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.

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