Everyone has told me that being a grandparent is the best. It makes parenting worth the effort when holding your grandchild for the first time. Dan and I got that experience in May. Our daughter, Jaclyn, delivered a beautiful baby girl. We were blessed to get to meet her 5 days later. Jaclyn, and her husband Rich, live out of state so we will need plan for those opportunities to spoil this little girl. We have purchased a pack and play and borrowed a baby swing to use when they come to visit. We have not decided on what names we will want to be called since she may decide for us. I am in love with social media and the ability to see photos and videos of her as she is growing and changing. How blessed we are to have this technology that allows us to be a part of her life even when we are miles apart.
When Dan and I started our family, we lived a distance from our parents as well. I recall finding pleasure in watching our parents enjoy our children and the children interacting with their grandparents. It was a special bond. It continues to be that today. Of course, family are excited to see us, but the grandchildren are still revered as the most “special”! I look forward to each opportunity to spend time with all of them.
It has been fun watching them be smitten with their newborn. I feel she closely resembles her mother as an infant. I may be partial, but comparing baby photos, I am convinced I am correct. Parenting is such an adventure from the moment you hold that baby you are deeply committed to protecting them and loving them unconditionally for eternity. It does not take but a moment to know that this little baby has changed your life forever.
They have a 10 month old Golden Retriever named, Ciggy. There were concerns initially on how he would react to this new family member. Their fears have been erased as you can see. He is calm and patient with her and appears to be anxious for her to start moving around more. He is looking forward to being a big brother to our grand-daughter.
The two cats, Charlotte and Virginia, are slowly accepting the interruptions that come with having an infant in the house. They have taken longer to adjust but are showing more interest in coming around to investigate. I think they have come to terms that just like the puppy that was brought home, this baby will not be leaving anytime soon.
Pets certainly have opinions about the changes in a household. They seem to accept change. Some with ease and others with remorse. There is no way one can predict how pets will react when changes come. The best we can do is try to continue other routines as usual and hope for the best. Rarely do I hear of a situation that did not turn out favorable in regards to a new family addition. It seems that most pets are thrilled to have additional attention and belly rubs. I have heard many of your grandchildren stories over the years and hope that you will be gracious enough to allow me to share about mine! I am sure she will be the smartest and most amazing of all!
Have you ever seen those little horses at a show or in a pasture? They melt your heart and are so adorable. Many people think they are only lawn ornaments with no purpose. That is FALSE! I want to share some information with you that may change your mind about these mini’s. The correct terminology is miniature horse not miniature pony. They stem from over 400 years of selective breeding in the lineage of Quarter horses and Arabians. There are a variety of colors. They must stand no taller than 34” and weigh on average 225-350 lbs when full grown. They can have a lifespan of 35 years. The oldest miniature horse on record lived to be over 50 years of age.
Miniature horses can be used in the show ring. There are multiple classes to show these unique animals in. Halter classes judge on the conformation of the miniature horse. They are shown in classes with other miniature horses like themselves. They can be shown in showmanship classes where the judge is judging how the handler shows the miniature horse. They can do obstacle courses in hand. This means that the miniature horse is led around the different obstacles and is judged on how easily the miniature horse moves through the pattern. There may be bridges to cross, gaits to be changed, backing experiences between poles, and other more challenging obstacles. There are classes for in hand hunter/ jumper, costume, and liberty. The liberty classes are extremely interesting to watch. They show how responsive miniature horses can be to owners that take the time to train them in this freestyle musical class.
Driving is another common class for miniature horses. They can pull up to 3 times their body weight. The miniature horse should be at least 4 years of age prior to starting these competitions to avoid health risks. They can be entered into many different types of driving classes depending on what your preferences are. The training begins at an early age with ground work and it builds from there each year. There are videos available online to show the different competitions for driving classes. I was surprised to see a barrel race driving class and chuck wagon multi-hitch competitions.
The American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) was begun in 1978. This allowed competitions amongst those who love this amazing creature. These small equines are very calm and adaptable to many different types of classes. If you would like to learn more about these incredible creatures visit the AMHA.
In recent years, the ADA allowed miniature horses to be service animals. In the past only dogs could be a service animal. The ADA has made provisions for miniature horses that qualify in the following areas:
They must be housebroken.
They must be under control of the owner.
The facility must be able to accommodate the miniature horse’s size and weight.
The horse’s presence does not present a safety concern for the facility.
If interested in more information about miniature horses and their service capabilities, you can read more about it at this link.
Miniature horses need to have a balanced diet. They should not be overfed since that can cause issues not only with internal organ function, but also increase chances of lameness. As small equines they require the core vaccinations such as Tetanus, Rabies, Eastern and Western Influenza, and West Nile immunization. It is important to do regular dewormings, hoof care, and teeth floating. They can develop a dense winter coat, so it is important to monitor their weight during the winter months. It can be difficult to see weight loss with that heavy coat. They enjoy hay and grain just like the larger horses but be certain to consult with someone experienced with mini horses to help you know what volume is appropriate for them.
Many years ago when my kids were younger, my father decided to bring these adorable miniature horses to his place. My daughters got to enjoy an afternoon of loving on them. They were so excited to be able to interact with them. We had seen them in pastures before but were never able to interact with them. I could not resist a photo opportunity.
If you are looking for a unique family pet, miniature horses can fit the bill. Be careful though…just like dogs….it is hard to have just one.
Is this really a thing? December 2, 2020 is on the calendar as National Mutt Day. Last month I commented on how there is a day to celebrate just about everything for pets. This month includes National Cat lovers Month, National Horse Day on Dec 13th and National Cat Herder’s Day on Dec 15th. Yes, a day to honor Cat Herders. I will let you google that one yourself.
The strange thing about National Mutt Day is that years ago all we had were mutts. Our dog population was a mix of this and that and that and this. Most dogs were living outdoors and were fed whatever food was leftover. It seemed the only dog and cat food available was Purina dog chow and cat chow. A pet was really loved if they got store bought food. The pets were lucky to be allowed into the house on the cold winter nights. Still many preferred to remain outdoors with the livestock or in their insulated dog houses sleeping with the farm cats.
My dad always questioned how I could make a living treating dogs and cats. At the time I decided to be a veterinarian, the “real” vets treated livestock and pets were a sideline business as a service to the farmers. Today the tables have reversed. Pets have moved from the backyard to the bedroom. Pets have become family not livestock. Pets have replaced lost family members and grown children. The annual amount spent on pets in 2019 was over 95 billion dollars. That is 23 billion more than in 2018. What do you suppose 2020 will look like? We saw more new pets this year than in any of the previous 12 years. People spent more time with their pets so therefore they were more likely to do more veterinary care and grooming than previous years. People had time to train and work with their new pets to make them good canine citizens. I became a grandma to a golden retriever named Ciggy and a mini golden doodle named Stella. They have brought joy to us all with their cuteness and energy. Many photos and videos have been exchanged to share their daily lives with our family. Years ago this was not a thing. This is a very different world in 2020.
I looked up the word “Mutt”. A mutt is a dog that does not belong to one officially recognized breed and is not the result of intentional breeding. Most people prefer the name mixed breed dog over mutt or mongrel. In the past few years the mixed breed dog has gained status. I use the example of the “hybrid” pet. These are pets that have been intentionally bred together like the golden doodle, pomsky, or the morkie to improve the genetic pool but still produce an adorable offspring. The interesting fact is these mixed breed dogs appear to be costing more than the purebred dogs in some circles. I know people want to consider them a breed of dog but they are not. They are a mix. They could be classified as a mutt. Many people would be extremely annoyed if you called their hybrid pet a mutt. Will these dogs ever become a recognized breed? I would doubt that since they will always be a mix of dogs. Regardless of their status, they are loved and adored by their families and continue to bring hours of joy and love into their homes.
As we enter the final month of 2020, please remember to honor your pets on Dec 2nd, especially if they are a “Mutt”! This is their day to be spoiled! Wait a minute….aren’t they spoiled every day? Have a very joyous holiday season. I will be back in 2021 with more thoughts on pets and how they make our days brighter and our lives more joyful.
Have you ever checked out the pet holidays? There appears to be a holiday for just about everything. The calendar I have been using this year to choose topics for my blog was highlighting Pet Diabetes Month for November. When I started researching the topic, I also discovered this was National Senior Month. Diabetes and Seniors go hand in hand so am going to focus on both for the November blog.
Senior overweight cats and dogs are all at risk for diabetes. This condition is becoming more common as our furry friends become more obese. A sad statistic is 59% of cats and 54% of dogs are overweight or obese. An alarming statistic for American citizens is that in 2013,34 overweight and obese humans age 20 and above was at 57.6%. They projected that by this year close to ¾ of the population would be classified as overweight or obese. The 2020 pandemic may have pushed that percentage even higher.
Excess weight in animals has the same negative effects as we see in humans. Diabetes tops the list for senior overweight dogs and cats. Some of the basic symptoms we can see are increase water drinking, increase need to eliminate large quantities of urine, weight loss with a normal appetite, vomiting may or may not be present. Owners bring their pets in for having accidents of urine in the house. They have always been well house-trained and now owners are coming home to urine in the house. Usually it is large amounts of urine. Often the urine does not have much odor or color since it is diluted from the large amount of water they are drinking. People always tell me they are good water drinkers. To them that is a good sign not a bad sign. I want you to know that this is not normal and can be a symptom of diabetes but also other health concerns for senior pets. Many veterinary offices offer Senior Wellness exams with labs that can monitor changes to the different body organ systems. Contact them today if you are noticing any of these changes and discuss your concerns. An ounce of prevention is worth additional days or years with your furry friend.
Whenever your pet is weighed it is important to monitor that weight from year to year. If their weight is dropping and you have not changed anything at home, this can be a big concern for a senior dog or cat. Many different health conditions cause gradual weight loss. Often pet owners are not aware of the weight loss since they live with them every day. If you get them weighed at your veterinarian’s office or weigh them at home, you can be more aware of minor changes. If a family member returns and says, “Boy, has Fluffy lost weight!”, do not ignore those statements. This could be your first sign that something is not right. Our pets are instinctively not going to show illness. This is also why many animals go off and hide when they are not feeling well. They instinctively know they can be targeted when showing weakness.
When a pet has been diagnosed with diabetes the real work begins. Your pet will need to start eating meals in a twice a day manner so that insulin can be administered with each of those meals. Often a special diet is encouraged to help reduce the amount of insulin required twice per day. It is important to see if weight loss can be accomplished if your pet is still overweight. There are routine rechecks to monitor the glucose levels. There are people that test their pet’s urine and or blood at home to help determine the precise amount of insulin needed. Diabetes can be labor intensive since families must adjust their schedules in order to treat their pets.
How can we avoid overweight and obese pets? This must start at a young age. People food and treats contribute to obesity. Allowing pets to free feed contributes to obesity. Offering more food daily then what is needed contributes to obesity. Not having proper exercise contributes to obesity. Sounds familiar to what our health professions are saying today.
Many pet food companies have daily recommendations listed on the bag of food. Those volumes may be more than what your pet needs, especially if your pet is laying around home all day waiting for your return. We love to reward our pets with treats. Whether those are pet treats or people food, it is important to monitor them. With multiple people in the house it is a good idea to have a daily treat jar. Place in that jar the number of treats the pet gets each day and when the treats are gone no more are given until the next day. That reduces the opportunity of the pet to trick multiple owners into thinking they have not had a treat all day. Believe me they are smarter than we think. They are extremely good at working the system for treats. Pay attention to the number of Kcals per treat or per cup of food. It is amazing how many kcal’s one little dog treat can have.
If you have determined your furry friend needs to drop some pounds, the best way is to reduce the food intake. We are always made to feel exercise will allow weight loss. Two years ago, I was told by doctors that only by changing eating habits can weight loss be accomplished. This holds true for our furry friends also. Finding the kcal/cup is a good place to start with your current food. Measuring the amount of food your pet eats in a day is critical. Once you have that information it is possible to gradually reduce the amount of food offered each day over time. Looking for a diet that has less Kcal/cup can also assist in the weight loss area. Stopping all people food is a must! Reducing treats or change the type of treats can also be helpful. Veterinarians have special weight loss diets that are effective. The weight loss should be gradual. If weight starts just falling off your pet, that can be a sign that something is not right.
How do you know if your pet is overweight or obese? The following photo shows a basic body condition scoring for cats. I encourage people to look for a waistline behind the rib cage. If an indentation is not present your pet is heavier than it should be. Owners should be able to feel the ripple of the ribs under their fingertips without having to push deeper. Physically you do not want to see the rib outline, but one should be able to feel it easily. If your cat is often messy under its tail or cannot groom over their low back this could be indications of weight issues.
It is never too late to start a weight loss program for your furry friend. Find ways to show them love besides offering food. Take them to the dog parks. Go for longer walks. Teach them tricks and use praise as the reward. We must be creative in ways to alter behaviors that we have fallen into. There are ways to teach old dog’s new tricks. Let us begin the coming year with behaviors that will improve the lives of our furry friends as they most definitely make our lives worth living.
What is a veterinary technician you may ask? It would be on the same level as a nurse. There is a movement to change the title from vet tech to veterinary nurse. Technicians can handle medications, treatments, client communications, assist with surgeries and anesthesia. They can do large, small, and exotic medicine. They are as important to you and your pet as your veterinarian. Most technicians do continuing education just like your veterinarian. Some veterinary technicians have attended higher education to learn these skills and other veterinary technicians are trained on the job. Some states require National and State certification after completing a 2 year associates degree in veterinary technology. It is not consistent between states on what requirements there are so it is best to speak with the Veterinary Medical Association within the state that you live. It is constantly changing and therefore important to seek out that information before beginning a program. The program is extremely helpful in showing you the skills needed to work along side a veterinarian. The issue comes when looking for employment. As a certified technician in a state that does not require a 2 year program you are competing with people that are trained on the job and have no debt to payoff. The salary may not be high enough to cover all your expenses. There appear to be many veterinary technicians that are doing jobs other than working within a veterinary hospital. This may be due to not being able to find the job in the location they needed. They may have been able to make more money doing a job other than veterinary technician. They may have decided to do other jobs that allowed them to still work with animals but in a different setting. These positions may be dog training, dog grooming, pet stores, animal handler at zoos or other nature centers, animal shelters, etc. I often recommend that a student shadow a veterinary technician at a practice to make certain they are wanting to choose this career path. The career seems to be popular since most all people love their animals. The difficult part is that these are not our animals so often times they bite, scratch, vocalize, pee, poop, express anal glands, etc., in an attempt to get away from us. It can still be a rewarding career but it is important that an individual knows what is in store for them if they chose to be a veterinary technician.
Stephanie Woolson is Winterset Veterinary Center’s veterinary technician. I met Stephanie when I began working for Dr. Pottebaum in August 2007. Stephanie had been working at the clinic before my employment and was a valuable resource when it came to location of supplies, protocol for surgeries and therapies, client and pet information as well as costs since there was no computer until April 2008. My days are much smoother when she is present because she runs lab tests and handles samples that need to be analyzed or sent off for evaluation. She and I make a great team whether we are drawing blood, trimming nails, offering treatment, or doing routine examinations for our patients. After working for 13 years with her every day we have come to rely on each other to get the job done. We have experienced every human emotion together working side by side. There are times she has graciously reminded me of something that I have forgotten to do or am not doing correctly. I know she does this with hesitation. I always remind her that I am human and make mistakes. I am grateful that she is there to keep me on task. We all need those people that have our backs and Stephanie is that person for me at work. I appreciate all she does for myself, our clients, and their furry friends. I hope you will remember to thank her for her contribution to Winterset Veterinary Center. Dr. Jim and I would not be able to do our job without the help of Stephanie!
During this pandemic if you get the opportunity to thank other members of our staff as well, Dr. Jim and myself realize what each person brings to the success of our business. We have Val and Mary at the front desk. We have Anabel and Liz grooming 4 days a week for us. We have Eian and Summer keeping our dogs walked, kennels and building clean and shelves stocked. Ben comes in once a week to help with folding laundry and has been doing that since 2012. Check our their bios on our website at wintersetvet.com.
Enjoy the beautiful fall weather and remember to stay safe.
Any insurance is a good idea when you need it. The same holds true for pet insurance. In recent years pet insurance has become a topic of discussion amongst pet owners. Pet insurance has been around since 1947 when the first pet was insured in Britain. Sweden has the highest percentage of pet insurance policies and Britain follows closely with 23%. The very first pet to be insured in the US was Lassie in 1982. Lassie had a TV show for 19 years and I grew up watching Lassie save the day. In the US we have a higher pet population but our pets are only insured at 1-2%. An increase in pet policies has been seen, but we still have a long way to go in this pet insurance industry.
There are different types of policies. It is important to research each company and determine what is best for you and your pet. There are policies that cover preventive care, accidental, and illness. Other policies are only accidental and illness. What is right for you? This decision requires some investigation and thought. Many businesses have started offering pet insurance to their employees. The premium dollars can be withheld pretax. It is important to educate yourself and read the reviews on pet insurance companies. Ask friends, family, or your trusted veterinarian about pet insurance.
Deductibles can be handled differently amongst pet insurance providers. Annual deductibles are like car insurance. You pay the deductible every year if you have a claim. A lifetime deductible indicates that once you pay the deductible on a pet’s skin problem you do not have to pay it ever again for that pet’s lifetime. If one year you pay the deductible on the skin condition and the following month the same pet has a urinary issue, you will pay another deductible. There are positive benefits with either scenario. I just want to introduce differences so you can ask the right questions when considering pet insurance.
Over the years of practice, I have seen a large number of families decide on euthanasia because they did not have the necessary funds to treat a sudden illness or injury. Paying a monthly premium allows you to have a plan if something were to happen unexpectedly. It allows you to budget for your pet’s illnesses or injuries. Let’s face it, we never know when something bad may happen. Insurance is there to help us through those situations. I laugh at the Farmer’s insurance commercials as they describe the strangest scenarios that have been covered with their insurance policies. We hear crazy stories all the time of pet’s injuries and illnesses that owners never anticipated. Pets are like family. Pet insurance helps in times of crisis to manage the medical expenses needed to bring our furry friends back home.
Premiums vary amongst company policies. Some companies charge more if a pet is not neutered or spayed. Certain breeds may have higher premiums. The age of your pet and preexisting conditions can affect premiums. If your policy includes preventive care coverage that will affect your premium. The best option is to find a couple of companies to research and then get quotes just like you would do if buying a car. Many companies have price quotes offered on their websites. They have employees willing to answer all of your questions.
Currently most pet insurance policies require the owner to pay the bill at their veterinary office and then submit the claim themselves. The insurance company will investigate the claim and then reimburse the client. A few pet insurance companies are recognizing a need to process a claim immediately to help pet owners avoid large bills at check out. As pet insurance coverage increases per capita we will see more companies offering this feature.
I have never heard a person tell me that pet insurance was a waste of money. I have heard many times, “I wish I would have had pet insurance!” The best time to get a policy is right from the start. The premiums are usually less per month. There are no preexisting conditions. Even puppies and kittens can develop life long health issues or have something traumatic happen to them at an early age. We have all been down that path where the store asked if we wanted the insurance with that appliance or electronic device. We declined. We regretted it. Think about that the next time your veterinarian asks if you have considered pet insurance.
August 22nd is National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day. Now you may ask yourself, “Why do we need a day set aside to take a cat to the vet?” Did you know that dogs are five times more likely to see a veterinarian than a cat? More cats are owned per household than dogs but yet the annual average expenses for dogs are $258/dog and $98/cat per year. The AVMA study indicates that more households own dogs (38%) than cats (25%). I think many homes have cats that never see veterinarians and therefore the numbers are skewed. Many homes have multiple cats but have only taken one to see their veterinarian. People seem to think an indoor cat has no reason to see a veterinarian once they have been spayed or neutered. Many cats are extremely upset when traveling and even more upset when they get to the vet office so people hate to see their cats act out. Some people are embarrassed by their cats behaviors away from their home. Many people have cats that just showed up one day and they stayed. They do not claim them as their cat even though they feed them daily. The reasons cats do not see veterinarians come with many explanations. If you are one of those people that rarely or never brings a cat to see a veterinarian then this blog is for you.
Cats are not small dogs. This statement has been said often when comparing diets and behaviors. Where I see this most is in how they age and the different diseases that present in cats. A young kitten or cat can have respiratory, urinary, and or skin issues commonly. Vaccinations are recommended from 6 weeks of age and up. We encourage them to be checked for external and internal parasites. Diets are important as a way of preventing some health conditions that are common in younger cats. A visit to your veterinarian can help get you off on the right tract so you can avoid some of the pitfalls of owning a young cat or kitten. The highly recommended visit of spay or neuter to prevent unwanted behaviors of marking or being vocal during the mating season should happen within the first 4-6 months of age. Statistics show that a kitten can come into season as early as 4 months of age if around other intact cats. Waiting longer can cause unwanted behaviors and increase costs associated with the procedure. Cats age at a slower rate then a large dog. We are seeing the age of cats extended since we have multiple options for treatment for common feline diseases and health conditions associated with aging. It is not rare to have a cat live between 15-20 years now. The message I want to express is that early intervention in these health issues is key to extending a cat’s life. Without seeing a cat at least once a year, veterinarians cannot share with clients tips on preventive measures and clinical signs to watch for. The age chart below shares a comparison of cat verses human lifespan. Where does your cat line up?
At Winterset Veterinary Center we see three times more dogs than cats. We do more preventive care on dogs than cats. We are more likely to see cats on an emergency basis than for healthy check ups. We often see a young cat for their spay or neuter and then do not see them for years. They show up with a major health crisis and we have no current medical history. All of these factors increase the risk of a less than positive outcome. It is said there are at least 90 million cats in the USA. Only half of the cats see a veterinarian on a regular basis. It is time to change that statistic. If your cat is in the Mature or greater category in age, it would be wise to have them checked by a veterinarian. Many health conditions are not visible from the outside but a physical exam can be a great place to start. Help us raise awareness of the importance of cats seeing veterinarians just like their canine companions do. Schedule an appointment for a healthy check today and start your feline friend on a journey of good care and a long and healthy life.
Every year I get asked to judge the cat show or a pet show at the county level. It is my hope that these young people will grow up appreciating their cats and knowing that their lives deserve as much veterinary care as the dogs in the world. I have spoken in classroom settings attempting to educate the younger generation about the importance of veterinary care and how much it costs to care for the “free kitten” that you brought home. These types of programs are important so this younger generation will understand the value of our furry friends and the need for proper and timely health care. Join the cause by sharing this blog. We can all help raise the standard of care for the cats of the world.
In school they have fire drills. Every home is supposed to have a fire escape plan. There is a plan for where to meet once you get out of the house. What windows or doors should be used to get out of the house. Testing fire alarms and changing batteries at least two times a year but what about fire safety and how it relates to your pets. Do you have a plan on how to get your furry friends out of the house if there is a fire?
Recently our client, Bryce Hatten and his faithful companion, Buck, were honored by the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association. In 2019, Buck woke up Bryce as the home was going up in flames. There was enough time to alert the rest of the family and everyone got out safe. The family knows that if it were not for Buck, the outcome may have been very different. Buck was awarded the Hero Award for 2020. He was supposed to be recognized at the ARL Raise Your Paw Event last spring. With the Covid 19 pandemic, the event was cancelled. We are extremely proud of Buck. He did get his medal and plaque that forever reminds the Hatten family that they have a “Hero” among them.
National Pet Fire Safety Day is July 15, 2020. What about a fire safety plan to get your pets out of the home? Do you have a sticker by your entrances to alert the fire department about how many pets you have in the home? These stickers can save your pets lives when Firemen are aware they are indoors. Pet owners can obtain a free fire safety window cling by going online at www.adt.com/pets. Check with your local fire departments as they may have these window clings free of charge as well.
Consider having your pets kenneled close to doors so if there would be a fire they can safely and quickly be removed if you are not home. Keeping puppies kenneled will help reduce the opportunity for a fire as they explore their new home. Puppy proof any areas that your puppy has access to. Over half a million pets are caught in house fires annually. Over 1000 of those fires are accidentally started by the homeowners pets.
Some simple fire prevention tips for families with pets would be to remove kitchen stove knobs. Pets have accidentally turned on the stove when attempting to get something off the appliance. This is the most common event involved in a pet starting a house fire. Do not use a glass bowl of water on a wooden deck for your pet. The sunlight filtered through the glass and water can start the wooden deck on fire. Use stainless steel or ceramic water bowls instead on wooden decks. Consider flameless candles. Watch fireplace flames carefully when you have furry friends in your home. Extinguish all flames before leaving a room when you have pets in your home.
It would be wise to have an escape route planned with your pets in mind. Where are the leashes and harnesses kept? Who is responsible for which pets? What doors or windows can we remove the pets through safely? Shall we wrap our furry friends in a towel or blanket to protect them? Many cats like to hide when they are afraid. Covering their eyes and body may make them more relaxed. If it is winter where shall we seek shelter until the fire department arrives? Speak with your neighbors about potential fires and if the pets would be welcome in their homes. There are families that have severe allergies and may not be able to open up their home to your pets. There are pets that will be aggressive if other pets come into their homes. If you have planned ahead hopefully none of these situations will occur. Have a plan and practice that plan with family members and your pets. It is important to know that you will be able to pass your cat or dog through an open window and not have them fight and run back into the burning home or get lost outdoors.
Preplanning is the way to have the best outcome when it comes to fires. Here’s hoping that all of your fire prevention planning is never put to use. Fires are a devastating experience. Often when listening to a families account of what happened, they always seem to say that we lost everything in the fire but we still have each other and that is all that matters. We think it matters that your pets get out safe as well. Annually 2,620 people die in house fires. Compare that to over 40,000 pets dying in residential fires each year, most from smoke inhalation. Plan a head and save your furry friends lives too.
This past week was pet appreciation week. I was wondering what to write about and it occurred to me that the animals in my life have shaped me into the veterinarian I am today. Growing up in northern Iowa on a hog-grain farm was the perfect place to start experiencing animals and their affect on my life. We had dogs, cats, a shetland pony, and hogs very early in my life. Each of them played a different role in my upbringing.
As a hog farmer’s daughter, I got involved in the early care of baby pigs. Once the piglets were born it was my brother and I’s job to help hold the pigs for their early iron shots and teeth trimming to protect the sows. Once we were old enough to do the processing ourselves it became our responsibility. My brother was 2 years younger than myself and we were the main caretakers of the piglets once they were born. We kept accurate records of how many live pigs each sow had and recorded the weight and medical data for the litters. If there were any “runts” in the litters we took them to a separate area and raised them on milk replacer. Any of those runts that survived we got the money for our own bank accounts when they were sold. I paid for a majority of my undergraduate education with those hog funds. I realized that I loved watching a runt grow and thrive because of my Tender Loving Care(TLC). I joined FFA and 4-H. My brother and I raised hogs to show. We did well in those circles and enjoyed being one another’s competition. I was part of the FFA meat judging team in high school and spent time in packing plants grading carcasses. Still enjoy selecting my meat at Fareway using the knowledge learned 40 years ago. As the County and District Pork Queen (Ambassador as they are now called), I traveled to California and promoted pork in grocery stores. FFA, 4-H, and being a Pork Ambassador really allowed me to be comfortable speaking in front of people. I realized that there is no such thing as a stranger…. just a friend you have not met yet.
My first pony was named Lars. My parents named their kids, Linda, Lori, Lonna, and Lee. My parents came up with a Norwegian name for our pony that started with “L” since we are 100% Norwegian. Lars was a stubborn shetland pony but extremely tolerant of us jumping on and off, sliding down his neck, or doing leap frog onto his back. We would stand on him. Lay on him. Dress him up with blankets and put flowers in his mane and tail. As long as he could eat grass he was happy. When I was older and wanted to ride him he attempted to find a low branch on a tree and run right under it. Being little I would just lay down on him and under the branch I would go. Often I would walk him down the lane and ride him back up since he would gallop on the way home. We got a few other horses by the time I was in Junior High. Lars was still with us but had retired to pasture pony. One day I came out to the pasture and found Lars had punctured his eye. I do not know to this day how he did it, but a call to the vet indicated he was blind in that eye. He would need to be treated with ointment and pain meds until healed. I took on that responsibility and marveled at the quick healing process. I realized that the pony did not care that he was blind in one eye. In his perspective he could still do everything he had been doing with 2 good eyes. He eventually moved to a home with younger children and lived out his final years there. I raised 2 foals before graduating from high school and realized that early intervention is important in the training of animals. I was able to deworm and vaccinate the horses and learn important facts about nutrition.
Cats and kittens were plenty on the farm. Growing up in the 70’s the profession of Veterinary Medicine was mostly focused on livestock. The spay/neuter programs were nonexistent in rural Iowa. We had kittens at least twice a year and I learned a lot about treating snotty nose and crusty eyed kittens. I was giving penicillin shots and treating eyes in an attempt to save my babies. I was attached to all of them and they all had names. I had my favorite mommas and they would hide the kittens in our large haymow. I was the only one that could find the kittens. I would go into the loft and meow like a cat and the mommas would come out from their hiding spots. I would then keep it a secret so only I knew where they were. As the kittens grew I would spend hours playing with them and watching them play. I remember a time my mom was frantically looking for me and eventually found me sleeping in the barn with cats and kittens laying all around me and on top of me. It is from these precious souls that I learned about the circle of life. With as many cats as we had, death was always a possibility. With the large farm equipment and trucks driving around the property, accidents were bound to happen. Every time I lost a cat or kitten I would bury them in a “pet cemetery.” My brother and I would make wooden crosses out of sticks or scraps of wood to place on the grave. We put rocks over the soil to reduce the opportunity of them being dug up by other critters. I loved them and they taught me that in life every soul has a time to live and a time to die.
We had dogs growing up on the farm. They were usually large dogs. Most were females and you guessed it…we got to experience puppies. We would find homes for most of the puppies rather quickly. The puppies got attention and affection so became great family farm dogs. Some of our dogs were working dogs but most were just happy friendly pets. We knew that if they roamed there was the possibility of them not coming home. Dogs off their own farm were a hazard to livestock and neighbors property. This gave me an education about the large responsibility of having a dog. The importance of training and caring for them. The need to groom them. I grew to love the happy spirit and unconditional love they had for every member of the family. I learned that when they got older and even doing the normal daily routines were difficult for them it was time to say goodbye. Watching them struggle was not in their best interest. I had the intelligence to know when to let them leave this earth and be at peace. Yes, there were tears. Yes, there was a realization that the one thing I could not do was make them young again. Yes, their only fault, they did not live long enough.
I have deeply loved my animals through the years. They have given me great joy and love. I appreciate all that they have taught me. They gave me a career that has served me and my family well for the last 32 years. They have raised my children and taught them to cherish their time with furry friends. These critters deserve our love and devotion because all they ever want is ours. I do so appreciate my pets.
Here we are another month and we are still social distancing. This month was designed to recognize our furry friends and the contributions they make to our daily lives. With the pandemic we are restricted in what we can do within our communities and that includes where we can go with our pets. Winterset Veterinary Center did post staff members with their pets last week on Facebook. We were thrilled with the comments and likes that were made. It was interesting to note that many of us have gotten our furry friends either from a shelter, rescue, or strays that just wandered in one day. We all love our furry friends but know that they are just ordinary pets that give us great joy and unconditional love each day.
Service dogs are a different class of canine citizen. They are working dogs. They are given privileges to enter places that ordinary dogs do not get to go. They have devoted at least 2 years of their lives to training to do the tasks set before them. It is critical that their hearing and vision stay sharp. During this month of May we encourage you to set an appointment to have the eyes examined by a licensed ophthalmologist. The eyes can have changes to the lens and pressure changes to the globe causing cataracts or glaucoma. Both conditions can be treated but early intervention is critical to avoid long term blindness. Blindness would affect your service dog’s ability to do his/her job. There are ophthalmologists that travel to different cities to do exams. If you have an interest in having your dog’s eyes checked, please contact us during regular business hours to find out how to make an appointment with a specialist.
We still get lots of questions about someone wanting their pet to be a therapy dog or service dog. Therapy dogs are trained to go to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, libraries, etc. to help calm those in the building. There are training facilities that can assist you in determining if your dog could be in those locations and remain calm. A Good Canine Citizen Test is a good place to start. If a dog can pass that exam, they may have potential to be used in a therapy setting. If they struggle with the basic concepts in that Canine Citizen Test, they will probably not pass the tests required to be a certified therapy dog.
We also have many people that want their pet to be a service dog. A service dog is trained from 8 weeks to 2 years of age by professionals to prepare them to assist someone with disabilities. There are many dogs that fail these programs for different reasons and are then trained for other services that fit their skill sets. Attempting to train your pet to be a service dog is a huge mistake. Attempting to pass your pet off as a service dog is a huge error in judgement. Attempting to buy a vest online indicating your dog is a service dog is morally wrong. These pets are interfering with the true service dog’s role. Businesses are questioning even those who have legally trained service dogs because we have people attempting to pass their pets off as service animals. If you would like your pet to be an emotional support pet speak with your personal doctor or therapist. An emotional support pet can offer you personal encouragement within your home but is not allowed into public spaces where dogs are not allowed. Only service dogs can access those buildings. It is important to recognize the difference between service, therapy, and emotional support dogs.
Pets have become increasingly important during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have given us distractions when boredom has set in with social distancing. They have gotten us off the couch and into the fresh air for walks. Many families have decided it was a good time to get a pet since they have been stuck at home and have more time to potty train. Be cautious though since we are seeing challenges socializing our puppies because we are not allowed to gather at farmers markets, little league games, parks, etc. Those were the perfect places to socialize our pets with other pets and people that we do not have within our homes. I fear that we will have new pets fearful of other dogs and people because of social distancing. When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we will have young dogs showing separation anxiety when owners go back to work. Please speak with trainers on how to socialize and prepare your dogs and or puppies for future experiences they are missing out on. Some trainers are offering online courses to assist new pet owners with situations just like this. Take the time to seek professional help to train your new pet. It will prevent issues in the future if you start early.
National Pet week is usually the first full week in May. If you missed it this year put it on your calendar for next year. It would be fun to see people post photos of themselves with their furry friends. Our pets do contribute to our happiness and sanity in many ways. I am hoping that by this time in June we will be getting back to more normal activities as summer will be in full swing. Bring on the warm weather and sunny days of summer. Have a wonderful Memorial Day.