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.

Is Pet Insurance a Good Idea?

Any insurance is a good idea when you need it. The same holds true for pet insurance. In recent years pet insurance has become a topic of discussion amongst pet owners. Pet insurance has been around since 1947 when the first pet was insured in Britain. Sweden has the highest percentage of pet insurance policies and Britain follows closely with 23%. The very first pet to be insured in the US was Lassie in 1982. Lassie had a TV show for 19 years and I grew up watching Lassie save the day. In the US we have a higher pet population but our pets are only insured at 1-2%. An increase in pet policies has been seen, but we still have a long way to go in this pet insurance industry.

There are different types of policies. It is important to research each company and determine what is best for you and your pet. There are policies that cover preventive care, accidental, and illness. Other policies are only accidental and illness. What is right for you? This decision requires some investigation and thought. Many businesses have started offering pet insurance to their employees. The premium dollars can be withheld pretax. It is important to educate yourself and read the reviews on pet insurance companies. Ask friends, family, or your trusted veterinarian about pet insurance.

Deductibles can be handled differently amongst pet insurance providers. Annual deductibles are like car insurance. You pay the deductible every year if you have a claim. A lifetime deductible indicates that once you pay the deductible on a pet’s skin problem you do not have to pay it ever again for that pet’s lifetime. If one year you pay the deductible on the skin condition and the following month the same pet has a urinary issue, you will pay another deductible. There are positive benefits with either scenario. I just want to introduce differences so you can ask the right questions when considering pet insurance.

Over the years of practice, I have seen a large number of families decide on euthanasia because they did not have the necessary funds to treat a sudden illness or injury. Paying a monthly premium allows you to have a plan if something were to happen unexpectedly. It allows you to budget for your pet’s illnesses or injuries. Let’s face it, we never know when something bad may happen. Insurance is there to help us through those situations. I laugh at the Farmer’s insurance commercials as they describe the strangest scenarios that have been covered with their insurance policies. We hear crazy stories all the time of pet’s injuries and illnesses that owners never anticipated. Pets are like family. Pet insurance helps in times of crisis to manage the medical expenses needed to bring our furry friends back home.

Premiums vary amongst company policies. Some companies charge more if a pet is not neutered or spayed. Certain breeds may have higher premiums. The age of your pet and preexisting conditions can affect premiums. If your policy includes preventive care coverage that will affect your premium. The best option is to find a couple of companies to research and then get quotes just like you would do if buying a car. Many companies have price quotes offered on their websites. They have employees willing to answer all of your questions.

Currently most pet insurance policies require the owner to pay the bill at their veterinary office and then submit the claim themselves. The insurance company will investigate the claim and then reimburse the client. A few pet insurance companies are recognizing a need to process a claim immediately to help pet owners avoid large bills at check out. As pet insurance coverage increases per capita we will see more companies offering this feature.

I have never heard a person tell me that pet insurance was a waste of money. I have heard many times, “I wish I would have had pet insurance!” The best time to get a policy is right from the start. The premiums are usually less per month. There are no preexisting conditions. Even puppies and kittens can develop life long health issues or have something traumatic happen to them at an early age. We have all been down that path where the store asked if we wanted the insurance with that appliance or electronic device. We declined. We regretted it. Think about that the next time your veterinarian asks if you have considered pet insurance.

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