To Insure or Not to Insure…

Like many of us, you probably view your pet as your prized asset. And like any investment, the high reward of your pets’ companionship is accompanied by high risks such as the dreaded vet bills should they get unexpectedly sick or injured. This is where pet medical aid can come to your rescue.

What is Pet Medical Aid?

In a nutshell, a pet medical aid plan covers all unexpected medical costs so you can rest easy knowing your pet will have the best possible medical care in times of need.

What are the Advantages?

  • The assurance that unforeseen medical bills are under control.
  • The peace of mind knowing that you can afford the best possible veterinary care if your pet happens to face a life-threatening accident or illness.
  • Most medical aids cover any breed of dog or cat.
  • Most medical aids cover puppies as well as kittens, so they can be insured from the day they become part of your family.
  • Reputable pet medical aids pay out promptly.
  • You deal with knowledgeable, empathetic personnel who genuinely care about your pets.
  • It provides your pets with a better chance of a healthy, long life.
  • Affordable monthly contributions that can save you a pretty penny as well as your pet’s life.

What are the Drawbacks?

  • The cover received may not be comprehensive enough to justify the lump sum contributions under certain conditions.
  • Some breeds may be difficult, or even impossible, to insure for breed specific genetic defects.
  • Older pets are usually more prone to illness so their cover is subject to certain limitations.
  • You may struggle getting your pets insured if they are already ill.
  • Routine care is not always covered so pet owners may have to pay for these visits in their personal capacity.

General Guidelines

Choosing a medical aid scheme can be a daunting task so, although insurance companies have variations applicable to their own policies, here are a few general guidelines to help you when researching reliable insurers for your furry friend/s.

What’s not generally covered?

  • Routine medical care, such as annual check-ups, vaccinations, worm, tick, and flea control, teeth cleaning, spaying, neutering and microchipping
  • Pregnancy or any breeding related treatments
  • Grooming
  • Behavioural issues
  • Optional procedures such as removing dew claws
  • Congenital or hereditary defects, for example hip dysplasia
  • Development of any ailments within the first 30 days of the start date of the policy
  • Cremation
  • Periodontal disease
  • Internal or external parasites such as worms, flea allergy dermatitis etc
  • Conditions that showed clinical signs prior to insurance being taken out
  • Elective food and diets, unless specifically prescribed by your vet to treat medical conditions

What’s generally covered?

  • Accidental injuries, for instance snake bites, broken bones or any injuries sustained during a fight
  • Any illness as menial as ear infections and skin irritations, to cancer, diabetes and the like (except for any of those illnesses related to the above exclusions)
  • Operations (except for any of those related to the above exclusions)
  • Gastric torsion –when an animal’s stomach bloats and rotates therefore requiring corrective surgery
  • Removal of tumours (either malignant or benign)
  • Hip replacements (unless hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition)
  • If there is a proven and legitimate emergency, a contribution per day will be paid out for kennels, catteries or pet sitters. This is limited to a maximum number of days per year.

How are claims submitted and paid out?

Some policies refund you once they’ve received your claim form, the vet’s account and proof of payment. Other policies specify that pay outs aren’t paid to you directly and you’ll need to submit the claim form and vet bill to the insurer so they can settle the account with the vet directly.

Is there a waiting period before you can claim?

Claims can generally be made one calendar month from the policy inception date. Various policies don’t have a waiting period for accidents.

When can you expect reimbursement for your claim?

Usually within 14 working days of the insurer receiving the claim form and all the required documentation.

Will monthly premiums increase?

Because veterinary costs increase with inflation, a standard premium increase is usually expected at the beginning of each policy year.

How are monthly premiums paid?

Premiums are usually debited monthly from your account or annually via a deposit. If your premium is unpaid for a month, your cover will lapse.

Cancellation Policy?

Some policies offer a 14 day cooling off period where you will be given a full refund should you cancel within that period, thereafter, 30 days written cancellation notice will be required.

Will pets of any age be covered?

Most policies allow dogs and cats from as young as 8 weeks old to sign up. On the other end of the spectrum, certain insurers make specific allowance for senior dogs or cats of up to 8 or 9 years and older, provided you produce their complete medical history.

Once your pet is registered, they are covered for life.

Can you visit any vet?

Most policies allow you to use any vet countrywide as long as they are licenced to practice in South Africa.

Must your pet have a microchip?

Pets will usually not be covered if they are not microchipped and this must be done at your own expense.

Do Policies include death pay outs?

Most policies don’t include death pay outs, however, condolence cover is offered by certain insurers if your pet passes away. The insurer will, however, require verification from your vet of the passing of your pet.

Will a policy cover for euthanasia?

Some insurers cover only a small portion of the costs but, again, your vet will be required to confirm the passing of your pet.

Are discounts offered for additional pets?

Most insurers offer multi pet discounts for additional pets registered with them. Some policies offer a discount from 15% upwards on the total premium.

Costs?

Premiums depend solely on the insurer and the plan you select. For the most basic cover, you can pay as little as R90 per month for a cat or dog. If you require more comprehensive cover, you can expect monthly premiums of approximately R275 for cats or R340 for dogs. Considering what we pay for our own medical cover, these costs are very reasonable.

When in doubt, double check the T’s and C’s of the insurance company in question.

Major pet insurers in South Africa

  • Petsure
  • One Plan Pet Insurance
  • MediPet
  • DotSure

Available plan options?

Although set up in distinctive ways, most pet insurers offer 3 or 4 similar plan options along these lines:

  1. Accidents Only Plans which usually cover accidents resulting from:
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • A burn
  • Electrocution
  • A fall from a raised position
  • A near drowning
  • A foreign object either swallowed or embedded that requires surgical endoscopic removal
  • Snake bites
  • Poisoning

If your pet is admitted to hospital due to an accident, those costs will be covered up to a certain amount, as stipulated in the relevant policy. Dogs and cats of 8 or 9 years and older are usually covered by a plan of this nature.

Is this plan for you?

If you’re willing to pay for routine vet visits in your private capacity and you only require cover for emergency cases resulting from accidents, then this is a good option for you.

  1. Accidents and Illness Plans cover all accidents mentioned above, along with vet visits for illnesses.

Is this plan for you?

Consider on average, how often you visit the vet. Then calculate in accordance with the policy, whether this plan will cover and/or exceed the costs of these visits as well as any accidents or illnesses. If so, you will benefit from this plan option.

  1. Accidents, Illnesses and Routine Care Cover (including vaccinations, deworming, tick and flea control, sterilisation, dental scale and polish)

Is this plan for you?

If the premiums are in line with your budget and you’re happy with all the bells and whistles of a premium plan, then this option is for you.

Additional Considerations:

Consider the following before making your final decision on an insurer:

  • Does the insurer have breed exclusions where certain breeds are unwelcome because they’re likely to develop conditions common to that specific breed of cat or dog?
  • Does the insurer offer advertising rewards for lost pets? Some policies contribute to the placement of adverts in local newspapers and rewards for anyone who finds the lost pet in question.
  • Does the insurer offer a theft policy? Some insurers pay a certain amount to you if your dog has been stolen, provided you have reported the theft within 24 hours of the crime occurring as well as provide a police case number. Unfortunately, cats are usually excluded from this condition.
  • Does the insurer contribute towards boarding facilities? Some insurers contribute an amount towards boarding fees if you happen to be hospitalised but this is for emergency cases only.
  • Does the insurer offer third party liability to protect you against any injuries your pet may cause to other people, their pets or damage to property?

We are responsible for giving our fur babies the happiest and healthiest lives we possibly can. However, we need to be realistic in what we can afford to make this a reality.

At the end of the day, you’re left with two choices: To insure or not to insure. You can either contribute a small amount every month towards a medical aid plan that best suits your and your pet’s needs or you can fit the vet bills yourself, which is great if you’re able to afford this.

Either way, so long as your furry friend’s health is well covered and that you’re not financially burdened in ensuring so, you can rest easy knowing you are doing everything to give your pet the wholesome life they deserve.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Your Car is a Potential Death Trap

Joey, Tess and Starla are only a few names on the lengthy list of innocent victims of heatstroke due to being left alone by their guardians in parked cars. The tragedy here lies in the truth that these beloved pets were simply casualties of poor judgment. People are grossly unaware of the detrimental effects that heat can have on their animals and it’s time to bring this ignorance to a grinding halt.

Reality

It’s unbelievably harder for dogs and cats to regulate their temperatures than humans when their only cooling mechanisms are panting and sweating via their little paw pads. Then people unfairly jeopardise their pets’ lives by leaving them in a baking hot car whilst they run off to do some menial chore.

Debunking the Misconceptions

  1. You’ll leave the window open a crac
    Multiple studies have shown that a partially open window will make insignificant difference to the average temperature inside the vehicle.
  2. You’ll only be gone five minutes
    Those intended “five minutes” can easily accumulate to an unexpected 20-minute expedition and every minute your fur-covered friend is trapped in that hot box, is deadlier than the last.
  3. It’s a cool day!
    See the study below proving that even on a mild day, pets can suffer at the hands of heatstroke:

Approximate Vehicle Interior Air Temperature vs Time Passed

Time Passed Outside Air Temperature
(Degrees Celsius)
  21 24 27 29 32 35
0 minutes 21 24 27 29 32 35
10 minutes 32 34 37 40 43 46
20 minutes 37 40 43 46 48 51
30 minutes 40 43 46 48 51 54
40 minutes 42 45 48 51 53 56
50 minutes 44 47 49 52 55 58
60 minutes 45 48 51 53 56 59
> 1 hour 46 49 52 54 57 60

Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University

Even on a cool day of 21 degrees, the interior temperature of a car can rise by almost 20 degrees in thirty minutes! Bring a dark coloured vehicle that amplifies the heat into the equation, and the rate increases even further.

  1. You’ll keep the aircon running
    What if the aircon fails whilst you’re away? The vents will continue working but they’ll be blowing warm air into the vehicle therefore exacerbating an already lethal situation. What if your pet moves around the car and accidently hits the AC switch, subsequently turning it off?
  2. You’ll leave them water
    Dogs and cats generally cool off by panting, so in a blistering hot vehicle this essential task is made overwhelmingly more strenuous and no amount of water is going to fend off heatstroke. 

The Consequences:

Parked cars are death traps for pets who can sustain brain damage and have a heart attack from heatstroke so you need to get them to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

The following are warning signs of heatstroke to look out for:

  • extreme panting
  • difficulty breathing
  • agitation
  • vomiting/bloody diarrhoea
  • fever
  • lethargy
  • collapsing
  • convulsing
  • crying for help
  • disorientation
  • dilated pupils
  • rapid heart rate
  • excessive thirst
  • dark tongue
  • lack of coordination
  • glazed eyes

Treatment:

If a pet falls victim to heatstroke:

  • Remove the pet from the vehicle and move them into a shaded area or an air-conditioned car or building (if you cannot transport the dog yourself, call the local animal rescue organisation).
  • Rush the pet to the vet immediately.

En route to the vet:

  • Lower their body temperature gradually by applying cool water or wet towels all over their body. Don’t try to cool them down instantly with iced water as this will jolt them into shock.
  • Place their paws in cool (never cold) water.
  • Allow the pet to drink some cool water or lick some ice.

If you see a pet in a hot car?

  1. Contact the nearest police or animal protection authorities.
  2. Specify the vehicle’s details and exact location.
  3. Quickly enter the building/s and ensure an announcement is made to alert the owner of the pet.

If help is unresponsive or takes too long, find people to bear witness to your judgement and do what is required to remove the distressed animal from the vehicle. Follow the treatment steps above and wait until authorities arrive. DO NOT LEAVE THE SCENE UNTIL THE ANIMAL IS SAFE!

Some places legally protect citizens who break into a car to save an animal’s life. In other places, only certain authorities are permitted to do so. Check your local laws so you know your rights if such a situation arises.

Don’t become another statistic: Be responsible by leaving your pets at home where they are comfortable and most importantly, safe. They’ll be waiting happily for you on your return.

FYI: Fur Your Infurmation

Even pets in their prime can be plagued by heatstroke, but the following are more prone to the risk:

  • Puppies or kittens
  • Senior pets
  • Overweight pets
  • Pets with pre-existing health issues
  • Shorter snouted breeds (Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekinese and Shi Tzus, Persians and Himalayan cats) struggle more with the heat than pets with longer muzzles.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Battle of the Bird Flu

The recent outbreak of bird flu in Mpumalanga has become a major cause for concern amongst surrounding communities. Continue reading to find out how to protect your furry family from this peculiar epidemic.

What is Bird Flu?
Bird flu or avian influenza, is an infection caused by certain types of flu viruses that target poultry, a variety of wild birds and several species of mammals such as pigs, horses, ferrets, dogs and cats. Avian influenza, specifically the H5N1 strain of the virus, is highly contagious amongst birds and can make domestic birds such as chickens, ducks and turkeys exceptionally sick, often resulting in death.

Can my dog or cat contract it?
Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to prove how susceptible healthy cats and dogs are to avian influenza.

In certain areas of Africa, Asia and Europe, a number of cats that were in contact with infected poultry groups were tested positive for avian influenza, however, most of them were also deteriorating in health due to malnutrition and various other respiratory illnesses, which may have made them more vulnerable to the infection so the root cause is unclear. One assumption is that the cats may have contracted the virus by killing and ingesting infected birds. An additional theory is that cats could also contract the virus from the faeces, urine or nasal discharge of other infected cats.

In extremely rare cases, dogs have been reported to be infected with bird flu. Most studies in which dogs have tested positive for avian influenza are a result of them being infected with the disease for laboratory research. This limited evidence is also inadequate to establish conclusively whether or not dogs are naturally susceptible to avian influenza and if so, how exactly they would contract it. 

What Symptoms can I look out for?
Cats infected with the H5N1 virus have been reported to display the following symptoms:

  • High fevers
  • A clear or pink/red coloured nasal discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Laboured breathing
  • Listlessness
  • Conjunctivitis

In dogs, the following symptoms are associated with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza:

  • High fevers
  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Laboured breathing
  • Running nose
  • Wheezing

Some of the above mentioned symptoms are usually related to other respiratory infections, so if your furry friend is displaying any of these symptoms it is essential to obtain laboratory confirmation in order to achieve an absolute diagnosis for avian influenza.

What treatments are available?
Until further conclusive studies are carried out, there is no proven treatment for avian influenza amongst dogs or cats.

If your pet has been in any contact with birds or has been unsupervised when outdoors and subsequently displays symptoms comparable to avian influenza, consult your veterinarian immediately. Confine your pet so they have no contact with other animals or people. Sanitise all surfaces your pet has contacted and meticulously wash your hands and clothes after handling a potentially ill dog or cat.

As there is currently no vaccine available to defend dogs or cats from avian influenza, the following preventative measures are extremely important to follow during an avian influenza outbreak:

Preventative Measures
Ensure your pet is up to date with vaccinations, is on a healthy and nutritional diet, gets regular exercise and is kept hydrated. A healthy pet with a strong immune system is the first step in warding off avian influenza.

If you are in a high risk area, ensure your pet is constantly supervised when outdoors. Ensure they steer clear of birds and their droppings, as well as other animals or wildlife that may be infected with the virus.

Never feed your pet raw poultry.

It is crucial that your pets are well nourished, with emphasis on the way the meat is cooked to eradicate any harmful bacteria. Different cuts of meat require specific cooking temperatures as well as specific post-cooking rest times, so you can refer to the following as a guide to ensure the meat your pets are consuming is safe.


Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures
Use the above chart and a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature.

Remember, you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. 

Why the Rest Time is Important
After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

If your pet displays any symptoms associated with respiratory infection, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson