Pet Fire Safety Month

In school they have fire drills. Every home is supposed to have a fire escape plan. There is a plan for where to meet once you get out of the house. What windows or doors should be used to get out of the house. Testing fire alarms and changing batteries at least two times a year but what about fire safety and how it relates to your pets. Do you have a plan on how to get your furry friends out of the house if there is a fire?

Recently our client, Bryce Hatten and his faithful companion, Buck, were honored by the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association. In 2019, Buck woke up Bryce as the home was going up in flames. There was enough time to alert the rest of the family and everyone got out safe. The family knows that if it were not for Buck, the outcome may have been very different. Buck was awarded the Hero Award for 2020. He was supposed to be recognized at the ARL Raise Your Paw Event last spring. With the Covid 19 pandemic, the event was cancelled. We are extremely proud of Buck. He did get his medal and plaque that forever reminds the Hatten family that they have a “Hero” among them.

National Pet Fire Safety Day is July 15, 2020. What about a fire safety plan to get your pets out of the home? Do you have a sticker by your entrances to alert the fire department about how many pets you have in the home? These stickers can save your pets lives when Firemen are aware they are indoors. Pet owners can obtain a free fire safety window cling by going online at www.adt.com/pets. Check with your local fire departments as they may have these window clings free of charge as well.

Consider having your pets kenneled close to doors so if there would be a fire they can safely and quickly be removed if you are not home. Keeping puppies kenneled will help reduce the opportunity for a fire as they explore their new home. Puppy proof any areas that your puppy has access to. Over half a million pets are caught in house fires annually. Over 1000 of those fires are accidentally started by the homeowners pets.

Some simple fire prevention tips for families with pets would be to remove kitchen stove knobs. Pets have accidentally turned on the stove when attempting to get something off the appliance. This is the most common event involved in a pet starting a house fire. Do not use a glass bowl of water on a wooden deck for your pet. The sunlight filtered through the glass and water can start the wooden deck on fire. Use stainless steel or ceramic water bowls instead on wooden decks. Consider flameless candles. Watch fireplace flames carefully when you have furry friends in your home. Extinguish all flames before leaving a room when you have pets in your home.

It would be wise to have an escape route planned with your pets in mind. Where are the leashes and harnesses kept? Who is responsible for which pets? What doors or windows can we remove the pets through safely? Shall we wrap our furry friends in a towel or blanket to protect them? Many cats like to hide when they are afraid. Covering their eyes and body may make them more relaxed. If it is winter where shall we seek shelter until the fire department arrives? Speak with your neighbors about potential fires and if the pets would be welcome in their homes. There are families that have severe allergies and may not be able to open up their home to your pets. There are pets that will be aggressive if other pets come into their homes. If you have planned ahead hopefully none of these situations will occur. Have a plan and practice that plan with family members and your pets. It is important to know that you will be able to pass your cat or dog through an open window and not have them fight and run back into the burning home or get lost outdoors.

Preplanning is the way to have the best outcome when it comes to fires. Here’s hoping that all of your fire prevention planning is never put to use. Fires are a devastating experience. Often when listening to a families account of what happened, they always seem to say that we lost everything in the fire but we still have each other and that is all that matters. We think it matters that your pets get out safe as well. Annually 2,620 people die in house fires.  Compare that to over 40,000 pets dying in residential fires each year, most from smoke inhalation. Plan a head and save your furry friends lives too.

Pet Appreciation Week in June

This past week was pet appreciation week. I was wondering what to write about and it occurred to me that the animals in my life have shaped me into the veterinarian I am today. Growing up in northern Iowa on a hog-grain farm was the perfect place to start experiencing animals and their affect on my life. We had dogs, cats, a shetland pony, and hogs very early in my life. Each of them played a different role in my upbringing.

As a hog farmer’s daughter, I got involved in the early care of baby pigs. Once the piglets were born it was my brother and I’s job to help hold the pigs for their early iron shots and teeth trimming to protect the sows. Once we were old enough to do the processing ourselves it became our responsibility. My brother was 2 years younger than myself and we were the main caretakers of the piglets once they were born. We kept accurate records of how many live pigs each sow had and recorded the weight and medical data for the litters. If there were any “runts” in the litters we took them to a separate area and raised them on milk replacer. Any of those runts that survived we got the money for our own bank accounts when they were sold. I paid for a majority of my undergraduate education with those hog funds. I realized that I loved watching a runt grow and thrive because of my Tender Loving Care(TLC). I joined FFA and 4-H.  My brother and I raised hogs to show. We did well in those circles and enjoyed being one another’s competition. I was part of the FFA meat judging team in high school and spent time in packing plants grading carcasses. Still enjoy selecting my meat at Fareway using the knowledge learned 40 years ago. As the County and District Pork Queen (Ambassador as they are now called), I traveled to California and promoted pork in grocery stores.  FFA, 4-H, and being a Pork Ambassador really allowed me to be comfortable speaking in front of people.  I realized that there is no such thing as a stranger…. just a friend you have not met yet.

My first pony was named Lars. My parents named their kids, Linda, Lori, Lonna, and Lee. My parents came up with a Norwegian name for our pony that started with “L” since we are 100% Norwegian. Lars was a stubborn shetland pony but extremely tolerant of us jumping on and off, sliding down his neck, or doing leap frog onto his back. We would stand on him. Lay on him. Dress him up with blankets and put flowers in his mane and tail. As long as he could eat grass he was happy. When I was older and wanted to ride him he attempted to find a low branch on a tree and run right under it. Being little I would just lay down on him and under the branch I would go. Often I would walk him down the lane and ride him back up since he would gallop on the way home. We got a few other horses by the time I was in Junior High. Lars was still with us but had retired to pasture pony.  One day I came out to the pasture and found Lars had punctured his eye. I do not know to this day how he did it, but a call to the vet indicated he was blind in that eye.  He would need to be treated with ointment and pain meds until healed. I took on that responsibility and marveled at the quick healing process. I realized that the pony did not care that he was blind in one eye. In his perspective he could still do everything he had been doing with 2 good eyes. He eventually moved to a home with younger children and lived out his final years there. I raised 2 foals before graduating from high school and realized that early intervention is important in the training of animals. I was able to deworm and vaccinate the horses and learn important facts about nutrition.

Cats and kittens were plenty on the farm. Growing up in the 70’s the profession of Veterinary Medicine was mostly focused on livestock. The spay/neuter programs were nonexistent in rural Iowa. We had kittens at least twice a year and I learned a lot about treating snotty nose and crusty eyed kittens. I was giving penicillin shots and treating eyes in an attempt to save my babies.  I was attached to all of them and they all had names. I had my favorite mommas and they would hide the kittens in our large haymow. I was the only one that could find the kittens. I would go into the loft and meow like a cat and the mommas would come out from their hiding spots. I would then keep it a secret so only I knew where they were. As the kittens grew I would spend hours playing with them and watching them play. I remember a time my mom was frantically looking for me and eventually found me sleeping in the barn with cats and kittens laying all around me and on top of me. It is from these precious souls that I learned about the circle of life. With as many cats as we had, death was always a possibility. With the large farm equipment and trucks driving around the property, accidents were bound to happen. Every time I lost a cat or kitten I would bury them in a “pet cemetery.”  My brother and I would make wooden crosses out of sticks or scraps of wood to place on the grave. We put rocks over the soil to reduce the opportunity of them being dug up by other critters. I loved them and they taught me that in life every soul has a time to live and a time to die. 

We had dogs growing up on the farm. They were usually large dogs. Most were females and you guessed it…we got to experience puppies. We would find homes for most of the puppies rather quickly. The puppies got attention and affection so became great family farm dogs. Some of our dogs were working dogs but most were just happy friendly pets. We knew that if they roamed there was the possibility of them not coming home. Dogs off their own farm were a hazard to livestock and neighbors property. This gave me an education about the large responsibility of having a dog. The importance of training and caring for them. The need to groom them. I grew to love the happy spirit and unconditional love they had for every member of the family. I learned that when they got older and even doing the normal daily routines were difficult for them it was time to say goodbye. Watching them struggle was not in their best interest. I had the intelligence to know when to let them leave this earth and be at peace. Yes, there were tears. Yes, there was a realization that the one thing I could not do was make them young again. Yes, their only fault, they did not live long enough.

I have deeply loved my animals through the years. They have given me great joy and love. I appreciate all that they have taught me. They gave me a career that has served me and my family well for the last 32 years. They have raised my children and taught them to cherish their time with furry friends. These critters deserve our love and devotion because all they ever want is ours. I do so appreciate my pets.

National Pet Week & Service Dog Eye Exams

Here we are another month and we are still social distancing. This month was designed to recognize our furry friends and the contributions they make to our daily lives. With the pandemic we are restricted in what we can do within our communities and that includes where we can go with our pets. Winterset Veterinary Center did post staff members with their pets last week on Facebook. We were thrilled with the comments and likes that were made. It was interesting to note that many of us have gotten our furry friends either from a shelter, rescue, or strays that just wandered in one day. We all love our furry friends but know that they are just ordinary pets that give us great joy and unconditional love each day.

This is Sonny, a Winterset Veterinary Center shelter dog that Dr. Jim and his wife gave a forever home about two years ago. He is the perfect gentleman and loves to be the center of attention. See more photos of our staff and their pets on our Facebook page.

Service dogs are a different class of canine citizen. They are working dogs. They are given privileges to enter places that ordinary dogs do not get to go. They have devoted at least 2 years of their lives to training to do the tasks set before them. It is critical that their hearing and vision stay sharp. During this month of May we encourage you to set an appointment to have the eyes examined by a licensed ophthalmologist. The eyes can have changes to the lens and pressure changes to the globe causing cataracts or glaucoma. Both conditions can be treated but early intervention is critical to avoid long term blindness. Blindness would affect your service dog’s ability to do his/her job. There are ophthalmologists that travel to different cities to do exams. If you have an interest in having your dog’s eyes checked, please contact us during regular business hours to find out how to make an appointment with a specialist.

We still get lots of questions about someone wanting their pet to be a therapy dog or service dog. Therapy dogs are trained to go to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, libraries, etc. to help calm those in the building. There are training facilities that can assist you in determining if your dog could be in those locations and remain calm. A Good Canine Citizen Test is a good place to start. If a dog can pass that exam, they may have potential to be used in a therapy setting. If they struggle with the basic concepts in that Canine Citizen Test, they will probably not pass the tests required to be a certified therapy dog.

We also have many people that want their pet to be a service dog. A service dog is trained from 8 weeks to 2 years of age by professionals to prepare them to assist someone with disabilities. There are many dogs that fail these programs for different reasons and are then trained for other services that fit their skill sets. Attempting to train your pet to be a service dog is a huge mistake. Attempting to pass your pet off as a service dog is a huge error in judgement. Attempting to buy a vest online indicating your dog is a service dog is morally wrong. These pets are interfering with the true service dog’s role. Businesses are questioning even those who have legally trained service dogs because we have people attempting to pass their pets off as service animals. If you would like your pet to be an emotional support pet speak with your personal doctor or therapist. An emotional support pet can offer you personal encouragement within your home but is not allowed into public spaces where dogs are not allowed.  Only service dogs can access those buildings. It is important to recognize the difference between service, therapy, and emotional support dogs.

Pets have become increasingly important during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have given us distractions when boredom has set in with social distancing. They have gotten us off the couch and into the fresh air for walks. Many families have decided it was a good time to get a pet since they have been stuck at home and have more time to potty train. Be cautious though since we are seeing challenges socializing our puppies because we are not allowed to gather at farmers markets, little league games, parks, etc. Those were the perfect places to socialize our pets with other pets and people that we do not have within our homes. I fear that we will have new pets fearful of other dogs and people because of social distancing. When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, we will have young dogs showing separation anxiety when owners go back to work. Please speak with trainers on how to socialize and prepare your dogs and or puppies for future experiences they are missing out on.  Some trainers are offering online courses to assist new pet owners with situations just like this. Take the time to seek professional help to train your new pet. It will prevent issues in the future if you start early.

National Pet week is usually the first full week in May. If you missed it this year put it on your calendar for next year. It would be fun to see people post photos of themselves with their furry friends. Our pets do contribute to our happiness and sanity in many ways. I am hoping that by this time in June we will be getting back to more normal activities as summer will be in full swing. Bring on the warm weather and sunny days of summer. Have a wonderful Memorial Day.

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