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!

2022 February is Dental Health Month

Dentistry equipment is another item we use in the practice routinely. This has been an important tool as most pets have some amount of dental disease by the age of 3. It has been said that without brushing your pet’s teeth at least 4 times a week they will develop issues with tarter and gum disease. If you begin brushing your pet’s teeth at an early age most of them enjoy the flavored toothpaste and attention. I encourage people to start with their puppies and kittens before the age of 4 months therefore they see it as a part of the daily routine and not something to fear.

Interesting enough when I graduated in 1988 from the College of Veterinary Medicine we had very little time spent on dental hygiene. There was an awareness that teeth would need to be pulled or jaws repaired related to trauma or age. We knew that teeth can get bad in a short period of time but the idea of doing regular dental care was less common. Amazing changes have taken place since then.

Veterinary Dentistry has become an area of specialization. Besides doing scaling/polishing/extractions, we now have dogs with braces, root canals, crowns, orthodontic care, etc. These advancements are important to be aware of since years ago, the only option was extraction. Now a tooth can be saved which prevents further decay to the rest of the teeth surrounding the bad tooth. Often when the 4th premolar tooth is removed the pets will no longer chew on that side so tarter build up occurs faster.

It is important to FLIP THE LIP of your dog or cat. Look at the surface of the teeth and determine if dental care is needed. Be certain to look at the front of the mouth but also the larger premolars and molars towards the back. Pets have a salivary gland above those upper teeth and that contributes to the accumulation of tarter. Foul breath can also be an indication of need for dental preventative care. If the odor is not consistent it may be something else that is causing the bad breath. Many pet owners want to believe that bad teeth are the cause of their pet not wanting to eat. Research shows that rarely is dental disease the cause of pets not eating. We see some horrible mouths and those dogs and cats are still eating. 

Dental Machine

Our pets need to be under anesthesia to have their teeth professionally cleaned. An assessment is done of the teeth to determine viablilty of the teeth. Large chunks of tarter are removed with hand tools prior to extractions. This gives visualization of the tooth surface to see if there is any damage to the tooth. The mobile dental machine has dental burrs to help with extractions of multiple root teeth. The 4th premolars have 3 roots and when fractured those roots remain solid so it is necessary to extract the tooth in multiple pieces.  Another area where these burrs are important is when the canine tooth is damaged it aids in extractions as well. The root of the canine teeth are as long as what you visibly see of that exposed tooth.

The ultrasonic scaler is used to remove additional plaque on the surface of the teeth and is followed with polishing the teeth. We have flavored polish that freshens the breath temporarily but if good home care is not continued in a short period of time there will be accumulation of plaque once again.  Many older dogs and cats do not chew their food anymore which contributes to the poor dental health. There are dental chews and other products that can assist in dental health, but only brushing offers the best long term benefits.       

If no home care is done we expect to see dogs annually for dental preventative care. Once a dog starts having accumulation of plaque with further buildup if hardens and mineralizes to form tarter. As tarter builds up if pushes against the gum surface and gingivitis can develop over time. We also see gum recession and exposure of the root of the tooth all of which damage the tooth and lead to extraction. Pay attention to your pet’s teeth. Abscessed teeth are common in both cats and dogs and occur with advanced dental disease. Avoid these problems by having routine dental care done for your pets. Keep their mouth healthy with routine brushing, dental care, and use of foods that prevent tarter and plaque build up.  Doing these things will extend the health of your pet’s teeth. If interested in having your pet’s teeth cleaned we schedule those appointments M-F. The pets come in by 8:30 am and are usually ready to go home anytime after 4:00 pm. They do not need to spend a night with us to have the teeth professionally cleaned. Go ahead and flip your pets lip and see if you need to schedule an appointment with us.

ISO Scanners???

With the start of a new year, we begin a new theme for blogs. Looking back over the past years it does become a little more challenging to discover new things to discuss. Decided to talk about the different tools that can be used to assist us with our daily tasks as veterinarians. 

The first tool that we use quite frequently is an ISO microchip scanner. When microchips were introduced, each company had a chip and a scanner. That was clumsy because scanners would only read their companies chips or certain frequencies. Therefore, a chip may have been missed by a shelter or veterinary office unless they had multiple scanners. The International Standards Organization (ISO) approved and recommended a global standard for microchips. At that time, it was also decided that chips should have 15 numbers and no letters. They would be called universal chips and would be accepted worldwide. All chips would also be read with a forward and backward universal scanner. The ISO frequency is 134.2kHz. There are 125kHz and 128 kHz chips still implanted in dogs. They are not acceptable to travel worldwide but most universal scanners will detect the chip number if the pet is scanned properly. Earlier chips had a tendency to migrate once implanted. The new universal chips will not migrate. If scanning a pet be certain to scan over the entire body just in case they were chipped with an earlier version of microchips.

At this time no company has microchips that have GPS trackers on them. There are collars that come with tracking devices but as for a microchip that is implanted and trackable, that technology is not available. The size of the GPS tracker and its need to be charged does not allow for this to be implanted under the skin of an animal. The following link is one source that is available if you are interested in tracking your dog’s movements. There are usually costs associated with the tracking so be aware of that as you are considering this type of technology. 

https://tractive.com/en/pd/gps-tracker-dog

We can place microchips under the skin above the shoulder blades on any animal during a routine exam. The microchips we provide are from Home Again. Once the chip has been placed, we register the chip with Home Again to safeguard that information is available should the pet ever get lost. It is important that owners update this information should addresses or phone numbers change. We have had situations where a lost pet is brought to Winterset Veterinary Center and we find a microchip number but it is registered to a person in California. We know that animal did not walk from California to Iowa. Updating this information is as important as notifying the Post Office of an address change. In a few situations a pet has 2 microchips. Please register both chips. When a pet is scanned the first number it picks up is the one searched. No one suspects a second chip being present. Therefore you must register both numbers. This can happen from a pet being lost and a chip migrates so it is missed and when adopted out a new chip is placed. I also had a puppy that had 2 chips – both placed from the breeder. Apparently one puppy got two chips and another did not have one. It can happen so just make certain to register both chips if you find out your pet has more than one chip.

Many people fear that the microchip carries important information that could affect ones privacy. This is not true. The only information gathered from the chip reader is the 15 digit number and recently I was able to get the pets body temperature from the chip. That beats a rectal or ear thermometer any day! All personal information is kept confidential by the company that registered your pet’s microchip.

For under $50 a microchip can be placed and registered to safeguard your pet gets home should they ever decide to wander off. We have had dogs all sizes, ages, shapes, and colors, come to us as lost pets. The reunion happens quickly if a chip is discovered.  Without a chip, the distance a dog can travel in a short period of time makes that reunion much less likely. Statistics have shown that 15% of dog and cat owners will lose their pets. Dogs have a recovery rate of 93% but cats are only at 75%. Dogs seem to wander away more than once. Cats not wearing ID collars because they are considered “only indoors” is a big concern. In one study 41% of the owners who were searching for their lost cat reported the cat was indoor only.  Cats wearing a collar with an ID tag is a great method to improve reunion of cats with their owners. All pets should be microchipped as a way to improve a lost pet being reunited with their family.

Any microchip can be registered with the Home Again’s registry if you wish. You can register with multiple registry’s. American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has a microchip lookup online site where you may search microchip numbers of found pets. If you have found a pet you are able to enter the chip number and it will give you a phone number to the proper site so a pet may get home safely. Again your personal information is protected and that of your pet. It is designed to reunite pets with their families as quickly as possible.

All pets should be microchipped if you want to assure they find their way home to you. One is never assured that even an indoor only cat or a tiny dog would not wander off someday. I once had a person ask my why their 8 year old neutered male boxer ran away. He had never done something like that in the past. This owner was worried but also confused about why? I had no answer for him and as you might guess there was no collar or chip with identification on it.

Place a microchip in your pet. Get ID on the collar of your pet. Start kittens with collars at a young age so you can have ID on them as well. Last week I saw a client that had her phone number embroidered on her cats’ break away collars. She is not leaving it to chance. She wants to make certain her cats get back home if they were ever to get lost.

If you have more questions about microchips feel free to contact me at Winterset Veterinary Center during regular business hours or the article below has some additional information about frequently asked questions.

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/microchips-reunite-pets-families/microchipping-faq

Please do not let your pet go out unprotected. Their ability to get home depends on you. A microchip is a pet insurance that is priceless were you ever faced with a lost pet.

Months of Animal Blogs in 2021

We began the year with Alpaca/llama’s followed by mini horses, rabbits, cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, and chickens. I was wondering what I should do to round out the year. I decided that even though I do not do a lot of exotics, zoo, or marine species, this would be a good topic for the final month of 2021.

As veterinarians there is no species that we do not see. We may have preferences for certain species but after receiving your DVM degree and passing your state boards you can treat any and all mammals, birds, reptiles of land, water, and air. This carries with it a great responsibility to explore the variations between these species.

At Winterset Veterinary Center we do see a few exotic species for simple procedures on occasion. It may be a bird for wing or nail trims or a pocket pet for eye issues or a reptile for skin lesions We have had skunks, raccoon, possums, and wild birds brought in for certain procedures. An occasional snake or iguana has entered the practice for one reason or another. I will admit that I am more of a fur and feather veterinarian, but Dr. Jim has always been willing to see “All Creatures Great and Small”.

When these unusual creatures come in often their needs come down to basic husbandry issues. Cleanliness of their cages, temperatures that need to be consistent, water sources that are necessary for healthy skin, diets that are complete with the nutrients needed to remain healthy so they live a long life. Sometimes we have to offer the facts that lead to a difficult decision since some have a short lifespan to begin with. Sometimes we will refer if additional diagnostics are needed. The area of exotics has expanded in the last decade and more people are seeking out treatment for their special friends.

I know that my daughter would enjoy snuggling with a snake as much as a puppy. She said the way they will wrap themselves up around her and give the big hugs has always been a physical high for her.  She is the  one furthest to the right in this photo. A friend owns these and she has enjoyed their unique personalities.

I have watched exotic veterinarians on television handle the different species that enter their doors and have learned interesting facts. Since my practice days have mostly been in more rural areas we see less exotics. The neat thing is that regardless of what someone classifies as a pet we are given the opportunity to help them stay healthy and live longer lives. These pets mean as much to their owner as a puppy or kitten does to theirs. We must do everything possible to protect that client- patient- veterinarian relationship. As the song goes…

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

ALL THINGS WISE AND WONDERFUL

THE LORD GOD MADE THEM ALL!

As we say goodbye to 2021, Dr. Jim, our staff, and myself would like to thank you for entrusting us with your pets and livestock. We continue to strive to meet your expectations and retain your loyalty and trust. Winterset Veterinary Center cannot exist without our clients and their critters. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2022!

Big Event in September

Allow me to share another milestone in our household. Our son got married this past weekend at a resort in Wisconsin. The weather was perfect and venue accommodating for all family and friends that were able to attend. We were able to spend some quality time with our children and grand-daughter.

JD and Alison will continue to live in the Chicago area once they return from their honeymoon. The ceremony was at 1:00 and the reception started at 5:00 so they could do pictures between. It has been a long time since I was at a wedding where the groom did not see his bride prior to her walking down the aisle. It was emotional for JD (or the sun was in his eyes), but I did see him tearing up. As with all weddings, you hope and pray that these young couples are able to weather the storms that come their way. Marriage is hard but if they commit to working as hard on their marriage as we work at our jobs and other relationships the rewards are endless. My parents have been married next month for 64 years, Dan and I celebrated 37 years in June, so I have high hopes that this marriage will carry on the tradition of until death do us part. Congratulations JD and Alison. We love you both and are excited for you as you begin this journey together.

I was excited that my parents were able to drive from Iowa to Wisconsin to attend the wedding and festivities. They are pictured with our immediate family in this photo. It is exciting that we have 4 generations with the addition of our grand-daughter, July. It is fun to watch my mom in her great-grandma role enjoying the smiles and laughter of July. I think every parent and grandparent enjoys watching others oooh and aaah over their children or grandchildren. It was amazing how many people wanted to hold July that were new acquaintances. Some people are baby crazy even if they get spit up on. Our daughter and her husband have been great about socializing July so she has no reservations with new faces. I am prejudice as most grandparents are, but July is pretty cute and special!

I enjoyed having all 3 of our daughters in the wedding as bridesmaids. Had to capture this moment since that will never happen again. They did not think it was a big deal. As their mom, I felt differently. Alison is now our daughter as well and we all love and adore her. Many fun years ahead for our family as we gain numbers by marriage and births!

We do not have any additional milestones planned for this year. I think the birth of a grandchild and the marriage of our son to his sweetheart Alison is enough excitement for one year. Thank you for letting me share these events with you as they happen. Happy Fall!

New Title – The Best One Yet!

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!

Miniature Horses

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.

AMHA – American Miniature Horse Association, Alvarado, Texas

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:

  1. They must be housebroken.
  2. They must be under control of the owner.
  3. The facility must be able to accommodate the miniature horse’s size and weight.
  4. 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 as Service Animals – Anything Pawsable

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.

National Mutt Day

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.

November is National Senior and Diabetes Month

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.

October is Veterinary Technician Month

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

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.

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