Information For Animal Shelters

Recently, I learned about a wonderful website devoted to animal shelters called  The site contains a wealth of information including how to design and set-up an animal shelter, care for the animals, solicit donations, encourage volunteers and apply for grants.  There is even a section on dealing with the problem of feral cats.  Most information is available in Spanish as well as English.

One word of caution.  Before launching a new shelter, ask if it is truly necessary or if it would be better for the animals to partner with an existing organization.  As someone quite devoted to nonprofits, I know the hardest money to find are unrestricted endowment funds.  Yet, finance is often what leads to the demise of nonprofits.  Even if they remain viable, groups who live hand to mouth may not always be doing the best for animals in their area . . . and doing the best for animals must be our sole focus.

With the above caveat, I do wish to thank the Humane Society of the United States for establishing and maintaining this wonderful website.  It is a tremendous resource for all people who are trying to improve the welfare of animals.     

Hawaiian Elephants Get New Home

The Honolulu Zoo is building a new enclosure for their two Indian elephants, Mari and Vaigai.  These girls have been living in a 6,000 square foot enclosure, which is way too small for elephants.  The new one is five times larger.  It even includes a pool where Mari and Vaigai can swim during the heat of the day.  

I want to thank the people of Hawai’i for giving their elephants a new home.  I would love to see a video clip of them as they are released for the first time.  Will they stop to take a dust bath or head straight to the pool?      

Canadian Veterinarians Observe Illness In Dogs Fed Chicken Jerky Treats

This week, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association alerted the American Veterinary Medical Association about potential problems associated with some chicken jerky treats manufactured in China.  The brand names were not included.   Veterinarians in Ontario, Canada have observed Fanconi-like signs in dogs including vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, increased thirst and increased urination.  The real Fanconi Syndrome is an inherited kidney condition observed in Basenjis, Norwegian Elkhounds, Shetland sheepdogs and Schnauzers.  Toxins that affect the proximal tubules of the kidneys mimic this disease.  I saw similar signs in dogs and cats during the 2007 melamine poisonings.  No recalls have been announced in either Canada or the United States at this time.        

I want to thank the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association for sharing this information with us.         

You Make The Diagnosis: Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the United States.  They are handsome dogs with fluffy coats that range in color from blonde to deep red.  Goldens have beautiful brown eyes and a black nose.  As for personality, I think of goldens as the “Miss Congeniality” of the dog world.  They greet everyone with a wagging tail and sloppy kiss.  No wonder so many veterinarians live with goldens!

Unfortunately, this breed is prone to many health problems.  List as many as you can, then scroll past Logan, the adorable puppy, for the answers. 


1) Allergies/Atopy
2) Hip Dyspasia
3) Progressive Retinal Atrophy
4) Otitis Externa
5) Hypothyroidism
6) Lymphoma
7) Hemangiosarcoma
8) Osteosarcoma
9) Separation Anxiety
10) Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome
11) Keratitis Sicca (Dry Eye)

I am happy to tell you that Logan is a healthy boy, free of any of the problems listed above.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting this bundle of fur and hope to see him often as he grows. 

A Wobbly Meerkat Named Bobbles

On a recent visit to the Honolulu Zoo I noticed a wobbly meerkat trying to dig a hole.  “Bobbles” was born with a medical problem.  Based upon observing him for a time I believe it is probably cerebellar hypoplasia.  This condition effects coordination and balance.  He is easy to spot as he teeters his way around the enclosure.  According to his keeper Caitlin, the rest of the meerkats accept Bobbles as a gifted member of their family.  They accept him as he is, wobbles and all.    

When I volunteered at a different zoo, I met a Mata Mata turtle with an imperfect shell.  As a young turtle, the calcium in her diet was deficient.  Instead of a normal dome shaped shell, her shell was flat.  I thought we should design a nice, comfortable enclosure that would allow visitors to see this turtle and learn about the importance of proper diet for all animals.  We could even include an x-ray of a normal Mata Mata turtle and one of this girl to highlight the problem.  The curator refused because he didn’t want to display imperfect animals!  

I wish to commend the Honolulu Zoo for allowing Bobbles to stay with his family in the main meerkat enclosure.  He and his family are a wonderful example of acceptance for us all.  Please enjoy meeting this extraordinary meerkat!  

Nevada Close To Passing Cooney’s Law

In 2010, an adopted dog named Cooney was brutally murdered by his owner.  The man gutted Cooney with a box cutter.  Under Nevada Law, the maximum penalty for first time animal abusers is only a misdemeanor – no matter how horrific the crime.  The system does not allow judges to increase the penalty.  A bill named in honor of Cooney is now working its way through the system.  If passed, it will make it a category D felony to intentionally harm a companion animal.  I wish it were for harm to any animal but at least it’s a start.  

Cooney’s Bill also includes a provision that makes it illegal to separate puppies and kittens from their mothers before eight weeks of age.  As a veterinarian, this provision thrills me.  Puppies and kittens younger than eight weeks old require an enormous amount of care, more than the average person is equipped to provide.  In addition, they learn a tremendous amount from their mother’s and littermates between six and eight weeks of age.  I strongly believe puppies and kittens should not be taken from their mothers until after eight weeks.

If you live in Nevada, I urge you to contact your lawmakers and voice strong support for Cooney’s law.  Animals depend on us, let’s not let them down.  Thank you!   

More information is available at Nevada Voters For Animals.      

Raw Cat Food Recall

Today I received an AVMA Animal Alert announcing yet another pet food recall.  Primal Pet Foods of San Mateo, California is recalling their four pound Feline Salmon and Chicken Formula.  It is feared that the raw chicken and salmon nuggets may be contaminated with Salmonella.  For more information, see the Primal Pet Foods website or contact them directly at (866) 566-4652.  So far, no known pet or human illness has been reported.  This is a voluntary recall by the company. 

Please remember that freezing does not kill pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella in raw foods.  Use caution whenever handling raw foods for human or animal consumption.  I recommend running all food bowls and utensils through a dishwasher after every feeding.  This also will prevent children from contact with a bowl that contains remnants from your pet’s meal.