Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How I Turned $8,000 of Vet Bills into $1,500 (Or, why pet insurance is awesome and everyone should have it)

You haven't really lived until you've put almost $9,000 on your credit card at the emergency vet, but that's just what I did at the end of January when my four dogs got into some ibuprofen. Ibuprofen ingestion is a serious medical emergency, requiring 48 or more hours of hospitalization to prevent kidney problems, GI ulcers/perforation, and neurological damage - even if the dog eats as little as one tablet of ibuprofen.

Thankfully, due to a quick response and excellent care, my pups are home and naughty as ever. And, thanks to PetPlan, my credit card is doing just fine, too. All four of my dogs have pet insurance, ranging from $20 to $40/month each (Maisy and Lola are more expensive due to their age and breed, respectively).

The expensive, naughty, utterly wonderful beasts in question.

Peace of Mind
The best thing about pet insurance is the peace of mind it provides. Taking a dog to the ER vet is always stressful, but it's so much easier when you know that you can make decisions based on what's best for your pet as opposed to what your wallet will allow. Even once everyone's home and healthy, it's a huge relief to know that I haven't just put myself into ridiculous amounts of debt, even if it would be worth it.


Financial Breakdown
PetPlan offers great plans, allowing you to choose your deductible, reimbursement amount, and yearly maximum. All four of my dogs have the Gold plan, which means they are covered for over $20,000 of care per year. (Some companies do not have a yearly maximum like this, but when I called around several years ago, those plans had more exclusions, or were significantly more expensive.) All four of my dogs have a $200 per-illness deductible, after which PetPlan pays 100% of the cost for the boys and 80% of the cost for the girls.

Here's what it looked like for each dog:

Pyg's total bill was $2,284.11. I pay a $200 deductible, and PetPlan pays $2,084.11.

Maisy's bill was $1,860.74. I pay a $200 deductible plus 20% coinsurance ($372.15), and PetPlan pays $1,288.59

Napi's bill was $1,943.02. I pay a $200 deductible, and PetPlan pays $1,743.02.

Lola's bill was $1,975.32. I pay a $200 deductible plus 20% coinsurance ($395.06), and PetPlan pays $1,380.26.

TOTAL BILL: $8,063.19
MY SHARE: $1,567.21
INSURANCE PAID: $6,495.98

The Process
Here's my favorite part of PetPlan: the reimbursement process. Now, all pet insurance is a reimbursement plan because pets are (technically) property in the US. This means that I had to pay the total cost up front. This is challenging (who has eight grand lying around??), but I guess god invented credit cards for a reason!

PetPlan makes it easy, though. To make a claim, all I have to do is download an app on my phone, take a picture of the bill and any medical records I have, and they do the rest! I made a claim for all four dogs on Sunday around 9pm, and a check was in the mail less than 48 hours later!! (Both the app and the website make it easy to follow the claims process online.) I should have the check by the end of the week.

PS- I am so not being paid to post this. I just LOVE PetPlan a lot. Seriously. Buy insurance for your furry friends. It is worth every penny; the way I figure, this incident just paid for FOUR YEARS worth of premiums. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Happy 3rd birthday, Pyg!

You know what's awesome? Facebook. Because of the power of the 'book, I connected with someone who knew Pyg in his old life in Alabama. She kindly sent me this photo of him from May 27, 2013- just a few days shy of his four-month birthday.


I learned that he had been adopted and returned, and that he lived with fosters for most of his time in rescue. I *almost* feel bad for the folks that adopted/returned him... He really is such a phenomenal dog that it's a shame they didn't put in the (very little) time he would have needed. I honestly haven't done much work with him, and he's just the best, most solid little dog. He's got such a good natural temperament. But mostly I'm selfishly glad that they didn't keep him, because I ADORE my Pretty Boy Pyg.

Happy 3rd birthday, buddy. Let's try not to spend anymore in the hospital, okay?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Can I give my dog ibuprofen? HELLS NO.

Yesterday I came home from work to find four happy dogs... and a bottle of ibuprofen in the middle of my living room, with the pills clearly chewed on and scattered about. I knew that ibuprofen is dangerous for dogs, so I called the vet. Because I didn't know who had chewed on the ibuprofen, nor how much may have been swallowed, they advised that I rush all four to the emergency clinic. That's where I learned how dangerous ibuprofen is. 

Ibuprofen does all kinds of bad things to dogs, including ulcers, kidney failure, and neurological problems. Worse, it doesn't take much to cause these problems. GI problems, like ulcers, can happen at a dose as small as 25mg per kilogram. For my three little dogs, who each weigh around 15 pounds or 7kg, give or take, that means that as little as 175mg - or less than one tablet of ibuprofen - can cause serious problems. Kidney failure is likely at about 175mg per kilogram, or for my dogs, about six tablets.

By the time we got there, Pyg was throwing up, was lethargic, and was swaying on his feet. Not good. They took him back first and made him throw up. After consultation, we agreed that all four may have eaten some ibuprofen, and so the best course of action was to take the other three back.

That's when I learned that recovery from ibuprofen ingestion is a lengthy procedure. First, everyone has to throw up. Then, they need to eat activated charcoal, which helps neutralize anything that's been absorbed. (Pyg got bonus lipids to help even more since he was so sick and problem ate the most.) Next, they need to have GI protectants (to prevent ulcers or tears in the stomach). Finally, they need at least 48 hours of IV fluids to flush out the system. Regular blood work and UAs are taken to assess if any kidney damage has happened. Hopefully the throwing up and charcoal and fluids prevents that.

We're about 24 hours in right now. Everybody is doing well, even Pyg. He's clearly tired, but he's not dull and lethargic. When I visited, he just wanted to lean on me. I'm waiting for their second set of labs to come back, which will tell us if there's any kidney problems brewing. We don't anticipate this happening with any of them since we got treatment so fast, but I'll update when they're home - hopefully tomorrow, but maybe Monday.

In the meantime- everyone should know that if your dog eats ibuprofen, it is an immediate emergency.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Nine years of love!

Today is Maisy's 9th Gotcha Day - the anniversary of the day she came to live with me for good in 2007. I barely took any pictures of her as a pup, and most of the ones I have a over-exposed and/or blurry. Here's a somewhat decent one of her... but of course, it doesn't even begin to express how adorable she was.



Sunday, January 3, 2016

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

Well, hello blogging friends! It's been awhile. Despite that, blogger informs me I'm still averaging 250 hits a day. What? Well, hello! It's nice to know people are still finding their way here. Let's do a quick recap of the year, and look forward to the year to come, shall we?

Maisy
The Reactive Champion namesake, who is really not all that reactive anymore. She does backslide from time to time, especially if we haven't been doing much. For example, she might lunge and bark at the pet store if it's been awhile since she's been exposed to other dogs. But other than that (oh and that broken rib last fall), she's been doing great. We didn't go to a single trial this year, but who cares? We've gotten lots of quality ball-throwing time in, and that's all that matters.

My 2016 goal for Maisy? More hikes!

Lola
Darling Lola. I am surprised by how much I like basset hounds. They are sweet, but stubborn. Couch potatoes, but with plenty of energy. Cuddly, but mischievous. Don't let her get bored or she'll steal something of yours! Probably toilet paper or paper towels or whatever else you left to the edge of a counter. And if she manages to escape the yard, well... good luck!

Lola's 2016 goals include developing a good recall, a drop it, and maybe even some loose leash walking. We'll see how ambitious I actually am...

Pyg
I have to tell you, I have never, not for one minute, regretted adopting this dog. I'm glad I went for it, even though he became available right after Maisy had been terribly ill (and financially wiped me out. PS, have I mentioned how grateful I STILL am to all of you all?). But Pyg is just the BEST DAMN DOG. He is sweet and cuddly. He's playful. He's funny. He is up for anything. He gets along with EVERYBODY. Seriously, I love watching the way he will adjust his play style to each new dog he encounters. He is a seriously cool dog.

I'd like to work on getting him competition ready. (Finally!) Nothing fancy, just level 1 rally/novice obedience. And failing that, I'd love to get a good stay on him.

Napi
Oh, Napi. Napoleon has two settings: complete sweetheart, and complete asshole. (I tried to come up with a non-sweary way to describe him, but really. He's just awful.) I also completely love him. He's a pain to have around other people and other dogs, immediate family excepting, of course, but I swear he loves me more than the other three dogs combined. He just fills up my heart and I cannot imagine my life without him. It would probably be quieter.Napi is reactive, I guess, but that doesn't seem like the right word to describe him. He's reactive-PLUS. He's not really all that anxious, at least, not the way Maisy was. It's more like he's got, well, a Napoleon complex. He's comfortable around our house, and that's all I really need from him.

My goal for Napi this year is to work on crate games and/or the relaxation protocol. He absolutely loses his mind if I try to train another dog, and he can't handle having his crate door closed. I need him to learn just enough impulse control that I can put him somewhere safe while I'm busy.

On the Home Front
2015 was a pretty great year. I did get to meet my Guatemalan mother-in-law, which was fantastic! My Spanish really grew in leaps and bounds. Now I sound like a confused three-year-old instead of a confused two-year-old. The secret to learning another language is to speak it and not care if you sound stupid. I truly cannot conjugate anything beyond present tense, and I often mix up estar and ser, and I have less vocabulary than my dogs probably do, but you know what? It doesn't matter. You can communicate a lot with just the basics if you put yourself out there.

I started grad school in September (Master's of Social Work). I'm doing an extended three-year program, so I've only got two classes per semester this year and the next. I've been able to get a pretty good work/life/school balance down, which has been really nice. The downside is that I don't really want to be in school for three years, but it's gone okay.

Denise Fenzi continues to suck up my spare time/winter break... Last year I think I edited three books for her? I can't even keep up with that mad woman/ferret. She's truly a productive monster. I am honored to work with her, and flattered that she has been working around my grad school schedule.

My personal goals for 2016? I should probably say "blog more," but I KNOW that's not going to happen. My husband and I have (tentatively) agreed to train for a 5K. I have a love/hate relationship with running, so we'll see... I do want to hike more, and hopefully even squeeze in a backpacking trip with my friend Laura. I also have a love/hate relationship with backpacking. I want to speak Spanish more (we're hoping for a trip to Guatemala next fall/winter). I also have very good intentions of listening to the weekly Tara Brach podcast, meditating more, and getting back to yoga regularly (grad school life, yo).

Anyway... would love to hear what ya'll are up to! Drop me a line in the comments, yeah?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Happy Gotcha Day, Pyg!!

I have had Pyg for TWO YEARS now! I can't believe how fast the time has gone!

You know what else I can't believe? That no one else wanted him!! Pyg was in rescue for FIVE MONTHS, since the time he was a PUPPY - and no one wanted him! He had to fly clear across the country to find his forever home!

Pyg is the most amazing dog I have EVER known. He is universally good with every dog he meets. He can modulate his energy level and play style to match whoever he is interacting with. He loves kids. He is a world class snuggler. He is SO funny. He's clever. I just ADORE him.

Thank you Pyg, for whatever you did to make people not want you.









Friday, October 23, 2015

FUNDRAISING CONTEST: Donate to Prynne for a Chance to Win DENISE FENZI's New Book!!

You guys all know Denise Fenzi, right? Super awesome trainer, founder of the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, and prolific author? Well, I just happen to edit a lot of her work, and after I do, Denise usually sends me a free copy or two of the book.

She sent me FIVE extra copies of her newest book:


Beyond the Back Yard: Train Your Dog to Listen Anytime, Anywhere (Click here to learn more)

The book is meant for pet dog owners/trainers, but honestly, it offers a pretty awesome "proofing" plan for sports dogs, too. Ian Dunbar gave it rave reviews, and I just really like it.

And you guys remember Ettel and her dog Prynne? Prynne ate... something... that got lodged her throat, perforated her esophagus, and caused her to have a massive chest infection. Well, today her mom got the devastating news that the tear was worse than they thought. Prynne either needed to stay in the vet hospital for SIX MORE WEEKS to heal OR have a very expensive surgery... or be euthanized.

Ettel chose the surgery. And she doesn't have pet insurance. (GUYS, GET PET INSURANCE. HONESTLY, YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU WILL NEED IT.) So, in addition to the bill that Prynne has already racked up, the total is now around $18,000!! Yikes!

So... LET'S HAVE A CONTEST!!! Donate ANY amount to Ettel and Prynne, and then comment either here or on Facebook that you did, along with the name you used to donate. Next week Friday, I will randomly choose FIVE donors to receive a copy of Beyond the Backyard. I will contact you if you're one of the lucky winners (so be sure to include an email address or check back- if I can't reach you within a week, I'll choose another winner in your place).

DONATE HERE!