Animal Health Foundation Blog

ESA, Therapy and Service Dogs

March 3rd, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

Yes, You Did

February 27th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

Whole Dog Journal’s Blog February 21, 2019

February 21st, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

We have mentioned recalls for foods that contain potentially dangerous levels of vitamin D a couple of times in the past few months (here and here). Recently, the recall expanded to include a company that one doesn’t ordinarily think of as being prone to serious formulation errors: Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

A little background: The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified the public that several dry dog foods were being recalled after dogs who ate the foods experienced vitamin D toxicity; these symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, weight loss, and hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood, which can result in kidney stones and the calcification of organs like the heart and kidneys) – and at worst, kidney failure and death. Testing found that the foods contained excessive, potentially toxic levels of vitamin D.

hill's pet nutrition recall

The dry dog foods in question were made by a contract manufacturer – a “co-packer” that makes products for several pet food companies. It became clear relatively quickly that the vitamin premix used by the co-packer in a number of foods supplied excessive amounts of vitamin D. Some test results indicated that some of the foods made with the vitamin premix contained as much as 70 times the intended amount of vitamin D! However, the FDA did not report any dog deaths, only illnesses, related to these recalls.

Rather vexing to us: Neither the companies whose products had to be recalled nor the FDA disclosed either the name of the co-packer or the name of the vitamin premix supplier.

Then, in late January, Hills Pet Nutrition announced its own vitamin D-related recall – in this case, involving some of its canned dog foods. According to Hill’s, only canned dog foods (no treats, dry dog foods, or cat foods) are involved, and there is no connection between the earlier recalls of other companies’ dry dog foods and the Hill’s recall. Dr. Jolle Kirpensteijn, chief professional veterinary officer at Hill’s U.S., told VIN News Service, “Our supplier is a well-known supplier based in the U.S. We’re really not aware if there’s any relationship with other brands recalled in December.”

Hill’s declined to disclose the name of its vitamin supplier.

Though Hill’s has not yet acknowledged or admitted that any dogs have died as a result of vitamin D toxicity from its foods, five separate lawsuits have already been filed against Hill’s, with four of them alleging that the plaintiffs’ dogs died or were euthanized due to severe illness following the consumption of a Hill’s canned food. One of the suits alleges that Hill’s knew about the elevated levels of vitamin D in certain canned foods months prior to the recall.

My Dog Food Recall Takeaways:

  1. If you have fed any of the recalled foods to your dog (list of recalled foods to date is here), or if your dog shows any signs of vitamin D toxicity (vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, weight loss, hypercalcemia, kidney failure), stop feeding the food and take your dog to see his veterinarian right away.
  2. Any time your dog becomes ill, changing his food to a different company’s product right away seems like a prudent precaution. No pet food company is immune to production or formulation errors, especially with pet foods containing so many ingredients from so many different suppliers.
  3.  Make a point to report any sudden or unexpected serious illness to the maker of your dog’s food and to the FDA. The March issue of WDJ explains how and why to make these adverse event reports.

Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

January 17th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

For help with this in your dog, consult a credentialed dog behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement NOT intimidation or correction trainer.

A Service Dog is more than a vest

January 17th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

Saying Goodbye; How to Deal with the Death of a Dog

January 16th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

Dealing with the death of a pet can be the hardest thing many of us will ever do.

The link below helps you with how you can say goodbye.


Saying Goodbye: How To Deal With The Loss Of A Dog

Benefits of the Elderly Owning Pets

January 16th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

The link below is to an article on about the benefits of the elderly owning pets!

Sweet Angel

January 15th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

SCVMA member Monarch Veterinary Hospital in Laguna Niguel, CA received a grant for the Angel Fund to help the Frost family afford needed veterinary care for their cat Angel.  Thank you Monarch Veterinary Hospital!

More Pet Insurance Policies Are Being Sold. But Are They Worth the Cost?

January 7th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation


The New York Times

By Ann Carrns Jan. 4, 2019

Americans are increasingly treating their pets as members of the family, feeding them gourmet food, paying for day care and throwing them birthday parties. Family sleepwear sets sold on even include matching jammies for the dog.

So it’s not surprising that an increasing number of “pet parents,” as they are known in the pet care industry, are seeking sophisticated medical treatments for their animals.

Enter pet health insurance, marketed as a way to help defray rising veterinary expenses and avoid “economic euthanasia” — the necessity of putting a pet down because the owner can’t afford treatment. More than two million pets in the United States and Canada (most of them in the United States) were insured at the end of 2017, up about 17 percent from the year before, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

But consumer advocates say that pet owners should make sure they understand how the policies work before buying them.

More than two-thirds of households in the United States own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. Americans spent about $70 billion on pets in 2017, including purchases of animals, food, veterinary care, medicines and other services.

“People are much more inclined to think of their animals like children, and treat them accordingly,” said James Serpell, a professor of ethics and animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance with the Consumer Federation of America, said pet owners should bring a healthy skepticism when shopping for pet insurance. Purchase of the product is “often motivated by a combination of love and fear,” he said. “So the buyer may be particularly vulnerable.”

Details vary by insurer and policy, but premiums for pet insurance typically depend on factors like the cost of veterinary care where you live and the age and breed of the pet. The average annual premium for “accident and illness” coverage was $516 per pet in 2017, while the average claim paid was $278, according to the pet health insurance association.

Jeff Blyskal, a senior writer with Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit group that rates services in major urban markets, said pet owners should compare policies with a critical eye. When years of payments are taken into account, he said, buying insurance could end up being more expensive for some pet owners than going without it, if their animal doesn’t require much care.

Pet policies typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions, Mr. Blyskal said, so premiums are generally lower when your pet is young and healthy. Even if you start early, though, you may end up paying more over time, he said, because some policies raise premiums as pets get older. This can increase costs substantially, he said, and cause owners to drop their policies as the animals get older — just when they are more likely to need the coverage. Industrywide, the average pet policy is maintained for three years or less, according to an insurer regulatory filing in 2016 in Washington State.

The expenses tied to pet health coverage usually include not only a regular premium but also other out-of-pocket costs, like a deductible — an amount that you must pay before insurance begins paying. Insurance may cover less than 100 percent of costs after the deductible, so you’ll still have to pay for part of the treatment. Some policies may cap payments, so ask if there’s a limit.

Rob Jackson, chief executive of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, said insurance could protect against budget-busting events costing thousands of dollars. (Healthy Paws said a pet’s age affects premiums at initial enrollment, and also as the pet ages.) The Healthy Paws website cites examples like Fridgey the Bengal cat, who had a $4,600 hip replacement, and Lupa the German shepherd, who needed $52,000 in treatment for tetanus exposure.

One way to pay lower premiums, and possibly get broader coverage, is to buy pet insurance through your employer. Eleven percent of employers in the United States offer pet health insurance benefits, according to a 2018 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, up from 6 percent in 2014. Typically, companies offer pet insurance as a “voluntary” benefit. It’s uncommon for employers to contribute to the cost of premiums, as they do with human health insurance. But insurers may give employees a break on premiums, or offer better coverage, because their marketing costs are lower.

Employees at Ollie, a specialty dog food company, receive a 15 percent discount on premiums from the insurer Healthy Paws, said Gabby Slome, a co-founder of Ollie. (Ollie also offers workers benefits like “pawternity” leave when they take a new dog home.)

“We had a strong belief that pets are a part of one’s family,” she said.

Scott Liles, president and chief pet insurance officer with Nationwide, said half of Fortune 500 companies offer their employees pet insurance from his company. Nationwide’s employer-based plans now underwrite by species — canines vs. felines — but not by age or breed, Mr. Liles said. That means, he said, you won’t pay a higher premium if your pet is older, or if its breed is prone to certain illnesses, unlike policies sold in the open market.

Here are some questions and answers about pet health insurance:

Do some animals cost more to insure than others?

Cats are generally less expensive to insure than dogs. The average accident and illness premium in 2017 was about $45 a month for dogs and $28 a month for cats, according to the pet health insurance association. Because some purebred animals are prone to certain health problems, some insurers may charge higher premiums for them.

What if I can’t afford pet insurance?

Local animal shelters may offer basic services, like rabies vaccinations or spaying and neutering operations, at a discounted rate. The Humane Society of the United States lists groups that can help owners who can’t afford medical care for their pets.

Another option is to put money away each month — perhaps the amount of the premium you would pay — into a dedicated savings account so you will have some funds available for pet care if you need it.

What if I’m unhappy with my pet insurance policy?

Insurance products are generally regulated by state governments, so you may want to contact your state insurance commissioner about your concern. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers information about pet insurance and links to regulatorsin each state.


An earlier version of this article, using information supplied by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, misstated how a pet’s age affects premiums for the company’s policies. The pet’s age affects the premium at the time of enrollment and as the pet gets older, not just at enrollment.

Hospice Care For Dogs

January 5th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation


Animal Health Foundation Board Member, Dr. Alice Villalobos, is quoted in this article!

Hospice Care For Dogs: Is It The Right Choice For You & Your Pooch?

Hospice care for dogs is a relatively new concept. Sadly, the word hospice often carries a negative stigma. It reminds us of lonely, sterile rooms and the fear of impending death. In reality, hospice care can be a wonderful gift for terminally ill people and pets. Rather than focusing on invasive medical procedures, hospice provides physical and emotional comfort to end-of-life patients and their families.

hospice care for dogs

What is hospice care for dogs?

Hospice care is based on the philosophy that people and pets deserve to die with dignity. When a dog is suffering from a serious illness and a cure is not possible, hospice care provides a temporary alternative to euthanasia. The goal is to make their remaining days comfortable with pain medications, dietary strategies and human interaction.

Dr. Alice Villalobos is a world-renowned veterinary oncologist. She coined the term “pawspice,” which she describes as supportive care in evaluating and managing quality of life in the time leading up to a pet’s death.

“In-home ‘pawspice’ care is a wonderful next step,” Dr. Villalobos says. “It should be introduced as an interval between the thought and the final act of euthanasia, if the owner really feels that their pet still has a quality of life.”

Hospice care for dogs also allows families to come to terms with the impending loss of a beloved friend. In keeping a terminal pet comfortable, the human family members have time to come to terms with the situation. Hospice allows them to plan special moments with their dog, take family photos, and seek emotional and spiritual support.