Monday, December 31, 2012

My Christmas Gifts

Happy Holidays to All! Love Krista & Joe

I decided a few weeks ago to give the people in my life who I love and treasure a "gift in their honor."

In an effort to not spoil any one's Christmas surprise I waited until after all of the presents had been opened to reveal the friends and family I donated my services in honor of.

To My Sister:
I donated my surgical skills to help save a cat owned by a former employee. The cat was not spayed, was not eating, and had profuse green vaginal discharge. This cat needed emergency ovario-hysterectomy surgery, and had a very grave prognosis if she wasn't spayed immediately. They could not afford to go to the emergency clinic nor could they afford our very reasonable fees. I donated my surgical time and they promised to not wait to spay their cat in the future. She recovered very well and we wish her a long healthy life.

One very swollen, infected, sick uterus.

To My Brother;
My husband and I donated vaccines for my neighbors 13 cats. Thankfully he is a big cat lover, but he cannot afford routine care for them. We go over once a year to vaccinate everyone.

To My Very Good Friend Havah;
I have a great friend who oversees many rental properties. It seems that cats are either left or abandoned on many of the properties she manages. When a litter of kittens was found she rescued them, vaccinated, de-wormed, micro-chipped, and raised them until they were old enough and tame enough to be adopted. I spayed them all, (mom, and aunts and uncles too, in all it was about 10 cats). I fell in love with the little orange one in the front bottom picture. I adopted her about a week after she came to the clinic to try to find a forever home. Her name is now Oriole.

To The Entire Staff at JVC;
Few other pets will touch our hearts like Harley did. She came to us terribly overweight, with a bald infected skin at the base of her tail and underbelly. She was also severely constipated. Her entire colon was backed up to the point that it felt like she had a rock hard 8 inch diameter tubular colon. It almost felt like a concrete sewer pipe. Every staff member could feel it easily, and every staff member was needed to give her the enemas she required every few hours to help soften and move her impenetrable cemented fecal mass. After her enema she then needed to be walked. For days we tried to get her incredible petrified fecal mess to pass. It took three weeks of intense care before she finally was defecating normally. She was also treated for fleas, hypothyroid disease, and put on a diet to not only help the obesity but also the constipation. We all became very attached to her. When she comes back to visit us she is ecstatic to see us. I think she knows that we are her second family. Her family was only able to pay a fraction of her bill, but there was no way we could say "No" to her.

Thankfully Harley is surrounded by people who love her and now understand that she needs her thyroid meds and good stable diet daily. They tell us often how great she looks and how happy she is.

To the Great Groomers at JVC: 
One of the groomers came to me to say that her in-laws black Lab was just seen for very bloody urine and found to have severe urinary stones which would require surgery to have them removed. She said that she wanted to pay for the dogs care because her mother-in-law was in the hospital and having a difficult time both physically and financially. Their dog had one of the worst cases of bladder stones I had ever seen. Her bladder felt like a big sac of sand in her belly. I can't imagine how she could even pee to begin with, and it was obvious that all of those stones were a very big part of the reason why it was always bloody. Whenever I ask the groomers for help with keeping my old fluffy beagly Savannah beautiful and clipped (so I don't have to chase hair balls around the house, or brush her, which she absolutely hates), they clip, clean, fluff, and present her back to me looking as pretty a new shiny penny. Even Savannah smiles and jumps with glee after she is made so beautiful. For all they do for her, and my sometimes stinky pups, I am happy to help their family pets.

That's a lot of stones! Urinary calculi look like snow balls on an x-ray of the bladder, they are the round white balls just to the right of the "L" marker.

A peak inside the angry unhappy bladder reveals a sac full of stones.

A large bowl of her urinary calculi (stones).
To My Dear Friends Laura, Amanda, and Tracy;
These are the faces of the breed that our great state of Maryland has decided to persecute without legitimate cause. These pups were going to be euthanized on the day we saved them. They are all wonderfully sweet gentle souls who only want to love and be loved. I am embarrassed and ashamed of the political prejudice and lack of compassion shown by the governing members of the state in which my practice resides. I will continue to try to educate the public about these wonderful dogs, and hope that like every other mistake made by the damning society who makes laws based on uneducated fears, that we will someday realize our own naive thinking and learn to be kind instead of damn and euthanize.

To My Dear Friend Kelly,
Who picked up the phone and answered a call from an owner who said "I have a kitten with a swollen eye. I can't afford to treat her and I want to surrender her." She went on to explain that she didn't believe the kitten was in pain because "she ran around and would occasionally hit a wall with her blind swollen eye and then it would explode and she would keep running around." When Kelly heard this she got in the car and drove over to get her. Unfortunately, that kitten was being given the wrong kind of eye medicine and not being treated for the terrible infection she had. After a few days of antibiotics the eye is normal size and causing her no pain or problems whatsoever. She may in the future need to have the eye removed, but only if it starts to cause her problems, which I don't think it will.

To My Dear Friend Adam;
I received a call from the clinic early one morning asking for guidance about a client who called to book an appointment to have his six 6-month old puppies euthanized. They were so upset and so distraught that they called me to help them figure out what I wanted to do about it. They explained to me that this client had the parents of the puppies and that they were overdue on their rabies vaccines. It appeared that the mom had been seen fighting with a raccoon who had wandered into the garage where all of the dogs were housed. She had killed the raccoon and the owners had called Animal Control to report the dead raccoon. The raccoon was submitted to the state pathology lab to be checked for rabies. Unfortunately the raccoon tested positive. because the puppies were too young to have been vaccinated and because the parents were overdue on their rabies shots, the state was mandating that all of the pets be put in a required 6 month state overseen quarantine. The owners decided that 6 months was too long to keep them and they were calling us to put them to sleep. I was livid when I got the call. There are times when I think that my job is the worst in the world. I was sitting at home trying to ask myself if I could put down 6 healthy puppies that probably would be fine in 6 months. Then I thought if I don't do it, and at least tell those puppies that they were loved, and that I on behalf of the human race, was soo sorry to be so unfair to them, that they would be sent to the humane society (total oxymoron by the way), to be euthanized by some person who....well, I couldn't even finish the thought. I couldn't do it. I couldn't put them down. I also couldn't keep 6 puppies in quarantine for 6 months. SO...
I called Adam. And I told him the whole story and he said, "this is our greatest challenge.." It was. We are still 2 months away from being able to adopt these pups out, but they are all doing great. we have 4 of them adopted already!

Never give up, and never forget who you are. No matter what challenges life throws at you..

I will be the light. Or I will call Adam and have him remind me to not lose my sense of purpose amid the insanity of the human beings.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

PA Dog Law Finally Enforced

Pennsylvania’s Dog Law Enforcement Office Cracking Down On Illegal Dog-Breeding Kennels

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(credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
(credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Pat Loeb
Reporting Pat LoebBy Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Pennsylvania Agriculture Department says it has taken action against 37 illegal dog-breeding kennels, this year, including several in the Philadelphia area.
The department says it has stepped up efforts to enforce the 2009 anti-puppy-mill law.
Agriculture Department spokesperson Samantha Krebbs says the dog law enforcement office has beefed up a number of areas. It worked with state police to give additional training for the state’s 53 dog wardens. It put a greater emphasis on enforcing dangerous dog laws– making sure owners of dogs deemed dangerous by a judge had registered them. And, she says, it cracked down on online dog sales.
“Six of the kennel owners that we cited were discovered and charged by the office focusing its efforts on investigating the illegal sale of dogs on line.”
Krebbs’ account is at odds with a report issued by an advisory panel in September that found the state was not enforcing the law. Krebbs says the advisory panel had
used incorrect information.

The Black Footed Ferret Shows Evidence of a Comeback

For the New Year I thought it would be encouraging to share a cute video of a species that has been teetering on the brink of extinction, but is now showing signs of survival, the black-footed ferret.

I just think it is so exciting and promising to know that with intervention and care we can save our domestic species.

Take a second to watch the video, guaranteed to make you smile, and give you hope.

Black-footed ferret "dancing": This is a video of a young black-footed ferret "dancing" or playing by a reflector placed by his burrow. Video by David Jachowski / US Fish and Wildlife Service
    One of the ferrets spotted west of Mobridge earlier this year. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe / Submitted photo

    To learn more

    Comments on the proposal must be submitted by Jan. 18.

    • By mail:
    Kimberly Tamkun
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center
    Box 190
    Wellington, CO 80549-0190

    • By fax: 970-897-2732
    • By

    Ferret facts

    The black-footed ferret is a nocturnal animal with telltale black feet, face mask and tail-tip. It’s the only ferret species native to North America and one of the rarest mammals on the continent. Females are called jills, males are hobs and their young are kits. Some other facts:
    • Scientific name: Mustela nigripes
    • Weight: Up to 2.5 pounds
    • Length: 18 to 24 inches
    • Average litter size: 3.5
    • Primary prey: Prairie dogs
    • Average lifespan of a wild ferret: 1-3 years
    • Of a captive ferret: 4-6 years
    Endangered black-footed ferrets have been spotted outside of special management areas in South Dakota, raising hopes among officials at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that a new wild colony has been found.
    Biologists working with the tribe photographed an adult ferret and two juveniles during a series of nighttime surveys in prairie dog towns west of Mobridge. The ferrets first were spotted Halloween night.
    Barry Betts, biologist for the tribe, thinks this is the first sighting of a wild black-footed ferret since a colony was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyo., three decades ago.
    “It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “I’ve been in the business for 40 years, and this is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever seen a black-footed ferret.”
    The Wyoming ferrets provided the genetic material for an ongoing captive breeding program that has brought the animal — one of the rarest mammals in North America — back from the brink of extinction.
    But Pete Gober, coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national ferret recovery program, said it’s unlikely, after searching all these years, to have found the remnants of a long-lost colony.
    “We’re always encouraged by the possibility, but none of those have ever panned out,” he said.
    There are six reintroduction sites in South Dakota, and Gober says the Standing Rock ferrets probably migrated north from a release site on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
    Betts, who said he has agreed to disagree with Gober on this point, said the tribe will trap some of the ferrets and check for chips implanted in some captive animals. They’ll also draw blood to see whether the ferrets are part of the same genetic pool as the Meteetsee clan.
    If they end up being a truly wild colony — something Gober stressed is unlikely — the implications would be enormous: A new source of genetic material to diversify the ferret’s genome, giving the species a better chance of adapting and surviving in the wild.
    “It would put more cards in your hand. ... The more diverse your genetic material is, the more likely you are able to respond to natural challenges,” Gober said.

    Friday, December 28, 2012

    Feline Sarcomas

    There has been justifiable concern over the last two decades that some cats appear to develop a cancerous mass, called a sarcoma, after being vaccinated. In most cases these sarcomas appear months or years after the vaccine.

    Enough aggressively invasive cancers were seen that it caused a shift in not only where we choose to vaccinate but also in the vaccines we recommended.

    The veterinary profession used to, in general, just vaccinate everyone the same based on the same cookie-cutter recipe we had used for years. There wasn't a discussion with owners over what individual needs a pet might have or how their lifestyle might influence their vaccine needs.

    The first few cases of feline sarcomas opened the door to change our way of thinking and delivering vaccines.

    These sarcomas, when seen are very invasive to the tissue, are difficult to remove, and almost impossible to remove adequately to stop recurrence. When found, and elected to treat, these cases often need to be referred to a surgical specialist to not only remove, but also to an oncologist to follow up with. In our practice we have had very limited success with treating them. The tumors ability to penetrate deep into tissue and the lean body structure of cats usually proves too difficult for us to surgically remove completely.

    Because of the terrible prognosis these tumors present, and the difficulty in treating them, most veterinarians now discuss the pets lifestyle and environmental needs before we just pull up the shots and deliver them.

    The vaccine that has been affiliated with the greatest number of sarcomas is the feline leukemia vaccine. For every appointment that I have with a client I discuss what environment their cat lives in and we also discuss any possible exposures. If my client has an inside only, or even predominantly inside, cat then we usually elect to skip this vaccine.

    Many vets have also switched to 3 year vaccines instead of the yearly boosters. Scientific studies have shown that these 3 year vaccines provide at least three years of duration of immunity to cats. This has significantly reduced the number of vaccines a pet gets, and hopefully reduces the likelihood of them getting a sarcoma.

    Unfortunately, I know of some veterinary practices who have not switched to 3 year vaccines because they don't want to lose a yearly examination and shot opportunity. We vets know that many cat households will not bring their pet in for an examination if there isn't a shot needed. Now I would argue that the greatest value to your pet is the physical examination. I know that shots are very important to the young growing pets, and as I have just stated, we don't want to over vaccinate anyone, but those young pets are so susceptible to preventable diseases that vaccinating saves many kittens lives. If your vet is vaccinating yearly please ask them why? If you are still concerned about over vaccination, ask your vet if they can give your cat a 3 year vaccine? Or ask another veterinarian in your area if they also give yearly vaccines. I firmly believe that the only right vaccine protocol is the one safest for your pet.

    It is also very important to mention that annual or semi-annual exams save lives. We often find early treatable diseases, and are able to intervene to either slow down its course or alter it completely.

    When vaccinating we used to always use the area between the shoulder blades to give our sq shots. There is ample amount of skin, and it is an easy and effective place to "scruff" and hold a cat. Now we try to deliver the shots as low on a limb as possible. The theory is that if we do encounter a tumor in the future that we can remove the tumor by removing the limb if needed. When the best possible outcome is surgical removal to achieve clean tumor free margins the loss of a limb is sometimes the best option we have.

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

    The BEST Gift Ever!!

    I am a very hard person to gift.

    I think it is because I don't really want much.

    I ask the staff to only gift me edible items, (nothing makes me happier than vegetarian homemade anything!), or a toy for the cats or dogs. I am in the transient part of my life..I like food and pet toys.

    But yesterday I received the nicest gift I have yet to ever get.

    My very good friends Adam and Kelly gave me a beautiful old Victorian box embellished with burnt decorations. It was filled with photos of every pet that their organization No Kill Harford had helped over 2012. Every single cat and dog was a pet that I had seen for them. It brought tears to my eyes to see all of the faces of the pets they, and we, had helped..

    How lucky I am to be living my purpose. And how lucky I am to have met them.

    There are amazing things in store for 2013, I can't wait!

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

    The Sickest Kitten of Them ALL

    I knew when I saw her that she was a hopeless case.

    She had every possible ailment piled on top of her and she was a scrap of a specimen.

    Unfortunately, she was being delivered to me from a dear friend with a very fragile spirit. Every fiber of my scientific being told me to speak up, be honest, and count this kitten as another sad statistic to a society that doesn’t take responsibility for a barn cat.

    I held that kitten, felt her weightlessness, and looked at my friend tell me for the second time now, to hear the tail end of her story of “how she just couldn’t leave her there by the side of the busy 4 lane highway. She seemed to pop up into thin air, and if she hadn’t I would have missed her. Do you think she will be alright?”

    I had to take a long pause before I could answer. The simple efficient answer was “No.” The answer I could live with and the crushing blow I was trying to dart was, “I will do whatever I can to save her.”

    I stuck with answer number two. My friend said she would take her as soon as she was well enough to go to her house for foster care.

    Kittens are about the most resilient creatures created. I thought she would likely be dead in a day or in foster care in three.

    She didn’t weigh a half a pound when she was found. She was a carpet of fleas, and so weak she lay in my hand unable to respond to her natural fear of being with a stranger in a vet hospital.

    The next two hours were spent combing off fleas, and killing each life sucking ecto-parasite from her emaciated bony pathetic body. This is a common ailment for a sick kitten. I have seen many many kittens come to me with fleas, but there seems to be some delicate ethereal balance between the host and the parasite. Most healthy outdoor kittens have a few straggling fleas swimming under their coats. But the weakened sickly kittens seem to have a plethora. It appears that the fleas can detect the easy targets and they gang up to deliver their coordinated fatal blow.

    If you have a kitten, or find a kitten, please make sure that you de-flea them. A comb, some water, and patience are the safest tools to eradicate them. If you have a severe burden we sometimes use a very tiny amount of a commercially available anti-flea product. (Ask your veterinarian, or call your local rescue for advice with which ones are safe to use). Please, please don’t use anything from an old remedy. I have had clients bring in kittens treated with deadly toxic things, too awful to mention, (stay tuned for future blogs, where I divulge them). But, one last thing, if you get a kitten wet you need to be very very careful to not let them get cold. The big kitten killers are cold, parasites, and lack of nourishment.

    The secret to flea removal in kittens is to comb them out with a metal flea comb. The flea comb will separate every hair shaft and remove every flea from the pets’ coat. After the flea is caught in the coat it is wiped on an alcohol soaked paper towel to kill it. The objective is to gently comb the fleas out without getting the kitten wet.

    Kittens die from two things first, cold and lack of sustenance, (anemia from being sucked free of your red blood cells by a militia of tiny vampires comes in a close third).

    I give a ton of kitten advice every spring: Keep them warm, clean and eating. And remember that peeing and pooping is assisted by their mom, so if you are their foster mom you have to be prepared to stimulate, (if you don’t know what I am talking about ask your vet or rescue). And as always get advice early and often.

    Every community has an underground congregation of women (and a few compassionate men, I know this sounds sexist, but check me, I’m spot on), who provide emergency and primary care to throws of abandoned kittens every year. Know them, use them, and help them by keeping your kitten in your home until it is 8 weeks old and ready for its forever home. Also check a fecal, see your vet and always, always be kind to a pet.

    Back to my poor pathetic near dead kitten.

    She was the worst case I had seen in I think about ever.

    Her first day in captivity included de-fleaing, warming, feeding and assessing. She was about 1 month old, but about half the weight she should have been. The fleas were eradicated and she was warmed like a preemie in the NICU ward. All swaddled and bundled and appearing to be a happy patient.

    My skepticism in her ability to meet her medical challenges was addressed again by the FeLV/FIV test. She was barely pink, and I was demanding three drops of her short supply blood.

    We vets are a hard-line bunch. We tend to try to lighten our load at the starting line by looking for the reasons to give up on our patients. We make our mental list of possible pit-fall problems and proceed through the diagnostic tree to try to reach our conclusive diagnosis. For cats the death sentence is usually wielded by the blue dot determining a felid as either feline leukemia (FeLV) or feline immunodificiency virus (FIV). Those dots mean almost certain death for a feral cat.

    We justify the sentence as a way of eradicating the disease from the population. Medicine in its truest form is statistics and prognostic indicators for favorable outcomes, but it is usually determined on the idea that we serve the populations better good, not on the heart-strings of the meekest long shot at survival. We are trained to serve the health of the population even though we are called to medicine by the yearning to serve those with the poorest odds.

    With a favorable disease free FeLV/FIV test behind her we took another step down the triage tree. Mental checklist went as follows; warm, check. FeLV/FIV free, check. Flea free, check. That left only the anemia to resolve.

    OK, here’s where I get obstinate  If you aren’t going to a vet that places femoral catheters you are losing kittens. It is a scary thing to do the first time and a breeze of life saving breathe every time there after. I place them in seconds and I place them with EVERY SINGLE KITTEN that I think is sick.
    It has single-handily saved more kittens then I can remember counting. It is the easiest, quickest, and most effective way to provide life support. Whether that be via delivery of itra-osseous fluids or blood. In most kittens cases it ends up being blood, but in all cases it is life-saving emergency fluids.

    Within an hour you can transform a lifeless on the verge if death kitten into a playing, purring, animated spark. It will melt your heart, and make you feel like a god.

    I was certain she wouldn’t make it through her first day. She had anemia, pneumonia, and was emaciated. I didn’t give her a name, and I didn’t call my friend to commiserate about my premonition.

    I had told her that the first 24 to 48 hours were critical, and that if she made it to hour 49 she was probably out of the woods. It was a commonly used medical adage, but I was wrong about that too.

    It took one day for me to see even a tinge of color in her gums, but she remained a weak, motionless mass for days.

    Her coat went from flea dirt peppered to wet greasy and sickly. Her eyes swelled shut and her head was eternally cocked back nose to the sky to allow her heavy dense lungs to attempt to pull air through her crusted cloaked nostrils. She never lay down, but instead remained sitting up, head back clinging to life by a tiny thread.

    I carried her with me everywhere I went. Closed in a tiny cat carrier, a postcard sized litter box, thimble sized food bowl and tea cup bed enclosed in a plastic box with a handle for portability.

    I spoke to my friend every day, usually three or four times a day, always saying the same thing. “She is very, very sick, I keep expecting her to get better, but she instead trades one disease or affliction for another. I still don’t think she is going to make it.”

    And everyday she would say the same thing, ‘’Well as soon as you think she is well enough I will take care of her, but I’m so thankful that you have her now.”

    Every night I carried her little carrier up to the bedside table so I could hear her breathe, and monitor her cage. I woke up every hour or two to listen to her strained struggling wheezing. I cleaned her face and nose at every wake up and at every visit. She became my portable defibrillator, my oxygen tank, my blood pressure monitor, and my pacemaker. I was never away from her. She knew me by my touch, and would flop into my hand as soon as I opened her cage door. She couldn’t see me, or smell me, but I was her lifeline and her care taker and she was fully imprinted on me.

    For a few days she ate, but after the profuse green snot erupted from her nose, and eyes she gave up on eating.

    A cat is strongly motivated to eat by their sense of smell. If they can’t smell food they are usually not going to eat. Figuring out how to motivate a stuffed up, congested, snot-ridden kitten how to smell, let alone be interested in the food you put in front of her is quite a feat. I always recommend offering a small assortment of anything that smells appetizing if you are a kitten. I suggest trying lots of varieties of canned foods, baby food (meat), and ask your vet about the prescription high-calorie food. For kittens under 2 pounds, (kittens weigh one pound per month of age up to about 6 months old), offer some kitten formula, or mix kitten formula with some canned kitten food.

    That little tiny speck of feline spent 4 months tempting her own mortality. For every shuffle forward she shuffled another back. I know without a shadow of doubt that if she had landed in anyone else’s hands, or not jumped at the exact second that she did that she would not be here with me today.

    I willed her to live as much as she fiercely fought to grow. There were months of nights that I awoke to peer into her cage to see if her tiny chest still heaved under the brute force of her pneumonia. She needed two surgeries to un-glue her scarred eyes, and to this day, two years later I have to supplement her almost monthly for short periods with an antibiotic. There are still days where her stuffed up nose requires a tissue, and I never let her out of my sight.

    For all of the time it took to get her to the point of adolescence and adulthood she is my shadow. She needed me and now I need her. When I come home each day I call her name and she runs to me. The time it took to nurse her back to health bonded us and that bond reminds me every day that love can sometimes cure all.

    If you ever find yourself in a position to adopt a kitten, and if you see a tearing, snotty, feeble little thing I have to warn you there is some chance that they may stay a little runny for the foreseeable future, but then again you just might get a soul that reminds you how precious and miraculous life is.

    I named her Wren, because I was so afraid my little bird might never sing.