Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Volunteering for WHS

This month I accomplished something I have wanted to do for quite some time; volunteer at the Washington Humane Society’s Cat NeighborhoodPartnership Program (CatNiPP) monthly spay/neuter clinic.  This WHS program provides care for the thousands of stray and abandoned cats in our community.  Known as feral because they are not socialized to humans and unable to be adopted into a home, these cats separate themselves into groups called a colony.  Volunteer caregivers provide food, water and shelter for these often forgotten animals. 

The caregivers humanely trap the cats and bring them into the National Capital Area Spay and Neuter Center one Sunday a month.  The cats are sterilized under anesthesia by volunteer veterinarians then vaccinated and treated for fleas.  Additionally each cat’s left ear is tipped which is an indication that this cat is part of a colony and has been spayed or neutered.  Once the cats have recovered fully they are released back into their same colony.

CatNiPP is a critical program to humanely reduce the population of feral cats by spaying and neutering them so they cannot reproduce and make more feral cats.  Even with these efforts there are still too many kittens being born but these tiny helpless babies are not left out to fend for themselves and repeat the cycle.  CatNiPP will collect them and care for them until they are old enough to be adopted into indoor homes with a family that will love them. 

This month we treated about thirty cats, although I hear that by the end of last year they were helping around seventy each month.  I learned a new surgical technique for cat spays which was exciting for me and I got to make things a little better for a few kitties who have a pretty tough life.  I am already looking forward to next month’s clinic.  For more information please visit CatNiPP’s website

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to keep your pets safe in winter

Since we are in the depth of winter complete with heavy snow to be followed by freezing temperatures, I wanted to give you a few tips on things to look out for in order to keep your pet’s safe.

Salting for snow and ice: Many of the chemicals used to keep sidewalks and roads safe can be toxic to dogs. Toxicity is best avoided by cleaning paws after a walk so they don’t lick off the chemicals once you get home. If you will be salting your own property choose a product that specifies it is pet friendly.  You can also use booties such as the PAWZ Dog boots which are disposable and waterproof – that’s only if your dog tolerates them.

Freezing temperatures: I think this shouldn’t need to be said but keep your pets inside when it gets cold. If the thermostat dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit bring outside dogs inside. If you have a shorthaired dog it is a good idea to keep them warm on walks with a toasty jacket or sweater. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia just like us so please protect them.

Indoor/Outdoor Cats: Cats should always be kept inside to protect them from trauma and diseases but if you do have an indoor/outdoor cat don’t let them out in cold and inclement weather.  Cats will often seek warmth by crawling up onto the engine block of a car.  This is a really bad scene if the cat is still curled up in there when the car is started.

Orthopedic Injury: Dogs love running through the deep snow and don’t give much thought to racing across an icy patch of terrain.  Owners must be careful when letting pups run free as they can easily pull a muscle or slip and fall.  Another danger is when ice and snow accumulate between furry toes causing cuts or irritation.

Rodenticide: The cold weather drives rats and mice into our homes and without question this is undesirable. In an effort to get rid of these unwanted visitors many people will put out poison in the house and around the property. Keep this in mind, rodenticides don’t just kill rodents, they will kill any mammal that ingests it. Most rat poison is formulated to be tasty, attracting both rodents and our pets. If you must put a rodenticide make sure your animals can’t get to it, remembering that the crafty rodent often will move the poison.

Antifreeze: This common chemical has a sweet taste so dogs and cats are actually attracted to it. If you are unaware your pet was exposed, by the time clinical signs become apparent it is often too late for treatment. The other nasty thing about antifreeze is that a tiny amount is all it takes to cause irreversible damage resulting in death. Avoid this by monitoring your pets at all times when outside your home.

I hope this information helps you and your pets enjoy the winter!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Frank and Poppy

As a lover of yellow dogs I have always know that golden retrievers were prone to developing cancer, but I was absolutely blown away to learn that more than half of all golden retrievers will die of cancer.  This nasty disease doesn’t just limit itself to sweet, fluffy goldens; cancer is the leading cause of death in all dogs over the age of two. 

I have been on both sides of the table when it comes to discussing cancer in a pet.  My beloved dog Westin who was a golden mix, died at the age of thirteen after battling three different types of cancer.  Unfortunately I routinely have to break the news to a pet owner that their dog or cat has cancer.  Each and every time is heartbreaking for the owner and for me it brings the memory of losing Westin right up to the surface.


The Morris Animal Foundation is bringing us hope in the fight against cancer.  They have launched the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, a groundbreaking effort to better understand the cause of cancer in dogs.  Set to span 10-14 years, they plan to enroll up to 3,000 golden retrievers and follow them throughout their life.  Researchers will look at genetics, lifestyle, nutrition and environment for a possible link to understand what is causing cancer in these dogs.  The information collected will hopefully allow us to prevent disease and develop more effective cancer treatments for all dogs. 

The truly amazing thing is what we learn from this study could also help us better understand cancer in people.  Companion animals are an excellent source for learning more about cancer in people.  They are exposed to many of the same environmental risks as we are and since cancer in pets occurs in years as opposed to decades with people we can gain information much more quickly.  By studying the behavior of cancer in dogs and their response to treatment we learn valuable information about cancer in people.  This information is not obtained through animal testing as these studies are done in animals that have naturally occurring cancers. 

If you have a golden retriever between 6 and 24 months old and are interested in participating please visit for more information.  Friendship Hospital for Animals will be working with the study to help get dogs signed up to join the fight against this heartbreaking disease.  I can't wait to get started!