Dental Health Month is Here

We made it to February. This is a short month and before you know it the spring flowers will be in bloom! The days are longer and the sun is getting closer to the earth to heat it up! Bring it on!

Looking back at the blogs from the last 6 ½ years I have discussed dental health month 4 different times. Of course, the blogs were about different teeth concerns but it still emphasizes the importance of dental health. I still counsel people regularly about what items to avoid their dogs chewing on. The blog from January 2018 talks about the common issues we see with pet’s teeth that are chewing on bones and antlers. If these are common items you offer your dogs, I would look at this blog:

Read the Post: No Bones About It (January, 2018)

Was your New Year’s resolution to start brushing your pet’s teeth? It is a great time to start during Dental Health month. The February 2020 blog goes through a step-by-step process to introduce this new procedure to your pet. I always encourage people with kittens and puppies to get them accustomed to brushing while they are still young. This is always the best time to start all routine care programs such as cleaning ears, clipping nails, giving bathes, brushing teeth, combing hair, etc. This blog also has a nice video from a client who brushes her dog’s teeth. What a difference this has made in their oral health.

Read the Post: February is Dental Health Month (February, 2020)

Ever wonder how a dog’s teeth are cleaned. Certainly, they will not just lie there and let us clean the teeth. They do need anesthesia and are required to be still during the entire procedure. We do the dental scaling, cleaning, and polishing in the morning so our patients can go home in the afternoon. This blog talked about the equipment needed to clean teeth. Extractions are necessary if we have extensive damage to the gums or roots present. It makes no sense to keep teeth that are no longer viable for chewing. The reports indicate most dogs and cats have some dental decay by 3 years of age. Check out this blog from a year ago.

Read the Post: February is Dental Health Month (February, 2022)

Imagine what your teeth would look like if you did not brush daily. Our pets are no different. This is one daily task that can make a huge difference in the oral health of our pets. The Pet Industry wants you to believe that chewing a dog biscuit or piece of rawhide is all that is needed to keep their teeth clean. I hope you realize that only by brushing are you going to impact their long-term oral health. Go ahead and FLIP THE LIP of your pet! If you do not see pearly whites flashing back at you….It is time to set up a dental procedure to protect your furry friends oral health.

Why is “Pet Selection” Still Important?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome to 2023 and all this year has to offer for new beginnings. We are excited to be here to assist our customers and their furry friends during this year and beyond. Dr Jim and myself will be celebrating 35 years since receiving our Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees. The clinic will be celebrating 40 years of business this year. Dr Jim has been here for 35 of those years. Stephanie celebrated 20 years as an employee and myself, 15 years in 2022. We all feel a connection to this business but more importantly to the clients that we serve and their critters. Whether they are big and cannot come in the building or small and we need a gram scale to weigh them, they all are important to us.

I recognized last year, that I have now come full circle with my time here at Winterset Veterinary Center (WVC). What I mean by that is, I am now helping my clients(friends) say goodbye to those bounding puppies and snuggling kittens I first got to know back 15 years ago when I began working at WVC. This is a first for me. Most of my career I have moved around enough that I never got to this stage at my previous locations. It is heart wrenching but also fulfilling to be here through all the stages of our pet’s lives. Both Dr Jim and myself know that helping a pet pass from this life to the next is as important as other needed therapies.

I have been doing blogs for 6 ½ years now and realized that there are many topics that I covered early on that I should revisit in 2023. I am looking at which ones have been googled most often and plan to adjust or add to the original blog. One topic that is near and dear to my heart is pet selection. I feel the blog is still relevant and needs very little adjustments. I know there are more online tests that can be taken to help someone select the best pet or if it is a dog you are wanting, there are tests to help you select the right breed.

Reach out to your veterinarian and ask for their help in assisting with pet selection. The years of training not only in higher education but also practice will serve you well in finding the perfect pet for its forever home. Many factors are used to help someone decide if they should get a rescue pet or a new pet. How much time do you have each week to spend with your pet? Are you home regularly to feed, water, and exercise? Do you have allergies against pet dander and hair? Are you willing to commit to this pet for the next 15-20 years if it is a dog or cat? How much money do you intend to spend to purchase the pet and care for it each year? These are some of the questions that are important to consider when selecting a pet. The online tests cover these and other questions to help guide you in the selection process. Please feel free to reach out to Dr. Jim or myself if ever you need help in this process. Daily we see decisions that were made quickly without thinking through the long-term scenario. Once the pet is home it can be difficult to return so do your homework first! Thanks for reading my blogs and let’s make 2023 the best year yet for caring for our furry friends who make our life complete just by being here.

Click on the link and read all about the importance of pet selection.

At Last — The Microscope

Can you believe it is December? We have passed through another year with blogs. I have written about the different equipment used here to help us do our day to day business. For my final blog of 2022 I will talk about the microscope.  This microscope was in veterinary school with Dr. Jim (I have mine at home on a shelf).  This is the one piece of equipment a veterinary student must purchase to start at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Yes, this scope would be over 35 years old now. It is still a very important piece of equipment and with ongoing maintenance can last for many more years. 

On a daily basis we use the microscope for analyzing stool samples looking for intestinal parasites. Once found we can then offer recommendations on what medications would be suitable for treatment. Often people buy over the counter dewormers, but never know if their pets had parasites or not. Plus, not all dewormers are successful for treatment of the different species of internal parasites.

We use the microscope to look for mites and lice after swabbing ears or scraping skin. The mites are quite detailed after looking at them under magnification. I often will bring the scope into the exam room to show clients what external parasites look like. Some are fascinated others…not so much.

Dr. Jim is using the scope to analyze bovine sperm in this photo. After he does the semen collection and the physical exam on the bull, he then places the specimen of semen under the scope to look at movement, shape, numbers, etc., of the sperm. The bull breeding soundness exam is critical to a cattleman’s herd. The news that a bull did not pass the exam is disappointing. Worse yet is a whole herd of heifers or cows that are open because someone neglected to do the bull’s breeding exam. No pregnancies, means a rancher just fed his cows/heifers for a full year with no profits. That would be hard to swallow but it has happened. A good breeding soundness exam can prevent this.

We use the microscope to look at urine sediment to help us determine cause of abnormal urination. We use the microscope to evaluate a blood smear. Laboratory results include many different tests to help put the puzzle together on why or what may be causing a pets health concerns. These are all screening tests to direct us in a manner that will help the patient get home as quickly as possible. That is where the pet and the owner want them to be.

Fine needle aspirate samples are evaluated under the microscope for certain cell types. A biopsy is by far a better form of diagnosis but sometimes we get lucky and will find cells that indicate cause of the health concerns. When these are found, we can begin formulating treatment while offering up a smaller biopsy if needed to verify our diagnosis. In some situations, time is important and so evaluation here at the clinic is important. Starting treatment as soon as possible would not be an option if we could not get the results on the same day.

We have also used the microscope to magnify ticks and fleas for identification. The different types of vectors can mean different diseases that we need to be concerned about. Ticks especially come in multiple shapes and sizes. Identification helps eliminate diseases, like Lyme disease, if it is not a deer tick.

As you can see this microscope has served us well over its lifetime. We would be lost without it and if this one ever breaks down… I still have mine on a shelf at home! We are so grateful for your business and confidence in our team at Winterset Veterinary Center.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our clients and their critters.

Platinum Year for Stephanie

November 2002 was the month Stephanie began working at Winterset Veterinary Center(WVC). She had been working at a bank in her prior years. They moved out in the country by Winterset as a young family. She had 2 young children who were in school. At that time Dr Ken Henrichsen and Dr. Jim Pottebaum were the two owners of the clinic. Stephanie was good with numbers and customer service. She was a willing worker for whatever task was needed and quickly became efficient at all tasks within WVC.

I was looking up the symbol of 20 years and discovered it was platinum. Platinum has become popular and its traits are to be admired as a “noble metal”.

A noble metal is a precious metal that is resistant to corrosion and oxidation in moist air. It is in the class with gold and silver, the same metals used in fine jewelry. Platinum will not tarnish and yet is soft and malleable which makes it easy to shape. It is unreactive and can change shape without losing its toughness. I see Stephanie in this light. She has shown her soft side to many over the years during times of loss or tragedy. Many customers have felt heard and understood when sharing situations. She has become as important at the clinic as Dr. Jim and myself because she anticipates our needs but also those of the clients and other staff. She can be tough when needed and is slow to show her frustration in many stressful daily situations. I have fully relied on her and when she is gone, I definitely feel her absence. We laugh that it is good job security when one is missed during vacation.

Stephanie has a daughter Ashlyn and son AJ who are the same age as my 2 oldest Jaclyn and JD. We now each have a granddaughter and share many fun stories of our “Yaya” and “NeNe” time. We both live on acreages outside of Winterset and see our husbands as our best friends. We love to travel to warm sunny places and eat great food while sipping fruity cocktails. As you might notice we have lots in common besides working at WVC.

I decided to honor Stephanie with this blog and share some fun photos taken over the last many years. She always loves to have her picture taken with the unique critters that come into the clinic. We have had many fun staff photos over the years that I posted in August when I wrote my blog about my 15 years at WVC. The following photos are just a few of the interesting critters that came into WVC for some reason or another. Of course if you want photos through the last 15 years — go look at the August blog from 2022.

On Wednesday, November 30th, we plan to celebrate Stephanie’s 20 years with WVC.  Please stop in anytime during our regular business hours 7:30-5:30 to congratulate her. She is not retiring — that would be terrible for all of us — we just feel the need to recognize her many years of service. If you cannot stop by but want to congratulate her – feel free to send us an email or drop a comment on Facebook for her to see. Our email address is Facebook is Hemingway Winterset or Winterset Veterinary Center.

A few clients have sent us messages and I want to share a few words from them.

“Steph has such a compassionate heart towards animals and is so good at what she does. Her smile and laugh are contagious.”

“Steph has seen me through some very difficult circumstances over the years with my fur babies, as well as enjoying my “ newest additions too…always professional, caring, and empathetic.” “I’ve always felt like she listened to me and helped me make the best decisions for my furry family. When calling the clinic you can hear it in her voice she loves what she does.”

You have always given our animals the BEST of care and attention. You care, really care, each time we walk through the doors.”

As you can see, it is not just the staff at WVC that appreciate Stephanie. The gratitude we have for all she has contributed over the years could never be expressed in the words of this blog. The appreciation I have for not only her professionalism but more importantly her friendship runs deep. CONGRATULATIONS STEPHANIE ON 20 YEARS OF SERVICE AT WINTERSET VETERINARY CENTER.

Digital Radiology

Way back when radiology was cumbersome and messy, we had dark rooms with red lights and tanks full of water initially that were required to develop the films. A file cabinet was essential to store all the radiographs taken. Then we got automatic processors for the films but still had lots of maintenance for those machines. Today the process is much simpler and safer. We use a cassette that is connected by Wi-Fi to a computer that captures the digital image. The image immediately shows up on the screen so additional views can be taken or bad images removed. We can adjust the exposure, email the image, and store on a thumb drive which makes everything smoother. Less radiation is used to produce a digital image verses the older equipment of the past.

Digital radiography can be used to examine a pet’s urinary system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, and bone structure. It is noninvasive and a great tool to reveal internal or structural abnormalities. We can use a chalky white substance called barium to help us see if the intestinal tract has a blockage. We can use air as a contrast agent to identify abnormalities in the bladder. The air in the lungs can give us a great image of the heart and its size and shape. Mineralized densities can be detected easily within the bladder or intestinal contents when present. Broken bones are always difficult to see since we know how much pain the pet must be in from their traumatic event. Subtle changes to joints can offer an awareness of early stages of arthritis or vertebral disc disease. We sometimes use digital films to verify that a dog did not eat a diamond ring or someone’s silver coin.  

Many sites post each year the unusual things that pets have consumed and their appearance on a digital film.  The following link is one sight you can see some interesting digital films that show the objects dogs have eaten. The amazing thing is these pets recover from the abdominal surgery and go on to live a normal happy life. Some continue to want to eat things they should not so safety measures are important, like picking up socks and undergarments so dogs do not have access to them.

This tool is important as a diagnostic addition to our physical exam and bloodwork. Some conditions are obvious, but others can be more subtle and difficult to diagnose. We have the option of sending films to a specialist to help determine what might be going on. With the digital age that happens much more quickly than when we had to send the films by mail to get a 2nd opinion. Over the last 35 years there has been tremendous advancement in radiography and that only helps us and our patients to have the best possible outcome. Hopefully your furry friend will not need this technology, but if they do we are prepared.

Happy Fall everyone!

Cryosurgery — What is it?

Ever been to the dermatologist showing off all your skin imperfections and they hit you with a cold blast of forced air? Sometimes shocked at the surprising cold pressure on your skin. The first time it happened, I was startled since there was no warning or conversation about why and what was about to happen. Maybe because I over explain procedures to my clients it felt strange to me. We all have different bedside practices, and in this case, surprise was this dermatologist’s method. The liquid nitrogen comes out at over 250 degrees below zero. It freezes deeply and should prevent further growth in the future. Occasionally the lesion or growth will need an additional freezing depending on the size and thickness of the lesion or growth.

We purchased a CryoPen a few years back to use in the clinic for such purposes. This is the only cryosurgical system that does not require gasses or liquids to operate. This tool is reliable and easy to use. Of course, we can explain to the owner what we are about to do, but the poor patient will have a surprise once we press the trigger. In the following photo you can see the instrument and the growth we are freezing on this patient. The second photo shows the frozen growth.

The dog is awake for this procedure. Most do not move while using the CryoPen. We freeze and then let it thaw and then freeze a 2nd time. A growth such as this would require additional CryoPen procedures to remove it completely. We do the 2nd one 2 weeks after the first. If additional treatments are needed, we will schedule them as needed.

Many clients find this more desirable than placing a pet under anesthesia to remove growths. We are willing to use this, but it does have its limitations. We have used it for eyelid tumors that are small and not ulcerated, lick granulomas, skin growths, small anal growths, etc. Most pets do require additional treatments after freezing. We did have an eyelid growth that disappeared but returned about 6 months later. Therefore, it is not 100% curative in some situations. We leave the decision up to the owner as to what their personal preference would be.

The next time you notice a small dermal growth on your furry friend feel free to ask us about cryosurgery. It might be the best option for your pet. This is another tool we use to practice Veterinary Medicine.

Quindecennial at Winterset Veterinary Center

What is a quindecennial? Last 15 years at WVC has been eventful. I never knew there was a name for it but google seems to have the answers for everything. This is something that many clients comment on when bringing their pets to see us, “I know google is not the doctor but I think this is what is wrong.” Much has changed since August of 2007 when I first started working at WVC.  I thought it would be fun to share photos of the quindecennial at WVC. Many names and faces have changed but some have remained the same. Many pets that started as puppies and kittens with me have now reached old age or even passed on. The relationships I have enjoyed with the furry friends and their two legged families have brought me much joy and satisfaction. I have not only watched your pets age but also your children. Many families were busy with school aged children when I began and now like myself have become empty nesters. Through all of these transitions it has been fun to share life with all of you. I hope as you look at these pictures fun memories will come to mind and if the opportunity presents itself, please share those with us. We do consider our clients family and are grateful that you have entrusted us with your most precious family members.


Hemingway was dropped on our doorstep summer of 2008 with 2 other littermates. He had a sternum that was deformed and so we decided to keep him. We did not know if this would cause health issues for him in the future. He was a polydactyl which means he was born with extra toes. His little buddy, Cheddar, was a stray and only with us a short time because he ran off in the first few months. Hemingway spent days at school, was in the Bridge Festival Parade, got his own Facebook page (still bears his name to this day), and was the official greeter at WVC for years. We lost him in 2020 and were so glad for the joy he brought to our staff and clients over his 12 years.

Cheddar & Hemmingway

A few months after Hemingway’s passing, a client brought in a litter of kittens that needed care. While attending to their goopy eyes and snotty noses, I noted that 2 of the 5 had extra toes just like Hemingway. We were fortunate that they had no problem letting us have those two kittens. We had a naming contest at the clinic and Eian’s family came up with their names, Cheetoe and Furitoe! Furitoe is furrier than his brother. They have been a welcome addition to our daily routine. Since they came to us during Covid, they were able to be in the exam room with clients pets as they were growing up. This has helped prevent running and drama when around all the day to day noises and commotion that comes with a busy practice. They have become WVC’s social media sensation us sharing videos and photos of some of their crazy stunts.


A few times over the years we have gone all out to celebrate or boost spirits for our staff and clients. These photos show we do like to have fun while at work. In 2020, the Winterset Park and Rec held “Spirit Week”. We contributed each and every day with new duds during that week. The Bridge Festival Parade and Halloween are other fun opportunities we have enjoyed.


Dr Jim started at WVC in 1988 right after graduation. I joined him in 2007. Here are a few photos from then and now. They say gray hair indicates wisdom, both of us are getting grayer and hopefully wiser each year. Facebook and our website were set up in 2010 and 2012 respectively. This is where most of these photos have come from.


This is a look at the quindecennial of staff photos. When we started our social media posts we began updating photos multiple times a year. I think I captured most everyone that has worked with us in the past. It is time for a new photo since the class of 2022 has gone on to college and we have hired new kennel staff. Stay tuned!


We decided if we were going to have a social media presence we should have a logo. The logo was created and we now use it on business cards, clothing, letterhead, advertising, etc.


Being in this business we get the pleasure of educating others on pet care and safety. We have judged events at the fair. Given tours to different youth organizations at the clinic. We held a customer appreciation dinner. Held raffles and contributed donations of pet services and products to different auctions. All of these activities bring us closer to our clients and their pets.


I started at WVC after taking a 10 year break from practice. I was blessed to be able to be an at home mom of 4 kids during that time.  Dr. Jim had just become sole owner after Dr. Ken Henrichsen decided to retire. All my kids were in school and I needed something to keep me busy. He graciously accepted that I would not do large animal but indicated that already a majority of the practice was small animal on a daily basis. I completed over 120 hours of CE in less than a year to renew my inactive veterinary license. I quickly found my rhythm and settled into the daily routine. I recall being overwhelmed by the maturity of this practice. Everywhere I had practiced prior to WVC was a newer or start up practice where so many of the patients were younger. At WVC, there were dogs and cats of all sizes and ages with many clients needing help saying good-bye to their furry friends. That was exhausting and difficult to process since I had not been in that place before. I learned to focus on what was best for each patient. I learned to help the pet’s owners be able to see the peace that comes in those final moments. I learned that just because we can keep them alive for extended periods, that is not always what is best for that pet. Fast forward to today, a quindecennial has passed, now I have seen the full circle. I watched many puppies and kittens grow up and now like myself, many have gray hair, are slowing down, sleeping a lot, and together with their families, we have had to say goodbye. It cuts much deeper now. You have become my family away from home. I cry right along with you. I know it is the right decision, but my heart aches knowing that you will miss that wet nose or nuzzle when you return home without them. I will miss their excitement when I get the squeeze cheese off the counter. I will miss seeing you come in for routine visits but also the opportunity to catch up on what is going on in your life. You see, after all these years of being a veterinarian, I have come to realize we are all looking for a relationship with those we do business with. It is not just about the care or the cost or the staff or the facility. I love the connection to each of you and your furry friends. Thank you for trusting me with your beloved pets and for letting me be a small part of your family as well. I have been truly blessed to be your veterinarian and I hope in some small way you feel our connection too.

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Today was the day. A day that we never want to come. A day that we dread. A day that will never be forgotten. A day when we said good bye to our Bleu.

We do not know all of his story since it began with someone else, somewhere else. In 2013 at Winterset Veterinary Center we were getting calls about these two stray dogs running across Madison County. They were killing and eating chickens outside of St. Charles. They were in a kennel but then escaped from a farm around Patterson. They are at the soccer field in Winterset. Once they got into the city limits is when we got involved. Two male intact purebred Weimaraner’s with orange hunting collars on. One appeared to be at least 1 year of age and the other less than 6 months since he did not have his adult teeth yet. We did not find any microchip or ID tags on either dog. We searched local lost dog sites and reached out to ARL to see if there had been any reports filed. Everything was a dead end. The younger one was gray, almost tan in color. The older one was Blue which is considered a diluted black.

Our family had lost our Chocolate Labrador Retriever a few months earlier. I wasn’t thinking about another dog but this blue dog with the long floppy ears won over my heart. He did not bark in the clinic. He did not jump up on me. He was house broke. He did not chew up his bedding. He was calm but could run fast when given the opportunity. He had short hair and a sweet personality. I decided to introduce him to my family and as they say… the rest is history.

Our youngest daughter JoAnn soon took on the challenge of training him and joined the 4-H dog project at the county level and took him to classes. She took him to dog classes at Dogwood Lodge and he was a quick learner. He was gentle with our cats and never knew a stranger. We were hooked. We purchased a wireless boundary fence and he quickly learned to respect the perimeters. Nothing gave him more joy than getting to go for walks and spending time with his new family. Of course from his days of hunger – he always ate his food in 15 seconds flat. Hardly a chance to taste it or chew it.

He was up for just about anything. He was in the parade for the Bridge Festival one year when Winterset Veterinary Center had a float entry. He was in a costume contest for 4-H. He did a 5K to benefit the dog park. He was good for demonstrations at obedience classes. Whenever he had to do the down stay in competitions, he would completely lay flat and almost go to sleep. Quite comical to say the least. JoAnn and Bleu were a good team. They did win trophies, but all Bleu wanted was attention from his favorite person, JoAnn.

Bleu became my walking partner each morning during the warm seasons and looked forward to this each day. When JoAnn went off to college he stayed with us and missed his snuggles with JoAnn. We traveled to Missouri to visit but each time we left to come home we had 2 broken hearts. The spring of her sophomore year she convinced us he should come and live with her. Her roommates were willing to help care for him and he would be a great “emotional support” dog for all of them. We gave in and he moved into their 4th floor apartment with no elevator. For the next 2 1/2 years he lived with JoAnn on and off. He would spend summers with us since she worked at a bible camp and could not have him with her. The reunions were always fun to experience as old friends were reunited.

Over the last 1 1/2 he started showing symptoms of loss of sensation to his limbs. Back feet first but eventually the front legs were fully involved as well. We had started chiropractic and acupuncture along with other non-traditional treatments at a clinic in Springfield and would continue when he returned home for the summer. This condition was not painful but it became increasingly difficult for him to walk and stand for any length of time. When his breathing became labored and he began coughing, I knew it was progressing to a new level. He also was uninterested in eating his food and struggled to chew his treats that he so loved. His mind was still intact but his body was shutting down. I contacted JoAnn and shared my concerns. I had hoped to keep him going until she got done with summer camp, but when these new symptoms began I knew we had to have a serious discussion. She made arrangements to come home. She spent a day with him just snuggling and being together. His reaction normally to her presence was that of complete euphoria. He didn’t know if he should jump or run or wiggle but his joy was undeniable. When she got home this time, he barely lifted his head. His body was tired and energy level low so a tail wag would have to do. These end of life decisions are the hardest decisions we make for our furry friends. We hesitate to make this decision because we selfishly want them to stay with us forever. Yet we know that is not possible with the physical issues at hand. I have always said a dog’s only fault is they don’t live long enough. We said goodbye and allowed him to leave this earth peacefully and with no more struggles.

I know someday in my heart these special furry family members will be waiting for us on the other side. With souls as pure as theirs surely “All dogs go to heaven!” 

Long ago I ran across the following reading and wanted to share it with my readers. If you have been reading my blogs…..I know you have also lost some faithful companions over the years.

Rest in peace, Bleu!

What is a Comp or a Profile?

These terms can be confusing so hoping to change that for my readers. These terms will be used in human medicine as well.  Both comp and profile are shorter versions of comprehensive metabolic panels that offer an inside look at your body’s chemical balance and metabolism. The values are screening numbers and can be compared from year to year to monitor disease processes. These tests are extremely important prior to elective procedures to assess anesthetic risk. Profiles are used prior to starting long term medications and at times of illness. There are different comp panels that include various lab tests. Our standard panel has 14 different markers and we can add 3 additional tests if warranted. I want to list each of these and give a description of how they are used so you can learn what these mean if your furry friend ever needs a comp or profile.

TPTotal Proteinsum of all proteins in the blood – main two types are albumin and globulins
ALBalbuminmost common protein and keeps fluids from leaking out of the blood and can carry other substances throughout the body
GLOBglobulinthese proteins are formed by the immune system and liver
GLOB + ALB = TPtherefore we can do A/G ratios that can give insight to other health concerns
ALPAlkaline Phosphatasefound in bone and liver so if elevated this is not a diagnosis — other tests will need to be performed — medications can elevate this enzyme also
ALTAlanine Transaminaseenzyme exclusively in the liver cells — when elevated we know we need to focus on the liver.
TBilTotal Bilirubinmeasure of bilibruin in your blood — animals can have yellow coloring of skin, and the whites of the eyes — urine will look dark like coffee grounds — jaundice if elevated and above normal — concern for liver if changes are noted
AMYAmylasethis enzyme is made in the pancreas – with disease or injury to pancreas we see increases of this enzyme in the blood
BUNBlood Urea Nitrogena measurement of urea in your blood — important information about kidney function — if low can be indicative of lack of protein in your diet or liver concerns
CREcreatininehigh levels correlate with lack of normal kidney function — kidney’s filter CRE from your blood and excretes in urine — if kidneys are not working CRE will increase in blood
GLUGlucoseextremely high levels can indicate diabetes — can be mildly elevated if an animal is stressed — low levels can lead to comas and disorientation — in puppies and kittens if their glucose is low — people often assume they are dead because they are unresponsive
Cacalciumdiet can impact calcium levels — high levels can also be driven by cancer and kidney disease — low calcium levels can be seen with low albumin levels caused by nutrition — liver or kidney disease, infections, or other long term illnesses
Phosphosphoruslow levels are often caused by malnutrition over long periods of time — this may be the diet or the lack of sufficient food intake — elevated levels can appear with kidney disease in cats and dogs — the kidneys regulate the phosphorus levels
Na+sodiumelectrolytes such as Na+ are necessary for heart and brain function, fluid balance, to deliver oxygen — it regulates blood pressure, blood volume, and transmission of nerve impulses — changes in Na+ also impact Cl- (chloride levels) another electrolyte
K+potassiumK+ is an electrolyte that is needed to control brain and heart activity along with nerve impulses — it is present in the cells and blood of a pet’s body — low K+ levels are often seen in advanced kidney disease — high K+ levels are seen in cases of urinary tract rupture, adrenal gland disorder, heart arrythmias, trauma, and many other conditions

Add on tests we can consider if needed are as follows:

Cholcholesterolthere are breeds of dogs that may have a genetic disposition to high cholesterol levels (schnauzers, Shetland sheepdog, collies) — high chol could indicate diabetes cushings, or low thyroid levels — low levels can indicate loss through the digestive tract with intestinal diseases or cancer
T-4thyroidelevated levels in pets often indicates cancer of the thyroid gland — it is most common in older cats and rare in dogs — low thyroid levels are rare in cats and more common in dogs — dogs treated for low thyroid conditions usually owners see an increase in their energy level, improved skin and hair, and weight loss
SDMAsymmetric dimethylargininethis test detects kidney disease at an early stage then the creatine level can

These tests can be run daily. Results are available the same day. This allows us to start therapy and treatment as quickly as possible. If you ever have concerns about your pet, please do not hesitate to contact us. The sooner a diagnosis is made the better the outcome for our pets.

What’s a CBC?

Many times our patients are needing us to check blood work. The CBC is an important diagnostic test used to evaluate the blood more closely. I wanted to talk this month about a machine that allows us to run CBC laboratory tests right in the clinic and what those values mean. This photo shows the machine we use to run a Complete Blood Count (CBC). This is a standard test used prior to surgical procedures, during wellness checks, and when we have concerns for illness. The machine takes a sample of blood and sorts out the cells into three different components. We have the White Blood Cell (WBC) count, the Red Blood Cell (RBC), and the Platelet (PLT) Count. All three share different information about components of the blood. 

WBC are made up of 5 different cellular structures. Each of these cell types when counted by this machine make up the WBC. The neutrophils (51-72%) usually are the largest percentage of WBC cells, followed by the lymphocytes (8-35%), monocytes (1-9%), eosinophils 0-9%), and basophils (0-2%). When these numbers are elevated it will raise the WBC count. We then look for the cell causing the elevation. If the neutrophils are up we know that there is an active infection present somewhere in the body. If the eosinophils are elevated we look for evidence of inflammation caused by allergies or parasites. Sometimes these levels can be lower than normal and we would look for viral infections or concerns with the bone marrow itself.  Lymphocytes help develop antibodies to protect against future attacks by the same organism.

RBC are made up of different components that all help our body carry oxygen throughout the body. High RBC counts can most commonly indicate dehydration. Anemia is when our RBC is low. We can have low counts related to blood loss from active bleeding, destruction of red blood cells from diseases, bone marrow or other diseases that prevent production of red blood cells.  Hemoglobin (HGB) binds and releases the oxygen to carry it to all our cells. The HGB will be directly affected by the red blood cell count at times of dehydration or anemia.  Hematocrit (HCT) and Pack Cell Volume (PCV) mean the same thing. This is the percentage of red blood cells circulating in the blood. If we spin the blood the red blood cells will settle to the bottom and the serum will be the liquid at the top. This percentage can give us information to help figure out what disease process may be causing an increase or a decrease in the RBC.  MCV, MCH, and MCHC are also values used within the RBC. They each play a part in the diagnosis of anemia or iron levels within the body.

Platelets (PLT) are responsible for helping to clot our blood. When we get a cut or a scratch the platelets become sticky and gather in large numbers to seal the leak in our blood vessel. This is extremely important to know prior to a surgical procedure. If a pet has low platelets that could affect the amount of bleeding at the time of surgery. 

There are conditions that have an effect on each of these values and even some that can cause  changes in all three. We take into consideration this CBC each and every time we do surgeries or are faced with health concerns of our patients. We ask if you are wanting to do a pre- surgical blood screen prior to anesthesia procedures or if your pet has presented with an illness that needs laboratory work to help diagnose what is ailing them. We also require doing this test annually if your pet is on long term medications. The CBC is one of those tests that we run right in our lab and can have results quickly. 

Next time you bring your pet into the clinic you will know why the CBC is an important piece of information that can help us get your furry friends back home quickly and safely. Happy Spring and hope the April showers are bringing in your May flowers!

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