March is Pet Poison Awareness Month

Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month during March is fast approaching. It is always a good time to refresh our minds about common items that are a huge danger to pets.

My goal this month is to encourage pet owners to pet proof their homes when it comes to some of these common products. The number of calls we get around holidays about pets eating chocolate is just one indication of how awareness is important at all times.

We also see a rash of calls each fall about accidental rat poison exposure. As warm weather returns the calls can switch to outdoor exposures of new plants and shrubs that are available for chewing on.   Every season or holiday has risks lurking for our pets. Stay aware and alert to what is in and around your home.

Foods that we eat can be a problem for our pets. Chocolate is one that most people are aware of its toxicity to pets. Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate, but depending on the size of the pet and what volume they consume, symptoms can range from vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and even death. What people are not as familiar with is raisins, grapes, and currants causing irreversible kidney damage to our pets when ingesting even a small amount. Onions whether cooked or raw can cause anemia and only transfusions can save pets once this process of destruction begins. Raw bread dough can cause distention of the stomach and ethanol intoxication develops as the yeast ferments. Macadamia nuts can cause clinical symptoms of vomiting, weakness, depression, but has not shown to be fatal.

Avocado fruit, leaves, stems, and seeds have all been shown to be toxic to multiple animals but less so for dogs and cats. There are a number of people who have hobby farms and may not be aware of its effect on the heart muscle or its ability to cause severe mastitis in lactating animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, rabbits, horses, pigs, etc. The following article has more information on risks to animals.

Avocado – Toxicology – Veterinary Manual

Edibles and/or Medibles are cannabis infused, food products. Homemade or commercially prepared marijuana infused foods and drinks have increased the number of accidental pet poisoning by greater than 330% in the last few years. The following article is a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about this new risk to our family pets. If your pet has been exposed to THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) please contact your local veterinarian and tell them exactly what they ate and how much. The package from the product would be of great help if it is still available.

Pets and Pot: Poisoning Cases at an All Time “High” | Pet Poison …

Mouse and rat poisons are high on the list of items toxic to both dogs and cats that many people are very familiar with. In the last few years a new rat poison called Bromethalin has been replacing the previous poison called Brodifacoum. Bromethalin causes severe brain edema and affects the pets nervous system. It does not have an antidote like we have with Brodifacoum offering the Vitamin K to stop bleeding disorders. There are multiple products that contain these different poisons so make certain you know what you are purchasing and keep them away from pets. Including the dead mouse or rat to avoid any secondary poisoning situations.

Indoor and/or outdoor plants are often a cause for concern for our pets. With Easter approaching it is important to keep all Lilies away from our pets. This link will take you to a sight to explore whether you have any plants that could be harmful to your pets. Be aware of any flowers delivered to your home since they are a source of curiosity for your pets, especially cats.   Outdoor landscape plants such as the Yew plant, which is cardiotoxic to all animals, are important to consider as well. Unexpected death is often the first symptom seen when animals are exposed to Yew.

Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets – Pet Poison Helpline

Xylitol is toxic to your dog and this is one that is becoming more of a concern since we have a large number of products that contain it.   Everyone knows chocolate is toxic but the risk with xylitol is even greater since the volume needed to cause death is much less. The article below describes in more detail the dangers with xylitol. It has a great photo showing the amount of chocolate verses the amount of gum it would take to kill a dog.   Cats have not shown to be as sensitive to xylitol but I would still suggest avoiding consumption.

Xylitol: The “sugar-free” sweetener your dog NEEDS you to know about

Human medications are a huge concern for pets as well. The list is endless on how these medications can affect our pets. So often the accidental poisoning occurs when a dose is dropped or a bottle is not returned to a safe location. Please put all medications and daily pill dispensers in tightly secured locations where pets cannot chew or play with the containers. A purse or bag are not considered secure.   If exposure has occurred please have the name and strength of the drug and an idea of how many may have been consumed and how long ago. This information can be helpful in determining the treatment and potential side effects.

As springtime draws near we will once again need to protect our pets from fleas and ticks as we start enjoying the outdoors again. Flea and tick products can be a source of toxicity to our pets. This usually occurs because the wrong product was used on their pet. Most dog products are toxic to cats. Do not attempt to treat your small dog with just a drop of the large dogs’ flea and tick product. Avoid your pets ability to lick the area where the product was applied and from licking one another. You can remove most topical flea and tick products using Dawn dishwashing detergent. Then it is important to have your pet seen by your veterinarian if they display signs of vomiting, depression, tremors, seizures, etc.

Pets are family and one needs to consider the importance of being aware at all times of what hazards are present in and around your home or that of family and friends. Pets should always be seen as toddlers when considering how to pet proof every location. If you ever find yourself wondering whether something is poisonous or not, or what symptoms to look for, the following link to the Pet Poison Helpline is a great source of information. If you need more advice they do work directly with you and your veterinarian for a fee.   I hope spring comes early and we are able to have a warm and safe March, free from accidental poisonings.

Pet Poison Helpline | Animal Poison Control Center


Is it That Time?

scan-752Growing up on a farm gave me insight to the circle of life at an early age. I saw crops planted and harvested each year to feed the hogs that were raised to supply food for the world and our immediate family. I was introduced to baby pigs as I helped my father give iron shots to prevent anemia and clip baby teeth in order to protect the mother sows udder. I was in charge of caring for the runts that were not able to fend for themselves in those large litters. My younger brother and myself would fix milk replacer for them and then transition them to creep feed and offer all the TLC a young pig could handle. I snuggled with pigs more than I care to admit during my younger years.   The ones that did not survive were carefully buried behind the barn and we rejoiced with each one that was able to move to the feeder pig facility.

I had a number of outdoor cats that would have litters every spring and those little kittens always seemed to get the “kitty cold” and would start doing poorly. My dad told me that if I wanted to help them, I could give them a shot of penicillin and see if they improved. Some responded immediately and others continued to decline and eventually passed away. Yet each of them were loved every moment of their lives by a young girl that learned there is a time to live and a time to die.

I had farm dogs that worked side by side caring for the livestock and others that were there as protectors and/or companions.   Attachment to each of them ran deep and as they aged, it became apparent that soon we would have to say good-bye.

I guess you could say that all of these experiences set me up to be a veterinarian. These experiences also made me more aware of the circle of life. I saw life and death often in nature and realized that there is no fear in death. I would see the peace in an animal’s passing and that there was no longer any pain or suffering. I would remember the joy that they had brought to my life, even if it was only for a short period of time. I would realize that my life was blessed because they had been special to me.

As I spend time with clients at Winterset Veterinary Center during the difficult moments surrounding euthanasia, I am reminded of the peace that comes in the end when our furry friends have taken their last breath. I can remember the joy they have brought to their forever family and know that these humans have been eternally blessed to have had this time with this special furry friend.

Please understand that as a veterinarian, these situations are some of the most difficult parts of my job. Yet, I would not choose to be anywhere else when that time comes for a pet-owner. I have been with them during the good times, and I would never abandoned them during these final moments when facing the most agonizing decision they have ever had to make for their special friend.

I find myself counseling often on “Is it that time?” Only you as a pet owner can know and decide if it is that time. People ask me, “But how will I know?” I tell them, “You will know.”   We were given a greater intelligence to be able to sense pain and suffering. Maybe by using our 5 senses we can relate to the struggles they endure during those final days. No more twinkle in their eyes, lots of moans and sighs, lack of interest in food and water, avoidance of affection and interaction, and/or unusual smells. Maybe it is the physical challenges they face such as incontinence, nerve deficits, joint diseases, heart disease, etc.   Sometimes these issues can present in combinations that make it apparent that successful return to a quality lifestyle will be next to impossible.   We all can hope that one morning we awake and find our furry friend peacefully passed in the night. Yet I must say, that gift is not granted nearly enough. If you have been given that gift in the past count yourself BLESSED!

I want to make certain my clients know that they will not be judged on what they decide is best for their furry friend. Only they can sense what has changed in their pet’s life that makes it apparent that this is the right time. I recall a day when I was asked to go outside to a pick-up truck to administer that final injection that would end the painful day to day struggles their furry friend had endured. I climbed up into the bed of the truck and sat in front of this very special dog that I had had the pleasure of caring for. No struggle was given as I placed my tourniquet and found that vein. I began injecting the solution and in her final moment of consciousness, she laid her head ever so peacefully in my lap. It was a moment I will never forget because I understood how much this final gesture had given her freedom from her pain and suffering.

Our furry friends deserve to have their final days be full of love and attention to their every need and comfort. The unconditional love they bestow on us daily is something that we will always hold most precious and dear. If you are coming to an end in the life of a furry friend, just always keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. If each day is a struggle for your pet and they are having more difficult days than good days it may be time. If the sparkle has gone from their eyes, they no longer greet you at the end of the day, and they rarely seek you out due to the constant struggle they have to get around, it is most likely time. Know there is peace in their passing and joy in the remembrance of the blessings they have been in your lives.   My favorite saying when it comes to this topic is, “A furry friend’s only fault is they do not live long enough.” These words ring true for me and for all those who have had the pleasure of loving a pet.

What would your pet’s New Year’s resolution be?

With the beginning of a new year, we all seem to find things we would like to change or improve upon in 2017. I have often wondered if our pets could make New Year’s Resolutions ……what would they be?

Of course, just like their human family members, I am sure a healthier lifestyle would be one of the top three. Now what would that mean for our pets. I would say changing their diet to be more digestible and nutritionally balanced product would be a top priority. No different than our children, if it were left up to our pets, they would encourage us to look at what tastes great and pleases their palates. Not even considering the number of calories or the amount of fat in each product. We recognize that higher calories usually means better taste. They would possibly choose canned formulas over dry diets. They would look for the treats that taste great and have no nutritional value.   Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Of course they would love to have more exercise since that would allow them more time with the people they love and adore. That exercise could come with a brisk walk every morning or wrestling at the end of the day. In their minds it all would be great because they get to be with their people!

They would probably strive to get along with others. Again that seems to be a common thought amongst their 2 legged friends. Relationships are key in all circles of life. Our pets have stress and anxieties about meeting new animals as well as new people sometimes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could change those dynamics with a snap of a finger even in our own lives? Find ways to express ourselves without offense to others. Be more honest and open with people without fearing that this would affect the relationship. Pets use body language when interacting with other animals and these social clues are universal in the their world. If the ears are pinned back and the hair is raised, there is no mistaking what this pets body language is saying to the other in the area. Do not approach. Stay back. I am not your friend. Being able to read each other that quickly could sure save some heartache and frustration in our world as well.

Enjoying life to it fullest certainly would be a priority. What else do pets have to do each day but love their life? I have often said that if reincarnation was something I believed in, I would want to return as a house cat. What a life they have. They never have to go out in the cold weather. Lounging around basking in the sun pouring through the South windows. Unlimited food set out daily and even someone to clean their box. What a life it would be. For our dogs it is so easy for them to find joy from our rising every morning to our return at the end of the day. Barking at the cars that pass by our home to lounging on the couch waiting for that moment when you walk back into their home. Yes, I mean their home. It is their territory and they decide often who is welcome and who is not. I cannot tell you the number of times a client has remarked that their pet(s) do rule the roost. “I get growled at for trying to come to bed.”  “My dog doesn’t let me sit in my favorite chair.” “My cat only allows me to sit on the sofa.” “My pets tell me when it is time to eat.”   Of course I know that with these comments, this pet is lucky to have a forever home and will never be without a large dose of love and attention.


So as you look forward to 2017 and hoping it will be a better year than 2016 in some way we all need to remember that each day is a gift to be appreciated. We look back at 2016 and see some things that maybe we should have done differently but with a new year ahead anything is possible. Strive to make your pets New Year’s Resolutions come true and I am sure with each new day there will be plenty of joy and love to go around.

Holiday Blessings

Thanksgiving 2016 has come and gone. This time of year is always a great time of reflection for me on all the blessings in my life. Of course those blessings always include family and friends that surround me each day and give me purpose in my life. The simple fact that I have a job which supports our family and allows me to practice close to home is something incredible to be thankful for. Dr. Jim Pottebaum and our staff of Stephanie, Mary, Ann, Kristal, Jessica, and Kaylee help me be the best vet I can be. I often forget to express to them how grateful I am for all they contribute to my daily happiness.

This year brought about a lot of reflection for me and I found myself thinking about clients and patients that I feel are blessings to me every day at Winterset Veterinary Center. Each and every day of work is unique and challenging because of those cases that come through our doors. The career of veterinary medicine doesn’t allow me to ever become bored with what I do each day.

The emotional changes that I feel in a typical day at work range from joy at holding a new puppy or kitten and feeling the warmth of their tongue on my face and smelling that sweet baby breath. To deep despair, as I enter the room with a long time client knowing that today is the last day I will be looking into those loving, trusting pet’s eyes. Of course, there are those pets that despise me long before I even get close to them. I sympathize with their owners knowing how stressful it must be for them to bring their pets to see me. I try to reassure them that it is not their fault when their pet misbehaves in the clinic. Changes in a pet’s routine are a challenge for many and how they respond is as varied as the breeds we see each day. As I reflect on this past year, I can recall cases that brought me to tears at the unexpected loss of a pet, or the joy of seeing a pet that recovered against all odds, or the relief knowing that I had saved that pet from certain death, had I not stepped in at that exact moment. None of these experiences are more important than the other, but each of them has made me a better person and veterinarian. I thank our clients for entrusting their family pets to our care.

dog-1087539_640So as we reflect back on our Thanksgivings, we also look forward to the biggest giving season of the year, Christmas. The Winterset Veterinarians are collecting donations to help feed the hungry pets in Madison County. Many families struggle during this time of year to provide for their families, say nothing about feeding their pets. The Multi-Purpose Center gladly accepts donations as will each of the veterinary offices in Winterset. A small bag of food or cat litter or a few toys can mean a better Christmas not only for those families but also their pets. If we all do our part in giving of our resources to those less fortunate it can make a huge impact. Please consider donating today and brighten the days that lead up to the most joyous time of the year.

May you all have a very blessed Holiday Season and as we look towards 2017 may we always find the good in everyone we encounter and remember to be thankful.

Pet Identification

As you can imagine, one of the toughest things about being a vet is saying “no” to stray pets. We get a lot of calls about pets found or lost each week at Winterset Veterinary Center.  These calls are extremely frustrating for those that have lost or found the pet and also for our practice.  Madison County does not have a shelter that accepts dogs and cats that have been found or people that have decided they can no longer care for the pet and need a place to surrender them to.  People find animals along the roads of Madison County.  Being concerned for their safety, they pick them up and make a call to ask where they can drop them off for safe keeping until owners can be found.  I am sorry to say these people have very few options for these dogs and cats.  This presents a lot of issues for all parties involved.   Therefore, I want to make some suggestions to all pet owners that will possibly ensure your pet, if lost, can get home as quickly as possible.

First of all, we as veterinarians cannot tell you why your pet ran away.  Pets do crazy things sometimes.  Even if they have never run and they are 8 years of age they can still decide on the spur of the moment to run away.   Having a pet neutered or spayed can help reduce the incidence of running but they run for other reasons as well.   Maybe they have found an alternative food source on an adventure or they have found other animals or people to play with.  Maybe they are trying to follow you and find where you go every day.  Perhaps they have a fear of noises or thunderstorms.  Maybe they took off after a wild animal or bird.  Perhaps they are just following their nose and tracking who knows what.  Whatever the reason is, you must be prepared for it.


Every pet should have a tag or collar with the owners name and phone number at the very least.  A rabies tag is not appropriate identification.  A rabies tag is proof that a vaccination was given at some time.  It does have a clinic name where the vaccination was given but often when dogs or cats are found it is after business hours and there is no way to track that information until the clinic opens for business again.   Large dogs often lose dangling tags, so consider a collar with your information embroidered on the collar or a tag that rivets to the collar.  A company that does a great job on collars is  They have a large number of collar options and the embroidery is very easy to read even from a distance.  I once got a phone call from a service man who had come to our home to deliver something.  I asked him how he got my number and he said from your dog’s collar.   I have used these collars since 2007 and have never been disappointed.  They even have collars that reflect light to help keep pets safer at night.


It is important to have a picture of your pet that would be easy to access in the event your pet has been lost.  We have found that social media has been a great way to alert people to a lost or found pet.  The picture should be age appropriate and close enough to see markings on the pet.  If you find a pet and can take a picture and post it, that is extremely helpful.  Attempt to see if it is a male or female.  Telling where the pet was found can be beneficial.  If you find a pet along the road and are traveling out of the area it is best not to take that pet with you.  The owners will not be looking for their pet in another city or state.  There is a website called where pets can be listed as lost or found hoping to reunite them with their owners.


This is a must do for all pets.  It is not that expensive and when a pet is microchipped the reunion happens much more quickly.  As of today, the chips do not have a tracking device on them.  Maybe in the future the technology will allow this.   So how does the microchip work?

As you can see, there is not much difference between the microchip needle (on the right) and a vaccination needle (on the left).

Many microchips today are 15 digit universal chips.  They are placed under the skin at the shoulder blade with a syringe very similar to a vaccination.  It can be done in the exam room with the pet awake.  Many chips have non-migration properties today.  This is extremely important.  Earlier chips moved under the skin and therefore made it difficult to find them when scanned.  The universal chips can be read in any country around the world.   If your pet has a microchip, make certain you know the microchip number and manufacturer.

Most companies encourage the pet owner to register the microchip number.   At Winterset Veterinary Center we purchase pre-registered microchips.  This allows us to enter all the contact information and set up an account with Home Again the same day we place the chip. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) started a website called  If the company your microchip came from does not cooperate with this website, I would encourage you to call them and ask why.  A microchip is of little use to you if your contact information is not available quickly to the person who found your pet.  The above website allows you to put the microchip number into a search box and they will then give you a number to call where more information can be found.  Your personal information and that of your pet is protected.  It is also important to know that the microchip information cannot be put into anyone else’s name without your signature.  This is important in the case of a theft.  Most microchips do come with a tag to put on the pet indicating they have a microchip, but as with any tag there are times it is missing or unable to be read.  That is why it is so important to scan any pet that has been found to make certain they do not have a chip.  We have heard some amazing stories of pets reunited with their owners even after many years have passed or miles have been traveled.

If you know your pets microchip number but do not know if you have registered it or not, here is a test you can do to find out.  Go to the above website and type in your microchip number.   It then will give you a number to call for further information.  When you make that phone call you should discover that your personal information is connected to your pet and that all the information is correct.  If that is not the case, you need to ask how to update the information so in the event your pet is lost there will be fewer delays.  Most pets adopted from shelters are now microchipped.  Many breeders microchip puppies prior selling them.

Losing a pet is one of the most devastating situations for a family.  Doing these three things can help you be reunited with your pet in the event they leave home unexpectedly, because it can happen to you!

Nutritional Facts and Myths

IMG_2759Pet nutrition is a topic often discussed between family, friends, and coworkers. With all the choices there is bound to be confusion when it comes to pet foods and how to know what is best suited for your special friend.

As a veterinarian, I spend time discussing diets with pet owners. I do not want to be indicating that I have all the answers. For every answer there are always more questions. Yet, I feel some basic information can be helpful when seeking a perfect diet for your pet. I would like to dispel some of the myths and reiterate several of the facts surrounding pet nutrition.

  1. Active dogs need high protein. This is a FALSE statement. Fats provide more energy than proteins. Proteins do provide energy, but fats offer 2.25x more energy per gram. Over a long period of time a high protein diet has a negative effect on the kidneys and liver function.
  2. “ALL LIFE STAGES” FOODS = PUPPY/KITTEN FOOD. This is a TRUE statement. Therefore it is not wise to feed this diet to dogs or cats that are not in an active growth stage or state of pregnancy.
  3. Corn and/or grains are bad. This is a FALSE statement. Of all the myths, this is by far the most common one I hear. The marketing has been huge at changing how pet foods are made. Corn offers 16 grams of protein in each cup of corn. It is a good source of vitamins and fatty acids. The carbohydrates are highly digestible. Less than 3% of dogs have food allergies to corn and 1% of cats.
  4. Gluten intolerance is extremely rare in pets. TRUE. Some Irish Setters have shown a wheat sensitive enteropathy and it is seen in the first 6 months of their life. Gluten is not a problem for a majority of pets.
  5. “Raw” diets are acceptable diets for dogs and cats. FALSE. The issues with raw diets are many. We see mineral and vitamin imbalances. Often people alter the recipe and thereby do not keep it consistent from day to day. Excessive proteins are the norm with these diets. Raw diets have shown to decrease the life span of our pets.
  6. Dogs and Cats are carnivores. FALSE. Cats are carnivores but dogs are omnivores. This indicates dogs can eat and remain healthy with both plant and animal diets. Cats on the other hand have certain nutrients that are only available from animal sources required in their diet. Over time if cats are not offered these nutrients serious health issues will develop. That is why dogs should eat dog food and cats should eat cat food
  7. Dogs and cats eat 1/2 of their body weight per month. TRUE. This is a helpful formula if you are attempting to purchase food and wondering how long will this bag of food last.
  8. Dry kibble will promote better dental health. FALSE. Before you call to say that this statement is true. Look at the numerous studies that indicate the location of plaque and tarter(calculus) is at the gum surface. Therefore any chewing of dry kibble would have a difficult time successfully removing plaque. That is like saying you eating dry foods will promote better dental health for yourself. We know that only brushing can have a sustained positive effect on oral health when done daily.   Now having said this, there is a website from Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) that lists products that meet standards of plaque and tarter reduction in pets: VOHC Accepted Product List. Feel free to research this further. I am still working to change my talking points on this one.
  9. All AAFCO labels are the same. FALSE. Look for the AFFCO label that indicates: Animal feeding tests using AFFCO procedures substantiate that this product provides complete and balanced nutrition for the maintenance of adult dogs. This means it has been fed to dogs for a minimum of 26nweeks. The wording may vary but it should indicate that it has been fed to dogs verses saying it has been formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AFFCO. There is a big difference.
  10. These are the only MYTH’s about pet foods. FALSE. It would take pages and pages to list them all. I just wanted to focus on a few that seem to surface more in our practice. Marketing of pet foods has really over run the nutritional side of pet diets. Ingredient labels and guaranteed analysis are difficult to compare from company to company. Lack of Kcal/cup listed on bags makes it hard to know if this diet will be fewer calories than your last diet. Do the words Natural, Organic, Human Grade, Holistic, etc even mean anything? How does ingredient splitting mislead consumers? Are words such as Lite or low calorie or weight care regulated? Maybe another blog we can answer some of these questions.

Recently I attended a conference on nutrition and the speaker placed this slide in front of us and asked if we would feed this diet to our pet.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein (min) 37%        Crude Fiber(max) 8%

Crude Fat(min) 16%                 Moisture(max) 12%

Of course we were all suspecting something fishy since our whole morning had been spent discussing myths about pet foods. Here is a list of ingredients that made up that Guaranteed analysis:

1 pair of leather boots, 4 quarts of crank case oil,

1 pail of crushed coal, 1 quart of water

blend together and extrude into 12 mm round kibbles

My point for sharing this is to make certain you realize that labels and guaranteed analysis can be very misleading. You cannot compare bags of food based on what information is given to you on the package. You cannot assume that if you spend more money on this food then it must be better. I wish it was that easy. Be cautious about what you read on the internet about pet foods. Ask your veterinarian for help in selecting a diet that will allow your pet to live a longer healthier life. Nutrition is important in keeping our pets in our homes for more years and hopefully with a better quality of life.

FLEAS: Prevention is Key

FLEAS, FLEAS, AND MORE FLEAS……that is a frequent complaint this time of year. It seems that every year a new group of unsuspecting victims fall prey to this dreaded infestation. I do mean infestation! The flea life cycle is a mystery to many people. When we explain the process to rid your home and pets of this parasite, people are shocked by the time and money required to treat these FLEAS!

The flea life cycle thrives in warm and humid weather. Many think late summer is when you need to think about flea treatment. That is not correct. Fleas hatch year round if conditions are ideal. Further South where there is not a winter season, they fight fleas year round. Therefore, all snowbirds must do year round flea and tick preventatives on their pets. If you board, groom, train, and or visit dog parks with your pets during the cold season of the year you should do year round flea and tick prevention. Fleas can live on animals even during the winter months and if your pet comes in contact with a flea infested animal and is not on prevention…. guess who’s going to have some new pesky creatures?

Fleas are very hardy and have 4 stages of their life cycle. Only the adult flea lives on the animal. They usually will not live on humans unless the infestation is so heavy they bite for a blood meal. Beauticians have reported finding fleas in human hair. Others have indicated they have been bitten when sitting in their chairs or walking through their homes.

dog-1559746_640The adult flea is brown and quite small. They jump and scurry through the hair. They do not fly. It is extremely difficult to see them in small numbers since they attempt to move away from your hands as you part the hair looking for them. Each adult flea can lay more than 2000 eggs in its lifetime. Each egg rolls off the pet and/or animal wherever the animal goes. If it is a small cat or dog and they go under the bed, you will have flea eggs under the bed. If they go behind the chair or under the table, you will have flea eggs in those areas as well.   If they sleep in your bed eggs will be in your sheets and/or on the comforters. The eggs hatch and a small larva emerges. This larva feeds on flea dirt and the crumbs in your carpets and cushions. After a few days it becomes a pupa and undergoes a transformation into the adult flea within the protective casing of the pupa.   Now this is where it gets extremely frustrating. NOTHING kills the pupa. This protective casing is resistant to most chemicals that we have to fog or bomb or spray our homes. Our topical flea products do nothing to this stage of the flea cycle.   When winter comes and we turn on our heat, this stage of the cycle goes dormant. It waits until the warm and humid weather returns before choosing to hatch and start the cycle over again. THEREFORE many people get a false sense of security thinking they have the problem under control but it is still there lurking in the home waiting for warmer weather.

The reason we see so many fleas this time of year is because fleas have been laying eggs in your environment since April. The numbers reach a peak based on how many eggs have been laid.   We get our hot humid weather making conditions ideal and our pets become infested by the large number of fleas emerging.

So now your are most likely disgusted and asking yourself HOW DO WE BATTLE THIS INFESTATION? Start flea prevention as soon as warm weather returns. Some years that is March. Also, if you have had a flea problem on your pets be sure to do year round prevention for the first year making certain when a pupa hatches, the adult flea feeds, and it dies before infesting your home again. Dogs and cats share fleas so indoor only cats are at risk especially if living in a home with dogs. Never use dog flea products on cats since toxic reactions can occur. If you have flea problems washing as many blankets, comforters, rugs, etc., can eliminate numbers of eggs, larva, and pupa in the home. Vacuuming can reduce numbers as well but make certain you empty your bag or canister since the fleas have been known to escape. Foggers and sprays can help reduce numbers too, but remember they cannot get under beds, behind couches, in closets, etc., where many pets leave eggs behind.

So the best method to battle flea infestations is to keep every pet on flea and tick prevention. There are multiple products with a large difference in price. Recently many generics have come available. I do not have the space to discuss the pros and cons of all the flea products on the market but I will share information about the newest products on the market. There are now oral flavored flea and tick preventatives. The two top contenders are Bravecto and Nexgard. Bravecto is a soft chewable treat that is good for 3 months. Nexgard is a chewable treat given monthly. Both have a good palatability rating and have been given to a large number of dogs in the last 2 years since they came available. If someone has fleas, I make a point to prepare them for 3 months of flea issues. Knowing the environment is infested it can take that long before no new fleas will emerge. One chewable Bravecto will cover those 3 months.

If you have been using one product and fleas are still present, talk to your veterinarian. A new type of prevention may be recommended. Resistance has been talked about in areas around the country and maybe it is time to try a different product on your pets. There are products out there that are very inexpensive that I would avoid. They never worked when they first came out and they still do not work today.

To wrap this FLEA BLOG up…..PREVENTION IS THE KEY! Protect your pets always and you will not be disappointed. Do not go the “cheap” route. Treat all pets including your indoor only cats. Have a fun fall, free of fleas!


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Why is “Pet Selection” Important

IMG_2759In the last many years, I have started talking more about pet selection with clients and potential new pet owners. This topic has been around a long time but many people believe they already know what pet would be best for their situation.   In my years of observing pet owners I have developed many reasons to disagree with this statement.

With the numbers of pets in shelters and foster homes on the rise, we definitely have owners that are not being responsible after getting their new pet. Why would they chose to not care properly for that pet? What causes them to not search for that pet after it is missing?   If you stop and think about it, the pets you see in shelters are not puppies and kittens. They are the adult pets that have broken the bond with their owners and have been forgotten. People abandon their pets because that pet did not match their family or lifestyle.

The lack of training, exercise, and socialization of a young puppy or kitten is a big issue. I wish all puppies and their owners were required to take puppy classes. I would like to see cats go more places with their owners so they would become more tolerant of new situations or people. The only place many kittens or cats go is to the veterinarian. If every time you got into your car you went to the doctor, wouldn’t you decide not to get into that car? The window of opportunity to socialize a new kitten or puppy is very short. Behavioralists feel most kittens need lots of human contact prior to 9 week of age to be well adjusted as adult cats. With puppies that time frame is 16 weeks. Therefore, if getting a new pet you must find time in the first many weeks to expose that pet to as many people, of all ages, as well as new experiences.

So how does this relate to pet selection? If you have a very busy schedule and are gone 10 hours a day maybe this is not the best time for you to get a new pet.   If you live in the Midwest and have to walk your pet in the winter and that does not appeal to you then you should reconsider getting that puppy at this time. Maybe you just had a baby and thought it would be great to let the pet and child grow up together, but did not realize that having a pet is like having another child in the house. The pet you selected is destroying your furniture, chewing up your shoes, peeing in the wrong places, scratching or biting you or your family members and none of this is what you expected. Let me tell you, all these things are normal behaviors, but with training and patience they can be corrected. Of course you must have the right advice and the time to spend teaching your pet good behaviors.   If we waited to give our children boundaries until they were 16 do you think we would have much success making them well adjusted adults? I have many clients who tell me that their pet is to young to start training. A puppy and kitten go from birth to 16 years of age in their first year when comparing them to our years. We need to mold their behaviors starting at the toddler stage which is the first few months.

Pet Selection tests are available online from a variety of resources. Some are designed to help you find the right breed of dog for your family. I would encourage you to first take a pet selection test to determine if your family is ready for the pet you think at this time. If the test suggests you get a dog, then take the dog breed selection test to determine what type of dog would be best for your family and lifestyle. Here is one of many pet selection quizzes: What Pet is Best For You? – When taking this test you must be completely honest about how much time and money your family will have to care for your new pet for the next 15-20 years.

At Winterset Veterinary Center we would love to help you decide if this is the right time for a new pet. Or what type of pet would be best. When selecting a pet you need to make a lifetime committement to care for it emotionally, physically, and financially. Make certain all of your pets have FOREVER HOMES!

Contact us at 515-462-2650. Our hours are M-F 7:30 – 5:30 pm, Sat 7:30 – 12:00 pm.

Welcome to our new blog!

Why do dogs eat grass? Why do cats not use the litter box?   How do I know what is the best pet for me? What do you mean there is no such thing as a free kitten?

Now that I have your attention, I would like to start a blog that I hope will help educate pet owners about a variety of subjects. In 1988, when I got my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, I never imagined how much change I would see in my lifetime. The thought that someday I would write a “Blog” never crossed my mind. Of course that word was not even in a Webster dictionary at that time.

My bio is printed on our website at Winterset Veterinary Center so I do not intend to repeat that information. I do live in a small community of about 5000 people but the information shared here should apply to all pet owners.   I decided to start a blog since often I get asked the same questions or I hear the same issues from clients. I have always felt that one of my strongest assets is my ability to educate people about pets. I enjoy my time in the exam room getting to know my clients and their pets. I hope as this blog gets shared that you may find helpful information that could improve and extend the life of your pet.

I intend to start slow and make certain that at least once per month I post a new blog. I plan to begin with the basics and then as I get a feel for my audience adjust where needed. I can be reached at the Winterset Veterinary Center if you ever want to offer suggestions or topics. I cannot guarantee that I will alter my direction but am always open to ideas.

I want to clarify that I am not claiming to be an expert. I am not hoping to become the Dr. Oz of Veterinary Medicine. I just have knowledge and advice that has often been appreciated by those who see me at Winterset Veterinary Center. All the information available at the click of a button can leave one overwhelmed and confused about pet care. My goal is to be practical so you can make decisions about your pets.

I hope you will follow me on this journey or at least stop by on occasion if there is something that peaks your interest. We all have one thing in common, that pets improve our life just by being in it!

Dr. Lonna Nielsen

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