Thursday, September 18, 2008

The VPI Saga; Feline Heartworms; Etc.

Sorry, just  had to show you the ridiculous picture of Ivan sticking out his tongue, at left.  OK, now that that's out of our system...

We mentioned in our last blog entry the problem with VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) denying Dev and Belle's first claim (for their baptismal vet visit).  We talked to VPI, as mentioned, and they indicated we simply needed to talk to the vet, find out what "kitten vaccination" means, and then call VPI back and let them know. Entirely resubmitting the claim was not required.  Yea!  Well, of COURSE when we called VPI back to tell them what the vaccination really was, they said the rep who told us this could be done soley by phone was WRONG!  What?!  We made a fuss and VPI said that, since there was a miscommunication in this instance, their claims  adjuster would call the vet to get the scoop on that vaccination.  Which was FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, and Panleukapenia (Distemper)), by the way.  So that's fine, but the kittens had to go back for boosters, etc., and, of course, there on the second invoice is "kitten vaccination" again.  Dang it!  So, knowing that VPI wouldn't accept that, we called the vet's office.  The woman who took our call was indignant: "I've dealt with VPI for 20 years and never had a problem!"  My response, "I don't make the  rules.  I can only tell you what they're telling me."  So she agreed to note exactly what the vaccination is on the invoice and send it to us.  Sheesh!

We can report that VPI covered everything on the kitten's first vet bill except for $10.  Amazing!  We know they won't cover anywhere near as much on the second invoice, but that's to be expected.  However, we are considering making The Cat Hospital our vet for the kittens (even though it's five hours away!) because their prices and procedures seem more reasonable (hey, a vet in a small town can afford to charge premium prices as there's no competition!) and The Cat Hospital doesn't seem to give our cats things they don't need.  I stress the word "seem".

The small-town vet sold us a 3-month supply of "Revolution Feline".  This is a combination heartworm and flea medication (it is also touted as preveningt mites and tapeworms!). Heartworms in cats?  Apparently so.  This came up with Ivan and Boo at their last vet visit at The Cat Hospital a few months ago.  They both pant after heavy exercise, so we were a bit concerned, and we came across articles on feline heartworm when researching poossible causes.
However, we talked this over with our wonderful new vet at The Cat Hospital, Dr. Mattern, and she told us that The Cat Hospital had never seen one case of feline heartworm, so they do not
routinely give the heartworm medication, especially not to indoor cats.  But when the small-town vet prescribed it, we did a bit more research, looking for the incidence of feline heartworm in California.  This is what we found:

It shows that, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are between 1 and 25 cases of feline heartworm reported per clinic.  Yikes!  Why has The Cat Hospital not seen any cases, then?  I hate to say it, but is it possible that they are misdiagnosing feline heartworm cases as asthma?  Feline heatworm presents radically differently from canine heartworm and causes more pulmonary
problems than cardiovascular problems, or so says Charles Thomas (Tom) Nelson, DVM, in a 2007 article written for the newsletter Know Heartworms: Inside and Out.  Granted this newsletter, the product of a partnership between The American Heartworm Society and The American Association of Feline Practitioners, is sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, and Pfizer makes - surprise! - Revolution, the heartworm medication we mentioned above that our small-town vet sold to us for Belle and Dev.  So it is difficult to rely solely on Dr. Nelson's article.  We are going to do more research on this topic, and we'll share what we find in a later entry.

OK, we have to give Boo equal time - here he is showing off those amazing eyes and his namesake spot on the nose ("Boo" is, as much as I hate to admit it, short for "Boogernose").

Oh, and we finally started using the PerfectLitter that we purchased a while back (buy one, get one free).  The cats would have nothing to do with it, so we did as directed on the package -- we added a layer of their regular clay litter on top of the PerfetLitter.  That did the trick for at least one of them (Ivan), but so far the conversion is tenuous.  We'll keep working with it.  It definitely is very absorbent with regard to liquid AND odors, and it is amazingly light and dust free.

Before we close, we must admit that we watched the television program "Greatest American Dog" this summer (hey, we recorded it on the DVR and fast-forwarded through the boring bits), a "reality" series in which 12 dogs and their owners competed before three supposedly renowned judges.  The prize was the title "Greatest American Dog" and $25,000.  Each week one contestant and his/her dog was eliminated.  The premise was intriguing, but the execution was poor.  However, we did get hooked by the interesting dogs and humans in the competition.  If you happened to catch it, allow us to say that we think J.D. and Galaxy should have won.  If the show had not been heavily edited and rigged to let the cute, single guy with the cute dog win, J.D. and Galaxy would have gone home with the prize.  As 
consolation for J.D., we offer you a link to his web site., K9 Kings Entertainment.  J.D., if you're interested, drop us a line and we'll fix up your web site and make it slick and cool and more in line with the great work you do with your dogs!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

HUGE Price Difference!

YIKES!  We paid over $50 for Primal Feline Chicken and Salmon frozen raw cat food at (shipping was free).  I checked Pet Food Express, which is a brick and mortar pet food store here in the SF Bay Area, and they sell the same 4 lb. bag for $21.99!! Holy cat food, Batman!   (Pet Food Express has a web site , but one cannot purchase food at the web site.  However, one can check to see what the brick and mortar store carries.  The web site also boasts a "buy 3, get the 4th free" special in the store.) 

Unfortunately Pet Food Express does not seem to carry  EVO, made by
 Natura, a local SF Bay Area company.  That's what Ivan and Boo are eating, along with Primal Feline Chicken and Salmon.  But there are some other pet food stores in the area that carry Natura's products, or so the Natura web site says.  We will pay a visit to one of them, Sam's Downtown Feed, which we have passed a million times but never visited. They have a large model horse in front of the  store.

Because of the cost of the Primal food, we were not going to
continue feeding it once the 4 lb. bag we have in the freezer is gone.  However, now that we see how comparatively cheaply we can buy it, we may continue it!  And if we can find Primal's "Raw Meaty Bones" for cats being sold in our area, we may try those as well.  However, we do foresee a problem with those.  We currently give Ivan and Boo dried chicken breast pieces as treats and also to satisfy their chewing obsessions.  We give those to them on the dining room carpet, as they are dry.  However, because of that, we envision them taking "raw meaty  bones" onto the dining room carpet, too.  That would not be good.  We'll see what happens!

On another front, VPI Pet Insurance denied our claims for Dev and Belle's first vet visit!  The paperwork said the claims were denied because the vet's invoices were not itemized.  Hogwash! They were itemized.  So I called VPI and the customer service rep was as puzzled as I. She finally found out that one item on the invoices, listed as "Kitten vaccination," needed to be better defined.  She said that if I could get details about what exactly that vaccination was, and call VPI back with the information, I would not need to resubmit the claim.  Of course the vet was closed today (Saturday), so this will have to wait until Monday. 

We purchased a new type of cat litter to try with Ivan and Boo.  It's called PerfectLitter.  The PerfectLitter web site is a bit annoying, so here is a link to information on the product from (but you can click on the PerectLitter image here to go to the PerfectLitter site, if you feel brave).  It is touted as being 70% lighter than clay litter, flushable, dust-free, four times more absorbent than regular cat litter, and if your cat develops a urinary tract infection, his/her urine turns the white litter pink.  We haven't tried this litter yet, but as soon as one of the litter boxes in our home is ready for a complete litter change, we're going to try PerfectLitter. suggests having one litter box with your regular clay litter available as your cats get used to PerfectLitter in another litter box.  A good suggestion!