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!

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