All Dogs Go to Heaven

Today was the day. A day that we never want to come. A day that we dread. A day that will never be forgotten. A day when we said good bye to our Bleu.

We do not know all of his story since it began with someone else, somewhere else. In 2013 at Winterset Veterinary Center we were getting calls about these two stray dogs running across Madison County. They were killing and eating chickens outside of St. Charles. They were in a kennel but then escaped from a farm around Patterson. They are at the soccer field in Winterset. Once they got into the city limits is when we got involved. Two male intact purebred Weimaraner’s with orange hunting collars on. One appeared to be at least 1 year of age and the other less than 6 months since he did not have his adult teeth yet. We did not find any microchip or ID tags on either dog. We searched local lost dog sites and reached out to ARL to see if there had been any reports filed. Everything was a dead end. The younger one was gray, almost tan in color. The older one was Blue which is considered a diluted black.

Our family had lost our Chocolate Labrador Retriever a few months earlier. I wasn’t thinking about another dog but this blue dog with the long floppy ears won over my heart. He did not bark in the clinic. He did not jump up on me. He was house broke. He did not chew up his bedding. He was calm but could run fast when given the opportunity. He had short hair and a sweet personality. I decided to introduce him to my family and as they say… the rest is history.

Our youngest daughter JoAnn soon took on the challenge of training him and joined the 4-H dog project at the county level and took him to classes. She took him to dog classes at Dogwood Lodge and he was a quick learner. He was gentle with our cats and never knew a stranger. We were hooked. We purchased a wireless boundary fence and he quickly learned to respect the perimeters. Nothing gave him more joy than getting to go for walks and spending time with his new family. Of course from his days of hunger – he always ate his food in 15 seconds flat. Hardly a chance to taste it or chew it.

He was up for just about anything. He was in the parade for the Bridge Festival one year when Winterset Veterinary Center had a float entry. He was in a costume contest for 4-H. He did a 5K to benefit the dog park. He was good for demonstrations at obedience classes. Whenever he had to do the down stay in competitions, he would completely lay flat and almost go to sleep. Quite comical to say the least. JoAnn and Bleu were a good team. They did win trophies, but all Bleu wanted was attention from his favorite person, JoAnn.

Bleu became my walking partner each morning during the warm seasons and looked forward to this each day. When JoAnn went off to college he stayed with us and missed his snuggles with JoAnn. We traveled to Missouri to visit but each time we left to come home we had 2 broken hearts. The spring of her sophomore year she convinced us he should come and live with her. Her roommates were willing to help care for him and he would be a great “emotional support” dog for all of them. We gave in and he moved into their 4th floor apartment with no elevator. For the next 2 1/2 years he lived with JoAnn on and off. He would spend summers with us since she worked at a bible camp and could not have him with her. The reunions were always fun to experience as old friends were reunited.

Over the last 1 1/2 he started showing symptoms of loss of sensation to his limbs. Back feet first but eventually the front legs were fully involved as well. We had started chiropractic and acupuncture along with other non-traditional treatments at a clinic in Springfield and would continue when he returned home for the summer. This condition was not painful but it became increasingly difficult for him to walk and stand for any length of time. When his breathing became labored and he began coughing, I knew it was progressing to a new level. He also was uninterested in eating his food and struggled to chew his treats that he so loved. His mind was still intact but his body was shutting down. I contacted JoAnn and shared my concerns. I had hoped to keep him going until she got done with summer camp, but when these new symptoms began I knew we had to have a serious discussion. She made arrangements to come home. She spent a day with him just snuggling and being together. His reaction normally to her presence was that of complete euphoria. He didn’t know if he should jump or run or wiggle but his joy was undeniable. When she got home this time, he barely lifted his head. His body was tired and energy level low so a tail wag would have to do. These end of life decisions are the hardest decisions we make for our furry friends. We hesitate to make this decision because we selfishly want them to stay with us forever. Yet we know that is not possible with the physical issues at hand. I have always said a dog’s only fault is they don’t live long enough. We said goodbye and allowed him to leave this earth peacefully and with no more struggles.

I know someday in my heart these special furry family members will be waiting for us on the other side. With souls as pure as theirs surely “All dogs go to heaven!” 

Long ago I ran across the following reading and wanted to share it with my readers. If you have been reading my blogs…..I know you have also lost some faithful companions over the years.

Rest in peace, Bleu!

Breeding Soundness Evaluation

Cattle farmers know how important herd health is to remain profitable. All year round they pay attention to nutrition, disease and parasite control; but also to genetics and optimizing their operation to get the most pounds to market each year. One component of that in April, May, and June is a breeding soundness exam on the bull. Each bull is responsible for breeding up to 45 cows, so his performance must be good to avoid failure. Imagine a corn farmer forgetting to plant seeds in the spring- the result is no crop. The same result occurs when an infertile bull is turned out to pasture with a herd of cows.

A breeding soundness evaluation is performed in spring on each bull in the herd. Age, weight, conformation and leg/feet status is a start. Old or fat bulls run the risk of having weak suspensory ligaments in their heels, preventing them from mounting. Toes can overgrow or crack, causing pain to walk or mount. Arthritis is a career ending problem. Testicle size and firmness tell us if the “factory” is working to make sperm. Clipping long hair from the prepuce so cockleburs cannot build up is necessary. Palpating the internal organs will detect swellings from tumors or infection. Then comes semen collecting—either done manually by an experienced veterinarian-(preferred)- or with an electro-ejaculator, which stimulates the bull to extend his penis and give a semen sample in a cup. 

This sample is looked at closely under a microscope, first under low power to look for swarming or ocean waves—a very good sign.  High power is used to evaluate live/dead percentage and morphology, as well as concentration and motility.

Sperm can have many types of defects on head or tail (see picture), and does affect success of swimming and penetrating an egg. All defective sperm are not viable, and are counted. A 300 point score is derived after evaluating all areas of the physical appearance and sample—with a final rating of potential breeder pass/fail status. This certificate can be transferred from buyer to seller when necessary—a warranty of sorts.

Breeding soundness exams are performed also on swine, sheep, goats, and many other species to determine fertility of the sire.

During breeding season, problems can arise. The bull can be hurt from mounting or by a jealous cow in the herd. This can be temporary—2 to 3 week rest, or a career ender if the os penis is broken. Trichmoniasis is one transmittable disease from a positive cow to a bull, who then becomes a carrier to all other cows that he mates with. It causes infection, abortion, and delayed pregnancies, and is a reportable and quarantinable disease in Iowa. It is prudent to buy a virgin or negative bull to add to a clean herd. Positive animals in that herd must not be sold as breeding stock—only to terminal markets. Iowa places it as a high priority disease to eradicate.

In this area, bulls are commonly turned out with cows in May/June to deliver calves in March after a 9 month gestation.

Genetics have improved vastly over the decades with AI techniques, and high indexing or high EPD bulls are highly sought after and can be valued into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Producers have a lot of management decisions to juggle to maintain a healthy happy and profitable herd.

What is a Comp or a Profile?

These terms can be confusing so hoping to change that for my readers. These terms will be used in human medicine as well.  Both comp and profile are shorter versions of comprehensive metabolic panels that offer an inside look at your body’s chemical balance and metabolism. The values are screening numbers and can be compared from year to year to monitor disease processes. These tests are extremely important prior to elective procedures to assess anesthetic risk. Profiles are used prior to starting long term medications and at times of illness. There are different comp panels that include various lab tests. Our standard panel has 14 different markers and we can add 3 additional tests if warranted. I want to list each of these and give a description of how they are used so you can learn what these mean if your furry friend ever needs a comp or profile.

TPTotal Proteinsum of all proteins in the blood – main two types are albumin and globulins
ALBalbuminmost common protein and keeps fluids from leaking out of the blood and can carry other substances throughout the body
GLOBglobulinthese proteins are formed by the immune system and liver
GLOB + ALB = TPtherefore we can do A/G ratios that can give insight to other health concerns
ALPAlkaline Phosphatasefound in bone and liver so if elevated this is not a diagnosis — other tests will need to be performed — medications can elevate this enzyme also
ALTAlanine Transaminaseenzyme exclusively in the liver cells — when elevated we know we need to focus on the liver.
TBilTotal Bilirubinmeasure of bilibruin in your blood — animals can have yellow coloring of skin, and the whites of the eyes — urine will look dark like coffee grounds — jaundice if elevated and above normal — concern for liver if changes are noted
AMYAmylasethis enzyme is made in the pancreas – with disease or injury to pancreas we see increases of this enzyme in the blood
BUNBlood Urea Nitrogena measurement of urea in your blood — important information about kidney function — if low can be indicative of lack of protein in your diet or liver concerns
CREcreatininehigh levels correlate with lack of normal kidney function — kidney’s filter CRE from your blood and excretes in urine — if kidneys are not working CRE will increase in blood
GLUGlucoseextremely high levels can indicate diabetes — can be mildly elevated if an animal is stressed — low levels can lead to comas and disorientation — in puppies and kittens if their glucose is low — people often assume they are dead because they are unresponsive
Cacalciumdiet can impact calcium levels — high levels can also be driven by cancer and kidney disease — low calcium levels can be seen with low albumin levels caused by nutrition — liver or kidney disease, infections, or other long term illnesses
Phosphosphoruslow levels are often caused by malnutrition over long periods of time — this may be the diet or the lack of sufficient food intake — elevated levels can appear with kidney disease in cats and dogs — the kidneys regulate the phosphorus levels
Na+sodiumelectrolytes such as Na+ are necessary for heart and brain function, fluid balance, to deliver oxygen — it regulates blood pressure, blood volume, and transmission of nerve impulses — changes in Na+ also impact Cl- (chloride levels) another electrolyte
K+potassiumK+ is an electrolyte that is needed to control brain and heart activity along with nerve impulses — it is present in the cells and blood of a pet’s body — low K+ levels are often seen in advanced kidney disease — high K+ levels are seen in cases of urinary tract rupture, adrenal gland disorder, heart arrythmias, trauma, and many other conditions

Add on tests we can consider if needed are as follows:

Cholcholesterolthere are breeds of dogs that may have a genetic disposition to high cholesterol levels (schnauzers, Shetland sheepdog, collies) — high chol could indicate diabetes cushings, or low thyroid levels — low levels can indicate loss through the digestive tract with intestinal diseases or cancer
T-4thyroidelevated levels in pets often indicates cancer of the thyroid gland — it is most common in older cats and rare in dogs — low thyroid levels are rare in cats and more common in dogs — dogs treated for low thyroid conditions usually owners see an increase in their energy level, improved skin and hair, and weight loss
SDMAsymmetric dimethylargininethis test detects kidney disease at an early stage then the creatine level can

These tests can be run daily. Results are available the same day. This allows us to start therapy and treatment as quickly as possible. If you ever have concerns about your pet, please do not hesitate to contact us. The sooner a diagnosis is made the better the outcome for our pets.

What’s a CBC?

Many times our patients are needing us to check blood work. The CBC is an important diagnostic test used to evaluate the blood more closely. I wanted to talk this month about a machine that allows us to run CBC laboratory tests right in the clinic and what those values mean. This photo shows the machine we use to run a Complete Blood Count (CBC). This is a standard test used prior to surgical procedures, during wellness checks, and when we have concerns for illness. The machine takes a sample of blood and sorts out the cells into three different components. We have the White Blood Cell (WBC) count, the Red Blood Cell (RBC), and the Platelet (PLT) Count. All three share different information about components of the blood. 

WBC are made up of 5 different cellular structures. Each of these cell types when counted by this machine make up the WBC. The neutrophils (51-72%) usually are the largest percentage of WBC cells, followed by the lymphocytes (8-35%), monocytes (1-9%), eosinophils 0-9%), and basophils (0-2%). When these numbers are elevated it will raise the WBC count. We then look for the cell causing the elevation. If the neutrophils are up we know that there is an active infection present somewhere in the body. If the eosinophils are elevated we look for evidence of inflammation caused by allergies or parasites. Sometimes these levels can be lower than normal and we would look for viral infections or concerns with the bone marrow itself.  Lymphocytes help develop antibodies to protect against future attacks by the same organism.

RBC are made up of different components that all help our body carry oxygen throughout the body. High RBC counts can most commonly indicate dehydration. Anemia is when our RBC is low. We can have low counts related to blood loss from active bleeding, destruction of red blood cells from diseases, bone marrow or other diseases that prevent production of red blood cells.  Hemoglobin (HGB) binds and releases the oxygen to carry it to all our cells. The HGB will be directly affected by the red blood cell count at times of dehydration or anemia.  Hematocrit (HCT) and Pack Cell Volume (PCV) mean the same thing. This is the percentage of red blood cells circulating in the blood. If we spin the blood the red blood cells will settle to the bottom and the serum will be the liquid at the top. This percentage can give us information to help figure out what disease process may be causing an increase or a decrease in the RBC.  MCV, MCH, and MCHC are also values used within the RBC. They each play a part in the diagnosis of anemia or iron levels within the body.

Platelets (PLT) are responsible for helping to clot our blood. When we get a cut or a scratch the platelets become sticky and gather in large numbers to seal the leak in our blood vessel. This is extremely important to know prior to a surgical procedure. If a pet has low platelets that could affect the amount of bleeding at the time of surgery. 

There are conditions that have an effect on each of these values and even some that can cause  changes in all three. We take into consideration this CBC each and every time we do surgeries or are faced with health concerns of our patients. We ask if you are wanting to do a pre- surgical blood screen prior to anesthesia procedures or if your pet has presented with an illness that needs laboratory work to help diagnose what is ailing them. We also require doing this test annually if your pet is on long term medications. The CBC is one of those tests that we run right in our lab and can have results quickly. 

Next time you bring your pet into the clinic you will know why the CBC is an important piece of information that can help us get your furry friends back home quickly and safely. Happy Spring and hope the April showers are bringing in your May flowers!

Kid Care

After a 5 month gestation, moms may give birth to one, two (most common) or three kids (very rarely 4). Large babies, many babies and the ensuing long labor can take a toll on mom (the doe). Sometimes she may be too weak to stand and will need post-partum help recovering — a whole other article. Does may select only one newborn and kick away others — you must be very vigilant that mom licks dry each baby and stands still to let them nurse. If she ostracizes one or more babies for very long, it is really tough to get her to accept them. You either have to foster them onto another doe that is more accepting, or raise a bottle baby. This may be the most critical decision you face in the first 48 hours of life.

After that, common husbandry — warmth, dry bedding, no drafts, no predators, etc. are key for does and babies to be comfortable and thrive.

In the first three days any diarrhea can be fatal if prolonged or untreated. Clostridium and E.coli are bad news day one to three. Coccidia from muddy udders can cause bloody diarrhea as early as day 5 to 7. Talk to a veterinarian or bring a stool sample in to get an accurate diagnosis to treat diarrhea before giving shots, pills or liquid meds.

Respiratory problems also surface early in life. Kids can suffer from aspiration pneumonia during the birth process if placental fluids get into their lungs. Cold or damp weather hampers healthy lungs also. Quick treatment with antibiotics is necessary if you notice snotty noses, coughs, or any labored breathing or lethargy.

budding horn before procedure – red arrow points to it

Once they pass the one week milestone — they usually are on their way to a healthy and happy life. The next issue is disbudding. A wide varying number of opinions exist, and all want to be right. In my experience, I would rather disbud a one or two week old kid when it is very easy and quick healing — than fix a wreck later on. Animals will use horns for defense AND offense: that will never change. We try to domesticate them, but their instinct and equipment still take over. To successfully disbud a 1 to 3 week old kid, I use a hot cautery iron placed over the horn bud for 8 to 10 seconds to cauterize the cornual artery and nerve. The horn then has no nerve or blood supply to grow — and is gone. Pain medication post op is provided. Tetanus antitoxin is a must due to the sensitivity of goats to Clostridium tetani. Disbudding will save many animals from getting caught in fences and strangulating, and many fences will not have to be cut and patched up. Also you are safe to walk into a pen without getting butted or gored by juvenile or adult goats.

Nutrition: moms’ milk is by far the best choice for 2 to 3 months. Second choice is another goat’s milk. Third is a quality GOAT milk replacer that has at least 4.5% fat. Whole milk from cows from the grocery store has reduced fat (down to 2%) and provides only half the fat needed.

Next goat starter pellets with vitamins and free choice GOAT mineral works well at weaning. Most kids will be grazing next to mom before weaning and ready to eat grass at three weeks old. Grass in Iowa has all the needed mineral for goats to survive and thrive.

Watch for anemia — worms are a huge problem in goat herds. The FORMANCHA test determines anemia by degree of color in membranes of the lower eyelid. Soon you can be an expert in finding an anemic animal — before they become weak, lethargic, and anorexic. All dewormers will work — rotating between the benzamidazoles, ivermectins, and moxidectins will eliminate resistance problems. Injectable or oral is a personal choice. It is recommended to have stool samples analyzed for # and type of parasite in a herd. It often amazes me how many parasites can live inside an animal without any outward evidence. Some herds are dewormed monthly, some 3 to 4 times a year, and some do not need any — no one rule fits every farm.

Exercise: Goats are nimble climbers by ancestry — and love as many climbing challenges in a pen as your imagination can build. Asphalt shingles on steep surfaces provide grip and keep hooves wore down. Without wear, goat hooves should be trimmed every three months to prevent curling over and possibly trapping wetness in the sole. Hoof rot can be a big problem in herds without proper hoof care.

Health care: Castration is recommended as soon as a week of age if a kid is healthy and nursing well. Knife castration is very quick and easy, or bands placed above both testicles with a tetanus antitoxin is effective also. Vaccination to prevent overeating (Clostridium C and D) and tetanus is recommended at 3 weeks of age with deworming if necessary. A booster 2 to 4 weeks pater ensure solid protection.

Goats thrive everywhere in Iowa. They are hardy and thrifty and provide a profitable business, as well as a lot of crazy entertainment for the owners. Good luck and have fun!

2022 February is Dental Health Month

Dentistry equipment is another item we use in the practice routinely. This has been an important tool as most pets have some amount of dental disease by the age of 3. It has been said that without brushing your pet’s teeth at least 4 times a week they will develop issues with tarter and gum disease. If you begin brushing your pet’s teeth at an early age most of them enjoy the flavored toothpaste and attention. I encourage people to start with their puppies and kittens before the age of 4 months therefore they see it as a part of the daily routine and not something to fear.

Interesting enough when I graduated in 1988 from the College of Veterinary Medicine we had very little time spent on dental hygiene. There was an awareness that teeth would need to be pulled or jaws repaired related to trauma or age. We knew that teeth can get bad in a short period of time but the idea of doing regular dental care was less common. Amazing changes have taken place since then.

Veterinary Dentistry has become an area of specialization. Besides doing scaling/polishing/extractions, we now have dogs with braces, root canals, crowns, orthodontic care, etc. These advancements are important to be aware of since years ago, the only option was extraction. Now a tooth can be saved which prevents further decay to the rest of the teeth surrounding the bad tooth. Often when the 4th premolar tooth is removed the pets will no longer chew on that side so tarter build up occurs faster.

It is important to FLIP THE LIP of your dog or cat. Look at the surface of the teeth and determine if dental care is needed. Be certain to look at the front of the mouth but also the larger premolars and molars towards the back. Pets have a salivary gland above those upper teeth and that contributes to the accumulation of tarter. Foul breath can also be an indication of need for dental preventative care. If the odor is not consistent it may be something else that is causing the bad breath. Many pet owners want to believe that bad teeth are the cause of their pet not wanting to eat. Research shows that rarely is dental disease the cause of pets not eating. We see some horrible mouths and those dogs and cats are still eating. 

Dental Machine

Our pets need to be under anesthesia to have their teeth professionally cleaned. An assessment is done of the teeth to determine viablilty of the teeth. Large chunks of tarter are removed with hand tools prior to extractions. This gives visualization of the tooth surface to see if there is any damage to the tooth. The mobile dental machine has dental burrs to help with extractions of multiple root teeth. The 4th premolars have 3 roots and when fractured those roots remain solid so it is necessary to extract the tooth in multiple pieces.  Another area where these burrs are important is when the canine tooth is damaged it aids in extractions as well. The root of the canine teeth are as long as what you visibly see of that exposed tooth.

The ultrasonic scaler is used to remove additional plaque on the surface of the teeth and is followed with polishing the teeth. We have flavored polish that freshens the breath temporarily but if good home care is not continued in a short period of time there will be accumulation of plaque once again.  Many older dogs and cats do not chew their food anymore which contributes to the poor dental health. There are dental chews and other products that can assist in dental health, but only brushing offers the best long term benefits.       

If no home care is done we expect to see dogs annually for dental preventative care. Once a dog starts having accumulation of plaque with further buildup if hardens and mineralizes to form tarter. As tarter builds up if pushes against the gum surface and gingivitis can develop over time. We also see gum recession and exposure of the root of the tooth all of which damage the tooth and lead to extraction. Pay attention to your pet’s teeth. Abscessed teeth are common in both cats and dogs and occur with advanced dental disease. Avoid these problems by having routine dental care done for your pets. Keep their mouth healthy with routine brushing, dental care, and use of foods that prevent tarter and plaque build up.  Doing these things will extend the health of your pet’s teeth. If interested in having your pet’s teeth cleaned we schedule those appointments M-F. The pets come in by 8:30 am and are usually ready to go home anytime after 4:00 pm. They do not need to spend a night with us to have the teeth professionally cleaned. Go ahead and flip your pets lip and see if you need to schedule an appointment with us.

ISO Scanners???

With the start of a new year, we begin a new theme for blogs. Looking back over the past years it does become a little more challenging to discover new things to discuss. Decided to talk about the different tools that can be used to assist us with our daily tasks as veterinarians. 

The first tool that we use quite frequently is an ISO microchip scanner. When microchips were introduced, each company had a chip and a scanner. That was clumsy because scanners would only read their companies chips or certain frequencies. Therefore, a chip may have been missed by a shelter or veterinary office unless they had multiple scanners. The International Standards Organization (ISO) approved and recommended a global standard for microchips. At that time, it was also decided that chips should have 15 numbers and no letters. They would be called universal chips and would be accepted worldwide. All chips would also be read with a forward and backward universal scanner. The ISO frequency is 134.2kHz. There are 125kHz and 128 kHz chips still implanted in dogs. They are not acceptable to travel worldwide but most universal scanners will detect the chip number if the pet is scanned properly. Earlier chips had a tendency to migrate once implanted. The new universal chips will not migrate. If scanning a pet be certain to scan over the entire body just in case they were chipped with an earlier version of microchips.

At this time no company has microchips that have GPS trackers on them. There are collars that come with tracking devices but as for a microchip that is implanted and trackable, that technology is not available. The size of the GPS tracker and its need to be charged does not allow for this to be implanted under the skin of an animal. The following link is one source that is available if you are interested in tracking your dog’s movements. There are usually costs associated with the tracking so be aware of that as you are considering this type of technology. 

https://tractive.com/en/pd/gps-tracker-dog

We can place microchips under the skin above the shoulder blades on any animal during a routine exam. The microchips we provide are from Home Again. Once the chip has been placed, we register the chip with Home Again to safeguard that information is available should the pet ever get lost. It is important that owners update this information should addresses or phone numbers change. We have had situations where a lost pet is brought to Winterset Veterinary Center and we find a microchip number but it is registered to a person in California. We know that animal did not walk from California to Iowa. Updating this information is as important as notifying the Post Office of an address change. In a few situations a pet has 2 microchips. Please register both chips. When a pet is scanned the first number it picks up is the one searched. No one suspects a second chip being present. Therefore you must register both numbers. This can happen from a pet being lost and a chip migrates so it is missed and when adopted out a new chip is placed. I also had a puppy that had 2 chips – both placed from the breeder. Apparently one puppy got two chips and another did not have one. It can happen so just make certain to register both chips if you find out your pet has more than one chip.

Many people fear that the microchip carries important information that could affect ones privacy. This is not true. The only information gathered from the chip reader is the 15 digit number and recently I was able to get the pets body temperature from the chip. That beats a rectal or ear thermometer any day! All personal information is kept confidential by the company that registered your pet’s microchip.

For under $50 a microchip can be placed and registered to safeguard your pet gets home should they ever decide to wander off. We have had dogs all sizes, ages, shapes, and colors, come to us as lost pets. The reunion happens quickly if a chip is discovered.  Without a chip, the distance a dog can travel in a short period of time makes that reunion much less likely. Statistics have shown that 15% of dog and cat owners will lose their pets. Dogs have a recovery rate of 93% but cats are only at 75%. Dogs seem to wander away more than once. Cats not wearing ID collars because they are considered “only indoors” is a big concern. In one study 41% of the owners who were searching for their lost cat reported the cat was indoor only.  Cats wearing a collar with an ID tag is a great method to improve reunion of cats with their owners. All pets should be microchipped as a way to improve a lost pet being reunited with their family.

Any microchip can be registered with the Home Again’s registry if you wish. You can register with multiple registry’s. American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has a microchip lookup online site where you may search microchip numbers of found pets. If you have found a pet you are able to enter the chip number and it will give you a phone number to the proper site so a pet may get home safely. Again your personal information is protected and that of your pet. It is designed to reunite pets with their families as quickly as possible.

All pets should be microchipped if you want to assure they find their way home to you. One is never assured that even an indoor only cat or a tiny dog would not wander off someday. I once had a person ask my why their 8 year old neutered male boxer ran away. He had never done something like that in the past. This owner was worried but also confused about why? I had no answer for him and as you might guess there was no collar or chip with identification on it.

Place a microchip in your pet. Get ID on the collar of your pet. Start kittens with collars at a young age so you can have ID on them as well. Last week I saw a client that had her phone number embroidered on her cats’ break away collars. She is not leaving it to chance. She wants to make certain her cats get back home if they were ever to get lost.

If you have more questions about microchips feel free to contact me at Winterset Veterinary Center during regular business hours or the article below has some additional information about frequently asked questions.

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/microchips-reunite-pets-families/microchipping-faq

Please do not let your pet go out unprotected. Their ability to get home depends on you. A microchip is a pet insurance that is priceless were you ever faced with a lost pet.

Months of Animal Blogs in 2021

We began the year with Alpaca/llama’s followed by mini horses, rabbits, cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, and chickens. I was wondering what I should do to round out the year. I decided that even though I do not do a lot of exotics, zoo, or marine species, this would be a good topic for the final month of 2021.

As veterinarians there is no species that we do not see. We may have preferences for certain species but after receiving your DVM degree and passing your state boards you can treat any and all mammals, birds, reptiles of land, water, and air. This carries with it a great responsibility to explore the variations between these species.

At Winterset Veterinary Center we do see a few exotic species for simple procedures on occasion. It may be a bird for wing or nail trims or a pocket pet for eye issues or a reptile for skin lesions We have had skunks, raccoon, possums, and wild birds brought in for certain procedures. An occasional snake or iguana has entered the practice for one reason or another. I will admit that I am more of a fur and feather veterinarian, but Dr. Jim has always been willing to see “All Creatures Great and Small”.

When these unusual creatures come in often their needs come down to basic husbandry issues. Cleanliness of their cages, temperatures that need to be consistent, water sources that are necessary for healthy skin, diets that are complete with the nutrients needed to remain healthy so they live a long life. Sometimes we have to offer the facts that lead to a difficult decision since some have a short lifespan to begin with. Sometimes we will refer if additional diagnostics are needed. The area of exotics has expanded in the last decade and more people are seeking out treatment for their special friends.

I know that my daughter would enjoy snuggling with a snake as much as a puppy. She said the way they will wrap themselves up around her and give the big hugs has always been a physical high for her.  She is the  one furthest to the right in this photo. A friend owns these and she has enjoyed their unique personalities.

I have watched exotic veterinarians on television handle the different species that enter their doors and have learned interesting facts. Since my practice days have mostly been in more rural areas we see less exotics. The neat thing is that regardless of what someone classifies as a pet we are given the opportunity to help them stay healthy and live longer lives. These pets mean as much to their owner as a puppy or kitten does to theirs. We must do everything possible to protect that client- patient- veterinarian relationship. As the song goes…

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

ALL THINGS WISE AND WONDERFUL

THE LORD GOD MADE THEM ALL!

As we say goodbye to 2021, Dr. Jim, our staff, and myself would like to thank you for entrusting us with your pets and livestock. We continue to strive to meet your expectations and retain your loyalty and trust. Winterset Veterinary Center cannot exist without our clients and their critters. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2022!

CHICKENS… Pet or Livestock? Hobby or Business?

I would like to thank Ashley Kinney for November’s blog on CHICKENS… Pet or livestock? Hobby or Business? Ashley is currently a Senior at Winterset High School and is working at Winterset Veterinary Center after school and weekends. She has been showing chickens at the county and state fair for a number of years. We are so grateful for her contribution to our veterinary office and her willingness to write this blog and share her photos.

~ Thanks, Dr. Lonna

Photo by Teddi Yaeger

There are many different uses for chickens, one of the most popular usages being meat. Chickens grown for meat are known as broilers. The Cornish Cross is the most commercial of the broiler breeds. This breed is wide-set and built to grow fast. Cornish are ready to be harvested between 8-10 weeks of age and produce large amounts of meat. These birds are likely to have health issues due to their rapid growth, therefore it is not recommended to keep them past their harvesting age. Raising these birds in a pasture-like setting can help improve their overall health. Other broiler breeds include the Bresse, Barnyard crosses & other heritage breeds. These birds have fewer issues compared to the Cornish but take longer to grow and produce less meat. 

A Crossbred Rooster

Egg production is also a very popular use for chickens. White Leghorns are by far the best layers. They have thin bodies to make them food efficient and a distinct flopped-over crest. Leghorns are the ones that lay those large white eggs you can buy in the supermarket. Road Island Reds and Sex Links are also good layers and are desired in backyard flocks. Chickens can lay many different colors of eggs. The color of the egg a chicken lays can be told by their earlobe color. White earlobes indicate white eggs, red earlobes brown eggs, and blue earlobes blue eggs. There are some exceptions to this rule like the Silkie who has blue earlobes but lays cream-colored eggs. Laying hens do not need a rooster to lay an egg, but a rooster is required to produce fertilized eggs. 

A White Leghorn Hen

Dual purpose breeds are popular in homestead flocks. These chickens are bred to be utilized for both meat and eggs. Some of the most notable dual purpose breeds would be the Australorp, Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks. 

Hobby poultry have become increasingly popular in recent years. Hobby chickens are some of the wackiest of the chicken breeds. They can have interesting colors and patterns. Some have feathers growing out of their waddles (muffs), heads (topknots), and feet. Others have feathers that look like rabbit fur (silkies), feathers that curl up towards their heads (frizzles), and even a combination of both these features (sizzles). 

A Black Bearded Silkie Bantam Hen

Hobby chickens have a wide variety of combs. Some of their combs look like popcorn, pebbles, spike balls, or even a king’s crown. Sultans are a breed of chicken with the most of these characteristics. They are a small white bird with a “V” shaped comb, top knot, vulture hocks (feathers that extend down from the thigh), feathered feet, and an extra toe. Phoenix chickens are another impressive breed. They come in vivid colors and have tail feathers that never stop growing. 

This Black Sumatra Rooster has a tail similar to a Phoenix, however his will stop growing.

The largest of the chicken breeds include the Cochin, Brahma, and Jersey Giant. The smallest of the chicken breeds are known as Bantams.  They’re essentially the toy dogs of the chicken world who only grow to be half or less the size of a normal chicken. The smallest of the bantams include Serama Bantams, Sebright Bantams, and Game Bantams. 

A Dark Brahma Hen perched in a flower tree
(Photo by Carissa Gerwig)
A Golden Laced Sebright Bantam Rooster showing off to the ladies

Proper housing is a necessity when raising chickens. Chicken houses and runs need to be predator-proof which means unable to be dug into, squeezed into, climbed into, or easily broken into. It should also protect from weather such as snow, rain, and strong wind. The coop should be cleaned out regularly. Lastly, housing should have adequate space per bird (2 feet minimum inside the coop) and enough perch space for all the birds to perch comfortably. Chickens should be given more space if they don’t have access to free-range or a large run. When chickens are too crowded it can lead to cannibalism and health issues.

The flock is all perched up and ready to go to bed.

What a chicken eats depends on what it is used for. Broiler chickens are fed a high protein diet to help them grow fast. While laying hens need extra calcium to help them produce eggs. Laying feed and meat bird feed can be found in most farm stores. Chickens also need grit, especially if they don’t free range. Grit is a rough ground substance that helps aid in digestion and keeps a chicken’s crop healthy. With proper housing and nutrition, your chickens can live their lives happily. 

Some hens enjoy a watermelon slice as a snack on a hot summer day.
(Photo by Carissa Gerwig)

When it comes to showing chickens the Standard of Perfection is your best friend. The Standard of Perfection is a book containing all the recognized chicken breeds in the American Poultry Association and American Bantam Association. The book outlines nearly everything about the breed from the number of points on the crest to what angle the tail should be held. At some shows, the birds are brought up to a table and examined there. Other times, the birds are kept in their cage and the judge comes to them. At the show, chickens are divided into classes. In the large fowl category, chickens are divided up based on where they originated. While in the bantam category, they are divided up based on crest type. In each class, a reserve champion and grand champion are picked. Then all the reserve champions and grand champions are pooled together and the grand champion overall is picked. Judges judge based on the book, but personal preference can also play a role in their judging. To do well in a chicken show, your bird should follow the standard of perfection and be in good condition, meaning healthy and no feather damage. Taking good care of your chickens and knowing the Standard of Perfection is the key to success when showing poultry.

A Grey Japanese Bantam Hen poses with her Grand Champion Bantam and Overall Grand Champion trophies.

Further Information:

This website is loaded with information and allows you to read, talk, and ask questions about chickens from experienced poultry owners: 
https://www.backyardchickens.com/

This website contains information regarding show poultry: 
https://www.poultryshowcentral.com/

Baa Baa Black Sheep

I would like to thank Randall Parkin for being our guest blogger this month. The Parkin’s have been clients of Winterset Veterinary Center for a number of years and she graciously consented to helping me with our sheep blog. I hope you enjoy her pictures and words as much as I did. I have really learned a lot from the guest bloggers I had this year.

~ Dr. Lonna Nielsen

In 2003 we bought a farmstead complete with house, pastures, and a barn on 10 acres in Madison County. For the next Mother’s Day, my husband gave me a gift certificate for 2 sheep and a llama. At the Iowa State Fair that year, I met a Lincoln Longwool breeder, and was hooked. In September, we drove to their farm, and I picked out a Natural Lincoln (white) ewe and a Colored Lincoln (black/grey) ewe. On the way out of the sheep shed, another ewe put her front feet on a fence rail and demanded I pet her. She was a Corriedale, and I HAD to have her. Corriedales, like Lincolns, are generally friendly. I had found three sheep and no llama.

The llama was supposed to provide protection for the sheep, but we acquired three miniature horses instead, who performed well and were much more fun.

Most sheep producers in Iowa raise sheep for meat, or sheep to sell to 4-H and FFA youth for livestock projects. As a long-time knitter and very beginning spinner, I wanted the sheep for their wool. Most producers don’t want to deal with the wool, which only brings pennies per pound.

In contrast, my little spinning flock grew wool that when processed into yarn or sold as doll hair sold for $40 per pound. Even raw fleeces could bring $5-7 per pound. One of the main differences was that I kept the wool cleaner while the sheep grew it, kept it organized when it was shorn and removed the icky parts before the fleeces were packed in bags.

Fleece

Lincoln sheep originated in Lincolnshire, England. I first chose Lincoln Longwool sheep because they were a people-oriented breed, and looked really cool. With wool that grows about an inch a month, I sheared them twice a year, in contrast to most breeds who are shorn once a year. Lincoln wool is lustrous and grows in curls – I found a market for the white wool in artists who make those fabulous Santa Claus figures with long white hair and beards. I washed that wool by hand and sold it to a doll hair wholesaler.

Lincoln Wool

I named my first Lincolns Victoria (the white one) and Jasmine (the colored one).

Corriedale sheep are a Merino/Lincoln cross that originated in New Zealand and Australia. (Merino, or Spanish Merino, are believed to have originated in Spain, and produce a very fine wool.) My Corriedale ewe quickly became my favorite, and I named her Corinna. Corriedale wool became a favorite for spinning, and produced yarn that was comfortable even against bare skin. Corinna and I would sometimes just hang out watching the other sheep. I would sit on the barn threshold, and she would stand beside me and lean into me.

Corinna

We ended up breeding our ewes by taking them to the farm where we got them, then the next year purchased a Lincoln ram from them. I named him Duke – since our address was Earlham, he was thus the “Duke of Earlham”.

Our first crops of lambs were born in January and February, which is common in Iowa sheep operations. Lambs sold for 4-H or FFA projects need to be of a certain size early in the project year. Winter is a miserable time of year to be traipsing up to the barn to monitor lambing, so I finally started breeding my ewes in November so they would lamb in a much more pleasant April!

Because our ram was a Lincoln, some of our lambs were Lincoln/Corriedale crossbreds, and they also produced really nice wool. It had some of the luster of Lincoln, and some of the characteristics of Corriedale wool – a finer wool, and the desirable crimp.

I started to spin on a wheel after I got the sheep, and though my wool crop got pretty out of hand after my flock became larger, I did have a great time making yarn to sell.

I was much more a dabbler in the business, though I know several women in Iowa who have made it a profitable endeavor. It didn’t take long to decide to send my wool to be processed into a form that was ready to spin, but I washed and carded my first few fleeces by hand. Victoria’s first fleece became a wonderful knitted afghan that I swear is like wearing a heating pad.

Eventually, I purchased a few Jacob sheep, and then some Babydoll Southdown. Jacob are an ancient breed with four horns and multicolored fleeces. Babydolls are a small version of the Southdown sheep, which originated in England.

There’s a fabulous web site that covers the topic of sheep beautifully: www.sheep101.info. According to information on that site, I learned there are over 1,000 breeds of sheep worldwide, and over 60 breeds here in the US.

We now live in Winterset, and our sheep days are in the past, but we are glad we got to experience raising sheep. My mom raised sheep when I was growing up, and I have always loved them, especially lambs. Having my own flock was a way to connect to my childhood.

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