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F6 Tuesday, April 19, 2011 • THE BULLETIN

Head halters do work when placed correctly

If you go What: Oregon Gold Open Horse Show When: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday Where: Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, 3800 S.W. Airport Way, Redmond Cost: Free to spectators; registration fee $10 per class Contact: Catherine Stout at



Horse show Continued from F1 A recent visit to Stout’s Haflinger ranch and another to the Tumalo home of Maggie McLaughlin, who owns Norwegian Fjords, revealed the two breeds’ similarities. With their gold coats, muscular bodies and cream-colored manes and tales, the horses look like a blend between Roy Rogers’ Trigger and a squat body builder. Creatures like these aren’t toasted with mint juleps at racetracks in Kentucky. “They’re in a class of their own,” said Stout, happier packing heavy loads than galloping fancy on tracks, she said. For example, take the Stout’s 18-year-old Haflinger named Style, who packed half of a dead elk that Stout’s husband, Doug, had shot during an eight day hunting trip. “He carried about 350 pounds of elk with his head high and never ran out of steam,” said Doug Stout. And talk about a family affair: The couple’s 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, grew up around Haflingers and is helping her mom organize the horse show. “It will be great seeing them there with all the other kinds of horses. People will see that they’re smaller but have lots of strength,” she said. Less than a mile from the Stout’s ranch is a Norwegian Fjord named Sven who will compete in the Oregon Gold show with his owner Maggie McLaughlin. “He’s small and strong with a big heart,” she said while displaying Sven in the walkway of her barn. Fjords, which have “great strength relative to their size,” are a national symbol of Norway, according to the website of the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry, headquartered in Berthoud, Colo. McLaughlin, a retired teacher of Scottish descent, said she appreciates why Norwegians hold Fjords in such high regard. “The ones I’ve had have been good, gentle companions with a willingness to work hard.” Sven’s hard work and talent will be tested in the dressage and trail course events at the Oregon Gold Open Horse Show, McLaughlin said. The competition is billed as an English and Western riding event featuring 81 classes that will include a range from carriage driving to obstacle riding. Plus, it’s for riders of all abilities and ages, said Catherine Stout. “We’ll give out prizes and give out smiles. It will be a great show for riders to prepare for more serious summer riding and for those riders who are already serious.” Linda Weiford can be reached at ldweiford@

may give you funny looks, but your shoulders will thank you.

By Marc Morrone

J.B. Forbes / St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Veterinarian Wayne Hause listens to Anthony Gilson, who describes the problems he has been having with his Pomeranian, Dobby, at Associated Veterinary Specialists in Bridgeton, Mo., on April 11.

Insurance Continued from F1 How much could this industry grow? Insurance has gained wider acceptance in some European countries, such as the United Kingdom, where 20 percent of pets have policies, and Sweden, where it’s estimated at least 30 percent of pets are covered, according to New York-based research firm Packaged Facts. PurinaCare believes that eventually 10 percent of U.S. pets will be covered by insurance. Changes in people’s social support systems — higher divorce rates, fewer children, and people living farther away from their families — has helped drive this trend, said James Serpell, a veterinary ethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “We’re using animals to replace what we’re losing in human social relationships,” he said. With that evolution, pet owners now expect medical care for their pets to match medical care for themselves. “People ask now, ‘Why can’t my dog get dialysis?’ People increasingly think health care they get from their vets should be like what they get for their children,” Serpell said. Yet, veterinary care isn’t cheap. It’s second only to food in the amount people spend on pets. Of the $50 billion expected to be spent this year on pets, $14.11 billion will be for vet bills, up from $13 billion last year.

The growing market VPI Pet Insurance issued the first pet insurance policy in the U.S. in 1982. VPI has long dominated the industry, but it lost market share in recent years as more providers have emerged. VPI had 52 percent market share in 2009, according to Packaged Facts, down from 68 percent in 2005. “They sort of had the party to themselves until 2004-05, when new companies started entering the market with new plans and pitches,” said David Lummis, senior pet market researcher for Packaged Facts. The number of pet insurance providers in the U.S. doubled over the last decade from six to a dozen in 2010. Among the newcomers is Nestle Purina. After studying the pet insurance market for three years, the company felt it could

be competitive by drawing on its experience and research in pet health. According to company executives, a void existed in the market for people to access information about what pet insurance policies covered. Nestle Purina posts copies of its policies online for customers to view. The potential exists for Nestle Purina, which is owned by Swiss-based Nestle, to grow its insurance business globally. “Other Purina subsidiaries around the world have expressed interest in pet insurance, but our current focus is limited to the North American market,” said Dr. David Goodnight, a veterinarian and president of PurinaCare, which is based in San Antonio. Its rivals include pet retailer PetCo and the financial services division of grocery chain Kroger. There’s speculation that Wal-Mart will introduce a pet insurance product at its Canadian stores this year. “I think that the tipping point will be when big retailers get into it, and we’re right on the verge with retailers exploring it,” said Kristen Lynch, executive director of the nonprofit North American Pet Health Insurance Association, whose members include pet insurance providers.

When it pays Monthly pet insurance premiums can start around $10 but can exceed $100 for some older dogs. Pre-existing conditions are typically excluded, and pet owners are reimbursed after submitting claims. Providers’ policies vary. Some of the higher-end preventive plans cover heartworm and flea medications in addition to vaccines and annual exams. Some of the lower-cost plans just provide coverage for unexpected accidents and illnesses. A $1,180 vet bill for a dog’s broken leg under VPI’s Super Plan, for example, will reimburse the pet owner $1,002. With a lower monthly payment, VPI will reimburse $626 of the vet’s bill. Nestle Purina tweaked its offerings last year to include a plan that allows pet owners to pay lower premiums in exchange for bearing a higher percentage of the bill, between 30 percent and 40 percent of eligible expenses. Despite the cost, more pet owners are taking out insurance policies to avoid price shock at the vet’s office. “Nobody’s expecting a big

pet bill, and then all of a sudden, they have a big problem like a car accident (involving the pet) or illness,” said Dr. Wayne Hause, a veterinarian in Bridgeton, Mo., who specializes in clinical oncology and neurology. Visits to his office start at $120 but can quickly add up to several thousand dollars when multiple procedures are performed. More people are coming to his practice with pet insurance policies, although pets covered with insurance still total less than 10 percent of his clients, he said. “The people that walk in with pet insurance are much happier, because they can take the financial aspect out of decisions relating to their pets,” Hause said. Dr. Noelle Miles, a veterinarian in Millstadt and president of the Greater St. Louis Veterinary Medical Association, said treatment for some chronic diseases such as cancer can cost pet owners more than $300 a month. Many pet owners are willing to pay the cost, with or without insurance. Consumer Reports’ Money Adviser newsletter published an article last fall with an analysis of four pet health insurers — VPI, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, 24PetWatch QuickCare and Trupanion — and concluded that for generally healthy animals, pet insurance isn’t worth the cost. For most owners, establishing an emergency fund for unexpected pet bills is a better choice. Still, for young pets that develop a chronic condition or illness after the policy is in place, having the policies paid off, according to the report. “The main thing is, whenever you’re shopping for those plans, it’s important to look very carefully at the fine print and look at all of the exceptions,” said Tobie Stanger, a Consumer Reports senior editor and author of the report. For Brown, who paid several thousand dollars out-ofpocket for vet bills, the peace of mind in knowing she won’t face unexpected veterinary expenses is worth the price of a monthly premium. “I like that it pays for shots, and when Caramel did need to seek treatment for a dog bite, I was reimbursed promptly,” she said.

My Labrador is now 8 months old and full of energy. She joyfully pulls me down the street when we go for a walk, and the other day she almost pulled my shoulder out. I took her to a training class, and the instructor told me that she would respond well to a head halter, and it would stop her from pulling. So I got one and put it on her. She shook it off in 30 seconds and went flying down the block. These things must work or the trainer would not have recommended it, but how can I get it to work on my dog? Head halters do work, but they are not easy for some dogs to get used to. A halter on a dog’s head with the leash attached to the ring under the dog’s jaw works the same way a halter works on a horse. When the animal forges ahead of you, the halter pulls it around so the animal is now facing toward you. The key is to get the correct size of a halter and get the dog used to it gradually. The best halters usually list the appropriate size for each type of dog on the package, and they have an extra clip that attaches to the dog’s collar so that if the dog pulls the halter off, your lead is still attached to the dog. Most dogs hate wearing anything on their face, so you have to do this in stages. First, put the halter on the dog when you are both cuddling together — in my house this is usually when we are on the couch. Just put the halter on and leave it for a minute, then take it off and praise the dog. The key is for you to be the one to take it off. The dog must never get the idea in its head that it can take the halter off on its own. When the dog is calmly sitting next to you wearing the halter, put your finger in the ring and lead the dog about the house in a calm manner. After the dog is content to do this, put the leash on and lead it about the house the same way. Once this is all done, she will calmly walk right next to you with no drama or pulling. The only problem with head halters is that they vaguely resemble a muzzle. Some people


Which dog food is best?


What is the story with dog foods these days? I just got a new bichon puppy, and the breeder told me one thing, my vet told me another, my friends told me another and the guy in the pet store tells me something else. How do I decide which brand is the best? The fact that all these people told you something different, and their dogs are all fine means there are lots of brands of foods and ways to feed your dog. I have been going to the Westminster dog show now for 25 years, and every year I ask the owners of the prizewinning dogs what they feed them. Every year, it is something different. So my advice is to read the ingredients and use common sense. If the ingredients are familiar to you and you would eat them yourself, then they are OK to feed your dog. I would never eat things like rendered animal fat or corn gluten meal. The lessprocessed the food, the better. There is no point in feeding your dog a food that has artificially colored bits or kibble in different shapes. The only time these rules go out the window is if your dog is on a prescription diet recommended by your vet. These diets have some odd ingredients, but they are in the food for specific medical reasons.


Feed the fish


My fish pond made it through the winter, as did all of my goldfish. When should I start to feed them? They come up to the surface when I walk to the pond now and expect me to feed them like they did all summer. If the goldfish are active and seeking out food, and your pump and filter are running, then it is just fine to feed them. Since their digestive tracts have been dormant for so long, be certain to give them food specially formulated for spring and fall feedings. Most pet stores will stock this formula.


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Bulletin Daily Paper 04/19/11  

The Bulletin Daily print edition for Tuesday April 19, 2011