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Monthly Archives November 2012

Claim Example: Ruby the Dog is kicked by a Moose

When I was looking for claims that related specifically to Winter Dangers, this one stuck out as rather unexpected – poor Ruby gets kicked by a moose! We asked Elizabeth B, her pet parent, to tell us what happened and this is what she said:

Ruby in AlaskaRuby is proof that old dogs can learn new things.  We moved to Alaska in the winter of 2012.  Our dogs, Ruby (age 12) and Willow (age 3) , instinctively knew to be cautious around the bears we crossed paths with on our hikes.  But our dogs did not see moose as an obvious threat.  Although moose can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds, they come off as curious, docile, and almost clumsy creatures, and accordingly are easy prey for dogs. What our dogs didn’t know is that while moose tend not to run from a perceived threat, they can and will kick forward with their front feet, knocking down and trampling the threat.  

This fall, we came across a female moose on one of our hikes.  Ruby and Willow circled around it, barking until the moose became agitated and kicked Ruby in the hip.  Ruby lumbered out of the brush with an immediately swollen hip and back. Fortunately, she did not break any bones, but did tear a muscle which is still in the process of healing.  

We are fortunate to be covered by Embrace, which reimbursed us for the majority of the emergency visit and follow-up care she needed.  And now when we see moose on the trail, Ruby keeps her distance.  Willow is another story!

So there you have it – moose are not as docile as they appear to be! Ruby’s claim details look like this:

Ruby's vet bill for moose kick
Ruby's claim payout calculation
Ruby’s policy costs $12.59 a month for her accident-only policy, living in Anchorage AK.

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney
Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets
Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?
Claim Example: Ruby the Dog is kicked by a Moose


An Exchange of Ideas


Almost 3 years after Obamacare was signed in to law and there is as much, if not more uncertainty than before. All the campaign promises, “You can keep your plan if you want”, “Your premiums will drop by $2500 (or 3000%)”, and so forth have been proven to be lacking in honesty and integrity.

We are a little more than a year away from the deadline for FULL implementation (1/1/2014) and still the states have no real clue what is expected of them with regard to the exchange.

This should come as no surprise since Washington has arbitrarily usurped the legal authority of the states to set policy provisions, approve contract language, establish reserve requirements, minimum loss ratio standards, as well as setting and reviewing rates.

Confusion abounds.

States, carriers and consumers alike have been left in the dark when it comes to rules, guidelines and interpretation. The law, as written, says one thing, but then the HHS Dept. decides it means something else.

The law applies to everyone equally . . . unless of course you were granted a waiver or exception.

HHS has decided the law even trumps your religious rights and beliefs when it comes to items such as birth control or abortion.

So why should the rules concerning exchanges be any different?

In an open letter to HHS, Gov. Terry Branstad (Iowa) raised several (still unresolved issues and questions) regarding Obamacare and the exchange.

1)     Please provide a complete list of regulations that will have to be reviewed, revised and re-opened for public comment prior to implementation as a result of the Supreme Court ruling (e.g., the Medicaid eligibility regulations, exchange regulations related to interface with Medicaid). What is the schedule for re-issuing these regulations? 

         2)    When will final rules be issued on essential health benefits, actuarial value and rating areas? 

3)     The federal government has already extended deadlines for applying for Level 1 and Level 2 Exchange Establishment funding into 2014. Can we expect extensions of the deadlines for other areas of implementation given the uncertainty caused by the Supreme Court ruling and the linkage between Medicaid expansion and exchange eligibility and enrollment functions? In addition, will the deadlines change for states implementing a partnership exchange? Will the deadlines be extended for states implementing a federal exchange? Can you confirm that states will be able to switch from a federal model to a partnership or state model until 2019 and that funding will be available to enable that transition? 

4)     When will the details of the federal partnership options be available? These cannot be considered as an option without details including cost estimates and how state and federal systems are expected to link. How will the long term funding of the federally-facilitated healthcare exchanges be sustained? 

5)     States considering a state-based exchange need to know whether there will be a charge to use the federal data hub, advance premium tax credit/cost-sharing reduction service, risk adjustment and transitional reinsurance programs. Will there be a charge? And, if so, how much will it be? 

All good questions, along with 45 more on this site.

We were also promised that “Gitmo” would be closed by this president. Almost 4 years later and the prison is still open.

Makes you wonder when, or if, Obamacare in its’ final form, will happen.

Original content copyright © InsureBlog

Cavalcade of Risk #171: Call for submissions

Emily Holbrook next
week’s Cavalcade of Risk – Entries are due by Monday (the 26th).

To submit your risk-related post,
just click here to email

You’ll need to

■ Your post’s url and
■ Your
blog’s url and name
■ Your name and
■ A (brief)
summary of the post

PLEASE remember: ONLY posts that relate to risk (not
personal finance tips and the like). And please only
submit if you are willing to link back to the carnival if your submission is


Original content copyright © InsureBlog

Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?

Continuing the theme of Winter Dangers for Cats and Dogs, Dr Laci Schaible joins us today to talk about something I had no idea occurred – increased blocking of cats in the autumn! Dr Schaible fills us in on this odd phenomenom.

Barnes making me smileYou may have heard of this serious condition, but did you know that autumn is the most common time of year for male cats to “block?” This happens when small stones and protein-rich material are formed that literally block the flow of urine from the bladder through the urethra, preventing the cat from urinating. If your pet is straining to go to the bathroom, vocalizing excessively, or seems to be in pain when his abdomen is touched, a veterinarian should check him IMMEDIATELY!

Why this time of year? Pets typically drink plenty of water during the hot summer months. As the staggering summer heat eases up and the seasons quickly shift to cooler fall temperatures, pets are more likely to consume less water. Noticeable effects can even be seen in indoor cats. Don’t forget to leave fresh water for your pets at all times.

A detailed looked at blocked cats

Feline urethral obstruction (the “blocked cat”) is a potentially fatal condition, usually seen in male cats, during which urine is prevented from leaving the bladder. The urethra may be plugged with mucus, urinary sediment, inflammatory cells, or small bladder stones. Diet and bladder infections can have a role in the formation of urinary stones and sludge.

What animals can experience a urinary blockage?

Although any animal is susceptible to a urethral obstruction, male cats are at greater risk for urethral blockage than dogs or female cats because their urethras are narrow and long, making them easier to plug.

Side note: I have seen a female dog present for urethral obstruction. Recognizing the signs of urinary blockage is important for male and female pet parents and dog and cat owners alike.

How serious is this?

Urethral obstructions are life threatening! If urine is prevented from exiting the bladder, pressure within the urinary tract can damage the kidneys. Urine contains metabolic waste products that the body must eliminate; urethral obstruction causes these toxins to build up. In addition, the bladder wall may be stretched to the point where muscle function is lost; in the worst cases, it ruptures.

A urethral obstruction is an emergency situation and you should go to your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your pet is “blocked.” If not treated quickly, pets with a urinary obstruction can die a painful death from complications.

Signs to watch for

If your pet tries multiple times to urinate and produces just a few drops of urine or none at all, chances are good that he is completely or partially blocked. As the condition progresses, he may show evidence of abdominal pain and howl when touched or when trying to urinate. Your normally sweet cat may even swat or bite you when you try to touch him. This is because he feels horrible. Within 24 hours, he may become lethargic, not wanting to get up, move, or eat.

What happens at the vet

As soon as you arrive at your veterinarian’s office, your pet will be examined to determine if his bladder is enlarged and whether an obstruction is likely. This is a quick and easy diagnosis. If an obstruction is confirmed, your pet will likely be rushed to the back where emergency treatment and stabilization will be initiated.

Your veterinarian may recommend any or all of the following diagnostics and procedures:

  • Blood work to assess toxin levels and hydration status
  • Urine exam to look for an infection and/or crystals
  • Urine culture to determine if there is an infection and, if so, what bacteria may be responsible
  • X-rays to look for bladder or urethral stones
  • IV catheter placement, which allows for fluids and medications to be administered
  • Removal of urine directly from the bladder, which allows for easier urinary catheter insertion
  • Urinary catheter placement, which provides a way to flush the bladder and keep it empty for several days while inflammation subsides

Treatment involves IV fluids, antibiotics, medications to relax the urethra in order to allow material to pass through it, surgery to remove bladder stones, and sometimes a surgery called a “P.U.” or a perineal urethrostomy. This surgery makes the urethral opening permanently larger, thus reducing the risk of future obstructions.

Vet Tip: If your cat does block, you should discuss with your vet if he/she thinks your cat is a good candidate for a P.U. Many vets are hesitant to mention this initially, as the cost to hospitalize a blocked feline can easily reach $1,000. Sadly, if vets initially disclose that the condition might later require a P.U. surgery, yet another pricey invoice, many pet parents choose euthanasia. Please forgive us if your veterinarian doesn’t mention this. If you were faced with cat owners choosing euthanasia after learning that this isn’t a one-time solution, you would quickly learn to keep your mouth shut and only initiate that discussion when and if it is applicable.

Can this be prevented?

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to prevent feline urethral obstructions, as it is not always known what causes them in the first place. Bladder infections may have a role in the formation of urinary sediment, stones, and scar tissue, so infections should be treated promptly.

IMG_0073Increasing water intake may also be beneficial. Several diets can help reduce the risk of urethral obstruction in cats that are prone to this problem. Your veterinarian can tell you if your cat should be on a special diet to reduce the risk of urethral obstruction. Wet diets are higher in water, and therefore keep the urine more dilute. Running fountains also encourage many cats to drink more water, but some cats refuse to use these fountains all together.

Keeping your cat at a healthy weight is a final way to help prevent the chance of urethral obstruction. Though we don’t quite understand the connection, overweight neutered male cats represent the majority of blocked pets.

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney
Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets
Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?

Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets

I have to admit, I’ve been rather selfish in wanting another warm winter like we had last year in northeast Ohio. I run and I can’t bear to use my treadmill so a milder winter means more time outside for me; however, the milder weather isn’t necessarily good for pets as Dr Riggs points out below.

Well it looks like the winter months are coming.  Usually that means snow ice and slush… and slush… and slush (I live in Central Ohio). We need to buy cute coats and bundle our dogs up when they go outside and make sure their feet are clean of salt and ice as they come into the warmth of the house. 

That was the way it use to be … but last year was not like that at all. The decade of 2000-2009 was the hottest decade on record, with eight of the hottest ten years having occurred since 2000. Hmmm what is in store for this winter?? 

I, and everyone else, have written blogs and articles about how to protect your animals of cold winter threats and you can reread all of those great blogs.  Being a sound believer of global warming, and whatever the precipitating cause may be, I am betting on another mild winter again in central Ohio.  We will need to see if I am right or not.

So does the warmer weather adversely really affect my pet?  Yes it does.

Many animals and birds, have historically traveled to warmer climates, for breeding purposes. Many of the migratory routes and habitats have been devastated forcing many of them to not migrate at all. So they stay where they are.  Canada Geese are everywhere all year long now.  Some people call them “flying rats” because of their propensity to carry and spread diseases. Please don’t let your dog eat goose poop! They carry giardia, cryptosporidium and goodness knows what else. All that can make your pet very sick.

There also has been an influx of foxes and coyotes coming further north as the temperatures warm.  Coyotes love cats, but not in a good way.  It has been said that cats are the preferred food of coyotes. That is just another reason to keep your cats inside. Something to think about is some hibernating animals (Lions, tigers maybe not) such as bears have been observed to wake up earlier or to stop hibernating all together. So they will need to eat when awake and if their normal food sources are not there and cats and dogs could look appetizing to them.

Warmer temperatures also mean more bugs.  We have seen ticks all year long in our area. We even have a new resident this year in the Deer Tick.  This is the tick that carries Lymes disease, which is a serious threat to pets and humans alike. What about those discussing fleas?  Fleas have been a bumper crop this year, all year long.  Fleas can spread diseases like tapeworms and can cause allergies in many pets. I am recommending flea and tick medications be given year long this year.

Numerous studies have shown an increase of heartworm disease in all areas of the country, due to the increase in the duration of the mosquito season.  In order for mosquitoes to be able to carry heartworm disease, it needs to be 50 degrees or warmer for 15-20 days consecutively. Increased temperatures are happening in more places then ever in the winter months so the use of heartworm preventatives for the majority of the year is now warranted in many areas.

So if we have the cold harsh weather of old, we won’t need to pay attention to this blog, but if it is warm like last year… beware!

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney
Guest Post: A Warm Winter Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing For Pets
Veterinary View: An Increase in “Blocked Cats” During Autumn?

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

Reason #215 to Have Term Life Insurance: Zombies


Zombies and Term Life InsuranceThe zombie apocalypse is coming. Oh yes — it’s true. Just look around. The signs are everywhere. We are a nation entranced by zombies, as evidenced by the popularity of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead.

And you think you’re golden because you have a zombie survival kit chock full of torch making materials, bottled water and a wood chipper. But do you have the most critical weapon needed to fight zombies and protect your family? That’s right — we’re talking about term life insurance.

You see, a term life insurance policy is indestructible to zombies. No matter what happens to you in a zombie apocalypse, the life insurance company will still pay a benefit to your family. Of course, we’re assuming the company itself has not been taken over by zombies, in which case, you’re out of luck. But we digress.

Term life insurance policies do have some limitations around the payment of the death benefit when a claim is filed. But mostly those limitations are themselves limited, as such:

  • Suicide Exclusion – Life insurance companies will not pay a death benefit for suicide in the first two years of the policy.
  • Contestability Period – Life insurance companies have the right to contest a death claim in the first two years of the policy. Mostly the company will investigate to make sure there were no material omissions or misrepresentations on your application. In other words, if you lied or didn’t disclose something important (like cancer or heart problems for example), the company may not pay.

Hmmm — no mention of zombies. We’re going to go out on a limb (pun intended) and say you’ll be covered in a zombie apocalypse.

So continue to stockpile cans of Spam and nose plugs until the fateful day comes. And when it does, go out there and fight the good fight knowing your life insurance company has your back!


Related Topics:

Unusual Ways to Die: Oh the Irony

Unusual Ways to Die: Scared to Death

Outlive Your Term Life Insurance Policy: Know Your Bites

Ohio Draws a Line [UPDATED]

[Although we rarely do this, I am changing the published headline of this post to more accurately reflect what's actually going on. HGS]

This just in:

Ohio will let the federal government run its health care exchange, a key portion of health care reform, Gov. John Kasich said today.”

Oh, well, guess that means we avoid a nasty state constitutional crisis.

And this is priceless:

Benefits of a federal exchange start with cost … annual operating costs of a state exchange would range from $19 million to $34 million, excluding technology. Fees from providers and insurers would pay most of those costs.” [emphasis added]

Yeah, be sure to let us know how that works out.

Not to mention: Buckeyes now get the privilege of susbsidizing the folks in states that set up their own Exchanges, forcing up our costs while driving down theirs (at least for a while).


[Hat Tip: FoIB Holly R]

UPDATE: Unlike Ohio’s Gov Kasich, Pelican State Gov Bobby Jindal was a bit more forceful in rejecting a state-built ObamaExchange. Co-blogger Mike tips us to the Governor’s official rejection:

The full extent of damage the PPACA causes to small businesses, the nation’s economy, and the American health care system will only be revealed with time. The State of Louisiana has no interest in being a party to this failure by implementing a state based exchange.”

That’s gonna leave a mark.

UPDATE THE 2ND: And now add Texas to the list:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry officially notified the federal government on Thursday that the state will not set up an exchange to help people buy health insurance.”

I’m wondering if perhaps thinking that my title for this post was inappropriate.


: Thanks to the folks at RedState, here’s the latest tally of states which have told Shecantbeserious to take a flying leap off the nearest ObamaExchange:

South Carolina




South Dakota











Original content copyright © InsureBlog

Obamacare Cliff Hanger


Today is the day. States must decide today if they will set up a state run Obamacare health insurance exchange. If they refuse, the federal government will establish and run the exchange for them.

Seems a no brainer to me.

States have limited resources. States must adhere to a balanced budget.

Contrast with the federal government with unlimited access to money.

The federal government has admitted that it can’t pay for this health care ‘marketplace’, which would cost between $10 to $100 million per year in each state. Hence the necessity for each state to set up its own exchange, shouldering some of the costs.

The problem with that notion is that nowhere in the 2,700 page behemoth known as the Affordable Care Act, is it written that the states will be required to do so; the assumption being that the states would simply go along with the federal governments wishes.

Freedomworks, “State run exchanges, last hope against Obamacare
Rather pompous, don’t you think?
We (federal government) don’t have the money to run the health insurance exchange so you (states) do it for us? 

Because of this (lack of state run exchanges), the government cannot legally enforce the employer mandate “tax” on employers in a state that has not set up an exchange.  Without the employer mandate, and without the exchanges to manage the insurance subsidies, ObamaCare falls apart.

That’s a mouthful.
It also brings up this point.
With regard to the health insurance exchange, states have the power to say “We didn’t build that”.
Original content copyright © InsureBlog

Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney

Living in Cleveland OH, where it’s rather chilly in the winter, we’re always focused on our weather and the changing seasons, and of course, winter is definitely with us. We can expect temperatures below freezing at night starting about now, developing into snow and ice on the ground permanently in January; however, other parts of the country have winter in different ways so Dr Patrick and I discuss winter dangers for pets in all parts of the country, chilly or not.  

The audio recording below covers the follow topics:

  1. Warmer clime winter issues
  2. Flea and ticks in dogs and cats in winter
  3. Ice and cold protection for your dog
  4. What to do if your dog falls into cold water
  5. Older dogs and cats and the cold

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Winter Dangers

Related Posts:
November is Winter Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Winter Dangers With Dr Patrick Mahaney

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney


Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney’s house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick’s Blog) for and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton’s, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2013 through Havenhurst Books.

Claim Example: Mast Cell Tumor in German Shepherd/Golden Retriever/Labrador mix

Embracer Lea has been off on maternity leave with her super cute daughter Stella but she has been going through some tough times with her dog Lyger, which she wrote up for us. Here’s Lea’s story of Lyger and his mast cell tumor.

FYI we know Lyger’s breed mix because he’s Embracer Lea’s dog and we did the genetic test on him as
part of an Embrace contest. He’s a very happy German Golden Lab :)

Lyger and his red boneMy old retriever Lyger has more bumps and lumps than I can count–he’s had lypomas for years.  Sometime in the summer, I noticed a new, soft, squishy bump on his neck.  I was a working student, very pregnant, and had just been joking with my vet tech about the possibility that I have Munchausens syndrome with my dogs–taking them in for any little thing.  So, I figured I’d just take a wait and see approach with this lumpy bump, keep an eye on it for any changes.

Fast forward a few months later and I’m in my vet’s office for a senior check up–Lyger’s been acting a bit sluggish.  The vet checks his hips, his neck, looks at a mole, does bloodwork.  Everything appears normal–it appears to be just  normal aging.  As an afterthought I mention the neck lump.  He does a needle aspirate to check the fluid in the lump.

Now, here comes the one downside to having a good relationship with your vet: You know when he sees something bad but is trying not to scare you.

He sends it out for pathology and calls me the next day to say it’s cancer–but, a very treatable form of cancer, mast cell.  I confirm with some of my vet tech colleagues–they agree, this is a good cancer prognosis, if such a thing exists.  I never thought I’d want to put him through surgery at his age, but it was the best chance he had.

Lyger's mast cell surgery incisionTo remove a mass that was only about half the size of a ping pong ball required a very large incision, about 7 inches, to get clear margins.  But, we got very lucky–the vet was able to remove all of Lyger’s cancer.  He won’t require chemotherapy or other treatments.  But, as grade 2 mast cell tumors have a 50% chance of recurrence, we’ll have to watch that area carefully.  A sample biopsy from his lymph nodes indicated that the cancer had not spread, despite my decision to “wait and see”.

Speaking of the wait and see, that’s what I’m here to tell you.  Don’t do that.  First of all, the cancer could have spread to other systems, causing the prognosis to be much worse.  Secondly, I was waiting to see if the lump would get bigger.  It never did–but I later learned that’s a characteristic of mast cell tumors: they can get bigger and smaller again!  Sneaky!  These tumors are especially common in senior dogs, particularly Retrievers, Boxers, Beagles and Bully breeds, among a list of others, and are
often found on on a dog’s extremities.

This was a very costly close call, with about $1,000 in diagnostics and the surgery. But, I learned a very valuable lesson–don’t play wait and see when it comes to health concerns, whether it’s for your pet or yourself.  I could have lost the friend that’s been by my side for over a decade, and would never have forgiven myself for it.  Fortunately,  Lyger is doing fine, enjoying the extra hugs he’s been getting, and will continue to get for a while to come.