just looked up the price for my little terrier puppy on Pet Plan, and it was about $30/month. So the insurance pays off if I have a vet bills over $360 after my deductible (not including routine vaccination or heartworm prevention on most plans).

As a veterinarian, I don’t get a commission on recommending pet insurance. The reason I recommend it because those insured pets usually get better care in the long run because the cost isn’t as big an issue. Our staff members have carried pet insurance before, and one nurse used it to have her beloved pit bull treated TWICE for two cancers with expensive radiation & new chemotherapy. She used Pets Best, so I have recommended that company for years.

AAHA has recently partnered with a different pet insurance company called Pet Plan. They have done their research, and picked this company. They cover injuries and illnesses, hereditary and chronic conditions, prescription medications, specialist treatments, imaging (x-rays, MRI, CT scan and ultrasound), and even alternative therapies. Reimbursement is as easy as submitting their claim form on your smartphone. You choose your maximum annual coverage (2500 to unlimited), your deductible (from $100 to $2500), and your reimbursement (70%, 80%, or 90%). You can go online to GoPetplan.com/AAHA to get a free quote, and get a 10% discount using the promo code “AAHA”.

Ask yourself:
1) Would it be comforting to know I have help managing my veterinary costs?
2) Could I handle an expensive veterinary bill without some financial cushion?
3) Would I pay almost any amount to care for my pet?

I suggest checking out several insurance providers before selecting a plan. PetPlan, Pets Best, ASPCA Pet Health, Nationwide, Trupanion are the ones I have seen my clients use.

You can decide for yourself it pet insurance makes sense (and saves you cents in the long run) or gives you peace of mind.

94 New Signage for 2019

Well it has taken a while to get the new sign up, but it was worth it. It all began about two years ago when I decided to redo my logo. I used an online company called 99 Designs to create a new logo to be put on business cards, websites, letterheads and a new sign. It was a fun creative process where you state your preferences, and dozens of global graphic designers submit graphic ideas to you. Over a few weeks, you narrow it down, keep tweaking it, and commit to a final design. I remember I wanted it to be simple, easy to read at 30 mph, convey the species we see, reflect the “garden” in the name, and have 2 colors. You see the winning design.

We began using the graphics on business cards and websites, then this blog, but the sign was the last project. I held off getting a new sign waiting on construction next door, at The Beehive Assisted Living/Memory care facility, thinking I would piggy back on their look. But the Beehive never built out the front, just a structure way in the back.

This is actually the 3rd sign at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital. The first was a rectangle, dark blue, with our name in clear plastic, lit from inside. But it was hit by a car, and was replaced 20 years ago with the one we had until this week.

You may notice we kept the same frame shape, which reflects the cupula shape of our front exam room roofline. The new LED lights inside illuminate it nicely after dark. I think Sigma Signs in Highland Village did a nice job for us. Let me know what you think!

93 RIP Spotticus

We had to euthanize our 25 year old leopard gecko today. He has been plagued by abscessing hemipenes the last year or so, and this last time it spread to a cellulitis of his entire cloaca region. Despite our best efforts and husbandry, he got much worse and lost over 20% of his body weight.

Having an older reptile here has been a great teaching tool for the staff and clients on basic reptile husbandry. He was a local celebrity for many children who came through. He was “gifted” to us by a client in 2012, but she had had him since 1993! He was 25 years old. He is survived by his latest “wife” Dotticus.

RIP Spotticus 4/1/1993-1/3/2019

92 Year in Review

2018 was a fantastic year for me personally and professionally.

My first grandchild was born in February, a darling little girl named Evangeline. Her mom, my daughter, lives in Flower Mound and I get to see her every week. She makes me smile just thinking about her.

My son got married in June, and in set to graduate from UTD in May with a degree in Electrical Engineering. His wife just got her degree in Medical Engineering. Geeks need love too. I truly love his wife and her family.

My daughter- in-law and husband have moved into a home in Frisco, and she has been successful with her abstract art paintings.

Our “ranch” increased the herd with 2 more calves this year (up to 11), with 4 more expected next year. My bee hives survive, but didn’t thrive between the summer drought and fall record rains.

Our Highland Lake Lodge rental home is mostly renovated, and has had actual paying “guests” several times this year. Like any older home, there will always be projects.

But the latest news is the 2 terrier puppies that we got in November, Charlie Brown and Sally. The little terrors are now 12 weeks old and full of rowdy playfulness 12 hours a day. I have seen the sun rise many times in the last month while working on the potty training thing. They come to work with me, so I can stay on top of their training and socialization.

Professionally, Garden Ridge Animal Hospital celebrated 28 years in business. We passed our triannual AAHA inspection in July. We have had some staff changes, but we have a great staff now. Dr Pena continues to work every Friday. Monica is still the groomer, but also working some up front. We have ordered a new sign with the new logo. And the blog now has over 90 articles.

Life is good.

91 Santa’s ELVES Certified

As a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and USDA accredited vet to write health certificates, I am signed up to be an official “Santa’s E.L.V.E.S.” (Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System).

Many of you know that I treat exotic pets, and some done some cattle work, but I have also had a “crash course” on reindeer medicine. Larissa, our new head nurse, and Kayla up front both have worked in mixed animal practice before with cattle. In the event that Santa’s reindeer team needs to make an unscheduled Christmas Eve stop for sled repairs, refueling, or veterinary care, staff at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital will be available to provide needed assistance and ensure a safe and on-time delivery of Santa’s cargo.

Our new illuminated sign will be in soon, maybe in time for Santa to find us easily.

Just like you and your pets, Santa’s reindeer need to be examined and issued health certificates in order to travel between U.S. states or across national borders. Thankfully, they’ve never had a problem being certified for flight, due in good measure to the regular examinations and preventive veterinary care they receive from AVMA’s president to keep them healthy.
AVMA’s current president, Dr. John de Jong, examined the reindeer shortly before their 2018 Christmas flight to make sure their paperwork was up to date and that they were all healthy enough to fly. And … good news! All the reindeer have received full “RTF” (“Ready To Fly”) status, so be prepared to hear on your roof “The prancing and pawing of each little hoof!”
To learn more about Santa’s reindeer, visit AVMA.org/Santa

To find the answers that kids ask about Santa’s Reindeer-

89 Lessons I’ve learned from my puppies- the first three weeks

My husband and I acquired two little 7 week old terrier mix puppies three weeks ago. We are calling them Charlie Brown and Sally. Life hasn’t been the same, but it was a long awaited anticipated change. I was hoping for milder weather for the potty training, but maybe October’s monsoons wouldn’t have been better.

Worms happen. Mine had a good case of hookworms and roundworms. They were very potbellied and occasionally passing roundworms. 2 doses of dewormer solved that.

Potty training can be easy IF you go outside with them, every time, right after eating, and praise them. It’s quite pleasant when it is 60 or 70 degrees on a sunny afternoon, but not so much in the dark and freezing predawn morning. I actually FEED the puppies outside since they were pooping within 2 minutes of eating.   Plus is helps that they are with me at work too, and I have a helpful staff.   It takes a village…..

Crating compliments potty training and controls the puppy destruction. So far (knock on wood), they haven’t messed in their crate and they sleep 10pm to 6:30 am. They like going in their crate when they are tired. I have even seen them go into on their own when tired. It isn’t a jail. I haven’t used it for timeout.

Feeding multiple dogs has been a challenge. The 11 year old Sheltie doesn’t want to share his old man food and nipped Chuck the first week when he got too close. Now they give him a wide berth when eating. Keeping Sarge from eating the puppy food is harder, but since I watch the puppies eat, I pick it up as soon as they are finished.

Jingle bells on collars has been the greatest thing since sliced bread. I can keep track audibly of these two terrifying terriers as they race around the den, backyard, animal hospital, or the ranch by the shop. Too bad Sarge is getting very deaf and can’t hear them run up from behind.

Portable exercise pens are darn handy. At first I used them when outside, to keep them corralled, and Sarge away from their food while eating. I could track their pooping easier. Then I discovered they didn’t want to poop near where they ate, so I had to open it up. It has been great at the ranch and especially at the animal hospital so they can stretch their legs. The portable puppy playpen should come in handy over the holiday season as we visit friends and family who want to see the puppies, but don’t want these two hoodlums running loose on their carpets and around Christmas trees and packages.

Puppy proofing the house is easier said than done. Each week they find more ways to jump higher, and knock down barricades. I am saying “no” a lot when I catch them.

Puppy proofing the yard is a safety issue. I thought I had all the holes in the fence fixed, and all the plant hazards removed. Sally found a small hole one sunny afternoon when unsupervised, and I found her on the driveway, the little dickens.

Puppies need socializing to lots of people and pets. This is something I talk a lot to clients about, and it has been pretty easy since they come to work with me every day. And they travel with me on weekends. Plus most of my clients are happy to help “socialize” two adorable puppies after their visit.

Those are the big take away lessons so far. They are things I try to say to all new puppy owners, but having two of my own has really brought it literally “home.” It has been a lot of work so far, but I am in love with these two terrorizing terriers.

The next step is training to commands like sit, come, and walking on a leash.

88 Holiday Blues and Pets

Much has been written about the depression many people feel about this time of year. Most people recognize that the first Thanksgiving and Christmas after a family member has passed will be rough, filled with moments of sadness instead of joy. “Pet Parents” often consider family pets as  family members  and so  may experience similar grieving.

Some pet owners will be the newly grieving. Right now, we are experiencing the usual late fall/early winter euthanasia season. This happens around the first cold snap, for older pets with severe arthritis or house soiling problems. In mild weather, the management is tolerable, but when it is freezing outside, the burden and suffering is too great.

Some pet owners will experience depression now even though the pet passed months or years ago. Last year,  Fluffy’s stocking was put in the holiday decorations box in the attic with no thought it would be the last Christmas. Opening up that box will be hard this year, and for years to come.

For other owners, the sadness of knowing their beloved pet is declining and that this might be their last Christmas will be a cause of much sadness. For me, the toughest Christmas was the last one with my little Pekinese , a month before she passed. We knew she was failing, had a mass in her chest, and wouldn’t be with us long. I wanted to make it special for her, but she didn’t feel much joy. I am sure some families with members in hospice have a similar experience.

This year, we have new joy in our household. My granddaughter is 9 months old, and a smiles at me every time I see her. And we have 2 new little terrier mix puppies that are a delightful challenge. But at least the puppies will grow out of this “diaper” phase quicker than my granddaughter. They are coming to work every day with me for training. If you come by, ask to see the puppies! They need socialization with lots of people.


87 Thanksgiving Pet Safety

This is straight from the AVMA website.

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also can carry some hazards for pets. Holiday food needs to be kept away from pets, and pet owners who travel need to either transport their pets safely or find safe accommodations for them at home. Follow these tips to keep your pets healthy and safe during the holiday.

Poison Risks
Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but even worse for pets: Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. And holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.
Keep the feast on the table—not under it. Eating turkey or turkey skin – sometimes even a small amount – can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets – including onions, raisins and grapes. If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, make or buy a treat that is made just for them.
No pie or other desserts for your pooch. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.
Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.
Put the trash away where your pets can’t find it. A turkey carcass sitting out on the carving table, or left in a trash container that is open or easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of turkey carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).
Be careful with decorative plants. Don’t forget that some flowers and festive plants can be toxic to pets. These include amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and more. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but the safest route is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.
Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Precautions for Parties
If you’re hosting a party or overnight visitors, plan ahead to keep your pets safe and make the experience less stressful for everyone.
Visitors can upset your pets. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or in crowds, and Thanksgiving often means many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. If you know your dog or cat is nervous when people visit your home, put him/her in another room or a crate with a favorite toy. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.
Learn about dog bite prevention.
. If any of your guests have compromised immune systems (due to pregnancy, some diseases, or medications or treatments that suppress the immune system), make sure they’re aware of the pets (especially exotic pets) in your home so they can take extra precautions to protect themselves.
. If you have exotic pets, remember that some people are uncomfortable around them and that these pets may be more easily stressed by the festivities. Keep exotic pets safely away from the hubbub of the holiday.
Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.
Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of this simple procedure.
• Watch your pets around festive decorations. Special holiday displays or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle; it could result in a fire. And pine cones, needles and other decorations can cause intestinal blockages or even perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.

Travel Concerns
Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday or at any other time of the year.
Your pet needs a health certificate from your veterinarian if you’re traveling across state lines or international borders, whether by air or car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states.
Never leave pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time, regardless of the weather.
Pets should always be safely restrained in vehicles. This means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. This helps protect your pets if you brake or swerve suddenly, or get in an accident; keeps them away from potentially poisonous food or other items you are transporting; prevents them from causing dangerous distractions for the driver; and can prevent small animals from getting trapped in small spaces. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.
Talk with your veterinarian if you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you. Air travel can put pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.
Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items. Refer to our Traveling with Your Pet FAQ for a more complete list.
Are you considering boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

Food Safety
Don’t forget to protect your family and loved ones from foodborne illnesses while cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Hand washing, and safe food handling and preparation, are important to make sure your holiday is a happy one. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tips for handling, thawing and cooking turkey, as well as saving your leftovers.


I chose to highlight this chore because having old, expired,  and questionable food in the refrigerator is a health hazard for humans and pets. The timing is perfect just before the holidays. I plan to tackle mine on this day. But I will be very strict on getting the discarded food immediately into the outdoor trash so no dog can scavenge and get sick.

This article is directly from the National Day Calendar website.
National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day is observed annually on November 15. Get together a soap and hot water filled bucket, disinfectant, a sponge and a garbage bag, and you are ready for the day!
The timing is perfect for this day as Thanksgiving is coming soon. We will need room for all of the upcoming leftovers. This job may be dreaded by many, but it is an important task none the less. Due to our hectic and busy lifestyles, the cleaning of the refrigerator gets neglected, hence the creation of National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. There may be a surprise or two found at the back of the shelves. Things are often pushed back as new food is put in the front and gets forgotten.
Some suggestions for your refrigeration cleaning are:
• Empty each shelf.
• Completely wipe down the inside of the refrigerator.
• Wash drawers and underneath the drawers.
• Throw away all expired food.
• Throw away any moldy food.
• Get rid of anything that you do not use.
• Vacuum condenser coils.
• Vacuum out under the refrigerator.
• Restock shelves and drawers with good food.
• Enjoy your nice, clean, organized refrigerator.


85 November is Pet Diabetes Month

Most pet owners are surprised when I tell then their overweight dog or cat is at increased for diabetes, just like a human. It never occurred to them that pets get this blood sugar disease too, but it affects 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 pets. That is why I am talking about Diabetes during Pet Diabetes Month.
Just like humans, the disease is a relative lack of insulin in the body, which is needed for the cells to take in glucose, which leads to high levels of glucose in the blood. We can see both Type 1 (insulin dependent), and Type 2 (non- insulin dependent) in pets, but most of the time by the time I diagnosis it, insulin in the only treatment. And most pets need the twice a day “shots”.

The most common symptoms that I see in practice are increased thirst and urine output, increased appetite with weight loss, or lethargy. Often the owner just thinks their cat or dog has a urinary tract infection or incontinence because they are having urine accidents in the house. Occasionally, I notice that a middle age dog has cataracts developing.
Diabetes has to be treated with insulin injections, usually twice a day, for dogs and cats. This is not fun, but most pets tolerate the tiny needles better than the owners. The other big downsides are the cost, and being tied into a set schedule which makes it challenging for boarding or pet sitters. Rarely, I have a cat that can be managed on pills, or diet alone.

Long term complications include urinary tract infections, diabetic crises of glucose too high or too low, cataracts, suppressed immune function, and slow healing. We seldom see the neuropathy and amputations that affect humans.

The best prevention for pet diabetes is maintaining a normal weight, avoiding obesity, staying active, and avoiding pancreatitis (often secondary to high fatty food). Some researchers are concerned that high carbohydrate diets could be a contributing factor, but a low carb diet is certainly part of the management while on insulin.

(This is a mostly a repeat that I wrote last November, but you might have missed it then. Diabetes hasn’t changed much in a year. )