New Beginnings

We are empty nesters after 26 years. Time has finally moved Dan and I into a new role in our lives. We enjoyed the weekend celebrations of JoAnn’s graduation party and ceremony.  We celebrated having all the kids home since this becomes more rare with each passing year. We enjoyed having family and friends come to congratulate JoAnn and offer advice on how to adjust to an empty nest. We set off fireworks in celebration of JoAnn and all her accomplishments and to bring in our new empty nest status with a bang!

New beginnings can be scary but yet they can hold so much excitement and anticipation about what the next journey will be. JoAnn asked people to highlight a favorite verse in the bible that had significant meaning to them. The variety of verses that were highlighted just shows that everyone’s path is different and unique. With each new adventure you discover more about yourself and the world around you. I was thinking about the three graduations in my own personal life and how they were the same or different. The common thread in all of them was the new beginnings that followed. Three separate times in my life where I could consider myself having a fresh start. A whole new direction that would propel me towards the future that God had planned for my life. This month is 30 years since I graduated from ISU College of Veterinary Medicine. In those 30 years, I have been married to the same wonderful man. I gave birth to 4 amazing children that have grown into even more amazing adults. I have lived in 2 states, 6 different houses, and in 4 different school districts.  I have owned more vehicles than I care to remember. I was a business owner of my own practice, worked for a corporate practice, and have practiced as an associate in multiple practices. I have been a stay at home mom, a weekly volunteer at elementary schools, a youth leader along with Sunday School teacher at church, and a mom volunteer at fundraisers for the numerous organizations that our 4 kids became involved in. With each of these events and activities, I discovered more about myself and what is important in my life.

New beginnings have been common in these past 30 years. I sometimes felt guilty that our children did not get to live in the same home and school district their entire lives like my husband and I did. Yet, then I think about how often we must accept change and new beginnings in our lives. I recognize how experiencing those things early in their lives has helped shape them into the confident adults that they are. They have had to adapt to change along-side Dan and myself. With those new beginnings, we have seen them stumble, but also quickly pick themselves back up, brush off the fears and frustrations, and push forward with more confidence and determination than ever. They have come to discover that new beginnings are something to embrace and conquer. Knowing that the future holds more adventures that will help propel them into this game of life. We can try to plan every step, but if you forget to side step along the way, you will miss opportunities.

If you are facing new beginnings in your life at this time, try to find the positive in every moment as you move forward. In the Lion King movie, Simba and Rafiki talk about how the winds are changing and how change is good but not easy. I am ready to embrace the winds of change and open my life to any and all opportunities and new beginnings.

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Spring Has Arrived – Let the Itch Begin!

The arrival of springtime was extended this year. We are finally seeing Mother Earth turn the corner.  It is such a transformation from day to day as the dead becomes alive again. Along with this amazing time of year we also see pets start to itch. Allergies to the pollinating trees and flowers does not only affect people but our pets as well. During your pets lifetime, if you do not have to deal with allergies, you should count yourself blessed. They can be a source of constant frustration for the pet and the entire family.

It is crucial that if you suspect allergies in your pet that you seek veterinary care.  We do need to make certain that your pet is reacting to environmental allergens verses external parasites (fleas, lice, mites) or food sensitivities. One flea will bite 50-70 times a day. That can be extremely irritating. Pets can develop Flea Bite Dermatitis where each bite causes an allergic reaction from the flea saliva making that pet miserable. This causes a number of pets that have just a few fleas to show a more intense reaction than other pets in the home. Both dogs and cats can be affected by this condition.

Bravecto, a 3 month flea and tick prevention, has been extremely effective in breaking this cycle. Any flea that feeds dies immediately and this decreases the allergic reaction. In the past many of our topical products had difficulty spreading over the skin of these allergic pets since their skin was damaged from their constant chewing and scratching.  Therefore we had some pets who never seemed to get relief without the use of corticosteroids to reduce the itch. Corticosteroids caused all sorts of undesirable side effects like increased thirst and urination along with weight gain. We also had concerns about long term usage leading to a disease called Cushings Disease.

For the last 3 years we have been selling Bravecto. It has been interesting to see dogs that never had hair during the summer months now have a full coat because we have knocked the fleas dead with every bite the first time. The 3 month dosage removes the infestation from most homes and continual usage keeps it from returning. We have also seen a decline in fall allergy cases. Please, if you have a pet that seems to have “seasonal allergies” consider the use of a product like Bravecto to see if it can benefit your pet.  We may be underestimating the number of flea bite dermatitis cases in our pets since fleas are hard to find.

Other external parasites like lice and mites can cause dogs to itch constantly. This past week I had a dog from California that was itching all over. They did not use flea and tick products since they lived in the desert. They did allow their dogs to run free when hiking or exploring new areas. Her pampered and protected fur babies had lice. She was shocked. We started prevention for external parasites and she took home shampoo to start bathing her dogs since they sleep with her. I informed her that dog lice do not like to live on people but she was taking no chances. Every pet, no matter how sheltered, should be on prevention for external parasites. This includes indoor only cats, especially if you have a dog that goes in and out.

Food allergies are a year round cause of skin issues in dogs and cats. I realize this does not seem logical. Why would a pet’s diet cause them to itch? It is related to the immune systems response to the ingredients in the pets food. Often times the itching will involve the face, ears, and neck. Dogs with ear issues only have responded to dietary changes. It is important that you visit with your veterinarian about your pets itching so you can have the best possible outcome.

If your dog does have seasonal or year round allergies not related to external parasites or diet, we have some new products that are revolutionizing these pets lives and their families. These two products can remove the itch without the side effects of products available in the past. The cost is based on the size of the dog but has successfully stopped the itch. Pet parents are sleeping better because their dogs are not scratching all night. The dogs no longer have hair loss or skin infection associated with the constant scratching and chewing. Many dog owners report that their pets appear happier overall because they no longer spend their days itching.

The first product that came available was Apoquel. This oral medication is given twice per day for the first 2 weeks, then goes to a once daily dosage for maintenance. We have some dogs that are on this year round and others that only need it for a season, like fall. As long as they get their medication the dogs are comfortable and not itching. Everyone is happy.

Last year a product called Cytopoint became available as an injectable product to help itching dogs. Initially they felt it would need to be given monthly to control the itch. As the product became more widely used, it was determined there was a longer duration of efficacy than originally thought. Many dogs were getting 8 weeks or more before the itching returned. We use the product and encourage the owner to help us determine how often the injection should be given based on the dogs symptoms.

These two products have truly changed the lives of allergic dogs and their owners. We, as veterinarians, are grateful to have products that we can use that are effective and do not have undesirable side effects. Make certain that you speak with your veterinarian about whether either of these products would be right for your dog. Since springtime has arrived officially, start your flea and tick medications today. We know those undesirable external parasites are waiting for your fur babies. Don’t let them have a chance at survival on your pet or in your home.

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My pet just peed on my carpet!

After vomiting, urination issues with pets is one of the most common calls veterinarians receive. The conversations always allude to the frustration by the owner for this terrible, but natural, deed. This is one of the largest reasons for animals surrendered to shelters or kicked out of the home left to wander the streets. This is a complex issue and so since it is spring, I will begin with puppy and kitten urination issues and clarify some do’s and don’t’s when it comes to urination habits. Again this would be my personal opinion and someone else may not agree with my comments, but at least you have options when you consider others viewpoints.

Kittens instinctively want to pee in and dig into something to urinate. They learn about covering their excrement from their mother. If you have an orphaned kitten they may never learn to cover their urine or stool. They can learn to use the box but may not be tidy about it. As a kitten, they have very tiny stool and urine and the box is huge so one can get by with scooping the box weekly. Please do not do that. As the kitten grows it becomes necessary to make that box pristine to encourage them to want to use the box instead of the carpet or flower pot. I use the scenario that when I go to a public restroom and see a toilet that has not been flushed, I move on to the next stall in hopes that one is more appealing. Cats do not want to step into the box and smell another cats urine or stool. They do not want to dig where they have already peed or pooped. They do not want to dive head first into a tub that smells or has clumps in it. If they bump their head on the hood/cover every time they attempt to pee or poop they may go elsewhere. A good rule of thumb is 1 litter box per cat in the house with daily scooping required of all boxes. Daily also add some fresh litter over the top. At least monthly you should dump the entire box if using clumping litter and weekly if using clay litter. It is important to not switch litter types abruptly. Cats are not fans of change.   One way a cat may stop using a box is to suddenly changing the type of litter without a gradual mixing over time of the two types of litter. Be aware of the type of stool and size of clumps when cleaning the box.   Any changes can be a clue to other health issues that could be life threatening if not addressed. Now having said this, I know some people have cats that do not seem to mind a dirty box. Feel blessed or be aware that things can change in a heartbeat and you may need to practice new litter box hygiene.

House breaking is the first hurdle that needs to be conquered when you bring home that cute adorable puppy. Most people get the puppies around 8 weeks of age. A puppy gets good bladder control at about 16 weeks of age. What that means is they can learn to go outside, but there is no waiting allowed before 4 months of age. If they need to go, they need to go now. Using a crate or kennel can encourage them to hold their urine. When you get home, and are attempting to get them out quickly enough to relieve themselves, you may have some oops moments. A puppy under 16 weeks should be let out every 4-6 hours during the day and every 6-8 hours at night. Do not feed or leave water in the indoor kennel since that may make it necessary for them to relieve themselves in the crate. Any puppy that eats and drinks will most likely need to go outside within 30-45 minutes. Plan to get up earlier each day so you can make certain they have had ample opportunity to relieve themselves before you leave. If you have to be gone longer than 6 hours, find a friend, neighbor, family member that can come in and let your puppy out. Avoiding accidents is the best way to be successful with house breaking.

NEVER, NEVER punish the puppy if they have an accident in the house. You can startle them if you catch them in the act by clapping your hands and scoop them up and see if they will finish outside. If you find the pee or poop in the house, rubbing their nose in it or scolding them while pointing or showing them the waste will make them realize you do not like pee or poop so they will avoid doing it in front of you. They do not connect that you are scolding them because they did it in the house. That is often why they sneak away and avoid being seen while in the house relieving themselves. It is also why some puppies will never go potty when you are outside with them watching. They know you do not like poop or pee because it makes you all growly and mad. Puppies get distracted often when outside and do not completely finish their business. It is wise to take them out on a leash and use a command, “Go Potty”, and not allow any playtime until they have taken care of business. Do offer a treat right outside when they pee or poop. Do not wait until you come indoors since that only rewards them for coming in the house. They forgot long ago that they peed while outside.

What about potty pads? I am not a fan. When you allow a puppy to pee on a potty pad in the house, you are telling that puppy it is okay to go in the house. Puppies have a preference for peeing on surfaces that they first pee on. A puppy born outside in the barn and has grass to pee on will be much easier to housebreak than a puppy that was raised on tile floors. During the winter when you put down a potty pad because it is cold outside, and then take them outside when the weather improves to pee, they are not even thinking about eliminating outside. I have suggested to some people to work past this issue to nail down a potty pad outside in the grass and slowly start cutting it smaller so eventually they are peeing in the grass. I can assure you though that they may still find it convenient to pee on the newspaper or magazine left on the floor.

If you are having housebreaking issues with your puppy after 4 months of age, do not ignore this. By doing so you may never have a dog that you can trust in your home. There are some medical causes for poorly house trained puppies. Speak with your veterinarian if you are concerned. The longer the puppy eliminates in the home the more challenging it gets.

Male intact pets during the mating season can start marking in the home. Some females during their heat cycle will urinate to alert the males that they are soon ready. These are instincts that are normal behaviors and can be difficult to rectify when the hormones are raging. Obviously by neutering and spaying your pets this can be controlled and avoided. Keep in mind that the longer the pet has been marking the more difficult it can be to reverse the behavior.

Diets can have an impact on urination habits. FUS stands for Feline Urological Syndrome and years ago we would see multiple cats a week with urinary issues. The males cannot urinate and the females are peeing outside of the box in small quantities and more frequent times. Over the years a number of cat food companies recognized that diets can prevent the cause of this medical condition and so they have adjusted the formulas. We do not know why some cats are affected by this and another in the same household is not. We still see a few cats each year with these issues but are happy when we can prescribe a diet that will prevent crystallization(sand like) in the urine.

This 18 lb. female terrier mix had a radiograph taken and the urinary stones are circled in red.

Dogs can have cases of crystallization of the urine but they are more often diagnosed with bladder stones. These are not stones in the kidneys or coming from the kidneys. These stones develop only within the bladder and cause urination issues over time. Some dogs try to pass the stones and cause blockages and cannot urinate and others will have accidents in the house with or without visible blood in the urine. A radiograph is often the best way to diagnose this condition. These stones are mineralized so they are very obvious in the bladder with a radiograph. Some stones can be dissolved with special prescription diets but others will require surgical removal. To avoid reoccurrence a preventive diet is prescribed for the rest of the pets life. Cats can also get bladder stones but it is less common.

This is the stones (seen in the radiograph above) after they were removed.

Urinary tract infections are seen in pets as well. Often times the pet is drinking more water. Asking to go outside more often. Peeing smaller quantities more frequent times. Cannot hold their urine through the night or day while you are at work. These are treated with antibiotics and often recovery is reached in 7-10 days.

Urinary incontinence is common in aging female spayed dogs. The important thing to consider here is if you note that there is a wet spot where your pet laid while sleeping.   In these situations, they are not actively squatting and peeing but instead the urine is seeping out when they are relaxed and are not even aware that it has occurred. We have wonderful medications to help prevent this issue for your pets. It does not have to happen every time they sleep so make certain you are seeing this often enough to justify the daily medication for life.

Numerous health conditions affect the thirst and urination habits of pets. These conditions are more likely noted in aging pets. Many times when I ask clients about a pets water consumption the response I get is, “They drink plenty of water.”   Is this amount normal or excessive? Clients bring the pet in because they are peeing in the house. What I am trying to determine is whether this pet has one of the above concerns or a major health issue associated with the thyroid, pancreas, liver, kidney, uterus, etc. These health issues require additional diagnostics to find the cause and extent of the disease. A healthy pet should drink at least 1-2 times the amount of dry food they eat in a day. If they are eating canned food they will drink much less. If your pet is drinking more than that or you are filling the water bowl up more than you used to or your pet is now drinking from the faucet or toilet bowl you may have a pet with a health concern. If the litter box has much larger clumps of urine than before or you need to change it more frequently, your cat may have a health concern. Many of these conditions can be treated with medications and/or special diets. The sooner they are diagnosed the better chance we have of controlling the symptoms of increase thirst and urination.

Behavioral issues are often blamed for a pet urinating in the house. I am not saying that this does not occur but I feel it is necessary to rule out the above concerns before classifying your pet as having a behavioral problem. Perceived behavioral issues relating to inappropriate urination are most often discovered to have a medical basis.

As you can see there are multiple reasons for pets urinating in the house. I am sure I have missed other causes but wanted you to be aware of things that matter when trying to determine the reason for your pet peeing on your carpet.   If this article has triggered any concerns with your pet, be certain to contact your veterinarian. Early intervention in each of these situations can improve the life of your pet and hopefully prevent you from having to replace your carpet!

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FELV AND/OR FIV…. what do these abbreviations mean for our cats?

FELV is an abbreviation for Feline Leukemia Virus. This is a retrovirus that infects cats only. No dogs or humans have shown infection with this virus. FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus which is a lentivirus that infects cats as well. Both viruses are transmitted through saliva and biting seems to have the highest rate of potential infection to other cats. If cats are outdoors or indoor-outdoor there is a higher risk of exposure related to the fighting amongst cats for territory and during the mating season. We have concern that even when in close association with a positive FELV cat there could be exposure through saliva when grooming each other and even nasal excretions with sneezing. Caution should be exercised with food dishes and litter boxes.

It is always recommended that a cat and or kitten be tested for both of these viruses prior to introduction to any other cats in your home. It Is important to protect all cats that are in your home when considering an addition to your household. The tricky part is that most research indicates a new cat should be tested 30 days after its last exposure to other cats to make certain that the virus is not incubating within your new cat. Most shelters check for FELV and some for FIV. It is important to ask questions at the time of adoption so you know what has already been done. Ask about the quarantine and if the test was done 30 days after it’s last exposure to other cats with unknown histories.

FIV has been labeled the Feline AIDS like infection for cats. It is not contagious to humans. Cats can live perfectly normal lives with the FIV virus and infect other cats in the area over the years. Worldwide about 2.5-4.4% of cats are infected with FIV. This virus is spread through bite wounds so living casually amongst other cats that do not fight can prevent the spread of the virus. It has been shown that some cats immune system will challenge the virus and the cat will get lifetime immunity. Other cats may always be a carrier affecting other cats around them when fighting or breeding, and then sadly enough some cats end up with a compromised immune system and become extremely ill and can die from the virus. Since the immune system is affected the clinical signs can be varied so blood tests are the only way to diagnose this infection.

FELV is species specific for cats but evidence points to potential infections within the larger wild cat populations, such as lions. Nationwide, we see an infection rate of 2-3%. A newborn kitten can be born with the infection if the female is positive. Some cats can fight off the infection and will show antibodies against it indicating prior exposure.   Positive cats be carriers for their lifetime and die of natural causes or they can become extremely ill and eventually die from this infection. This virus affects the immune system as well and so the clinical signs can be numerous. A blood test is the only way to know if your cat has FELV.

Testing for both FIV and FELV can be done within most veterinary facilities. There are also different tests that can be done at professional laboratories if there are any concerns or questions about the accuracy of the first test. Any cat that is going to be introduced to your current cat population should be tested prior to allowing the cats to spend time getting to know one other. If you cannot wait the 30 day period before introduction, then have the cat tested on day 1 and then retest them 60 days later to make certain they are not carriers of the viruses. A positive test does not mean your cat is dying. It indicates your cat has been exposed. It says your cat can be a potential carrier for the virus. It means you need to offer the best preventive care to reduce stress for this cat. It is important to seek veterinary care if your cat becomes ill. It is necessary to know the risks to other cats in your household or outside.

Vaccinations are available to protect cats against FELV and FIV but neither are 100% effective. The FELV vaccine has reduced the percentage of positive cases since it was introduced over 30 years ago and will not cause a false positive on the blood tests. The FIV vaccine can generate antibodies after vaccination which then make it difficult to determine which cats are positive for the virus and which cats have been vaccinated. If you vaccinate your cat against FIV make certain to tell your veterinarian. These vaccines are of little use if your cat never goes outside or is never exposed to other cats that have these viruses.   These vaccines are administered when the risk is present for potential exposure to other cats that carry the viruses. THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT INFECTION IS TO AVOID EXPOSURE TO CATS AND KITTENS OF UNKNOWN STATUS OF FELV OR FIV.  

Treatment of cats diagnosed with either of these viruses is symptomatic. There are no proven formulas to remove this infection so if the cat is not eating you must find ways to feed it. If the cat has seizures you must seek medications to stop the seizures. If the cat has cancer you must seek the advice of an oncologist. If the cat has reoccurring upper respiratory infections antibiotics may always be needed. Keeping your positive cat healthy and happy with minimal stress may allow them to live a long life free of clinical disease. Yet, as with all viruses that affect the immune system, in spite of all of your efforts your cat can become clinically ill at any time. Many people request vaccinations for their indoor-outdoor cat(s) against FELV and do not do the test. I let them know that is their choice, but to always remember if their cat gets sick and conservative treatments are not turning the illness around, you must let your veterinarian run the diagnostic tests for FELV and FIV. These infections are more common than we would like to believe and without doing the tests you may never know the status of your cat.

In closing I want to thank all those people with big hearts that take in stray cats and kittens. Most cats seem to find their owners more than the owners find them. I applaud those efforts but also want to make certain you are aware of the risks to your current household population and please quarantine these strays until they can be seen by your veterinarian to avoid risks not only for FELV and FIV but so many other contagious conditions such as internal and external parasites, fungal infections, upper respiratory infections, etc. A new cat or kitten can be the demise of a current cat if you are not cautious.

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No Bones About It

February is Dental Health Month for our fur babies. There are a great many things I could discuss in regards to this topic. For example, I could talk about all the reasons to brush your dog’s teeth. I could show you how bad your animal’s teeth can get when not cared for properly. Instead, I want to discuss the need for healthy items for our dogs to chew on.  

There are so many choices available for our dogs to chew on. I receive many questions from clients about what is safe. So many times, someone calls requesting information about whether their dog might have a bone lodged somewhere.

I first want to say that this is one opinion in a host of many. Obviously, you are free to feed your dog anything and everything you want. I just want to share what I see on my side that may make you think twice before offering that item for chewing.

“Dogs ate bone in the wild before we domesticated them.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard that statement. That might be the case, but I question how long those critters lived and whether they truly ate the bones. Seems to me often the bones are the only remains left when a carcass is found.

Chewing is an important activity for dogs. You must offer appropriate items for them to chew. You must observe them with that item before assuming it will be okay to leave them unattended with it. For instance, a chew toy can be destroyed and pieces can be swallowed and get lodged within the stomach or intestines. I know many have seen crazy things pass through their pet’s digestive tract, but it only takes one time when it gets stuck and you will wish that you would have followed these suggestions.

This photo shows one complication of dogs eating bones. This dog was licking marrow out of the center and locked the bone over the lower jaw and canine teeth. The owner discovered the issue and brought him to the clinic. The dog was calm but frustrated since he could not close his mouth. Obviously, he was unwilling to let me remove the bone while awake. We gave him a heavy sedative and after a few minutes we were able to rotate the bone and remove it. It was a positive outcome, but a lesson learned about the dangers of bones.

Calls also come in from worried pet parents indicating their dog is vomiting. We discuss any changes to the animal’s diet or recent meals. Often, the client responds that they had offered the dog a soup bone, a chicken bone, or a steak bone. They have seen the dog straining and so are concerned that something is stuck. With the history given, we have to explore the possibility of an obstruction so radiographs are ordered and sometimes a contrast substance like barium is given to see if an obstruction is present. We do not always find an issue with the bones, but we have to explore it to rule it out as a cause of the clinical signs being observed. If bones had never been given, we would not have that initial expense and could have looked for other causes.

If a dog is coughing and gagging at home and the owner indicates they gave their pet bones to chew on. Again, we must rule out an obstruction prior to exploring other causes of gagging and coughing.

One scenario is this: A dog stops eating and seems hesitant to let the owners look into its mouth. The owner assumes the dog has a bad tooth since its breath is bad as well. The pain is so great that we are unable to open the mouth without sedation. The owners indicate they do give the dog table scraps on occassion. Bones had been offered earlier that week but the dog was fine until today. With sedation in place we are able to open the mouth and find teeth with a large amount of tarter but no indication of a bad tooth. Upon further inspection behind the lower arcade of teeth a sharp bone shard is removed from a red and swollen commissure of the mouth. This was the cause of the smell and the resistance to eating.  It had nothing to do with the teeth.

Another scenario is: A middle aged dog present for routine care and during the exam the teeth are inspected. One side appears to have healthy gums but the teeth are worn down.  The other side has a large amount of tarter accumulations on both the upper and lower arcade. The gums are red and swollen indicating gingivitis is present. Discussion takes place that for some reason their dog is chewing only on one side of the mouth. I ask about what they offer for chewing besides the dog food. They indicate bones from the locker are one of his favorite treats. I point out that the worn teeth on both sides is caused from chewing on bones. I suspect the dog will have a slab fracture on the side with all the tarter accumulation and gingivitis. Fractured teeth and flattened worn teeth can be caused by chewing bones as well.

The bones are harder than the enamel on dogs’ teeth. As dogs chew continuously on these hard surfaces their teeth wear down to a flat surface. This exposes the pulp cavity of the tooth and cause damage to the tooth itself. Not to mention the cracks, chips, and fractures that are caused by chewing on bones, antlers, hooves, and or rocks.

Years ago when our pets lived outside and we offered them all the leftovers from our table, we rarely thought about what complications might arise from some of those items. We saw those outdoor pets live a good life but not necessarily a long life. Today our goal is to help pets live a long and healthy life with as few issues as possible. My suggestion is to avoid bones and other hard surface items. There are numerous healthy items for dogs to chew that will not lead to other dental issues. Look for the seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council(VOHC) on toys and treats that have shown a reduction of tarter on your pet’s teeth. No bones about it, if you do not offer bones, antlers, or hooves, the concerns discussed above will not be an issue for your fur baby.

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Chiropractic for Animals

Since graduating from Veterinary School almost 30 years ago, I have sought routine chiropractic care for many different aliments for myself. The very first opportunity was when I was plagued with headaches often and in need of medication to be able to function. It was discovered that with all the years of book studies I had lost the curvature of my cervical neck vertebrae. This presented issues for myself and with routine care over the years I have been able to remain medication free for neck and back pain. In those early years in Minnesota, my good friend and chiropracter occasionally would treat an animal and tell me of the success he was having with his routine adjustments. These pets were of course his own since legally he was licensed to only treat 2 legged species. Over the years I started to recognize the need for routine chiropractic care in the 4 legged species and how much they could benefit from adjustments. My only treatment option when chiropractic was not available was offering pain medications that would not correct anything. The medications would reduce the symptoms noted by the client but once off the drugs the symptoms returned.

About 7 years ago, when my daughter was showing in the POA circuit, we requested the help of a Chiropracter to adjust her pony. I remember thinking how interesting it was to watch the process and see the pony respond to the different manipulations. The POA’s gait definitely improved after the adjustment. It was amazing to see the change so soon after the first treatment.

Then about 5 years ago, I discovered Dr. Lisa King. I cannot tell you how many clients I have referred to her as she travels around Central Iowa to many different locations to make adjustments and do acupuncture as needed to improve the lives of her patients. What I can report is all the positive feed back that I get once a client has taken their pet to see her. Their pets are jumping, running, barking, tail wagging, etc., after just a few treatments. Many have been able to come off their medications and have normal daily activity with no reoccurrence. I have had some unbelievers become believers. I have clients that schedule routine maintenance adjustments just because they have seen the importance of preventive maintenance in their pets.

Mobility is such an important part of our lives and that of our pets, so please enjoy the photos that were captured recently when Dr. Lisa King visited a barn in Madison County.

Max is a 6 month old Labrador Retriever that was surrendered to me in October for aggressive unpredictable behavior with its owners. They had been taking him to puppy classes and had enlisted the help of a pet behavioralist to determine the cause of his aggression. After countless hours of working with Max and the family of 4, to see if these issues could be resolved, it was determined removing him from the home was the safest solution for everyone involved. I was contacted and offered to take him in and work with him and determine if something could be done. He had 4 puppy sessions left and I used the Gentle Leader in class and when out for walks with him to make certain he had no opportunity to react aggressively without having a way to control him. On the first evening of class I was working with him on heeling and as I stopped I wanted him to sit. He did not, so I elevated his nose with the Gentle Leader and with my left hand put pressure on his hips to encourage him to sit. In that short moment he broke into a screech and I immediately tightened the Gentle Leader around his muzzle and told him no as I knelt down beside him. Within seconds he quieted and nuzzled up against me in the most submissive and remorseful way. My immediate reaction, “He is in pain.” He needs to see Dr. Lisa King.

Below is his first report showing the areas that were adjusted. Interesting side note, after I returned to puppy class with him 3 days later, 3 different people came up to me and said he looks and acts like a totally different puppy tonight. I had not even told them that he had seen a chiropracter. Dr. King’s comment after completing his treatments was, “He must have had one massive headache.”  I did contact the previous owners to inform them of our discovery and as we discussed the situation, I was reminded that he had fallen down some stairs around 8 weeks of age. Possibly some or all of his issues may have been related to that one incident.

This is only one story that I have written about today, but want you to know that this is just one of many.  Dr. Lisa King sees many horses in her daily life and has had just as many success stories with them as well.  Many feel there is no way a person could adjust a 1000# animal and make a difference. Yet when watching her treat the horses it is not about brute strength but rather the different angles and positions she uses to move the joints back into their proper location. It is about watching the horse become more alert and responsive after she has finished her work. The whole body shake that they do to thank her for her kindness. The owners returning at a later date for yet another treatment since they see remarkable improvements with just one treatment and hope for even more success if they see Dr. King again.

Our animals are not able to tell us when they hurt or why or where. If your 4 legged critter starts or stops doing a behavior, don’t assume that they are being “bad.” It could easily be pain or some other illness. We need to watch for the subtle signs like not jumping up and down anymore, not doing stairs or hesitating before going up or down, lying around and not playing with their humans or the other housemates, aggression that has suddenly appeared, hiding or laying away from everyone as signs that they are not feeling well or in need of some chiropractic care.   If you just observe your pet’s daily activities, you will be surprised how many times they run into objects or other pets, how many times they slip or fall when attempting to chase something, drop to the floor with little grace in a big thud, get pulled on their leash or collar while being contained, etc. All of these activities cause wear and tear on their bodies and in the end can lead to pain responses that vary from shaking, to crying, to not eating, limping, panting, acting out with strange behaviors, etc. These symptoms can mimic many other health conditions so it is not wise to assume all panting dogs need to see a chiropracter. Yet it is important to be aware of what a chiropractic treatment can do for your pet. Ask your veterinarian if they feel chiropractic might help your pet and then ask around who in your area may be available to help.

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The Gentle Doctor

Patricia Lounsbury Bliss in her book Christian Petersen Remembered wrote,

The Gentle Doctor…reflects concern, affection, love, and the significance of life for all of God’s creatures—-great and small. The memory of Christian Petersen will live forever in the minds of the veterinary profession.”

In 1988, when I graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, I decided to purchase a Gentle Doctor Statue for myself. We were poor college students but as a young teen, my parents made a pack with each of their children that if they did not smoke by the time they were 25 years of age, they would give us each $250. Today that would not seem like much money, but as a teenager and a poor married college student, it was a BIG gift. Imagine how much money I have saved by not smoking, and I do have a treasured statue to commemorate my DVM degree and that pack with my parents.

When I decided to use the money for a statue, I did not want a bronze one. I had collected pewter pieces for years and wondered how difficult it would be to get one made out of pewter. I contacted the company that made the molds and was told to get permission from Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine for a mold to be made for a pewter cast. I would pay for the mold to be made and it would then belong to me and I would be able to make additional statues with permission from the College of Veterinary Medicine in the future.   I followed through on all of these steps and did obtain a statue made from pewter with my name engraved on the base.

A few years after graduation my father called and asked if another statue could be made from pewter for a long time veterinarian named Dr. Forland. He had practiced in the area where my parents lived and when told about my statue, he was interested in having one made with his name engraved in the base as well.   I again requested permission from ISU College of Veterinary Medicine and with the help of my parents had it delivered to Dr. Forland. I never spoke face to face with him and do not know if as a young girl I ever met him but felt glad I could help him get a statue that he could have his name engraved on the base.

Fast forward a few years and I was sorting through items and ran across a letter I had been sent from Dr. Forland after he received his statue. This letter was written 4 months before his death I was later told and obviously I had felt it worthy of saving since it was a hand-written letter and these are treasures to behold. The words he wrote shared a side of himself that he indicated he had never spoken of. I had decided I would hang on to the letter and if ever I could find one of his children, I felt they should have the letter.   And to my dismay, GUESS WHAT……18 years after the letter was written my parents happened to meet Dr. Forland’s daughter in a random place. After talking with her for a few minutes, and telling her the story of the statue that I had cast for him out of pewter, she went to her car and came back with 2 books titled “Christian Petersen Remembered”, the man who is responsible for the Gentle Doctor statue. Her father had purchased a large quantity of these books and she had decided to pass them out to people she met that had a connection with her father. One book was for my parents and the other book for me.

My parents called me to tell me about their encounter and I immediately asked if they got her phone number or address. My mother said yes, since his daughter was hoping that someday she could meet me. I requested the information and then sent her the original letter so she could read the written words for the first time, 18 years after her father’s death.

So why is all of this worthy of a blog……well let me share with you the letter contents and then you can see how important is was for me to return this letter to the family.

Dear Dr. Lonna Nielsen

Vallie met your dad at Fallgatters the other day so she obtained your married name and address. Please accept my apology for not getting in touch with you before for your kind consideration in allowing us to have the use of your mold for the Gentle Doctor Statue. Thank you!!! It is especially nice that an inscription can be permanently etched at the base. We will have one for each of our children.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think when I was modeling that it would become such an icon for ISU and world wide.

It was ironic that it was crafted in the Home Economics building (McKay Hall) at a time when there were no women students taking Vet Med! The college couldn’t find any other place for Petersen to work and teach. Of course he wasn’t too welcome because of the mess and smell of wet plaster, clay, etc. (It was my job to keep things clean)

One day I asked him if the pile of clay he was working on would have any redeeming value in the future. His answer was,” Young man, if you live another 50 years you may be glad you have given me some of your time.”

Jan 11, 1986, I had a massive heart attack with a lot of damage. Had bypass at Mayo. In June I had recovered enough so I got a release from my cardiologist to attend 45th class reunion. I had lost 50 lbs and was allergic to almost all medications.

Our class took a bus tour of campus, with special point of interest “the old vet quadrangle” (it has been remodeled for classrooms). The Prof that was hosting the group was telling the story of the old building and where Bas Relief & Statue location was before it was moved to the new location. One of my classmates knew of my involvement and posed the question, “Does anyone know who Christian Petersen’s model was for it?” When it was known it was me, the Prof came with his microphone for the story.

I just fell apart emotionally and could not speak! (Embarassing) In my mind, I must have seen and heard Petersen telling me what I could expect if I lived another 50 years. It was within a month of 50 years.

God spared me some more time so that I could be around to see what it has meant for ISU and the world!! I was honored this last Homecoming in the unveiling at Rededication Ceremony.

Excuse all this talk about the above experience. I haven’t told anyone about this before.

Most sincerely,

L M Forland

You see in 1936-37, Dr. Forland, as a poor undergraduate student cleaning up the messes of Christian Petersen had modeled for him holding only a small pillow on his forearm in a position similar to a puppy. He later applied and was accepted to the Veterinary College and graduated in 1941. This humble man realized years later what his small contribution means to the world of Veterinary Medicine. This statue is held in high esteem within the heart and mind of every veterinarian that graduates because it represents the bond each of us shares with our patients.

This month I got to meet Dr. Forland’s daughter and she again thanked me for the hand written letter. One of her siblings has the pewter Gentle Doctor Statue with Dr. Forland’s name engraved on the base. Never did I realize that a mold made to commemorate my DVM graduation would also touch the heart of a man who was a model for the Gentle Doctor Statue back in 1936. I find it interesting how small gestures of kindness can come back and bless your life in ways you would never imagine. Dr. Forland never was paid for his time as a model and yet he found great joy and gratitude 50 years later when he was recognized for his small part in this world wide icon the “Gentle Doctor Statue.” And as they say…. the rest is history.

Ovariohysterectomy for my puppy or kitten before 6 months?

Why would we even consider doing such a major procedure on such a young pet? Women who have these procedures are not allowed to lift, drive, work, etc. for weeks after. Yet we are performing this procedure younger and younger for our pets. This movement began many years ago when shelters realized how few adopted pets returned for their spay or neuter at 6 months of age. This quote from the Fayette Humane Society really sums it up:

“An average cat has 1-8 kittens per litter and 2-3 litters per year. During her productive life, one female cat could have more than 100 kittens. A single pair of cats and their kittens can produce as many as 420,000 kittens in just 7 years.”

Those are staggering numbers. For this reason, shelters began spay and neuter procedures prior to adoption of puppies and kittens. What was discovered was there were no growth issues and the younger pets recovered much more quickly than the older patients from anesthesia as well as the surgery itself. Clients are often surprised how playful and happy these younger patients are after surgery. We have less complication with swelling and incision redness. With young puppies and kittens very few “cones of shame” are needed to keep them from licking at the incision.   Most clients report that their pet is back to normal activity within 2 days.

Now we come to one of the most important reasons to spay your pet in the first few months of its life, BREAST CANCER. Having your pet spayed before her first heat cycle will remove the risk of breast cancer. Clearly, that is a great reason to spay your pet. After 2-3 heat cycles, a female’s chances of breast cancer are just as great as a pet that has never been spayed. Doing the spay early removes almost 100% of the risk for this clinical condition. Breast cancer is aggressive and spreads to numerous glands and to other internal organs as well. When a partial or complete mastectomy is performed, the recovery is long and painful for our female pets. Even with this surgical procedure, there are high probabilities that the cancer will return or be found in other locations in the future. Why put our pets through this if it can be avoided?

BEHAVIORAL studies have shown that a spayed or neutered dog is 3 times less likely to bite or be aggressive to humans or other animals. Awareness of behavioral issues is becoming more common. People realize that a dog that attacks humans or other dogs is not normal. We recognize that this is dangerous and make attempts to reduce the pets fear and anxiety. We remind people that if you wait for your dog to show signs of aggression and then you spay or neuter the pet, this may not change the situation. The success stories come from doing the procedure before the behavioral issues have begun. Therefore highlighting the positives of an early spay or neuter program.

BEHAVIORAL issues of wandering also come into play with an intact female dog. When her cycle begins, she will be driven instinctively to find a partner as much as the male will be driven to find her. With the first stage of her cycle, which can last anywhere from 7-10 days, she will have a large amount of valvular swelling and a heavy blood discharge. During those early days each time she urinates or drops blood she is sending pheromones out to all intact males in and around the area. This is why you will see stray dogs wandering into your yard or loitering around your home when your female begins her cycle. After the heavy discharge ends is when she is ready to stand for her mate. She may be in her standing heat for 7-10 days as well, so be prepared to keep her on a short leash while outside and never leave her unattended during those days. The final 7-10 days she may have a lighter colored pink discharge and still be swollen but will not stand for a mate. The dogs cycle will last up to 21-30 days. This is important to remember since she is driven to be bred instinctively and it is your responsibility to make certain that does not happen. They usually will cycle twice per year.

BEHAVIORAL issues for the feline are different. Cats are what we call induced ovulators. When bred, ovulation is triggered, without being bred the female cat can wax and wane in her cycle and cause a large amount of frustration to owners and other pets in the home. The female cat in heat is agitated and vocal and often attempts to get outdoors. This can last for days and cause the entire household to be at odds about what should be done. Female cats can have repeated heat cycles stimulated by daylight, warmer temperatures, and the presence of other intact cats. Spaying her before any of this begins can prevent frustration for every person and pet involved. Some cats will cycle as early as 5-6 months. Spay early and avoid the hassle!

Another huge health risk to our female intact pets is PYOMETRA. This condition is difficult to detect since many describe their pet as just not acting right. Maybe eating less, drinking more, laying around more, there may be a discharge but not always, some very vague symptoms. Most owners report that her heat cycle has been irregular and cannot remember the last time she cycled. When checking blood work, we see a very elevated white blood cell count that gives us concern for a possible pyometra. The photos below show an older dog with a normal uterus on the left and the one on the right is the same aged dog but with a uterus full of pus. These cases can have a uterus full of pus as large as a pregnant dog’s uterus. Of course, the infected uterus must be removed and the patients are already debilitated so the procedure is risky. Spaying your female pet can avoid this situation 100%.

Some common myths that we hear often when discussing a spay procedure are:

“I do not want my pet to get fat and lazy.” As with any pet, if feeding the appropriate calorie intake based on their daily needs you can control their weight. The trouble is many want to continue to free feed their young adult pet which leads to weight gain. Also, the age we used to spay a pet was around the time they were maturing and so activity levels were naturally dropping but we continued to feed them at the same level as when they were a growing puppy. We need to adjust their intake based on weather and schedules to avoid them gaining weight in the winter when no one wants to walk their dog and when school begins and we no longer have time to walk. Your dog will still want to protect its family and territory even after being spayed. Any behavioral changes noted after a spay are more likely caused by something other than the spay.

So, what are the disadvantages to a spay? As with any surgical procedure the risk of anesthesia is something we can never underestimate. Pediatric pets are sensitive to heat loss and blood loss so those factors must always be considered at the time of surgery and postoperatively. Your pet will never have a litter of kittens or puppies. That can be considered a disadvantage by some but I see it as a positive advantage. Are there increased health risks with age associated with early spay and neuter programs? Recent studies have indicated with some breeds of dogs they are seeing a higher incidence of osteosarcoma or hemangiosarcoma in altered dogs. I believe more studies are needed to verify these results since most pets we treat are altered so does this give a fair representation of the case studies. Where the study was done, how did they account for diet and environmental variations? Did they make certain that these dogs were not related since the study was done in Golden Retrievers? With all the research that is happening in humans studying our DNA and finding early links to different diseases, I believe this will help us learn more about the how’s and why’s of cancer in pets. So, the jury is still out, but I can definitely say that there are many great reasons to consider a spay for your pet to make them more family orientated and help avoid unnecessary pain and frustration for your pet and yourself.

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A Decade

August 7, 2017, marked my tenth year at Winterset Veterinary Center(WVC). On the one hand, that seems like a long time, but as I reflect on my years here, I am amazed at how quickly the time has passed. In 2007, I had 4 children ages 7-15 at home. Now my baby is a senior and within the next year, Dan and I will be part of the “empty nest” category. Our oldest 2 children have completed their college education and are adjusting to the work world in Omaha and Chicago. Our third child just started her freshman year at our alma mater, Iowa State University, to study Global Resource System/Horticulture. These are major changes from a decade ago when I started my employment at WVC.

A blast from the past: the WVC staff around 2009, complete with matching t-shirts.

A decade ago, there was no computer at WVC. Now, all transactions are being carried out on the computer to improve practice efficiency. The reality is we never got to a paperless practice but we certainly have a better record of purchases and medical notes. There are days that I am grateful for the computer when it works seamlessly, but over the last decade we did have one major crash that complicated our work day and made it apparent that we are helpless when the computer is down. Thank goodness for computer technicians that somehow find a way to retrieve data and get us back up and running again.

A decade ago there were 4 practices in Winterset with 6 veterinarians. Now we have 3 practices with 8 veterinarians. In the last decade we have lost some amazing veterinarians that were proud to call Winterset, Iowa, home: Dr. Gary Fisher, Dr. Craig Saveraid, Dr. Ken Henrichsen, and Dr. Robert La Follette. Each of these veterinarians had a long history of treating animals in Iowa. I think of the changes they experienced during their many years of practice. Change is a part of any profession and if one is not willing to explore new business philosophies, you cannot expect to continue to compete.

A decade ago, I never heard someone diagnose their pet’s illness based on Dr. Google’s wealth of information. People never attempted to do surgeries seen on YouTube or express their grievances on social media. WVC did not have a website, Facebook page or an online store. We never placed orders for products by using a computer. We did not have a blog. We realize that many of our new customers come to us through these different sources that have only been around about a decade. Many of these social media sites are helpful to share ideas and information about our practice. We share photos of any animals brought in by the city of Winterset to try to find their owners. We share photos of interesting findings in practice. We share the blogs I write to spread awareness of things happening in Veterinary Medicine or with animals in general. Since a majority of people use their phones now to search for veterinarians and phone numbers, our advertisement in phone books is at an all time low. Will phone books be a thing of the past in the next decade?

We’ve had some great times through the years!

A decade ago, Dr. Jim and Stephanie were on staff at WVC when I started. Everyone else has moved on to other adventures and that opened the door for new employees to start working at the clinic. We have been blessed through these years with great staff that help the clinic thrive and grow. Mary and Kristal do an amazing job answering the phone and waiting on customers. Our groomer, Carrie, is building her clientele one perfect cut at a time. Our kennel staff, Jessica and Lexi, keep the clinic and our in house pets in tip top shape. It is totally a team effort to keep WVC running smoothly. I cannot be more thankful that Dr. Ken retired right at the time I was seeking employment. The days and years have truly flown by. It can be challenging to work in a place that never has the same routine, but also prevents boredom and burnout. Each day is new and different since one never knows what will come through that door or call on that phone.

A decade ago, one thing was very evident with the people who came to WVC. They all had a great need to protect their livelihood or their furbaby from harm and needed us to treat and diagnose whatever might ail them. The clients have continued to be respectful and appreciative of our services. They recognize that we cannot turn back the clock or make time stand still to escape the tough decisions that present themselves way to soon in our minds. They always show concern and compassion to these critters in their time of need. They rejoice with each new life, whether this is their first litter of puppies or their last calf of the season.  We see our clients and their critters as part of the WVC family. We have rejoiced with them during happy moments and shed tears with them during the sad moments. Puppies that I watched grow up are now showing signs of age and maturity that gives me concern that to soon I will be looking into those eyes for the very last time. Yes, working at a business for a decade has the advantage of making long lasting relationships with clients. We reminisce about the past when our kids played sports together or how the kids got taller than us.   We remember loved ones that were present when they first brought that puppy home years ago. We attempt to make everyone that enters through the doors of WVC know that they are important to us. Without these clients, we would no longer have a reason to exist.

Thank you to all of our WVC clients for entrusting the care and wellbeing of your critters to us. We appreciate all of you now and in the future decades!

The staff at WVC, 2017

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Why a Vet?

Why did I become a veterinarian? I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that question. The other common response when someone finds out that I am a veterinarian is “ I considered that profession.”   When visiting schools for career days or educational sessions, we often have more interest from students than other professions. What is the attraction? Why is this career so coveted by people around the globe?

I cannot say that I have any simple responses to these questions but wanted to share my story as one example. My farm background certainly contributed to my desire to be a veterinarian. At age 10, I told my parents I wanted to be a veterinarian. That was in 1972, and at that time there were very few women vets. My parents were always supportive, but I cannot say the same for other people in my life. Up to that point I had been caring for baby pigs, baby kittens, and horses. Whenever the vet came to our farm my dad would make a point to let me join them to observe. I was a 4-H and FFA member involved in showing hogs and meat judging during my high school years. I was a County and District Pork Queen and educated people about pork in Iowa and California. I never had the opportunity to work with a veterinarian prior to veterinary school but always knew I wanted to care for animals. I completed my undergraduate college course requirements in three years and applied to the College of Veterinary Medicine in the spring of 1984. I was accepted for the fall of that year and had all intentions of being a large animal veterinarian, since I worked with horses and hogs prior to college and had no fear of cattle or other food producing animals.

What caused the change of heart? Why did I decide to go down the path of small animal medicine instead? Many factors affected this decision. While attending veterinary school, you learn all species so at the completion of your education you can chose a number of different career paths. This leaves one to ponder all the opportunities that present themselves during these four years of veterinary school. Many only think about private practice when considering a career in veterinary medicine. What people do not realize is research, food safety, academia, government, animal welfare, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, and military positions are other options that can be very rewarding career paths as well.

I recall during my senior year a cold winter night that I was on emergency duty and a male classmate returned from a cattle call. I asked him how it had gone delivering the unborn calf and he remarked, “I was stripped down to my jeans on the cold damp floor of the barn trying to reposition a calf in a cow that would not stand up.” My first thought was, I cannot do that. My second thought was, I hate the cold. That was when I decided I wanted climate controlled facilities to work out of and animals with fur and feathers that were not larger than myself. I also became aware of the physical side of large animal medicine and the challenges that would present themselves daily. I knew that one day I would want to start a family and working long hours would interfere. These are some of the reasons that I chose a small animal focus coming out of veterinary school. Now my kids have often asked why I did not take up zoo medicine or marine medicine since that sounds so much more exciting. I informed them that living in the Midwest the choices for those two areas would be limited. Especially, in regards to marine animals. I cannot think of the last time I saw a shark in Iowa.

In my years of practice I have been an associate, solo practitioner. and a corporate veterinarian. I have worked out of a new small animal hospital, a mobile home, a store front rental space, a PetSmart store, and seasoned mixed animal practice. In each and every one of these spaces I have gained more appreciation for the field of Veterinary Medicine. It is a challenging field because we do treat multiple species, but more important, we have to care for the owners as well. There is a bond that is formed between that animal and its owner. We have to figure out if we are a veterinarian or a pet pediatrician. Is this animal an animal, pet, or fur baby? If someone wants to be a veterinarian because they like animals but not people, they need to rethink their profession or consider something other than private practice. We do spend time with animals, but without our communication skills with their owners, we could not be successful.   I have encouraged high school students to come and shadow me when they are considering veterinary medicine as a career choice. I want them to get a view of what a day in the life of a vet can look like. I would have to say that I have encouraged as many as I have discouraged. Many view our day as playtime with puppies and kittens. I want them to see that being peed on, pooped on, snotted on, anal glands expressed on, bled on, and scratched and chewed on are all in a days work. More often than not when I return at the end of the day to my home, I get a favorable response from my dog, but my family says, “you stink.” I enjoy my job and am thankful for each day that is brand new and rewarding. Never will a day be routine or mundane. I want these students to see the pain and suffering of some animals as they come to us needing care. I want them to feel the joy when we are able to cure or fix the problem and return them to their grateful owners. I want them to feel the sadness as we assist owners in their final request with an aged pet that no longer has a will to live. I want them to feel the warmth of a tongue on their faces and the smell of puppy breath when that new owner gets their first pet. I want them to experience the reality that some people do not have the financial resources to fix the problem presented and the difficulty surrounding those moments for us as veterinarians and the pet owners. I want them to realize that Veterinary Medicine is a career full of emotions with successes and failures. We cannot fix everything for everyone or for every animal. We have days where we want to walk away because it is hard to tell someone their pet has passed. We have times when we rack our brains trying to figure out why a pet is not responding to our treatments. We have moments we wish we could forget about having to run a business and just do everything at no cost because of our love for animals. We restrain from tantrums when we have to give the flea speech one more time. Then someone comes and thanks us for our care or compassion or attention to their concerns and we continue on. Never forgetting those moments because if we stop feeling the good and/or the bad our effectiveness is gone. It is a constant balancing act within the walls of a veterinary practice.

So what advice would I give someone that is considering a career in veterinary medicine? Take as many science and math courses as you can during high school. Get involved in FFA or 4-H and learn as much as you can about the different species of animals. Volunteer or work in a veterinary facility or a rescue program to learn how to handle animals. Take classes in speech and communications so you are able to talk with people and make good eye contact. Once in college get involved with organizations that will expand your communication skills. Be attentive to your studies and get high marks. If you can manage to work or volunteer along side your studies and still get high marks that will be favorable when applying for veterinary school and or job hunting after college. Many employers, in numerous professions, are more interested in your people skills, communications skills, and your time management skills than your book smarts.

When applying to the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine the average GPA of those accepted into the program was 3.53. When looking at the financial committement annually for the four years of veterinary school, it currently runs $20,014 for in state tuition and greater than $44,000 for out of state tuition. Last year 63.5% of the class were out of state students and 36.5% were in state. Each class is approximately 148 students and currently 80% are women and 20% men. The average yearly salary in Iowa is $78,040 for all veterinarians. The range is $48,310 – $134,560 annually. A new graduate veterinarian making $48,310 annually calculates out to $23.23/hour. A medical doctor easily earns 2-3 times this amount annually with a similar debt after graduation.

After considering all of these factors about veterinary medicine, if this profession still sounds appealing to you, I encourage you to follow your dream. I am glad that I chose to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 45 years ago. I will be celebrating 30 years as a DVM next year and cannot believe how fast this time has gone. Many things have changed during these years but one thing remains constant, people will always need someone to care for their animals, pets, or fur babies. That is job security and I am grateful to be able to work each day in a profession that helps promote the human-animal bond.

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