News & Events


News and Events

What Pet Owners Need To Know When Choosing A Pet Insurance Plan

Veterinary medicine has made monumental strides in treatment methods for our pets. From advanced, minimally invasive surgical procedures, to targeting specific cancer sites for radiation treatment, pets are living longer, healthier lives.

These advancements in methods and equipment come at a cost. While veterinary care is still significantly less expensive than human medicine, costs can still add up quickly in an emergency or when more specialized care is needed. That’s where pet insurance comes in handy.

So what is pet insurance anyway?

A pet insurance plan allows you to make decisions on your pet’s veterinary care based on the quality of medicine, not the cost of treatment. Since pet insurance is considered property and casualty insurance, it operates similarly to your car insurance rather than human health insurance. There is a deductible you are responsible for, after which you are reimbursed a portion of your out of pocket costs. Unlike human healthcare, there is no “in-network”, so it can be utilized at any veterinarian in the US.

What does it cover?

Most companies offer accident and illness coverage, which is utilized for the unpredictable occurrences that your pet will inevitably experience. These include anything from an ear infection or broken toenail, all the way up to complex fractures and even cancer treatments. Most companies will allow for whatever method of treatment is deemed necessary by your veterinarian, but you should verify this prior to signing up. Some companies also offer wellness coverage for assistance with things like vaccines, well visits, and preventatives.

How much will I get reimbursed?

The amount of reimbursement, deductible amount, and total amount covered for the policy year all vary based on the company policies as well as the plan options you select. Most companies reimburse a percentage of the veterinary bill, which you elect when signing up. Some will reimburse based on a benefit schedule, which means you will only receive a refund of what the company deems to be an appropriate amount for the services rendered.

What isn’t covered?

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that pet insurance does not cover conditions which are deemed “pre-existing”. What is considered a pre-existing condition does vary from one company to another, but typically it means any clinical signs or symptoms being shown prior to taking out the policy or during the waiting periods. Because of this, it is important to sign up for your policy as early as possible.

How do I find out more?

There are many companies out there with a variety of coverage options, so make sure you do your research to find the company that best fits your needs and provides you with peace of mind. If you have questions about which pet insurance company may be right for you, ask your veterinarian. Additionally, NAPHIA (North American Pet Health Insurance Association) has a ton of information about pet insurance and how it works. Click here for an overview.

What are my other payment options?

At VRC, we are happy to assist you with any pet insurance claims or documentation you may need. In addition, we offer other payment assistance options such as CareCredit and Scratchpay. To learn more about VRC’s payment options, click here. 

 

After Suffering From A Fractured Spine, This Puppy Learns To Walk With Help From A Rehab Nurse

On March 14th, 2020, little Sharkie was rescued from a puppy mill and brought to VRC. He was unable to walk and could not stand without falling over. After running diagnostics, it was discovered that Sharkie was suffering from a fractured spine. Luckily, VRC’s Physical Rehabilitation nurse, Ash, took Sharkie in as a foster and started working with him to gain his strength and learn to walk.

Over the course of several weeks, Sharkie has grown much stronger thanks to Ash’s rehabilitation skills. From cones and cavalettis to an underwater treadmill and tennis balls, Sharkie is mastering it all.

Update (5/21/2020): Nurse Ash officially adopted Sharkie and welcomed him into her home!

 

Specialized Veterinary Diagnostics at Veterinary Referral Center

Veterinary Referral Center partners with family veterinarians to provide Eastern Pennsylvania pets with the most comprehensive veterinary care available. When your pet is not feeling like herself, you should visit your family veterinary hospital, where they likely will use diagnostics, such as radiographs (commonly known as “X-rays”) and blood work, to reach a diagnosis. More complex medical conditions, however, may require advanced diagnostic equipment, or the expertise of veterinary specialists, for a detailed diagnosis. If your family veterinarian refers your pet to VRC for advanced diagnostics, she will benefit from a multi-service specialty hospital with veterinary specialists who will collaborate across multiple departments to reach a diagnosis, and devise a treatment plan that will provide her with the best chance for a full recovery. 

VRC is proud to maintain the most updated, state-of-the-art equipment to help us diagnose the most challenging medical conditions.

Ultrasound for pets

VRC Veterinary Ultrasound

Our diagnostic imaging department uses several advanced tools to help us look inside your pet’s body. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves emitted by a hand-held wand that bounce off internal structures, are received, and then translated into an image viewed on a screen. Our radiologists can interpret ultrasound images to diagnose conditions such as abdominal pain, pancreatitis, enlarged abdominal organs, and urinary stones. We also use ultrasound to guide needle biopsy of abnormal tissues, diseased organs, and tumors, where the needle collects cells that will be analyzed and identified under a microscope. Ultrasound exams can be scheduled by appointment, and our trained ultrasonographers are also available seven days a week for emergency evaluations. 

Echocardiology for pets 

An echocardiogram is a specialized ultrasound used to examine in detail the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Doppler ultrasound is often used during an echocardiograph to observe your pet’s blood flow through the heart to determine whether abnormal or turbulent flow is a component of her disease condition. Our veterinary cardiologist routinely performs echocardiograms to diagnose conditions such as heart murmurs, cardiomyopathy, narrowed blood vessels, and valvular abnormalities. 

Computed tomography (CT) for pets

Some internal abnormalities can be identified with  radiographs; however, a CT scan provides more detailed images of bones, soft tissues, organs, and blood vessels. A CT unit uses radiation, much like a traditional X-ray machine, to produce multiple cross-sectional slices of a body area that can be viewed in two and three dimensions. A CT scan allows our radiologists to appreciate the exact location and architecture of abnormal tissues, and is particularly helpful in locating tumors to help our surgeons plan their approach prior to surgical resection. 

VRC VeVRC Veterinary CT Scanterinary CT Scan

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for pets

MRI is the most recently developed  imaging modality available, and provides extremely detailed images, also in cross-sectional slices. MRI uses powerful magnets and low frequency radio waves to generate electromagnetic fields necessary to produce images, whereas a CT scan uses radiation. MRI is useful for imaging many internal body structures, and is the preferred method for imaging neurologic structures, such as the brain and spinal cord. VRC has the only on-site veterinary MRI unit in the area, and scans can be performed by appointment, or on an emergency basis.

Endoscopy for pets

An endoscope is a high-density camera on the end of rigid or flexible tubing that can be inserted into various body areas for examination. For example, an endoscope can be inserted into your pet’s esophagus to observe the lining for abnormalities and lesions, or advanced into her stomach to diagnose ulcers, collect tissue samples using instruments inserted through the tubing, or grasp a foreign object she may have eaten. An endoscope also can be inserted into your pet’s airways to view abnormal tissue, collect diagnostic samples, and locate and remove inhaled foreign bodies. Our surgeons use endoscopy when they perform minimally invasive surgery, where they insert an endoscope and instruments into a body cavity or joint through multiple tiny incisions, instead of making a large, more invasive incision. 

At VRC, we are proud to offer our veterinary patients the same technology and advanced care available at human hospitals. Once our team of veterinary specialists diagnoses your pet’s complicated medical condition, she may be transferred to one of our specialty departments for treatment and monitoring, or referred back to your family veterinarian for continued care and follow-up. Contact us to schedule an appointment if your family veterinarian has referred your pet for specialty diagnostics or care.  

 

My Pet Has a Cancer Diagnosis—Now What?

Being told that your pet has cancer is scary, and you will probably have a lot of questions about what comes next. Our oncology department will work with your family veterinarian to help you through your pet’s cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment.  

Staging Your Pet’s Cancer

We will first gather as much information as possible about your pet’s cancer and their general health by performing diagnostic tests that may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC measures the number of your pet’s different blood-cell types to screen for abnormalities, such as anemia, infection, and immunosuppression. There are very few cancers that can be detected on routine blood work, which is a common misconception.
  • Blood chemistry — Measuring different proteins in your pet’s blood provides information about organ function and overall health status.
  • Urinalysis — Testing your pet’s urine informs us about the function of their kidneys and other organs. VRC cancer diagnosis for pets
  • Imaging — Imaging modalities, such as X-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are often used to localize cancerous masses, measure their size, and determine whether a primary cancer has spread to other body parts.
  • Biopsy — A sample of your pet’s cancerous tissue may be collected with a needle, or during a surgical procedure, to determine the cancer type.

The information will allow us to identify the type of cancer, how much it has advanced, and whether it has metastasized (i.e., spread) to other body parts. 

Treating Your Pet’s Cancer

Once we have established a thorough diagnosis, we can design a personalized treatment plan for your pet’s cancer, which will likely consist of a combination of treatments, such as:

  • Surgery — Surgical removal of a cancerous mass often offers the best chance for a complete cure, and surgery is often combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation to attack cancer from multiple angles. If complete excision is not possible, surgery may be performed to partially remove a tumor to make pets more comfortable, or increase effectiveness of other treatments.
  • Chemotherapy — Chemotherapy, which is the use of medication to kill cancer cells, is often used after surgery to kill microscopic cells that have spread from a primary mass, or to manage a cancer that cannot be surgically removed. Human chemotherapy medications are known to cause significant side effects to cancer patients; however, pets receive much lower chemotherapy doses and typically experience few, if any, side effects.
  • Radiation — Radiation uses a focused beam of energy to target and kill cancer cells, while sparing nearby tissue. We recently added a state-of-the-art Varian Halcyon linear accelerator, which is the most advanced unit available for both human and veterinary radiation. The Halcyon unit allows us to treat once-untreatable cancers by delivering high doses of radiation directly to cancer cells, and to reduce treatment times. Radiation can be used to cure a cancer isolated to a single mass, or as part of palliative care to shrink inoperable tumors, reduce pain, and improve a pet’s quality of life.

Treating cancer in pets

Your Pet’s Cancer Prognosis

Your pet’s prognosis will be based on her cancer type, stage, and location, and whether metastasis has occurred. Our oncology team can share statistics of pets who have had similar cancers; however, each pet responds to cancer treatments differently. Preserving your pet’s quality of life is always our primary concern, and our oncologists will present all information and treatment options so you can make the best decisions for them. With the advancements in veterinary medicine, we can cure many cancer types, but some are incurable, and our treatments will focus on keeping your pet comfortable and pain-free, and prolonging their time with you. 

If you have questions about your pet’s cancer diagnosis, or would like to schedule an appointment with our oncology department, contact us