March 23, 2020: National Puppy Day!

This year for my blogs, I am following a NAVC calendar highlights for each month. It was exciting to see the March theme National Puppy Day. I want to encourage everyone to post a picture of their puppy online on March 23rd. These canine friends fill our lives with joy and happiness daily. Let’s celebrate them by posting pictures to show the world how special they are.

Have you ever googled the most common names of pets? Have you ever googled the most popular breed of pets? Have you ever googled the average lifespan of pets? The list is endless of the information available on these topics. Do you ever wonder how they get this information. I do. An interesting subject that we hear about often is the Dog Food Advisor. People will inform me that they googled the food they were feeding their dog and the “Dog Food Advisor” said this or that. Did you know the man behind the “Dog Food Advisor” is a Dental Surgeon? I find it interesting that so many people put their faith in a website about Dog Food that originated by a dentist. This link is his disclaimer which is interesting to read because he makes certain to indicate he is not an expert and if anything is inaccurate please contact him and he will correct the information.

Yet he has put himself and his website in front of a HUGE number of people. It is a profitable business for him I am sure.

When we attend continuing education events and nutrition is discussed, they inform us that they cannot even compare foods by looking at the labels on the bags of pet food. They are trained in the field of pet nutrition and will not make claims about foods based on what is available to them. Why would we trust a website not even handled by a veterinary nutritionist?

I believe is it crucial that when searching the web we recognize the limitations these sites contain. We consider the source and remember with everything there can be “fake news”. The web can be a source of interesting information and is great when considering trivia questions. Yet in this day, we need to not rely on it as our soul source of information. Find the true experts and look for solid sources before believing what you are reading or hearing.

Hope everyone has a Happy St. Patrick’s Day and first day of spring, let’s flood our social media with the pets that help make our daily lives great! Looking forward to the posts on March 23rd.  Stay safe!

Drawing by Alice Madsen

February is Dental Health Month

Welcome to winter wonderland. Iowa in February can be unpredictable with our weather patterns, but we can rely on one thing….. Spring will come. Until we see those signs of spring, we will share another blog to give you something to do with your pet during these cold winter months. Teach them to let you brush their teeth. We have all heard the saying, you can’t teach and old dog new tricks. I disagree. I think most trainers would disagree as well. It is never to late to start working with your dog on new concepts. Brushing their teeth can be one of those concepts.

Before jumping right in with dog toothpaste and a toothbrush, have your pets mouth examined by a veterinarian. If a pet has any loose teeth, broken teeth, or gum disease, brushing will be uncomfortable and the opportunity for success decreases significantly. While visiting your veterinarian discuss having the teeth professionally cleaned. Any tarter on the teeth will not be removed by starting a home dental care program. Studies show that tarter begins to accumulate as early as 3 years of age. If no steps are taken to do home care, your pet may need a professional cleaning early in their life.

Professionals indicate that brushing is most effective when doing it daily. It must be done at least three times a week to have any effect at all. This must be a commitment one makes to help their pets mouth stay healthy. Just like brushing your teeth or taking your daily supplements is a routine for you, brushing your pet’s teeth should happen around the same time every day.

How to begin this process can look different for different families. If your pet already lets you look at their teeth and open their mouth your starting point will be different then someone who’s pet bites them when they attempt to look at their teeth or open their mouth.

Step 1. Using something good tasting, this could be the flavored pet toothpaste, place a small amount on the end of your finger at a time of day that you will brush their teeth going forward. Once they lick that off praise them and that is the end of the step until the next day. Continue to do this until the pet shows excitement for that daily step and begins looking forward to it.

Step 2. Now that we have established a routine, we place the toothpaste on our finger and as they approach to lick it, gently smear it on their upper lip. Avoid the lower lip since they are unable to get their tongues to turn downward. As you are smearing it on their upper lip speak quiet and encouraging words. If they back off and resist, then you need to go back to offering the toothpaste on your finger. Do not force any of these steps as that will just make your pet more anxious about the entire process.

Step 3. We now are going to use the toothpaste on our finger to go under the upper lip onto the surface of the incisors and canine teeth right in the front. The hope is that your pet will decide that they still love the flavored toothpaste and are willing to allow you access to their teeth on the upper arcade. Do not attempt to go to the back teeth or lower teeth until this step has been completely mastered.

Step 4. Once you have gained access to their teeth in the front you can begin to slowly work your way around in their mouth. If at any time you notice backing away or fear associated with these steps you are moving too fast.

Step 5. If interested in using a finger toothbrush or a toothbrush instead of your finger this would be the time to introduce those devices. The upper teeth are most affected with tarter related to the salivary glands that secrete above them. Do not attempt to get inside along the tongue when brushing. Just doing the outside surface closer to the lips will be extremely helpful in reducing issues with tarter.

Step 6. Get regular check ups with your veterinarian and have the teeth examined. Changes can occur throughout a pet’s life that if not detected early can lead to loss of teeth or oral health concerns.

Here’s Tony, in the video below. She has been brushing her dogs teeth for years and they continue to look amazing. Her dogs look forward to having it done each day. Many of her dogs were adopted and she was able to work with them so they would look forward to having their teeth brushed as well. You can teach an old dog new tricks!

In today’s world pets can have dental work not only to clean and polish teeth but also to repair broken teeth, fix alignment concerns with braces, and even root canals. These procedures are done with the same precision and tools used in human dentistry. If your pet is diagnosed with any of these major issues talk with your veterinarian about referral opportunities. There are more options now than extraction of the affected teeth. 

Do your pet and yourself a huge favor and stay fully aware of what is going on in the mouths of your furry babes.

January: National Train Your Dog Month

Sometime in the last decade (just had to say that), the Association of Pet Dog Trainers started a movement to make January a month to celebrate our furry friends and the fun that can be had when spending time training them.

Dogs and owners that take the time to go seek assistance with everything from basic puppy behaviors to general obedience commands are much more content with their pets on the average. Training pets has shown to bond the owners and pets at a deeper level and assures a longer life within their homes. The number of pets in shelters that are trained is low. Those pets with manners are more likely to live out their natural life with owners that invest in training.

Happy Acres, north of town, is just beginning its new schedule for 2020. They have a number of options to offer to new pet owners and existing pet owners. There are classes for general obedience. There are classes for nose work or tricks. There are classes to help start your new puppy off right. As an owner you may learn more than your furry friend attending these classes. Visit to get more information.

Kawa Farms also trains Southwest of Winterset and has a number of opportunities to help your furry friends be more comfortable in their surroundings. They have a website to share all their upcoming opportunities at

If your schedule or your finances do not permit you to take your furry friends to class, this link has some fun ways to work with your pets at home teaching them tricks. Tricks are fun for everyone and can be a great way to get your furry friends to learn to watch you. Here is a link that you can follow to teach your furry friend some fun tricks. Amaze your friends and family, maybe even yourself!

With the increasing number of people traveling with emotional support pets training is extremely necessary. We see people wanting to have an emotional support pet and their pet is fearful around new people or new situations. You cannot expect a dog or cat to love to fly if they have never been exposed to those environments. Emotional support pets are not allowed the same privileges that are granted to service dogs. This is important to remember.  An emotional support pet needs to have a certificate from a Human Doctor or Therapist. This is not anything that we as veterinarians can authorize.

Therapy dogs and cats are trained to visit nursing homes, schools, airports, trauma locations or disaster areas to ease stresses and fears in people. The training they undergo to be labeled as therapy dogs and cats is extensive.  These pets do not have the same privileges as service dogs either. A good place to start if you are wanting to have a therapy dog is taking a Canine Good Citizen training course and see how both of you do. If you are unable to pass that test, then becoming a therapy dog is probably not in the cards. Therapy pets need to be extremely calm and well mannered. Just loving people is not enough.

Service puppies are started with their specialized training at 8 weeks of age. They undergo daily experiences to help prepare them for their future as a service dog. I wish I could tell you exactly how many puppies fail these service dog programs for one reason or another, but the percentages are high. Adopting or purchasing a puppy or dog from someone to train it yourself to become a service dog is extremely risky. You may end up with a very expensive pet. It is best to apply to receive a service dog from an organization that devotes their time and resources to training dogs to assist humans in their daily lives.

Whatever January temperatures bring to the table, you can be certain that our pets will be excited to spend quality time with us while we wait for signs of spring. Start training today so by the time the warm weather returns we can all get out and enjoy the great outdoors with our trained furry friends. Happy New Year!

In 2008 when we first launched our website we knew we needed to have a presence on the web. We hired a company that walked us through the process and a very basic site was born. Then in 2015 we started working with Julie Feirer of Winterset Websites, and she continues to help us keep it up to date. Just recently we updated some of the photos and pages on our website and I would like to direct you to it so you know what is available there.

Our home page has a referral coupon that we would love to see printed off and brought in more often. Many of you refer family and friends and this is the highest compliment we can receive. We would love to reward not only the new client but also the person who referred them with $15 credit to their account. We ask that you print off the coupon and have the new client present it at their first appointment. 

We also advertise our online store, Covetrus, on the home page. You can access the store right from our website if interested. They offer coupons and specials at certain times of the year. If we have your email address you will be made aware of those special promotions by email. The store offers medications, diets, supplements, and many other items. Please check it out if you have not visited Covetrus before.

Current Specials can be new products with rebates or information about items that are currently in season. This can change from time to time so be certain to look for any new and upcoming products that will help keep your furry friends healthy.

Care Credit is a financing company that offers payment plans for large hospitalization or treatment bills. Applications can be submitted and funds used the same day if you qualify.

Of course you can access all the blogs that have been posted since 2016 from the website. There is a search box if you are interested in a certain topic.

We have included the standard map and contact information if you are new to the area or Winterset Veterinary Center. 

We recently added a staff biography page to include the current staff at Winterset Veterinary Center. Take a look at these bios to learn more about each of the team members.

Our small animal and large animal pages have photos and a list of the services available for our clients and their animals. We updated some of the photos recently and will continue to look for opportunities to show what we do here on a daily basis.

The grooming/boarding page shows Anabel doing what she does best. She is in high demand for her expertise in grooming. We encourage people to set appointments early since she is booked up months in advance. I believe we are currently booking her grooms for late January early February. 

The last page we have is for resources. We want to make it easy for people to find out information about the diets we sell. We have a trusted site for people looking for more medical information about a condition their pet has. We have a link to a Rabies Resource Manual. With the number of dog bites reported each year this information may be helpful to know what steps must be taken to secure the safety of the person bitten. We have linked our pages to this blog so you can easily access the site if you are interested in visiting our website. I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday Season and we look forward to seeing you in the New Year. 

A Dog’s Life

Sometimes I struggle to decide what the blog should be for the month. I look back at what I have written in the past. I think about what questions I get or articles I read. This month I decided to share some photos of my life and the dogs that have been a part of my years. I have to ask for your candor as I look back on some of these photos and chuckle at the clothing and hair styles of the past. Remembering each of these pets in the photos certainly brings back many smiles and fond memories. As I have mentioned before, I grew up on a farm in Northern Iowa. We had dog(s), cat(s), horse(s), and pigs. As with many people during that time in the 60’s and 70’s the animals were outdoors. We loved them and spent many hours with them during the years but they did not get fancy food or preventative veterinary care. Spay and neuter practices were not common and every spring a new batch of babies would arrive.

The first dog my parents had was named Fido. Fido was the best dog and she was helpful on the farm with the livestock and also kept the wild critters away. I was very young and did not remember a lot about her but she did give us the first puppies that I recall. When the puppies were ready to be weaned, we hid the puppies hoping that we could keep all of them. Of course Dad found them since it is difficult to keep puppies quiet and they all went to their new homes.

The dog I remember the most as a child is Pepper! Pepper was so white and fluffy and we spent time playing with her and keeping her hair coat brushed out. She became a mom and we loved having the puppies around. Nothing was more fun than having them chase you and want to snuggle with you. She was great with our cats even though they were not fond of her. She kept many salesmen from getting out of their cars since they thought she was a wolf. We never did anything to tell them otherwise. Salesmen had a tough time in those days as they stopped at farm after farm looking for a buyer of whatever they were peddling. It was not a job that was considered desirable.

When I was a teenager we got Chico our German Shepherd and of course she had puppies and we kept Rex. They were fun dogs to have and I enjoyed their playful personalities. When I was a senior, my sister took my senior pictures at the farm and I had photos with Chico and Rex. They started running as Rex got older and eventually were poisoned because the farmer thought it was coon getting into his barn. The farmer called us the day he discovered it was our dogs and was so apologetic about what happened. My dad assured him that when dogs leave home bad things can happen. We did not keep them home so we were at fault for the outcome. I remembered that lesson very well.

I went off to college and my parents got Blue Tick Heelers to help with the livestock. I was not around much during that time but remember how well they did their job of watching the gates to keep the hogs inside the fence while a tractor was going in and out.

In 1990 when my husband and I got our first home and before we had kids, a golden retriever breeder brought in a litter of puppies. A litter of puppies or kittens always makes my day. He indicated he had taken one of the pups to see a different vet because it was always dribbling urine. The vet had given him some antibiotics but nothing had changed. I examined the male pup and realized that he had no opening of the prepuce to allow the urine to exit. It was a genetic defect and without a major surgery there would be no way for him to pee normally. The man was not going to spend the money to fix the issue since it would cut into his profits. He was raising these puppies to help put his kid through college. He asked me what he should do. I suggested making him a donation to Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine. They were not interested. He asked me if I wanted him. That is how I got COACH!

I did the surgery, which would be considered a sex change, by removing the prepuce and penis and opening up his urethra. He lived to be 12 years of age. He peed like a female and always was prone to bladder infections if he went swimming. He was our first child and was great with our 4 kids.  He got more love and affection over the years as each new child came into the home. He developed a hemangiosarcoma on his spleen and this photo was taken before we elected to have him put to sleep. This was one of the hardest things I did as a parent, sharing with my children why we had to make this tough decision. Why we did not want Coach to suffer in his final days. I have always felt that we cannot hide the painful things from children. If they are going to have pets and love pets, they will need to learn how to know when is the right time to let them go. With all the love we have to give and all the love we receive from our furry friends, learning to let them go when it is time so they can leave this earth in a peaceful manner is important.

Last group photo with Coach- died a few days later in September 2002 at 12 1/2 years

After Coach crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, we decided to take a break from having another dog. We had 3 cats in the house and were busy with activities. We did not have the time to train a puppy.  In 2004 we moved into the country and the questions started coming, “When can we get a puppy?” I was staying at home. All 4 kids were now attending school. We had just moved to Winterset. It was time.

Bo came into our lives as a bounding 8 week old Chocolate Lab. He had acres to run on and 4 children to keep him entertained. He rode the 4-wheeler and the golf cart as a puppy but as he grew he found it more enjoyable to run along side. He loved our pond and would trot down there on hot summer days just to cool off. He kept all the deer away from my plants and the coyotes away from our outdoor cats. He loved everyone and was the perfect family dog. He went to dog classes with our daughters and learned manners. Loved nothing more than to hang out with whoever was around. I wish I could figure out how many miles he did in his lifetime. He never seemed to stop moving. While we mowed he felt the need to follow the mower back and forth. It took us over 5 hours to mow around the house on our riding mower. He made many trips to the pond on those days. We lost him in 2012 to uncontrollable seizures. It was a heart breaking situation since I could not stop the progression and saying good bye was the only way to bring him peace. Again we let Bo go to join Coach across the Rainbow Bridge.

I had not intended to get another dog after Bo. The oldest two kids were in college, the younger two were teenagers involved with lots of activities. I was back working fulltime and the thought of training a puppy was overwhelming.  In 2013, we heard about 2 weimaraners running in Madison County. They were first spotted in the St. Charles area and as the week went on different people would call about them. Eventually they ended up at the Winterset Soccer fields. Winterset Veterinary Center was contacted since we hold the dogs running at large within the city limits until their owners can claim them. There was one abut 6 months of age and the other we guessed to be about 1 years of age. They both had orange hunting collars on and the older one was calm, quiet, and respectful. We contacted the ARL, we checked Craigs List, we put them on the Iowa lost pet website, and no one stepped forward to claim them. They had no chips or identification on them. That is how we got Bleu!

The ease of bringing Bleu into our lives was smooth. He trained extremely well.  Our youngest daughter took him to 4-H dog classes and won top honors in dog obedience at the county fair. She spent many hours working with him. Since she has gone off to college now he looks forward to each college break to be able to hang out with his bestie.

Bleu has become my walking partner during the warmer season and we have enjoyed visiting the new dog park east of town. He has traveled to visit our daughter on campus and gets the royal treatment every time. We went to the Covered Bridge Winery a few weeks ago and he was very interested in the Bernese Mountain Dogs. It is wonderful to know that he will be respectful in the public settings. I know that with all our dogs the day will come when the toughest decision will need to be made. Until that time we will continue to make memories and enjoy the companionship of our 4 legged friends.

Thanks for letting me take a walk down memory lane and share my dog stories of the past and present. They say people look like their dogs. What do you think?

Obesity and Arthritis on the Rise – Is There a Connection?

Obesity is on the rise in dogs and cats. This has been a concern for quite some time. We always have recognized a connection between weight gain and issues with mobility. Studies indicate that most pets have some arthritis by 3-5 years of age. It can be in one or more joints and that can make it difficult for them to be more active. With activity slowing down we then see weight gain on the rise. When a pet becomes less active we need to feed them differently to avoid the weight gain which then predisposes them to more arthritis. This is a very vicious cycle.

What are some things to consider when assessing your pets weight and daily caloric intake? The two things that I encourage people to keep in mind would be can you feel the ripple of the ribs under your finger tips? The second thing to look for is an indentation behind the ribs like a waistline. You do not want to physically see the ribs when they are breathing since that would indicate a need to have your pet gain weight. The February 2019 blog has a body condition chart that you can reference if you like. If you do these simple things with your pet and realize they are heavier than they should be, what should you do now?

I am constantly aware of Bleu, my weimaraner’s weight. I had noticed he was getting heavier as he was aging. I had been feeding him a joint and coat care diet from Royal Canin. The caloric intake per cup was 383 kcal/cup. I decided to switch his formula to the Royal Canin weight care formula and that diet has only 301 kcal/cup. He has now returned to his normal body weight and as winter sets in and activity decreases, I may need to make another adjustment. I would choose to feed him less daily to adjust for the change in activity. A good daily bench mark for volume of food to feed is 1 cup/20 lbs of body weight for a dog and ½ cup/10 lbs body weight for a cat. I realize some diets suggest more but with a pet that is showing weight gain this would be a place to start. If you decide to try a weight loss formula or a reduced fat formula, you must know the kcal/cup number. Without that number, the weight loss product could have more kcal/cup than the food you are currently feeding. There are no standards for how many kcal/cup are in a weight loss food. Therefore, you need to know how many kcal’s you have been feeding daily before you can decide what new diet you should use.

Another factor contributing to our obesity issue in our furry friends is the introduction of people foods and treats. All of these items have calories. Treats and any people foods should be limited to 10% of the calories of their total daily intake. These two charts compare pet treats to us eating donuts. A very good visual based on their smaller body size. How many donuts are your pets eating in a day?

Another recommendation I have is to have a daily treat container. Place the treats that your furry friend gets daily into that container. When the treats are gone everyone in the home knows that they cannot give anymore. Our pets are extremely good at working with each individual in the home to get a little something from everyone. They know who is the easiest to convince to give them a treat or a piece of their dinner.

I realize that everyone that comes into Winterset Veterinary Center and sees Hemingway, our clinic cat, questions how we can talk to them about weight when he is so “fluffy”. Two things that I will mention about Hemingway. First when we realized he was getting heavy we started restricting his food. What happened was he would chew through multiple bags of food and basically had a smorgasbord of options. Then we attempted to keep him on the weight reduction diets and he started having more vomiting episodes. Now we feed him the prescription diet for food sensitivities that does not have a low kilocalorie option. He is now an example of what not to do with your pets weights. I understand how difficult it can be with some pets and changing their eating behaviors and or diets.

I ran across this article about the connection between these two health conditions. I have included the link if you would like to learn more about the statistics that Banfield Pet Hospital is seeing across their network of hospitals nationwide.

It is important that you find ways to show love to your furry friends that does not involve food. They need affection and activity more than they need kilocalories. I was reminded last year at the time of my kidney donation that obesity cannot be defeated by exercise. Obesity is a problem because we in America eat more than we should. We are now doing the same thing to our furry friends and this health concern is affecting their quality of life by making them more prone to osteoarthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, etc. Does this sound familiar with what human doctors are saying? Enjoy the fall temperatures and get outside and explore Madison County and all it has to offer.

The Impact New Pets Can Have on Home Dynamics

Daily we get questions about situations surrounding the introduction of new pets into homes where other pets currently exist. This seems to be something that is overlooked as a concern for potential disease and behavioral issues of current pets. The most important goal is to protect the pets already in your home. It cannot be underestimated how important it is to keep new pets isolated from existing pets in your home. The new pets can introduce many infections that will put your current pets at risk.

First to remember is that most cat diseases are not a concern for dogs and vice versa. External parasites can be shared amongst dogs and cats. The intestinal parasites of each species are mostly species specific but a few can be transmitted to one another like the tapeworm. Have your pets on flea and tick preventatives before introducing new pets. Take a stool sample in from the new pet to check for intestinal parasites. Have an exam done to reduce the opportunity of lice, skin mites, fungal infections, and other diseases from being introduced to your other pets and yourself.

Second it is important to keep new pets in separate areas away from your current pets until they can be seen by a veterinarian. This prevents potential for diseases to be introduced that would require you to treat the new and current pets in your household. A perfect example is a cute and helpless kitten is brought home and your indoor cat is curious and is allowed to interact with the kitten. A few days later your indoor cat starts sneezing and has mucus in its eyes. The new kitten still does not show any symptoms. Some pet owners do not keep immunizations up to date on indoor cats. That kitten can carry diseases that your indoor cat is susceptible to. Some infections are bacterial and others are viral. The symptoms often present the same but it is difficult to know what caused the disease. When humans show symptoms like sneezing, coughing, nasal drainage, watery eyes our physicians know it could be bacterial, viral, or allergies. Treatment options are varied and some can be difficult to treat.

Something more serious to consider when a new kitten or cat are brought home would be Feline Leukemia(FELV) or Feline Immunodeficiency(FIV) Viruses. These two viruses can be present and they will not show any symptoms. These viruses affect the immune system and are transmitted only through direct contact with body secretions. It can take up to 30 days post exposure for these infections to be detected in a blood test. This can be a challenge since most people want to introduce the new cat to the current cats immediately. This should not be done before testing the new cat for these infections. We have a vaccine for FELV but not one that is readily used for FIV. There are no cures for these infections at this time so once a cat has been infected they remain positive for the duration of their life. A cat can live a normal life with these viruses but they will always be contagious to other cats.

Behaviors can affect the introduction of a new pet into a home. These behaviors can be varied. Some of the behaviors pass quickly and others can become life long. I do not believe there is one way to make these introductions. The most important factor to consider is the safety of the pets and people in the home. If a problem develops it is important to not put yourself at risk by reaching in to separate the pets. Use a loud noise like a kettle being hit by a spoon or compressed air in a can directed at the body of the pets to scare them into scattering. Do not attempt to scold or punish one of the pets since we may do more harm in getting them to accept each other. Pets need to work out their differences without our interference. We are not good at understanding our pets body language and therefore we may punish or scold the wrong pet. Some younger smaller pets are great at instigating the confrontation only to be attacked by the other older or larger pet in the home and we then scold the wrong pet because the smaller younger one appears so helpless. Sounds like something my children would do to get their siblings in trouble. Sometimes it is best to just take a step back and observe the interactions between them. If your pets seem to get along great until you come home each day, then maybe you are interfering more than necessary.

Another frustrating behavior is inappropriate urination that can develop when new pets are introduced. This issue is one of the most common calls we take when dealing with pet behaviors. The first thing to consider is could this pet have a urinary tract infection or some other medical reason for the inappropriate urination. We want to immediately blame the new pet or new environment for the cause but it could be medical. If medical issues are not the cause then we need to quickly seek help to discover the stresses causing this unwanted behavior. The longer this continues the more difficult it can be to stop the problem. This can occur with both dogs and cats.

If you are considering the addition of another pet please make a plan on how to protect your current pets. Nothing is more heart breaking than introducing a new pet and then discovering they had some contagious condition that was passed to your current pets. This happens often within households that do not think through the addition of a new pet. Remember to spay and neuter your pets. Aggression between pets is escalated when intact males or intact females attempt to live together in a home. Pets of the same sex will get along great until both pets reach sexual maturity and then trouble can begin.   A pet that is intact is 3 times more likely to bite. This alone is a great reason to make certain to be a responsible pet owner and have your pets spayed or neutered.

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend and if you find any stray pets while out enjoying the great outdoors make certain to keep them separated from your furry friends until after they are examined by your veterinarian.

Milestone for the Nielsen’s

This month I am diverting from Veterinary advice and sharing a personal moment that our family experienced in July. Our daughter, Jaclyn, was married to Rich in Omaha. They met the summer after high school graduation. Their relationship survived the distance as Jaclyn attended UNI and Rich ISU. Rich is a medical sales rep and Jaclyn teaches in Omaha Public schools. This wedding was a first for our family of six. It was wonderful to have us all gathered for this event. A number of people had shared that a wedding is even more intense than a high school graduation. It is a whirlwind of emotions and activities. Those people knew what they were talking about.

Jaclyn spoiled us by handling the wedding plans with great efficiency and effectiveness. It was a magical few days celebrating with the family and friends that all gathered to wish this couple well as they began their life as husband and wife. A saying that I love is “The roots of a family tree begin with the love of two hearts.” I have been digging into my family tree in recent years and have discovered a new appreciation for my heritage. The challenges that my ancestors endured to come to America and the great losses they encountered are all a part of my legacy. I now see the continuation of that legacy with Rich and Jaclyn. Instead of a unity candle for their ceremony, Jaclyn asked me for a portion of the fern that was on the altar at our wedding 35 years ago. I repotted a portion of that plant and she then collected soil from Dan’s family Century farm, my family Heritage farm, Rich’s family farm, and our current farm in Madison County. During the ceremony, they added the soil to the fern and watered it, and now will watch it grow over the years. This representation of how we are all connected was very meaningful to me.

In 2017 my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. We honored them with a celebration at my country church that just celebrated its 150th anniversary this summer. We have had a family member sitting in the pews of that church for over 100 of those years. My grandmother was confirmed there and my mother and myself were baptized, confirmed, and married there. During this 60th wedding anniversary we had a program. My 3 daughters and my niece modeled wedding dresses from 4 generations. My great grandma was married in 1906, my grandmother in 1932, my mother in 1957, and myself in 1984. What is really exciting to me, is we now have a fifth generation wedding dress with my daughter’s dress. Love this quote, “The roots of our family tree run strong and deep, like our love they never end.”

If you have never dug into your family’s legacy, I would encourage you to find out whatever you can and write it down. The stories of the past connect us to one another in a way that enriches our lives. “Family is like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots keep us together.”

Was That a Seizure?

Pets can have seizures. They come in all varieties and it Is impossible to know how frequent or how long their duration may be. Years ago it was thought that all seizures were hereditary, poison related, or idiopathic. With the advancement of technology, machines that can measure brain activity and scan brain tissues have raised awareness to a large number of other causes. The challenges of diagnosing a cause are many. Difficult to determine when a seizure may occur so that brain activity can be monitored. The expense of brain scans are cost prohibitive for many clients. Most practices do not have the equipement to diagnose a cause. The results often indicate that surgery is not possible based on the location of the problem. The cost of surgery is not within a clients budget. These are only a few of the reasons seizures are a challenge.

Seizures are more likely to be seen in a dog than a cat. Seizures can begin at any age.  If seen early in life we assume it is congenital, poison, infection, or trauma related.  If beginning later in life, we consider recent trauma, poisons, or brain disease. If seizures develop after 6 months of age but before 5-6 years of age they may be classified as epilepsy. Epilepsy is a form of seizure activity where no underlying cause can be found.

When poisons are a factor we rely on owners to tell us what they were exposed to. Often a diagnosis will not be made in this category without an owners knowledge of the toxin. Simply put our patients cannot tell us what they ate or were exposed to. There are tests that can be done in a laboratory setting but we must tell them what to look for. If we did not see them consume the toxin it will be difficult to ask them to look for it. Occasionally the symptoms will give us a high suspicion of a toxic exposure and we will discover the offending product. If we do not have a clear idea of what the poison is we will treat the clinical symptoms and hope the body can clear the poison. Medications to control the seizures along with fluid therapy and activated charcoal are standard treatments for many suspected poisons that cause seizures. The need to start treatment immediately to reduce clinical symptoms is crucial. Yet if we did not see the pet consume the poison we do not know about its negative effects until the clinical symptoms begin to occur. Recently I discovered a common product used in humans called 5-fluorouracil is extremely toxic to dogs and cats if accidentally consumed. Within 30 minutes of chewing on the tube the dogs start to have seizures and die. If you know of anyone on this product please share this article with them to raise awareness of the risk this has to pets. Even licking this cream can cause toxicity in pets:

5-fluorouracil: Lifesaving for one species, deadly for

Congenital seizures can stem from Portosystemic shunts(PSS) in pets. These liver shunts direct the blood away from the liver. Surgeries are available to correct the shunt and stop the seizures caused by it. These seizures can be caused by hydrocephalus or more commonly called “water on the brain” in young pets. This condition has varying degrees of clinical symptoms but seizures can be seen in severe cases. Certain breeds are more prone to these conditions.

Traumatic injuries at anytime in a pets life can lead to seizure activity. Pets fall down stairs, then get hit in the head by large objects, they are hit by cars, they run into objects with their heads, etc. Any of these situations can potentially lead to seizures. Some will have their first seizure at the time of the injury. Others do not start them until later in life. I was hit in the forehead with a baseball and most likely had a concussion. That could lead to issues for me in the future. There is no way to know what may develop in the future when the brain has been injured.

Medical conditions of the of the brain and even some within the body can have seizures as possible side effects.  The list is endless but I feel as a whole the human and veterinary medical teams are learning more every day about the brain and how to treat some of these medical conditions.

After all of this information you may be asking yourself, “What can we do if a pet has a seizure?” First and most important, stay calm and move the pet carefully to a safe area. Do not stick your hand in the pets mouth or attempt to hold their tongue. They will not choke or swallow their tongue. The actual seizure is often short. The seizure can be mild and just be a pet staring off into the air and not responding to your voice. Maybe an ear will be twitching or an eyelid. They are still and unresponsive. The seizure could be a full blown grand mal like seizure where the animal is on its side rigid and paddling, having irregular breathing, drooling, unresponsive, it may pee or poop or both during the episode. After the seizure is over the pet has a stage called the postictal period where they are confused, uncoordinated in their movements, hungry, thirsty, exhausted, etc. This may last longer than the actual seizure but your pet will recover 100% if given time.

Please notify your veterinarian if you suspect your pet had a seizure. Treatment is not always begun at the first sign of a seizure. If the seizure was mild and they are infrequent then you may be encouraged to wait to start medications. It is important to let your veterinarian know if there are any concerns about poisons or infections that may have caused the seizure. If you have had a history of trauma with your pet you should share that information with your veterinarian. The recommendation on when to begin medication is varied between practices. It is best to speak with your veterinarian so you can discuss options available. Blood work is required to begin seizure medication and also annual exams.

Pets can live normal lives with seizures being controlled by medications for a number of years. Some activities seem to lead to seizures for some pets. Good record keeping can be helpful in determining the proper way to treat your pet. There are new diets and medications available to help maintain a good quality of life. If you have concerns about whether your pet is needing medication for seizures contact your veterinarian for more information.

Hype About CBD Oil Use in Pets

In recent months more questions are being asked about using Cannabidiol (CBD) oil in pets for different aliments. I want to start by defining these substances to avoid confusion for pet owners. The two plants that are being grown are called cannabis(marijuana) and hemp. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the hallucinogenic property that differentiates between these two plants. If the plant has more than 0.3% THC in it, that plant is considered cannabis(marijuana) and is illegal in Iowa. If that plant has less than 0.3% THC it is considered hemp. Hemp oil comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. The hemp oil has been called a superfood and has a nutty flavor. It has been used in cooking, soaps, and lotions. CBD oil comes from the flowers, leaves, and stem of the hemp plant. CBD oil is used for its medicinal properties. The current Iowa law allows for medical use of CBD oil for certain aliments in humans but not in animals.

These oils are considered supplements not prescriptions. CBD oils made from hemp and containing less than .3% THC will not have any mind altering effects. The source you get your supplement from must be researched since some products contain “whole hemp extract” not CBD oil. Those products may not contain any CBD oil at all and be completely legal to sell to consumers. We all have heard how unregulated the human supplement market is and these hemp products are no different. BUYER BE AWARE.

In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law that legalized cultivating and producing industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% THC at institutions of higher learning and State Departments of Agriculture. Since it is legal at the federal level each state must now decide what its regulations will be and how and when to enforce those laws. With this bill in place more research can be done on the health and wellness benefits of these hemp plants. As veterinarians we look forward to the day when we are given clear details on our right and responsibility of prescribing and dispensing these products. Until that day we can discuss the potential benefits being seen within the pet industry, but in Iowa we are not allowed to sell or prescribe the CBD oils.

All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) with receptors built in to interact with cannabinoids naturally produced by the brain but also those derived from plants. When the CBD oils are supplemented to dogs and cats one can see benefits such as:


  • Pain Killer
  • Anti-cancer Effects
  • Antiemetic


  • Appetite Stimulation
  • GI Tract Issues
  • Asthma


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anxiety/stress reliever

Looking at this list one would get the impression that this plant may fix all our pets health issues. This is far from the truth but it certainly indicates that once regulations are removed we may be seeing a steady increase in the use of CBD oil supplements by pet owners. Some veterinarians within the USA are already using these products in a large number of health conditions and I know CBD oils will eventually be encouraged in daily practice. Since there are still legal hurdles in all states around the use of these products you must stay tuned as we continue to learn more about these products in the human and animal markets.

I spoke with a representative at the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA) about prescribing CBD oils. He indicated that the use of CBD oils in all 50 states is illegal in animals at this time. Whether a seller or prescriber of CBD oils is prosecuted is currently a gray zone. At Winterset Veterinary Center we have chosen to wait until more direction is given on the use of the CBD oils in private practice. For each of the above named benefits there are numerous other traditional treatments available to cure or relieve pain and suffering in our patients. We will continue to monitor developments on this hot topic and will keep you informed. Our main concern is the health of our patients and safety of all products that are recommended or prescribed. If you would like more information about this topic feel free to contact me for the information that I received from the IVMA. We welcome your thoughts and comments about this blog or any others that you may have an interest in.

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