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.

Bring your CAT to the VET

August 22nd is National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day. Now you may ask yourself, “Why do we need a day set aside to take a cat to the vet?” Did you know that dogs are five times more likely to see a veterinarian than a cat? More cats are owned per household than dogs but yet the annual average expenses for dogs are $258/dog and $98/cat per year. The AVMA study indicates that more households own dogs (38%) than cats (25%). I think many homes have cats that never see veterinarians and therefore the numbers are skewed. Many homes have multiple cats but have only taken one to see their veterinarian. People seem to think an indoor cat has no reason to see a veterinarian once they have been spayed or neutered. Many cats are extremely upset when traveling and even more upset when they get to the vet office so people hate to see their cats act out. Some people are embarrassed by their cats behaviors away from their home. Many people have cats that just showed up one day and they stayed. They do not claim them as their cat even though they feed them daily. The reasons cats do not see veterinarians come with many explanations. If you are one of those people that rarely or never brings a cat to see a veterinarian then this blog is for you.

Click here to download the following graphic, Ten Travel Tips When Taking Your Cat to the Vet, or find it anytime on our website at Resources.

Cats are not small dogs. This statement has been said often when comparing diets and behaviors. Where I see this most is in how they age and the different diseases that present in cats. A young kitten or cat can have respiratory, urinary, and or skin issues commonly. Vaccinations are recommended from 6 weeks of age and up. We encourage them to be checked for external and internal parasites. Diets are important as a way of preventing some health conditions that are common in younger cats. A visit to your veterinarian can help get you off on the right tract so you can avoid some of the pitfalls of owning a young cat or kitten. The highly recommended visit of spay or neuter to prevent unwanted behaviors of marking or being vocal during the mating season should happen within the first 4-6 months of age.  Statistics show that a kitten can come into season as early as 4 months of age if around other intact cats. Waiting longer can cause unwanted behaviors and increase costs associated with the procedure. Cats age at a slower rate then a large dog. We are seeing the age of cats extended since we have multiple options for treatment for common feline diseases and health conditions associated with aging. It is not rare to have a cat live between 15-20 years now.  The message I want to express is that early intervention in these health issues is key to extending a cat’s life. Without seeing a cat at least once a year, veterinarians cannot share with clients tips on preventive measures and clinical signs to watch for. The age chart below shares a comparison of cat verses human lifespan. Where does your cat line up?

At Winterset Veterinary Center we see three times more dogs than cats. We do more preventive care on dogs than cats. We are more likely to see cats on an emergency basis than for healthy check ups. We often see a young cat for their spay or neuter and then do not see them for years. They show up with a major health crisis and we have no current medical history. All of these factors increase the risk of a less than positive outcome. It is said there are at least 90 million cats in the USA. Only half of the cats see a veterinarian on a regular basis. It is time to change that statistic. If your cat is in the Mature or greater category in age, it would be wise to have them checked by a veterinarian. Many health conditions are not visible from the outside but a physical exam can be a great place to start. Help us raise awareness of the importance of cats seeing veterinarians just like their canine companions do. Schedule an appointment for a healthy check today and start your feline friend on a journey of good care and a long and healthy life.

Every year I get asked to judge the cat show or a pet show at the county level. It is my hope that these young people will grow up appreciating their cats and knowing that their lives deserve as much veterinary care as the dogs in the world. I have spoken in classroom settings attempting to educate the younger generation about the importance of veterinary care and how much it costs to care for the “free kitten” that you brought home. These types of programs are important so this younger generation will understand the value of our furry friends and the need for proper and timely health care. Join the cause by sharing this blog. We can all help raise the standard of care for the cats of the world.

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