Clever Pet Feeding Hub Review

Hi friends, Opal and I are back again with another product review, and I am very pleased to share our experiences with the Clever Pet. This is a long one, as it covers 30 days of use and my own dog’s progress as she moves from level to level, but I hope this provides insight into what to expect from this product. If you’re not interested in all 30 days, there is a final verdict at the end.

I’ve broken down our review with a rating scale of 5 key components each worth 1 point on an overall scale of 5. A perfect score is 5/5.

  1. Aesthetic
  2. Support / Applications
  3. Ease of Use
  4. Difficulty & My Dog’s Progression
  5. Does the Dog Like It?

Finally, I will also be including a video of our overall personal thoughts, experiences & takeaways.

The Review

What is the Clever Pet?

Originally a Kickstarter, the CleverPet Hub is a dog feeder and puzzle toy that increases in difficulty as your pet progresses through the levels, and it is available for purchase through CleverPet’s website for $299.99.

“Combining world-class design with PhD-level expertise in computational neuroscience, CleverPet aims to reduce the loneliness and anxiety caused by daily isolation. The Hub allows dogs to solve puzzles created by touchpads, lights, and sounds that grow harder or easier in real time, uniquely adapting to dogs’ levels of interest and challenge. With this product, the CleverPet team is taking cognitive behavioral training technology previously available only to researchers, and bringing it into the home to provide pets with the daily mental and physical stimulation they crave,”

– CleverPet

As a young twenty-something professional working full time, I’m always looking for new ways to keep my dog, Opal, busy during the day. I learned about the CleverPet online, and was interested to see if it could be a good fit for us – Opal is an Australian Cattle Dog, and this breed is known for being quite intelligent. She can be prone to boredom if not properly occupied, and the challenge is that she usually breezes through puzzles relatively quickly. I’m hoping that the CleverPet can be a fun way for her to entertain herself while I’m away.

Aesthetic

The Hub itself was a little smaller than I anticipated but feels sturdy. It takes up an 18 inch by 19 inch square of floor space and is easy to tuck in a corner out of the way. The status light in the front of the dome is not overly bright to disturb others, but a useful tool for insight on the Hub itself – different colors will indicate low food or jamming errors. The base has several large nonslip pads that prevent the Hub from being pushed around the floor as the dog interacts, which worked very well on our hardwood floor.

Overall, it reminds me of a little flying saucer of doggy-fun! I do wish that the Hub came in other colors beyond white, but it does look sleek and well put together.

Support / Applications

The CleverPet Hub comes with its own companion application for your smartphone, also called “CleverPet”. Here I was able to make a profile for my dog, set a schedule for when the Hub should offer puzzles, check progress, restart challenges, and read weekly reports put out each Saturday.

I especially liked the ability to check in on how many rewards and plays my dog had done in this app – it really allows you to gauge overall progress for your dog. For us, this came in handy when I noticed that a level was too difficult for Opal. Also within the application, I was able to restart an earlier challenge or go all the way back to the initial introduction and start over.

My only complaint with this process is minor but noticeable – when you reset a level to an earlier one or the initial level, the reset will not take place until after the dog has completed their current play. I wish that the reset would occur immediately instead, as I noticed that if my dog became too frustrated, she would not complete the current play to allow for a reset. If you are home supervising your dog, you can prompt them to interact with the Hub again or complete the play yourself, however, if you are checking in remotely there is no way to complete the play to allow for a reset.

Also, this isn’t a complaint but rather a suggestion, I wish that the application could give me a real-time notification on my phone’s home screen when my dog advanced in a level or the Hub became low/empty on food. I can, of course, see these updates when I open the app directly, but I’d like to see these notifications in real time. (UPDATEas of the week of 9/10/17, the app does give push notifications! Due to hurricane Irma I wasn’t able to update, but wanted to let everyone know that CleverPet has added this feature)

Ease of Use

The Hub is very straightforward and comes with simple instructions. The printed instructions included with the Hub were extremely helpful for setup, and learning how to assemble and disassemble the Hub for filling and cleaning can take a moment to understand.

I do like how the domed lid of the Hub latches to the base – you need to press two separate points to remove it from the base, and I’m confident that my dog will be unable to take it apart herself.

One thing I did notice is that the kind of kibble used in the Hub can influence jamming of the system – smaller kibbles with a more uniform shape are going to be your best bet while using the CleverPet. Still, and I’m not sure why, sometimes the food pod does not make a complete rotation to line up with the exterior white shell of the Hub for refilling. This is simple to fix, I just pop the dome top off of the Hub off and manually move the food pod, replace the dome and refill, but felt like it was worth mentioning.

Difficulty & My Dog’s Progression

There are 11 levels of challenges, each with varying difficulty.

  1. Eating the Food
    The Hub opens freely and offers food or treats to the dog so they can become more accustomed to its sounds and movements
  2. Exploring the Touchpads
    All three touchpads on the Hub light up, and touching any one of them will earn a reward
  3. Engaging Consistently
    This continues from the previous challenge and encourages your dog to make the connection that touching the pads causes a reward to appear and that it is not just occurring randomly
  4. Avoiding Unlit Touchpads
    Only two of the three touchpads will light up, pressing one of the lit pads will earn a reward while pressing the unlit pad will not. This helps to teach the dog that touching different pads will have different results.
  5. Learning the Lights
    This continues from the previous challenge, and now only one of the three touchpads will light. Pressing the lit pad will earn a reward while pressing the unlit pads will not.
  6. Mastering the Lights
    Again in this challenge, the dog will be presented with one lit pad and two unlit pads. They will need to select the lit pad to earn a reward, and this level emphasizes the difference between lit and unlit pads.
  7. Responding Quickly
    In this challenge, after pressing the one-lit pad, the dog must press a second newly lit pad to obtain a reward. As the dog progresses through the challenge, the allowed time diminishes and makes the game harder!
  8. Learning the Brightness
    This challenge strives to show the dog that now all lights are the same. Multiple pads will be lit, and your dog must select the brightest pad to earn a reward
  9. Learning Double Sequences
    Multiple pads will be lit in this challenge, and the dog must first select the brightest pad, then press a second lit pad
  10. Matching the Two Colors (New from the 7/25/17 update!)
    Each time the dog presses a lit pad, it will cycle between blue and yellow in color. The dog must cycle through the colors until three lit pads match one another.
  11. Matching More Colors (New from the 7/25/17 update!)
    Like the previous challenge, the dog must cycle through colors to match all three pads, but a 3rd color, white, is introduced on this level making it more complex.

Dogs progress to the next challenge by meeting goals of either frequency or accuracy. It should be important to note though that all dogs will not progress through these levels in the same way or the same speed. Some dogs, based on their performance, may advance faster than others and that’s totally okay! Part of CleverPet’s goal with this product is to make challenges that take a LONG time to finish as well as opposed to other puzzles that can be solved in a shorter amount of time. Dogs may spend weeks on a single level before advancing to the next.

Opal’s Progression:

Day 0 –

It’s a work night and our Clever Pet just arrived! I figured that even though we wouldn’t have a full day, Opal could at least see the new Hub and try to interact with it a little before tomorrow. I unboxed, and after I had set up the unit and paired it with my smartphone and Wi-Fi, I unplugged it to allowed Opal to check out the Hub powered off. Once I felt she was comfortable, I plugged it in and she started at Level 0 “Eating the food” and let her progress up to Level 1 “Exploring the Touchpads”. Opal then became more interested in bedtime after an hour or two and fell asleep on the sofa.

Day 1 –

I decided that we would start slow, especially on Day 1, which was a workday, and a Thursday. We woke up early; she started at Level 0 “Eating the food” once again for a refresher from the night before. Opal seemed interested in this treat giving wonder and progressed up to level 3 “Avoiding the Touchpads” throughout the course of the day while I was at the office.

Day 2 –

After leaving for work, I checked in Opal via the camera and saw that she was not interacting with the Hub very much. It didn’t appear as though she had really made the connection that she was the one initiating the game. I reset the Hub to Level 0, and asked my sister (who was home) to point the dog to interact with the Hub. Once directed there, Opal was very interested with interacting with the Hub to earn food and progressed back through the levels to Level 3 relatively quickly. It still seems like she is relying on guessing where to touch the Hub, however – sometimes in-between pads or on a random pad – rather than looking at the lights been on vs. off.

Day 3 –

In the morning after waking up, Opal walked over to her old food bowl and nudged it with her nose – her normal way of asking for breakfast. Instead, though, I filled up the Hub and directed her to play with it. Opal didn’t want to play with the Hub and instead went to go thrash toys around the living room. An hour or two later though when it was obvious that the usual food bowl was not getting filled, she did start to paw and sniff at the Hub. She remained steady at Level 3 today.

Day 4 –

Today Opal didn’t go straight to her old bowl. She sat next to the Hub on the floor and sighed at me with a huff… so I think she’s starting to realize that she’s going to have to work for her meals! I’m taking this as a positive. I added some kibbles and she started to paw at the Hub, both on the buttons and on the dome itself. Opal is still a little unclear of how or why the Hub opens, but at least she knows that something that she does triggers it!

Day 5 –

Opal started the morning off at Level 3 again and is still working on making the connection that touching lit pads will cause a reward to appear. She’s not “digging” at the hub in the same way she was before, although she will still paw at it in other places besides the touchpads. So far, her success rate is around 65.9%, so that’s just about where I’d expect her to be for purely guessing which pad to touch each play. I still had to prompt her to begin to play this morning, and I don’t quite think she understands that she can initiate. I checked in at 2pm and saw that she had not attempted any plays after I left! I restarted back on Level 2 (my sister once again had to point the dog to begin interacting).

Day 6 –

While at work, I noticed that the dog wasn’t interacting with the Hub today. The count had remained steady at 5 kibbles and 8 plays until I returned home, even though the Hub was functioning correctly and not low on food. As it turns out, I found that Opal had gotten into a pizza box that was left out on the counter and had eaten 2 slices of Domino’s white pizza with chicken and spinach! Needless to say, she felt full, happy, and maybe a little smug even based on how she was looking at me….. and unmotivated to interact with the Hub.

Day 7 –

Opal is at level 3 still today post-pizza snatching yesterday. I checked in on her progress at 1PM and saw that she has gotten 104 kibbles over 254 plays – a success rate of 41%. I can see in my records of her plays that she is truly just button mashing on the Hub in the hopes of something happening without putting much thought into the why or the how. Still, I had hoped, even if she was purely guessing, for an average around 66% success since 2 of the 3 pads are lit at during Level 3. I looked through the app more closely however and saw at some point during the day Opal actually made it to Level 4 “Learning the Lights!” which would explain the drop in performance.

  Completed & Current Challenges Notes & Thoughts
End of Week 1 0 – Eating the Food

1 – Exploring the Touchpads
2 – Engaging Consistently

3 – Avoiding Unlit Touchpads

4 – Learning The Lights (current)

· Pizza is more fun than puzzles

· Tendency to “dig” or “button mash” when frustrated

· We had to go back to level 2 reinforce touching the pads before returning to level 3

 

Day 8 –

This morning I refilled the Hub and left it on Level 4 – I’m hesitant to take her back down to level 3 in fear of her button mashing again. I’d really like her to learn to look at which touchpads are lit! I checked in around noon and saw that she’s only tried to play with it 4 times and earned reward twice. Maybe she is becoming frustrated? By the end of the day, she had completed 258 plays with 55 rewards (21.31% success) and seemed hungry. I decided to give her a break and gave her a “traditional” dinner out of the dog bowl with some wet food to make sure she wasn’t going to bed on an empty stomach. We’ll try again tomorrow!

Day 9 –

We’re starting out on Level 4 again this morning to give it another shot. Before work, I sat down with her on the floor to try and give some encouragement with this challenge and to get her started for the day.

Checking in at 12pm noon, I can see that she’s done only 9 plays with 4 rewards (44% success), which tells me she really isn’t interacting too much with the Hub in my absence. Opal went on a walk today with the dog walker for a little over an hour at this time, and I decided to reset the Hub back to level 0 and allow her to build some confidence again with easier challenges.

Day 10 –

Today we received our second progress report on Opal’s Performance and Plays. Tuesday understandably had a drop in the number of plays after the pizza incident. Opal and I ended up traveling to visit family on the west coast of Florida today, and due to the size of the Hub, left it at home. She seemed happy to have a break for a day and eagerly ate her meals from her old bowl.

Day 11 –

Laaaaaaazy Sunday. We arrived home in the afternoon after our Saturday trip, and Opal seemed disinterested in the Hub. I lowered the difficulty to Level 3 and she still seemed unenthused… so I reset the Hub back to the initial challenge. That got Opal interested, and in a short span of time, she worked back up to Level 3. She still button mashes, but less intensely now, and heavily favors the center button on the Hub. I was curious to see if she’d progress back to Level 4, but she did not.

Day 12 –

Monday again! Today I actually spoke with Dan Knudsen of Clever Pet for a 10-minute customer call to check in how we were doing. All customers are encouraged to reach out for not only support but to give feedback. I really enjoy that I can keep in touch and get new ideas for helping my dog. Opal is still currently on Level 3 despite having worked up to Level 4 last week. Dan recommended that increase interest with the Hub, I can try limiting her time with it.

Day 13 –

Opal is still hanging out on Level 3, but we are trying some of the recommendations from our phone call yesterday! I put some very smelly and high value treats in the Hub and I’ve been limiting the time that it’s turned on for Opal to interact with it. This morning I had it set to be on between 8:30am and 10am to give her a solid hour and a half of time to play. During this time, Opal did interact quite a bit with the Hub but managed to knock over a potted plant as well. Lesson learned – the Hub should probably be placed away from things that can be tipped over.

Day 14 –

It’s the end of week 2 and Opal is still hanging out on Level 3. I limited the time that the Hub was available for her to use today with the same schedule as before (8:30am-10am). So far, it seems like limiting the access to the Hub may be increasing her overall interest in it,

  Completed & Current Challenges Notes & Thoughts
End of Week 2

 

0 – Eating the Food

1 – Exploring the Touchpads
2 – Engaging Consistently

3 – Avoiding Unlit Touchpads

4 – Learning The Lights

· Frustration can take the fun out of the game if a level is too hard

· Resetting back to Level 0 can boost overall confidence

 

Day 15 –

Per suggestion, I’ve still been limiting the amount of time that Opal can interact with the Hub. She hung out on Level 3 for the first half of the session, and there was very little button mashing. Opal did level up to Level 4 during the second half of the session, however! She seemed frustrated and really began to button mash – it doesn’t look like she has figured out that the lights actually matter yet.

Day 16 –

Opal began on Level 4 today after leveling up yesterday. I limited her session to two hours per suggestion, and she was enthusiastic to start! Quickly though, I noticed her frustration. Opal would paw at the Hub, whine and then look to me for assistance. After resetting her back down to Level 3 previously, I really wanted to give her the opportunity to struggle through the level, so I did not reset it. Opal continued to engage with the hub regularly, though she would take a 10-minute break here or there.

Day 17 –

Another weekend, another trip to the beach!

Day 18 –

We arrived home late in the evening from our weekend trip and though the Hub was set up, Opal decided that she would rather go to bed to resume in the morning.

Day 19 –

Upon returning from our trip, Opal began the morning at Level 4. Unlike the previous day on this level, however, she did become too frustrated with the level and walked away from the Hub completely. I did try to encourage her to play with treats and other high-value items, but at most she would button mash for a few moments, groan, and walk away. It was near the end of our session and Opal had barely engaged – I reset the Hub back to Level 3.

Day 20 –

So, we leveled down again to try and build up Opal’s confidence. In another limited time session, she stayed firmly on this level with constant engagement. It is definitely easier for her on this level, and out of 81 plays she has earned 62 rewards! (76%!)

Day 21 –

Opal began on Level 3 again today resuming from yesterday. I sat with her in the morning before work and let her watch me add some much-loved treats into the Hub for further motivation. After a kiss on the head, I was off the work and she started to paw at the touch pads. After checking in around 12pm noon, I saw she was Level 4 once again!

  Completed & Current Challenges Notes & Thoughts
End of Week 3

 

3 – Avoiding Unlit Touchpads

4 – Learning The Lights

· My dog always wanted to get her meal in the easiest way possible, so it may take some “tough love” and leaving the Hub on the current level to encourage engagement

 

Day 22 –

Unfortunately, due to an unplanned family emergency, Opal and I had to pack up and drive across the state. We did not bring the Hub with us and fed “conventionally” out of a slow feeder bowl.

Day 23 –

N/A – Conventional Feeding

Day 24 –

N/A – Conventional Feeding

Day 25 –

After our impromptu trip across the state, we were able to drive back home to Orlando in the evening and resume our time with the Hub. I was curious to see how she’d do with it after an extended amount of time away from it and feeding more conventionally. I filled the hub and turned it on for Opal to use, but instead, she stretched, walked away, and snuggled into my bed to sleep for the night.

Day 26 –

It was Monday and the Hub was filled up and ready to go, but Opal seemed unenthused. She sniffed the floor by where I used to keep her old food bowl, looked at me, and whined. I wanted her to really enjoy her time with the Hub after eating easily for the past few days – It’s really important to me that she has fun with it! I reset the Hub back to Level 0 knowing that she could at least breeze through the levels up to Level 3 again, and hopefully build up some enthusiasm. I went to work for the day and checked in around 1pm to see that she had actually moved all the way back up to Level 4!

Day 27 –

It really seems to be that Opal is more interested in the Hub now that we’ve been gone for a few days – maybe our absence has made it a novelty again? I left the Hub on Level 4 again today and went off to work – when I checked in later on, I saw that Opal had engaged with a high number of plays! She had attempted 526 plays with 178 rewards! This is just over 33%, and I was thrilled that she was getting back into it.

Day 28 –

Level 4 again this morning, and once again when I check in remotely, Opal had attempted a high level of plays. I removed the limited time restriction on the Hub so she could engage with it across the day. It really seems like she is visiting the Hub several times per day to play, which is keeping her busy! When I came home, she was content and curled up on the sofa – the Hub empty.

  Completed & Current Challenges Notes & Thoughts
End of Week 4

 

3 – Avoiding Unlit Touchpads

4 – Learning The Lights

· Absence of the Hub can renew interest when it is re-introduced

· Opal has skilled up to level 4 again!

 

Day 29 –

Opal is holding strong at Level 4 still; the number of plays has dropped slightly, but overall Opal is averaging around 34% accuracy. Since only one lit pad is available at this time, that’s about what I would expect from her if she were still just guessing which pad to press.

Day 30 –

It was Friday and day 30 of our time with the CleverPet – I feel happy ending up these 30 days on Level 4. Opal is still interested to play with the Hub, and this morning she pawed at it and whined at me to fill it! She understands that this is the way she needs to earn her meals now, and overall I think she’s enjoying having something to do. In a new development, however, I did notice her trying to bribe the Hub by bringing it her favorite toys!

Current Level after One Month of Play: Level 4 – Learning The Lights

Remaining Levels: Levels 5 – 10

Does the Dog Like It?

While the CleverPet was certainly frustrating for Opal, I do think she benefitted from the mental exertion each day. She displayed signed of mental fatigue and contentment each day, especially after long sessions working on the Hub, which made for a happier dog! I also noticed by checking in on our camera, that she was spending less time napping on the sofa and more time being active by playing with the Hub.

Beyond that, I think the CleverPet has given Opal a sense of independence that she didn’t have previously. Before the CleverPet, I really had to instigate all puzzles and play sessions for her, but now she is able to approach the Hub on her terms when she wants to play and begin a challenge. With how often she chooses to start playing with the Hub and the enthusiasm she shows by wagging her tail and whining for me to fill it, I can only assume that she does enjoy it!

Standalone Review – The Final Verdict:

The Clever Pet is a fun, challenging, and adaptive experience that your dog can enjoy when you are home or on the go. The ability to regress to easier levels keeps the “game” fun and not overly frustrating while allowing your dog to think through puzzles to earn rewards.

I like that the levels can take a significant amount of time to learn and overcome – Opal typically figures out other puzzle toys within 30 minutes, and afterward they are always solved the same way. Meanwhile, Opal spent the better part of this past month on Level 3 of the Clever Pet and is only just beginning to scratch the surface of Level 4. To me, this speaks of many more weeks of thinking and solving new puzzles instead of repeating known tasks in the same way. I like that the Clever Pet is a long-term investment that will allow my dog to grow over time and think in novel ways – even more so with updates of new challenges!

In the future, I hope to see the ability to have more than one pet profile sync with the Hub and associated Smartphone Application, but for now, as a one-dog home, we are very pleased. I’d also like to see some updates to the notification system for both the iOS and Android applications. (UPDATEas of the week of 9/10/17, the app does give push notifications! Due to hurricane Irma I wasn’t able to update, but wanted to let everyone know that CleverPet has added this feature)

  1. Aesthetic – 1 point
  2. Support / Applications – 1 point
  3. Ease of Use – 1 point
  4. Difficulty & My Dog’s Progression – 1 point
  5. Does the Dog Like It? – 1 point

Total Score: 5/5

Highly and Enthusiastically Recommended!

 

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Local Treasures – April 2017

At the beginning of the month, I moved from my college residence into my first “adult” apartment. Opal and I were excited and found ourselves in a fresh new city with everything at our fingertips.

We realized, however, after a particularly fun romp in the dirt, that our previous groomer was now too far away, so I needed to find a new grooming salon that was sensitive to my dog’s fear of being groomed.

Opal is a sweet girl that became afraid of the industrial cage dryers used at many commercial salons which made leaving her for an appointment scary and stressful. Thus began my search for salons that would hand dry my dog. Off to Google! After some clicking around and a phone call here and there, I came across Metropolitan Dog Spa, which was just a short 15-minute walk from the new apartment and right next to Lake Eola.

Jessica, one of the groomers, was kind enough to answer all of my questions over the phone. Not only do they use organic products and shampoos, they only hand dry the dogs. There are no cage dryers for my dog to cower in.

“It seems to be much less stressful for them, and we take it at their pace,”

Excited, I made an appointment for that weekend.

Upon arriving on Saturday, I noticed the open feel. There was only one other dog there at the time and the space was quiet. Opal remained unphased, sniffing around the shelves as I spoke with Jessica about what I wanted to be done (Bath, ears, nail dremel…).

I handed Jessica the leash, kissed my girl on the head, and left.

I spent the 45 minutes I had alone exploring more of the city, walking around Lake Eola and taking pictures of the baby swans on the Lake. My phone rang – Opal was done! After walking back, I came back into the salon to find my dog playing with a tennis ball in the waiting area, tail wagging. The fact that Opal was allowed to hang out in the salon to decompress and play with a tennis ball after being groomed instead of waiting in a crate really seemed to make a difference for her.

Beyond just being a happy dog, Opal was also now a clean dog. She smelled good and her fur was soft to the touch. Jessica let me know that she had used a de-shedding shampoo to help get some of that dense undercoat out now that things were heating up weather wise. Opal’s nails were neat and trim too!

I picked up a clean and happy dog from the groomer that day – and for the first time, I felt like I hadn’t had to sacrifice one over the other. We’ll definitely be back!

Graduated At Last!

After all the years of studying, lecture, lab, and term papers… we did it! I am proud to announce that Opal and I have graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science.

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Professional Photography Credit goes to the lovely Lauren of Lauren Rita Photography

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Action shot as we crossed the stage

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Also, big thank you to Edie on Etsy at PetDogTrainer for making such a fabulous custom graduation cap!

A Case for Pet Insurance

Is pet insurance really worth it?

Many new pet owners are unsure about purchasing a pet insurance plan and wonder if it is truly worth paying a monthly fee for a service you may not even need. I had been on the fence also, but decided that paying $30 a month was doable with my college part-time job. I still wasn’t certain of its value, but It turned out that Opal’s health insurance plan was the best thing I could have given to her.

Here’s our story.

PART 1 – Off to the ER

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It happens sometimes; dogs get sick. As pet owners we try to avoid sickness and injury as best we can, but sometimes fate has other plans. On 2/2/15, when Opal was 7 months old, I noticed that she was acting strangely. Australian Cattle Dogs are a high energy breed with a voracious appetite, but Opal refused to eat her dinner at 6:30 and was lethargic. Instead of tearing around the house full speed as she played with toys, she lay at the foot of my bed in a heap. We already had an appointment to see our vet the following morning to renew a prescription for heartworm preventative, so I was planning on mentioning her food refusal and lack of energy then. I didn’t worry, I didn’t think it was a big deal – maybe she just wasn’t hungry!

At at about 8:30pm that same night though, when Opal went outside to go to the bathroom, she had bloody diarrhea. I was panicking at this point, so I scooped her up in my arms and I brought her back inside. While I was grabbing my cellphone to call an emergency vet, she started to vomit up blood onto my carpeted bedroom floor.

We rushed straight to the ER nearby to see an emergency vet. My usually active and happy dog was sad, slow, and laid limp on the floor while we waited.

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After an initial exam it was clear to see that the vomitting and diarrhea had left her very dehydrated also, so she needed IV fluids in addition to anti nausea medications to prevent her from throwing up again. The vet at the ER brought Opal to the back of the practice to run tests, including a blood panel and Abdominal X-rays which needed a consult. Her white blood cells were high (which the vet called stress leukocytes) but the blood was otherwise normal. Her X-rays though, told a different story…

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The vet found that there was a foreign material in her stomach (beneath her ribs, on the right hand side). She hadn’t eaten since 6am on 2/2/15 and had already gone to the bathroom that day so it was unlikely to be food. We were given some outpatient treatment to provide overnight and instructed to take Opal to our usual vet the following morning to get another set of X-rays to see if the material had moved at all.

Here’s the first bill from that first horrific night in this expensive tale:

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$1070!

PART 2 – On To The Next Round of X-Rays

That next morning, after a long night with little sleep, I took Opal to her normal vet. She was hospitalized for the day and X-rays were taken again and compared against the X-rays from the night before to see if the material had moved at all. My vet saw no real change in the material, but also couldn’t see a blockage in her system. She was still very dehydrated and needed more IV fluid treatments. We decided to do a Barium Administration with radiology to see just how things were moving through her system. After an entire day at the vet, at 9pm, the Barium series was completed and it was determined that while Opal didn’t require surgery at this point, things weren’t moving correctly. She had a bowel movement, and pieces of wood and mulch were in her stool leading the vet and I to think that she may have eaten a stick that is scratching up her insides, but not causing a blockage.

I brought her home with me again to spend the night in comfort with more outpatient treatment.

The bill from 2/3/15:

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Another $924.17…

The next day, 2/4/15, Opal again refused to eat and would not go to the bathroom. Her favorite soccer ball couldn’t even make her a little happier because she felt too ill to consider playing.

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I brought Opal back to vet early in the morning when they opened for the day and informed the staff about how she was doing and her lack of bowel movements. She went for a THIRD set of X-rays to compare to the previous sets. Thankfully, there was some progress with the material and my vet decided that we could avoid surgery and allow things to pass naturally with the help of pain medicine. The bill for that final day came to $426.40.

PART 3 – The Final Bill & Final Thoughts

After all 3 days of ER and vet visits, my grand total was a whopping $2421.48. All because she ate part of a stick!

Ouch.

After I received my reimbursement though, I saw that I had only paid for $484.30 out-of-pocket… that’s a big difference from paying $2421.48.

So what’s the moral to the story?

Pet Insurance is meant for big and unexpected expenses in veterinary care that would otherwise be difficult to pay for out-of-pocket. I do think that people should have a rainy-day fund that they put savings into for their pet, but only in addition to an insurance plan and not as a replacement for one.

What would happen if several months into your savings plan, your dog became ill and needed surgery or treatment that cost thousands of dollars? Opal didn’t even require surgery and her bill was well over what I could have saved up in a 7 month period for her. If someone were to put away $30 a month into a savings account with the intent of using it for emergencies, in 6 years they’d have only $2160 saved. My total of expenses in just over three days was still higher than that!

I can honestly say that if I did not have Pet Insurance, I would not have been able to afford the proper testing, hospitalization, treatment, and medications that Opal needed when she became ill. Not many people are able to spend over $2000 over the course of three days without any prior warning – especially not me while I was waiting tables on weekends. However, I was able to pay for the medical care my dog needed knowing that within the week I’d have a check reimbursing me for 80% of my expenses.

I urge everyone to at least look into pet insurance and consider it as an option; there are many different companies, plans, and budgets available out there that there is bound to be something that works for you! Things happen sometimes that just can’t be planned for, so it is a huge comfort knowing that I will always be able to get Opal the care that she needs when she needs it.