For Pet Owners

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What to Expect

Upon your arrival, if your pet's vital signs indicate that he or she is unstable, a staff member will take your pet to our doctor for immediate assessment and stabilization. As in human medicine, every second is critical when dealing with an emergency; our staff is trained to triage quickly and act appropriately. You will be asked to stay with the receptionist so that the information we need for your pet's medical record can be obtained. Do not be alarmed, a staff member or doctor will return shortly to inform you of your pet's status and discuss a plan for medical care.

If your pet is stable when you arrive, a staff member will obtain a history and physical examination. Following the initial exam, the doctor will do a more complete exam and then make recommendations for diagnostics and/or treatment.

While discussing your pet's care, the doctor will also discuss the cost of that care. An estimate will be given and when you and the doctor have made a collaborative decision on a plan, a deposit will be required. Any balance still due when care is complete is payable upon discharge.

For the duration of your pet's care we will communicate with you and your veterinarian regarding your pet's medical condition and progress. We will also keep you up to date on the status of your bill and we will do our best to work within the budget you have established for your pet's care.

Normal Vital Signs

Vital Signs

It is important to know what is “normal” so you will recognize what is NOT normal in an emergency situation.

Heart Rate or Pulse:The heartbeat of a dog or cat can be felt at or about the point where the left elbow touches the chest. Place your hand or a stethoscope over this area and count the heartbeats for one minute.

A pulse can also be felt at the inner thigh approximately half way between the front and the back of the leg, just below the "wrist" of the front legs or just below the "ankle" of the rear leg.

Normal Heart and pulse resting rates:

Small breed dogs 100-160 beats per minute
Medium to large dogs 60-100 beats per minute
Puppies 120-160 beats per minute
Cats 130-220 beats per minute

Breathing Rate: You can watch your pet's chest rise and fall to calculate their breathing rate.

Normal breathing resting rates:

Dogs 10-30 breaths per minute
Cats 20-30 breaths per minute

Temperature: The most accurate temperature can be obtained by using a digital rectal thermometer. It is best to have someone restrain for you when taking your pet’s temperature. You may use a lubricant such as KY jelly when taking the temperature.

Normal temperature:

Dogs 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit
Cats 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit

Board-Certified Specialists

What is a board certified specialist?

Following their undergraduate education and four years of veterinary school, a specialist must receive an additional two to five years of advanced education and training in an accredited residency program. They must then pass a rigorous national board examination to receive board certification in their specialty. When you and your veterinarian seek the next level of medical or surgical skill, a board-certified specialist is the doctor most prepared to help.

Navigating Pet Insurance

The reality of owning a pet is that decisions regarding veterinary care must be based on how the cost of care fits into your household budget. Pet insurance is designed to subsidize the cost of care. That additional financial support often allows pet owners to approve the treatment of life threatening illness or injury when they may not have been able to do so without the help of insurance coverage.

It's important to understand that pet insurance is structured like home or automobile insurance. Most pet insurance companies reimburse pet owners after the care has been provided and the pet owner submits a claim for reimbursement.

Unless you are disciplined enough to establish a savings account or credit card specifically designated for your pet’s medical care, and let’s face it, few of us are, pet insurance can be a valuable alternative.

Listed below are questions that will help you analyze and compare the different options available for pet insurance. In addition, you will find a list of the most popular pet insurance companies and a link to a third party insurance comparison. Eastern Iowa Veterinary Specialty Center does not endorse a specific pet insurance provider but we hope that the information we are providing will help you choose the company and plan that best suits your needs and expectations.

  • Think about what it is it you want pet insurance to do for you?
  • Help cover the cost of preventative and annual veterinary care?
  • Provide peace-of-mind in case of catastrophic injury or illness?
  • You want a company that is stable so look for a pet insurance company that has been around for a few years.
  • Look for companies with veterinary professionals on staff.
  • Do not choose companies or plans that limit your choice of veterinarian or hospital.
  • Avoid waiting periods if possible.
  • Examine cancellation policies. Will the insurance company reimburse you for premiums you paid but were not earned?

Choose a policy with broad coverage and know what is not covered:

  • Accidents only
  • Accidents and illness
  • Preventative care
  • Understand pre-existing clauses and what happens upon renewal. Be aware that with some plans, any illness or injury incurred during the previous plan year will become pre-existing upon renewal.
  • Check to see what if any breeds are not covered or if higher premiums are charged for certain breeds.
  • Review age limits for coverage.
  • If you have more than one pet, look for multiple pet discounts.
  • Understand how claims are paid.
  • Verify that you will need to pay the bill up front and be reimbursed.
  • What do you need to submit to the insurance company?
  • On average, how long does it take for claims to be paid?
  • How much coverage does the plan provide?
  • What are the deductibles, co-payments and caps on coverage?
  • Analyze the cost of insurance against your anticipated out-of-pocket expenses during the life of the pet with and without major veterinary care.
  • Consider what your spending limit would be for a catastrophic injury or illness or for an ongoing, chronic health problem. If peace-of-mind in the case of a life-threatening situation is your goal, be sure to choose a policy that is likely to achieve that goal.

For more information on a variety of insurance carriers and a quick-list comparison visit

Popular pet insurance companies:

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance)
Embrace Pet Insurance
Petplan Pet Insurance
Pet's Best


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