The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Pet Health Insurance: Pros and Cons To Be Determined

DEAR READERS: The posting in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Jan. 15, 2021, vol. 258, pp. 104-105, "Regulatory standards on pet health insurance being developed") affirmed my concerns over this chaotically inconsistent industry, which could help decrease euthanasia for economic reasons but has fuzzy language as per “preexisting conditions.”

Apparently, there are some 20 companies across Canada and the United States involved in pet health insurance, and some 1.7% of owned dogs and cats are insured in the U.S. Now the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has established a Pet Insurance Working Group to develop a model law. This group’s meetings are public, and interested persons can go to jav.ma/workinggroup for details. For my own analysis of pet health insurance, see my review posted at drfoxonehealth.com.

DEAR DR. FOX: My 12-year-old Morkie tore his ACL in his left rear knee in a freak accident. I had a consultation with a surgeon. The cost of the surgery doesn’t bother me as much as the prospect of the post-op period (for both my dog and me). Since my consultation, my beloved dog has started to put minimal weight on the affected leg. Not all the time, but most of the time. He doesn’t appear to be in any pain, even when I touch and extend his leg.

Am I wrong to think that it would be best for him to live his life out in this condition without the surgery? -- J.S., Santa Fe, New Mexico

DEAR J.S.: I have followed the pros and cons of corrective surgery for this condition in dogs for several decades. Some veterinarians feel it is always indicated, while I join those who are more conservative with smaller dogs. They often heal and gain normal locomotion without surgery, provided they are not overweight and their physical activity is restricted for four to six weeks -- no running or jumping up and down off sofas, etc. Physical therapy in a warm swimming pool can help. I also advise general body massage as per my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs," and a daily supplement in the dog’s food of powdered turmeric and ginger, one-quarter of a teaspoon of each for a dog the size of yours. Also Cosequin, a glucosamine, chondroitin plus MSM supplement, may provide additional support.

Pet health insurance might have covered the cost of anesthesia and surgery, which is in the thousands of dollars for this all-too-prevalent malady, but could have been denied if your dog has some “preexisting condition” such as misaligned and bent legs, common in many breeds. Best prevention is keeping the dog lean with a no-all-kibble diet and regular physical activity, and minimizing vaccinations, especially canine distemper, which may be associated with collagen/tendon deterioration. Keep me posted.

DEAR DR. FOX: If it is helpful, I wanted to share a solution for my cat that was going outside of the litter box. A while back one of your readers wrote how the cat was using the newspapers on the floor instead of the litter box. Well, my stray-turned-indoor cat was constantly doing this, too. Finally, I decided to get her her own litter box with just newspaper. And it works!! She always goes into the newspaper-laden litter box and has never gone outside the box again.

Then I noticed cat litter at the store made of newspaper and was tempted to try, but thought why pay for that when I have my daily newspaper at home. Just wanted to share and pass this on. I am so glad it worked for my cat. Roll it up and dispose, very easy cleanup.

Thank you for all your good help for the animals! -- L.G., New Carlisle, Indiana

DEAR L.G.: Thanks for your good advice, which is an addition to the list of things to consider when cats poop outside of the box.

Shredded newspaper makes good cat litter box material, and I wish more people would subscribe to their newspapers to keep honest journalism alive. Our rescued TNR cat Fanny loves to play and hide under an opened-up newspaper and pounce on it! One of our evening rituals.

DOGS’ WORD COMPREHENSION LIKE A 2- OR 3-YEAR-OLD CHILD

Formally trained or especially gifted dogs can learn a new word for an object after hearing it only four times, suggesting that some dogs learn language similarly to a 2- or 3-year-old, says Adam Miklosi, co-author of a study in Scientific Reports. A border collie and a Yorkshire terrier demonstrated the skill in an exclusion-based task and a playful scenario, but the dogs were not able to tell the difference between two newly named toys. (Full story: CNN, Jan. 26)

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)