Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get a jump on your holiday shopping while supporting the great work of Cares4Pets!

Do you need the perfect gifts for the health and fitness fanatics in your life? Look no further....check out Team Beachbody! From now until Christmas Day if you purchase any Beachbody product from www.beachbodycoach.com/jennifereliza 25% of all proceeds will be donated to Cares4Pets!

How can you help?

*Go to www.beachbodycoach.com/jennifereliza and click "shop". Beachbody has an extensive line of fitness videos, protein shakes, supplements, and equipment. There's something for everyone so start shopping!

*After you make your purchase, send an email to jennifereliza0@gmail.com. In the subject line please include your full name and the word Cares. No other text in the body of the email is required.

That is all you have to do!!! Together lets help Cares4Pets continue to do their amazing work! If you have any questions about the fundraising program or any of the Beachbody products, please feel free to email Jennifer at jennifereliza0@gmail.com or call/ text 215-301-2041. Have a great holiday!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bald Dogs Aren't Old Dogs: Carter's Story

On our last trip to ACCT (Philadelphia Animal Control), we walked past a cage with a little, mostly hairless pit bull puppy in it. Despite the fact that was mostly bald, pretty smelly, and super painful and itchy, Carter sat there and wagged his tail emphatically at us. Although we weren't looking for a puppy that day, we just couldn't pass him by.

Carter has a condition called demodectic mange. It's really pretty common in shelter situations, but it's usually a death sentence for the animal, even though it's not contagious and easily treated. Why? Because no one wants to adopt a bald dog, and because the word "mange" has so many negative connotation. Not to mention complete treatment takes a few months, months that shelters don't usually have.

Demodectic mange is caused by a tiny mite (demodex canis) that lives in hair follicles. All normal animals have a small number of these mites hanging around in their skin, and it's only when animals get stressed or immune-compromised that these little mites multiply and cause disease. The overgrowth of mites can cause anything from minor patchy baldness that resolves on its own to severe generalized hair loss and skin infection. This type of mange is very common in puppies who have poor nutrition, care or breeding, so we often see demodex puppies get dropped off at city shelters. Once there, they are really lucky if they ever make it back out again.

The good news is that the mites are not contagious to other animals or people and can be treated inexpensively. While it takes a lot longer to resolve in a shelter (where the animal takes up much needed room), in foster care these dogs usually recover completely and do not have long term effects from the mites. When we pass one of these guys in the shelter and have the room for them, we always jump at the chance to help an otherwise perfectly adoptable dog.

Carter is one of the most severely affected dogs we've taken in a while, but is also one of the sweetest. When he's healed, he will be a gorgeous black dog with white patches, but for now he's kind of dingy grey and pink. His mange covers almost 100% of his body, and he has very little hair, plus, he's greasy to the touch and a little smelly. He also has a severe skin infection being treated with antibiotics. This is common in demodex puppies because they are so itchy all the time; they scratch their skin open and then get a bacterial infection. But in every other way he's a normal puppy. He LOVES playing with other dogs, and he's learning basic obedience, housebreaking and how to play with toys. He's about 4 months old now and will be ready for adoption soon! Carter doesn't need to grow all his hair back to be adopted; he'll come with his medication so his adoptive family can watch him turn into a handsome black dog in their home!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bella's story continued

Our family adopted Bella after finding her on Petfinder.com. Her story is nothing short of sad and amazing. This little girl had been through so much in her young life but through her tragedy came something wonderful. She is a very happy, playful, loving young girl who has brought so much joy and happiness to our family. Adopting her was the most wonderful experience and the people with Cares4pets were really wonderful throughout the adoption process. At first Bella seemed a bit distance with the family and out other dog Duke. It took her sometime to settle in and realize that this was her forever home and that we all loved her and would always take care of her. Bella and Duke also had a rocky beginning but now have become best buds! I know Duke enjoys having a playmate although she is full of energy and tires him out quickly. We love her and feel blessed to have her here with our family. Thanks so much Cares4pets for saving Bella's life and allowing her to become part of
our family!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jane's Day at the Beach

Poor Jane has been with us too long... Jane is a very sweet 8 year old mixed breed dog. She is great with "her" people, but not good with other animals and is petrified of children. We took Jane on when her owners had a baby; although Jane was ok with the infant, once he started moving on his own, it was simply too much for her. Finding a home for an older lady that can't live with other animals is a huge challenge, and unfortunately for Jane it just hasn't happened yet. While we still hope to be able to find her a forever home, we also try to make sure that she has as good a life as possible while in our care.

Although Jane grew up in Florida, she hasn't seen the water since coming to us. We decided to take her to the beach for a day to see how she liked it. Lo and behold, Jane LOVES the water. We had almost as much fun as she did running up and down the beach, investigating the horseshoe crabs, and and swimming in the waves. We thought we'd share some of the pictures and movies from Jane's day of fun with you!

Getting her toes wet...

Happy dog :)


Shake it off...

Standoff with a horseshoe crab...

A movie of Jane's Day...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Always Plan for Surprises- Chella's Story

In rescue, we like to pretend that we have some control over what we're doing. We very specifically pick out animals from shelters and vet clinics to fill open spots we have in our foster care program. If one of our foster homes needs a dog that is good with kids and cats, then we do our best to find them a dog that will fit into their home. We are frequently reminded, however, that animals don't often play by our rules. A dog that is good with other dogs in a shelter may not be able to live with them, for example. We build our rescue by making contingency plan after contingency plan, making plans like, "If this dog can do this, then we'll put him here, and if he can't, then he'll go here instead..." Although, as you can imagine, all of our contingency plans frequently go out the window and we're left scrabbling for a foster home at the last minute... Welcome to animal rescue, because no matter how hard you try, you WILL be surprised, and you will have to run around like a chicken with it's head cut off on a fairly regular basis to make sure that all the animals are happy and housed all the time.

Chella is a dog that exemplifies the "you will never be able to plan for everything" law of rescue. Chella actually was turned over to another rescue group that we work closely with a few weeks ago. At the time that she was turned in, her surrendering owner reported her as being a spayed female dog, a few years old, housetrained, sweet, etc. She immediately went into a foster home where she was doing really well.

Surprise, surprise, a week ago Chella had puppies! Since the owner had reported her as being spayed, our rescue friends had not bothered to check. Imagine their surprise when they opened up Chella's crate one morning to find puppies in it! Sadly, because they had not known she was pregnant, no one was there when she had her puppies, and one of them was dead when they found them. The other two, however, were beautiful, healthy babies.

Chella's rescue group had not been counting on taking care of a mama with puppies, and they didn't have a good option for her that could care for the three of them. So they asked us if we might be game to take her on, and lucky for Chella, we had a foster home opening up that was more than excited to take on the pups! Chella went to her new foster home this week, where she is set up in a room of her own with her little ones. She's taking great care of them and is warming up to her new foster mom and dad. In a few weeks, we'll have all three of them up online for adoption, but for now, Chella's only job is to take care of her pups!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our six Maine Coons: Part Three (Finishing Treatment)

We've been so thankful for all the financial support we've received to help us pay for these kitties as they recover from their myriad of diseases. Thanks to individual donors (one anonymous donor gave $300) and our successful happy hour at TABU, a Philadelphia bar (where we raised over $200), we have only had to dip into rescue funds a little bit. If you attended our happy hour or made a donation, of of these kitties thank you very much!

In the past two weeks, we've been focusing on medicating them for Tritrichomonas foetus, the protozoan parasite causing their diarrhea. Although some of the cats came to us without diarrhea, we decided to treat them all at the same time in order to decrease the chances of reinfection.

Trichomonas is a really tough organism to kill. It's found in a lot of catteries around the world, and generally causes severe diarrhea that is often self-limiting (it lasts from a few months to a few years, then clears up). However, these infected cats still are infected and can pass the organism on to the other animals through their feces. These cats also can have bouts of diarrhea throughout the rest of their lives, especially if stressed. Until recently, there was no known drug that reliably killed this parasite. Luckily, a few years ago, ronidazole was found to work! It has been shown that a two week course of ronidazole kills these parasites. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of cats don't respond to the treatment, for whatever reason, and continue to have problems. This drug can also be pretty nasty to the cats and can cause neurologic effects that luckily go away once you remove the drug.

Because of all of this, all of our cats were treated with ronidazole at the same time (Guava started a few days later than the rest since she was so sick with her cold), and they finished their two week treatment this weekend! Because the ronidazole seemed to actually cause the cats to have more diarrhea, now that they are finished with treatment, we're giving them a few days to get back to normal.

For kitties like Kiwi, the 7 month old male kitten, that should be it! Kiwi came to us without ringworm lesions, an upper respiratory infection that has since cleared, and other than that was perfectly healthy. Assuming his diarrhea clears as expected, he'll be ready to go to home in the next week or two! We are still looking for a home for him, so please let us know if you're interested!

The next two ladies up will be Persimmon and Coconuts. Both of these ladies have nasty ear infections that just aren't clearing up on their own, so now that we aren't stuffing pills down their throats every day, we're dumping ear meds into their ears... These ladies are not happy about it! But it's (in a way) rewarding to see how much more difficult it is to medicate them than it was when they first came to us too weak to fight! These ladies should be up for adoption pretty soon, as we don't expect them to take to long on the ear meds!

Poor Guava and Fig are the slowest in the bunch, so will take a little more time. Guava still has a raging upper respiratory infection, so she isn't going anywhere until she feels better. And since she started her ronidazole a few days late, she still has some treatment time to go there as well.

Fig, on the other hand, is probably feeling better than he has in a long time, but that's only because he looked so bad when we got him! He has come such a long way and has developed quite the personality, but he still isn't quite right. Although he's put on a lot of weight, we'd still like to see him put on some muscle mass and look a little less unkept. For now, we'll just give him some more time to recover and see where that gets us. If he's still looking shabby in a few weeks, it will be time to run a few more tests to see if there is anything going on that we might have missed.

And finally, Miss Papaya... Papaya thankfully has completed her course of antibiotics in her crate (by eating them in pill pockets). She's looking and feeling much better, but still showing all signs of just being a feral cat that has no interest in people whatsoever. We're going to give her a little more time to see if she comes around, and if not, we're hopefully going to put her in an indoor feral cat colony so she can live out the rest of her life healthy and happy...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our six Maine Coons: Part Two (Treatment)

We've now had these special kitties in our care for 6 days, and it's amazing how much they have improved since getting them in! They still look pretty ratty, but all six of them have such distinct and amazing personalities!

Daily, these kitties require a lot of work, and we thought we'd share some of that with you :)

When these kitties came to us some of them were dirtier than others. Most of them spent the seven hour car ride grooming themselves, so pleased to finally be somewhere clean! Poor Fig, however, was filthy. Fig has the worst diarrhea of the bunch, so he was caked with feces and too sick to clean himself. First up for him was a bath!

Unlike just about every other cat we've ever had the joy to bathe, Fig just sat and purred while we cleaned him. He also was perfectly happy to snuggle with us post-bath!

Since all of these kitties came to us with raging upper respiratory infections, we put them on antibiotics. They are getting oral liquid medication twice a day; their responses range from dislike to hate!

The medication for the Ronidazole, the drug used to kill the Tritrichomonas foetus (which is causing them to have diarrhea), had to be special ordered in capsules. We just got it in yesterday, and have added these pill to the mix... One more challenge to overcome.

Because we were hitting them so hard with oral meds, we decided to treat their ringworm with a dip instead of another daily medication. Lime sulfer dip smells like rotten eggs, stains jewelry and some clothing, and turns white cats yellow. It's nasty stuff, but it works to kill the fungus and stop the spread of the disease AND only needs to be done 1-2 times per week. We were lucky enough to dip the girls while they were sedated (before their spay) but now get to try it on awake cats! Again, Fig is the model citizen... The rest are not so well behaved!

The rest of the care for these kitties comes down to lots of feeding, watering, and cleaning. Because they all have diarrhea, it gets pretty smelly and messy pretty quickly!

Persimmon's biopsy came back last night, and lucky for her the mass on her ovary was NOT cancer! We all did a celebratory dance knowing that she's been cleared medically and gets to recover and then go to a home like she deserves!

Our biggest challenge is Papaya. She's still petrified of us and has gotten so scared that we now can't handle her at all. Stopping the antibiotics was a necessary decision, but in order for her to ever be able to be moved, we needed to find a way to get the trichomonas medication. We've moved her into a crate where she can be monitored more closely, and put the medication in a Pill Pocket (treats made to hide pills in) and sure enough, she ate it! Now at least she can be medicated without being handled, and then hopefully moved once she is healthy to someone that can do the work to help her trust people again.

Everyone else is doing great; Kiwi is discovering the kittenhood he never got to have and spends his day playing up a storm. Guava still hates being medicated, but forgives us more quickly now, as long as we spend plenty of time with her during the day NOT trying to force things down her throat!

Again, please try to join us for our fundraising happy hour for these amazing kitties at Tabu in Center City from 6-8 next Thursday, May 12th. We hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Our six Maine Coons: Part One (Intake)

Two weeks ago, we got a message from a breeder friend about 199 Maine Coon cats that had been seized by the Buffalo NY SPCA out of one single home. Because these cats had a myriad of infectious diseases, the SPCA was only willing to transfer them to veterinarians. Because of their diseases, the SPCA has no where to put them, so it's imperative that they get moved to vets as quickly as possible. Jane, a Maine Coon breeder, has been helping the SPCA and doing a lot of the traveling back and forth between Buffalo and the final destinations for these kitties.

Since we have a veterinarian on staff, we were game to step in and help however we could. After talking with Jane and with the SPCA, we learned that these kitties had Tritrichomonas foetus (a protozoan parasite that causes severe and prolonged diarrhea) and ringworm (a fungus that causes skin lesions and itching), as well as ear infections and upper respiratory infections. They had also been covered with fleas when they were seized and had many intestinal worms.

We opted to take six of these kitties; since the cost of treating these cats is pretty substantial (they all needed to be spayed/neutered, treated for ringworm, and treated for trichomomas, plus treated for any other infections), we felt we could safely cover a few cats, put probably not more than that...

Jane and the SPCA were thrilled, and after jumping through a few logistical and bureaucratic hoops, we had a date (Thursday, April 28th) to meet Jane in Northeast Philadelphia (close to her home) on her return from Buffalo. We were so excited to be able to help these guys, but so appalled at how terrible they looked when we got them. We immediately drove them to our veterinarian for their intake exams.

Dr. Sprowls deemed the four girls healthy enough to spay the next day, but wanted to wait on the two boys, who both had pretty nasty sounding lungs from their respiratory infections. The next day, all the girls got spayed. They were all in heat, so very lucky for all of us that the SPCA had gotten into this home when they did, otherwise there would have been a lot more cats in a few months!

One of the girls, who we named Persimmon, had a tumor on one of her ovaries. We opted to send it out for biopsy, and are hoping that we get lucky and it's not a metastasizing cancer. We'll be holding our breathe until next week!

Here's a few pictures, day 1 and 2, of our six beauties...

Persimmon, female, is very shy, but so very sweet when you pick her up. She's the one that we're crossing our fingers for and hoping that her tumor is benign.

Kiwi, male, only around 8 months old, has a big personality and is a total charmer. He's a little boy, but he makes up for it!

Guava, female, is a little spitfire in all the right ways! She hates getting her medication, but is very sweet (when you aren't trying to stuff meds down her throat). She clearly thinks she's a princess, and she might well be!

Papaya, female, is the most scared of the bunch. She doesn't understand that we just want to help. It's hard to convince her we are good people when we're constantly medicating her, but since her upper respiratory infection is so bad, we don't feel like we have an option.

Fig, male, definitely in the worst shape of the bunch, he is literally all skin and bones and has terrible diarrhea. Despite feeling awful, all he wants is to snuggle with you.

CoCoNuts, female, is also a lover, but has a head tilt from her terrible ear infection. She feels pretty cruddy, but still purrs when you touch her.

We'll be keeping you updated with their progress over the next few weeks. If you'd like to support these kitties directly, consider joining us on May 12th from 6-8 pm for a special happy hour at Tabu lounge and bar in Center City Philadelphia. The happy hour proceeds will go directly to these kitties. And as always, if you'd like to donate directly, please feel free to use paypal or mail a check to our PO Box.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Hard To Be A Teenage Mom: Bella's Story

Meet our newest rescue, Bella. She's our most recent (because we get them all the time) poster child for reasons to spay/neuter your pets. Bella is 11 months old, a baby herself, and was pregnant. Whether her owners tried to breed her or not was a little unclear, but they had not done any of the required preparations to get themselves and Bella ready for the new arrivals. What many people don't realize is that breeding dogs and having puppies is not always easy and is rarely a good way to make money, etc. Reputable breeders select mates for their dogs based on a slew of veterinary exams and tests, making sure to decrease the likelyhood of passing on negative traits (like hip dysplasia) while doing what they can to improve on the genetics of the parents (by selecting a mate with traits the other dog lacks, etc). Even after choosing the right dog, it's important to take the pregnant momma dog into the veterinarian regularly to make sure that everything is going normally. By the time she is ready to whelp (or give birth), owners should have a sense of how many puppies are inside and how they are doing. In Bella's case, none of this had been done. She had arrived on a Wednesday night an emergency hospital after being transferred from a local hospital that was concerned about the delivery.

When Bella arrived, she had two live puppies and was trying to have more. Her owners didn't have any money, but applied for and received some CareCredit, a loan for veterinary services. Since they didn't have much, the veterinarians tried to save money and do just the bare necessities. Since Bella was tired from pushing and not getting puppies out, they treated her with oxytocin and calcium to help her get things moving. She finally got one more live puppy out and started feeding her little ones. Since the owners didn't have the money for an x-ray or ultrasound, the veterinarians couldn't tell if she was finished whelping or not. Since she seemed to be doing better, they sent her home.

Twenty-four hours later, Bella was back. The local vet that she had visited on Wednesday afternoon called on Thursday evening to ask how the puppies were doing, and when they were told that poor Bella was still in labor, they insisted the owners take her back to the emergency room. By the time that Bella got there, she was looking pretty worse for wear. Clearly, a puppy was stuck, and it wasn't getting out without surgery. That puppy was clearly dead (having been stuck in the birth canal for likely 24 hours) but the veterinarians were still able to hear fetal heartbeats, very fast and faint, indicating that the puppies remaining inside were dying from all the stress. To make things worse, Bella was showing signs of being septic, which means that the infection in her uterus (caused by the prolonged delivery) had probably ruptured and gone into her abdomen, making her very sick and getting worse. Things were not looking good for Bella or her puppies. Dogs in dystocia (the term for difficult births) for this long have a very poor prognosis, and every minute counts as the infection moves through her body and makes her sicker and sicker. Unfortunately, Bella's owners couldn't get more CareCredit, and they couldn't come up with the money to save her (at least $1000 and probably more at this point). The veterinarian gave them the option to euthanize her or to sign her over to the hospital, saying they would try to find a rescue group to take her, do the surgery, and save her life. In the meantime, they called us to ask if we would be willing to take her, recognizing that at 9pm on a weeknight it may not be easy to find someone willing to do the surgery immediately, which she definitely needed.

Before she was officially signed over, we went into action. Because every minute counts in a case like this, we wanted to be ready in case the owners decided to turn her over to our group. Our veterinarian was called and returned to her veterinary clinic to do the emergency surgery, getting everything set up in the clinic. Some of our volunteers were called, since we would need people to stimulate the puppies when they came out, just in case any of them could be saved. Two of us went to the emergency hospital to wait, so that if Bella was signed over, we could immediately take her and run out the door, getting her to surgery ASAP. The decision wasn't easy for Bella's owners; while they didn't want her to die, they also couldn't understand someone else being willing to try to save their dog and not give her back. It was frustrating for everyone involved as the veterinarian tried not to rush the owners unfairly, but all the while knowing that the puppies and Bella were dying. Finally, Bella's owners signed the paperwork, and we rushed out the door with her. They had not decided what they were doing with the three puppies, so we left them in the hospital, hoping we could come back to pick them up so that they could be raised by their mother.

Within a half hour, Bella was in surgery. She did pretty well, but it was quickly obvious that things were as bad as we had suspected. When we opened her up we found that her uterus had ruptured and her entire abdomen was septic (infected). We pulled out the puppies one by one (there were four still inside), and tried to save the two that looked the healthiest. Despite our best efforts, these two little ones never took a breath and never had a heartbeat. Bella was a trooper through surgery and woke up (after being administered lots of pain medication, fluids, and antibiotics) a little while later, only to cuddle with us for the next hour as we made sure that she was stable enough to leave in the hospital.

Bella's owners opted to take home the three live puppies, to try to bottle raise them at home. The nurses at the emergency room taught them how to feed the puppies, how to stimulate them to go to the bathroom, and explained how hard and often they would have to be doing it. The owners were optimistic, so we're hopeful that these three little ones will survive, and that their owners will have learned a very sad lesson, and take care to spay and neuter them so this doesn't happen again.

Bella is recovering well; after spending a night in the hospital, she went into foster care where she's slowly recovering from her surgery. After two days, she's likely out of the woods and only needs a little time to feel herself... Stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When Broken Dogs Get A Second Chance: Fernando's Story

Being friends with veterinarians at the SPCA is always fun - they call us about anything and everything in the hopes that we can "get it out" (meaning take the animal into our care). Many of these sad, broken creatures of Philly need more care than the underfunded, understaffed, overcrowded shelters can provide. Sometimes we can't help, as our rescue is always full to the brim, but other times we're thrilled to be able to say yes.

This time it was a call about a Pomeranian with a broken pelvis (hip), presumably from being hit by a car. Before we went to meet him we had them send us his radiographs, which you can see here. Basically his pelvis is broken in multiple places, but our friends at the SPCA tell us he can walk, urinate, and defecate, although he's in a lot of pain. Having a general practitioner veterinarian sometimes isn't enough, sometimes we need a specialist's opinion. Basically pelvic fractures come in 3 varieties - 1. the dog will likely die from internal injuries (obviously not the case here since he was doing ok), 2. the dog will heal with STRICT cage rest (no running or jumping, the dog lives 100% in a cage except for 5 minute potty runs on leash) for at least 6 weeks, or 3. the dog will need extensive surgery and pins/plates/wires to put everything back together. The difficult thing about pelvis fractures is that to the untrained (or even less trained) eye, it can be very difficult to tell what kind of fracture you are looking at. So we asked our good friend Joe (names are changed to protect the innocent :) ) who is an board certified (and excellent) surgeon if he would be willing to do an email consult for us and look at the radiographs. He told us that the Pom had a pretty good chance of healing with cage rest, and we should consider going for it. Since we were lucky enough to have an open medical foster home, we agreed to go meet the dog.

Our adventure with this pup continued at 10pm when we showed up way too late at the SPCA to actually pick him up. Thankfully the extremely kind overnight staff recognized our desire to save him and helped us out. Our behavior evaluation couldn't have been better. He was a sweet, but scared and painful, young dog about 9-10 months old. The staff obviously had a soft spot for him, and after receiving a few days of pain medication we were on our way.

The car trip was our favorite part of the story - after being warned repeatedly that he will bite if you touch his broken back end we were a little wary of our new acquisition. Since he was doing beautifully being held we decided he had earned a lap ride home rather than a cage, where he'd be bounced around. After sitting down he started squirming, rolling around and flailing, so we were convinced that one of us was about to lose a finger, arm or face to the tiny monster. Much to our surprise, he was simply expressing his gratitude for taking him away - he was giving kisses and delighted to be with us! We arrived home without any further incidents, he's now relaxing in his own room in his crate with food and water, he's doing well as of day 1. Stay tuned for future updates on...Fernando!

Monday, March 14, 2011

When Behavior Problems Aren't So Simple: Raja's Story

Five years ago, Raja was found as a stray, a beautiful giant running through West Philadelphia. At 16" tall and 90 lbs he was a stocky little monster. Raja was lucky enough to avoid cars, other dogs, people who wanted to hurt him, and all the other perils of the city streets, AND was lucky enough to be found by good Samaritans who pulled him off the streets and, not knowing what else to do, dropped him off at a local veterinary emergency room. As "those vet students who run a rescue", we were the first to be called. He didn't have a microchip, ID tag or any means to find his owner. We called the local SPCAs and shelters, and we posted fliers, but no one was looking for poor Raj.

This sweet dog, who never met a person or animal he didn't like, wasn't in foster care long until a young couple applied and were approved to adopt him. He settled in quickly and was happy addition to their family. He had a great 5 years there (making him about 7 now), before we received a disturbing email. Raja had started urinating in their house shortly after they adopted a kitten (a few months ago). They were at their wits end; they had tried babygating him away from the kitten, crating him, taking him outside more frequently, in short, everything they could think of, and yet poor Raja kept peeing in their house, ruining their carpets and floors. The sad, frustrated email stated that they just didn't know what else to do and wanted to return him to us so that we could find him a home where he would be happier.

To our surprise, when we arrived to retrieve Raja, he seemed much the same as when we left him: happy, wagging and giving kisses. They reported that he and the kitten seemed friendly, there was no fighting, chasing or other issues between them, just the urination, every day, in the house. Since they were sure that Raja's new behavior wasn't medical (he seemed normal to them in every other way, and they were sure he was just upset about the kitten), he had not seen a veterinarian since the problem started. To make sure we had a complete history, we started asking the medical questions that they might not have thought of. It turns out that Raja had lost some weight recently and also seemed to be hungry all the time, both of which they didn't think much about until we started asking (they had put him on a diet and attributed the weight loss and hunger to this).

In order to think about placing a dog as old as Raja in another home, we needed to do a complete medical work-up for him first. Since old dogs take a long time to place, we didn't feel like it would be fair to ask him to adjust to a new foster home and then a new adoptive home if there was something medically wrong with him. There are lots of serious diseases that are associated with frequent urination and weight loss, including kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. We wanted to rule all of these things out right away. We took Raja to our vet office for some routine testing on the way home, doing a urinalysis (to rule out diabetes and look for kidney disease) and x-rays first, then planning to do bloodwork to look for systemic problems like kidney or liver disease. To our dismay, Raja had a very large tumor growing in his abdomen, potentially associated with one of his kidneys, liver or spleen, and it had already spread to the lymph nodes in that area, meaning it was virtually impossible to cure. Based on his prognosis and the fact that he was already showing severe signs of kidney disease, we elected to euthanize Raja rather than allow him to suffer any longer.

We didn't want Raja to have died in vain, so we thought we could share his story in the hopes that his story will help other pet owners to recognize early signs of disease that may be easily mistaken for other things. A lot of the time, especially in older dogs, acute behavioral changes can be associated with sickness. And a lot of the time, it's easy to attribute these behavioral changes with the changes that happen in every day life; the new pet, the new baby, moving, etc, and to convince ourselves that what we're seeing is due to anxiety, spite, jealousy, or fear. Raja's poor owners went through weeks of trying to help him feel more comfortable in his home, getting more frustrated as each attempt failed. The first step to working through behavior problems should ALWAYS be a medical exam, especially in older animals. Routine vet care (including screening tests like wellness blood work) can go a long way to early detection of problems like Raja's, hopefully to identify medical problems BEFORE owners are at their wit's end and the animal is too sick to be treated. If Raja's owners had taken him to the veterinarian when he started urinating in the house, could they have saved him? We'll never know; it very well may have been that it was already too late. But at the very least, they wouldn't have watched their relationship with the dog they loved deteriorate until they had no recourse left but to ask us to come pick him up.

Raja is still luckier than many dogs that die on the streets every day; he had owners that loved him dearly, and rescuers that held him while he took his last breathe. He will not be forgotten...

Friday, February 18, 2011

To Be (Four-Legged) Or Not To Be: Fritz's Question

Last weekend was a busy one for rescue! One of our intakes was Fritz, a schnauzer/poodle mix with a tibial fracture (the tibia is the larger bone below the knee). After (likely) being hit by a car, he was brought into the PSPCA in early February, where the vets there did X-rays and decided to try to splint his leg, hoping that the break would heal properly. Unfortunately, Fritz was so painful from his broken leg and so overwhelmed by being in the shelter, that the staff contacted us to see if we had the room and the care to take him on.

Our first stop after picking Fritz up was the veterinarian. Because he had been splinted the weekend before, at the very least he was due for a bandage change! Poor Fritz was sweet with all of us, but didn't want anyone touching his leg, so our veterinarian sedated him so that he could be neutered and his bandage changed.

She first noticed that his bandage had slipped down his leg a little bit. Hind legs are notoriously hard to bandage, as they like to slip down the leg and create more pain and problems in bone healing. Even though we can sometimes get away with changing bandages only once a week, oftentimes hind legs need to be replaced more frequently. Fritz's break was also near the top of his tibia (basically at his knee) so it was very important that the bandage stayed put!

Fritz stayed at the veterinary hospital overnight and went home with his foster mom in the morning. By that that night, his bandage had already slipped again, much to our dismay.

We had a long conversation about the best thing to do for Fritz. Continuing to splint his leg for another 6 weeks, especially if the bandage continued slipping every day or every few days, was becoming a more troublesome plan. Sometimes animals let us re-splint their legs awake, but for Fritz, who was scared and very painful, that wasn't an option. Sedating him every 2-3 days was also not a good option.

If we had thousands of dollars at our disposal, we could contemplate having his leg pinned by an orthopedic surgeon, but that would still involve 5-6 weeks of cage rest after yet another surgery for Fritz.

After a long discussion, we unanimously decided that the best option for Fritz was to amputate his leg. Three-legged dogs, especially small dogs, do really well. Instead of going through bandage change after bandage change in a vet clinic that was scary to him for 6 more weeks, plus another 2-4 weeks of limited exercise, Fritz would undergo one more surgery and come out of it without any restrictions whatsoever. The other really nice aspect of amputations is that since the broken bone is removed, the healing process is much faster and much less painful overall.

Fritz had his surgery on Thursday and went home to his foster home today. Already his foster mom is reporting that he is doing so much better than when he had his splint on; he's less worried about her touching him and much more willing to walk around the house and interact with the other animals.

Finally, instead of being in our care for another 6-8 weeks, Fritz will be able to start looking for a home soon, and it's always in their best interest to go to their forever homes sooner rather than later!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Old Dogs Need Homes Too: Stella's Story

Although we end up finding and placing a lot of puppies, kittens, and young animals, they aren't the only ones looking for homes. Sadly, many older dogs and cats find themselves in shelters or on the street, and finding adoptive homes can be challenging. While we usually have a lot of success placing older small dogs (Fred, from an earlier blog post, is a perfect example, as is Walter, the pug that just went a home last weekend), bigger dogs, for whatever reason, have a much harder time finding homes.

Take Stella, for example. Stella is a mastiff (maybe boxer mix) who was found along Kelly Drive, completely confused as to where she was and which direction would take her home. A kind Samaritan (and veterinary nurse) picked her up off the street. Since the nurse didn't have the room to take Stella home, she contacted us to see if we could help. All of us at Cares4pets are suckers for older dogs, especially when they are as cute and sweet as Stella!

First order of business with any older animal is to run some bloodwork (to make sure they are healthy) and to get them spayed/neutered. Stella has clearly had A LOT of puppies in her life, and definitely deserves to not have any more! She did great under anaesthesia, but our veterinarian noticed another lump on her shoulder while she was asleep and took that off as well. We biopsied the lump, and found that poor Stella has cancer.

After doing some chest radiographs, we were able to determine that her cancer had not spread to her lungs, hopefully buying her some real time to enjoy the rest of her life.

Stella is any dog-lover's dream come true. She is housebroken, great with people, great with dogs, and wants nothing more than to curl up beside her foster mom. She's calm and quiet, and has been through enough to know a good thing when she sees it.

Although she's in a foster home where she is in good hands and loved, what Stella really deserves is, for the first time in her life, to be someone's pet. She may not have a ton of time left, but she's ready to make the most of it. All she needs is someone to share it with!

Remember, when you're looking for your next dog (or cat), that older animals need homes too. Even if Stella isn't the right match for you, there might be another senior that is.