Animal Abuser Targets Cats In Arizona

In the last six weeks, 14 cats in Maricopa County Arizona have sustained horrific injuries at the hands of an abuser.  Two of the cats died from their injuries.  The others required surgical repair of the gapping wounds on their backs.  Detectives from the Maricopa County Animal Crimes Division are investigating.  So far, they have few leads on the abuser.  

If you have any information that might be helpful to the investigation, please contact the Animal Abuse Hot line (602) 876-1681.  Besides getting this menace of the streets, you might be eligible for a reward.  The Humane Society of the United States is offering $2,500 for information that leads to an arrest.  

Until the perpetrator is caught, keep your animals indoors.  Don’t let your beloved pet become the next victim! 

Gonzalez, Nathan, ‘Sheriff’s Office investigating cat mutilations’, The Arizona Republic, Valley and State section, Oct. 28, 2009.

Black Short Hair Kitten Has A Home

The black short hair boy found a new home!  Last Saturday, a young girl and her family came to visit him.  It was love at first sight.  Here is a picture of Jerry in his new house.  His owner reports that he is eating and sleeping well.  When Jerry wants attention, he runs around the house meowing loudly until he finds a human that will play.  At my house he loved to hide behind the pillows on the sofa and scare his brothers.  From his humble beginnings in a parking lot, Jerry blossomed into a wonderful kitten.  As the surrogate mom, I couldn’t be more proud.      

Pain In Dogs – How To Know If Your Dog is Hurting?

A common question I receive is “How can I tell if my dog is painful?”  Of course, the answer is sometimes clear.  The dog holds up the paw that’s bothering them, licks the spot that hurts or scratches at an infected ear.  But what if your dog is stoic and masks their pain?  How would you know then? 

If in doubt, first look for changes in behavior.  Lack of activity, excessive sleeping and when a formerly passive and gentle dog nips may all be signs of a problem.  If your dog suddenly stops begging for their favorite things like a walk or a ride in the car, then you know something is wrong.  A second step is to monitor their appetite.  A poor appetite is often a sign of a pain.  Third check their resting heart rate.  Feel the heartbeat on the chest behind the front legs.  It is usually stronger on the left side.  The normal heart rate for a dog is between 80 and 120 beats per minute.  In my experience painful dogs usually have resting heart rates over 140.  Remember you know your dog and their personality quirks better than anyone else.  If you think something is wrong, then it is likely wrong.  Bring them to a veterinarian willing to explore the source of the pain.  The answer can often be difficult to discern, but be persistent if you believe your animal is suffering.  You may be their only advocate and hope. 

Moving Your Cat

Moving is a stressful time for cats.  Without warning, their worlds are turned upside down.  Boxes appear out of nowhere, each with a strange smell.  Their normal routine vanishes as their frantic parents pack for the big day.  If that isn’t enough, the stressed felines are packed into a carrier and then released into a strange environment with new scents and sounds.  Here are my suggestions for making this time less stressful for the feline members of your family.

First, keep your cat confined at all times.  Unfortunately, many cats escape during moves.  A door is propped open for a few minutes to load a truck and the family cat vanishes.  To prevent this tragic event, keep all pets in a secure location.  Lock the door to their room and post a note “Cat Inside – Do Not Open” to prevent accidental escapes.  Update your contact information associated with microchips and collar I.D. tags.  Should the unthinkable happen, leave food and water at the back door along with an open carrier.  Most cats will return after they calm down.

Second, establish a ‘safe’ room in the old house where the cat can hang-out undisturbed while you pack.  The master closet works well as the familiar scent provides great comfort.  Set up another ‘safe’ room in the new house before the cat arrives.  Fill the area with familiar objects like suitcases, blankets, beds or a basket of dirty clothes.  Cover any windows to reduce stimulation.  This is not the time for him/her to meet neighborhood cats.  Provide easy access to the litter box, food and water.  Also give your cat a covered area to hide in.   Spray Feliway around the room to create a calming environment.  Allow the cat to view the room from the carrier for thirty minutes before opening the door.  Disturb the cat as little as possible once he/she is in the new safe room.

Third, acclimate your cat for at least 24 hours before allowing them to investigate the new surroundings.  Always keep a path to the safe room clear.  If the cat becomes over stimulated, return him/her to the safe room for a time out.  Let them explore at their own pace.

Lastly, control your own emotion before interacting with your pet.  Take a few deeps breaths and calm down before you enter the safe room.  I know moving is stressful with so many things to do and remember, but try to keep it to yourself.  Don’t  let your stress filter down to your pets.  Remember, you don’t have to unpack everything right away.  Pace yourself and be sure to include some breaks to spend time with your pets.   They need you more than you may realize during this stressful time.  You will also benefit as petting an animal has been shown scientifically to reduce our blood pressure.

Kauai County Council Bans Plastic Bags

On October 7th, the Kauai County Council voted to ban plastic bags.  While plastic has made our lives better in so many regards, I applaud this effort to protect the ocean and the creatures within.  Marine debris is a huge problem in our beautiful Hawaiian Islands.  According to NOAA, over 600 tons of abandoned nets were removed from the northwestern islands since 1966.  Many animals including the endangered Monk seals die when they become tangled in these nets.  Over the fourth of July, the United States Coast Guard removed 32 tons of debris from the same area. 
Even though these numbers sound impressive, they represent only a small amount of the debris floating in our oceans.  Between Hawaii and California lies the great Pacific garbage patch.  It is made up of small pieces of buoyant plastic debris.  As an example of the problem, think of the Humpback whales who migrate between Alaska and Hawaii.  They must traverse this patch.  Unfortunately, the patch tends to congregate in areas of the ocean that are rich in life making removal difficult.  NOAA explains that straining the water to remove the debris is not recommended.  “. . . straining the ocean waters for plastics would capture the plankton which are the base of the marine food web and responsible for fifty percent of the photosynthesis on Earth.”   

While environmentalists work on methods for removal, the County Councils of Maui and Kauai passed bills to address the problem at one source.  The bill mandates that all bags used after January 1, 2011 be made of recycled paper, biodegradable plastic or reusable totes.  In addition, Kauai launched an aggressive public awareness campaign called ‘Keep Our Oceans Clean’.  I saw the thought provoking ads while just vacationing in Kauai.  They used ordinary citizens holding piles of marine debris.  The one that struck me the most, featured a woman with hands full of cigarette butts.  Unbeknown to me, cigarette butts are the number one piece of trash.  At the Lihue Airport, I saw a stunning display about a young albatross named Shed.  The poor chick ate so much trash that he ruptured his crop and died.  Pictures of the debris removed during necropsy showed plastic bottle tops, plastic bag material and cigarette butts.  I will never forget that picture!

In closing, I want to thank the Kauai and Maui County Councils for their work on behalf of our environment.  I hope your efforts will inspire other city and county councils to take similar action.  Let’s keep our country and our oceans clean.

-‘Coast Guard removes 32 tons of debris from Northwestern Hawaiian Islands’, Honolulu Advertiser, 7/13/09.
-Kim, Leland ‘Ad Campaign Seeks To Reduce Ocean Litter’,
-‘De-mystifying the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”,



Dogs Who Vomit At Night

Although there are many causes of vomiting in the dog, I would like to discuss a common one that is often overlooked.  Bilious vomiting syndrome occurs when stomach acid and bile accumulate in the stomach.  If the dog does not eat soon, they will vomit the excess fluid.  This often occurs right before the next meal when the dog is at maximum hunger.  The most  common time is during early morning hours.  Their exhausted owner’s tell me they are awaken at night by the enticing sound of their dog vomiting.  Yellow fluid tinged with foam blankets the floor.

When I am confronted with one of these cases, I always ask the owner a set of detailed questions.  How often is the dog fed?  Does the dog pick at its dinner or devour it?  When are the meals served?  What kind of food are you using?  Any other medical problems?  How much exercise does the dog get?  In most of these cases, the dogs are good eaters with no other health problems.  They eat twice a day, once in the morning and once at night when their human family eats dinner.  

The treatment for this condition is simple.  As an added bonus, your dog will love you for it!  The prescription is to give the dog a bedtime snack.  As food is passed through the stomach into the intestines, it takes the acid with it.  As a result, the dog sleeps through the night without problems.  Often a piece of bread or a handful of kibble is enough to do the trick. 

If that doesn’t work after a few days, I recommend a full workup to rule out other causes.  Unfortunately, BVS may sometime be an indicator of other gastrointestinal disease.  Often endoscopy of the stomach with biopsy is the only way to make an accurate diagnosis.  Fortunately for some friends of mine in Montana, the nightly snack did the trick.  I hope it will for your pet as well.    


Belgian Malinois – San Francisco Airport Police Dog

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I had the privilege of watching Officer Jeffrey Brown and his canine partner Chico working the airport.  The handsome pair made quite an impression on passengers as they headed to and from flights.  This team navigated the crowded terminal with ease.  Officer Brown examined the people while Chico kept his nose busy searching for explosives.  Many passengers paused to look and some even tried to pet Chico.  I imagine most had not seen a Belgian Malinois before.  They are an impressive breed! 

Belgian Malinois are known for their energy, intelligence and strength.  According to Officer Brown, they need a purpose in life.  This echoes my experience in the clinic.  These dogs do best with experienced owners who keep them busy from sun up to sun down.  They are not couch potatoes!  

Officer Brown did an excellent job of protecting Chico and the passengers from each other.  You see, petting a highly trained, on duty police dog is not wise.  As Officer Brown suggested to several of us gathered around it is best to admire police dogs from a safe distance.  The other benefit of this is to protect the dog.  Many airport dogs, particularly small breeds like the beagles used by our Department of Agriculture, tend to get their tails stepped on.  This can lead to a bad outcome for both the dog and the offending human.  With a large breed like a Belgian Malinois it is an even more serious matter. 

“While it is very tempting to want to pet or say hello to the canine . . ,” Officer Brown explained.  “. . it’s never a good idea for a police or military dog.”  It is also unwise to get down in front of the dog or stare directly into their eyes.  Dogs interpret these gestures as aggressive and dominant behaviors.  They might respond with a warning growl or simply skip that step and attack.  

A great way to support canine units is by voicing support to your local law enforcement agency, city council or board of supervisors.  Since the majority of airport dogs are from the Transportation Security Administration/Department of Homeland Security, you may also want to contact your Senator or Congressional representative.  Tell them about the positive experience you had with the Officers and their dogs.  Let them know how much you value the protection these brave teams provide.     

Thanks to Officer Jeffrey Brown, Chico and all the men, women and canines of the San Francisco Police Department for the great work you do in keeping that wonderful city by the bay safe and special!  Your service is most appreciated.