Have a Heart and Get Ahead of Heartworm! 

By: Melanie Rushforth, Vice President, Veterinary Services SPCA Serving Erie County

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Sounds awful, right? There are preventive measures that all pet owners should be aware of. Read on!

Heartworm disease is far more prevalent in dogs, since the dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

The mosquito plays the main role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately six months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for five to seven years in dogs and up to two to three years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet. For something as small as a mosquito, those little insects can really wreak havoc.

In the early stages of the disease, most dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all, which is why it is particularly important to take preventative precautions. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs which may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

The American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventative 12 months a year. Some states do have a higher disease risk than others, but heartworm has been reported in all 50 U.S. states and dogs and some cats did test positive for heartworm disease in New York State last year. The mosquito population is determined by climate, mosquito species, and local wildlife. As more animals travel nationally and internationally, the risk of heartworm disease is increasing in each state.

Heartworm disease is easily preventable. There are several excellent products that when given monthly year-round prevent and control common intestinal parasites as well as heartworm disease. If your dog is not currently on heartworm prevention, please contact your veterinarian immediately to establish a preventative treatment schedule or contact the Lipsey Clinic!

The SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic offers veterinary services for cats and dogs! To see all available services, please visit LipseyClinic.com. To make an appointment, please call 716-531-4700.


The Synergy of Animal Welfare

By: Melanie Rushforth, Vice President, Veterinary Services SPCA Serving Erie County

“Synergy – the bonus that is achieved when things work together harmoniously.” – Mark Twain

Last week, the SPCA Serving Erie County adopted out a perfectly handsome and charming orange kitty named Nugget. Aside from his dashing looks and social personality (can you tell the author has a thing for these orange guys?!), Nugget’s adoption was the culmination of efforts across county lines, with the goal of serving animals in need, strengthening relationships, and building bonds to help pets live long and healthy lives in life-long happy homes.

Like any other business, nonprofit organizations like the SPCA Serving Erie County and other animal welfare organizations spend strategic time thinking about how to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. How are we as individual organizations meeting the needs of our community? How are we adapting to the changing societal climate? What makes what we do unique and worthy of support? And of course, how can we be better?

Inward thinking is critical in developing impactful marketing and fundraising solicitations. However, when our shared goal is making real, lasting change, it is just as important to look outside of each individual organization. Animal welfare is looking more and more like a social justice movement, and we are gradually getting better and more intentional about honoring the role of the humans in all this work.

As much as we’d like to think any of our individual nonprofit organizations are uniquely equipped to change the world, we can’t always do it on our own. If we’re to have a true and lasting impact on our missions, regardless of our intended audiences, partnerships are an essential part of our existence. It takes everybody rowing in the same direction, tackling resource deserts and inequity hand-in-hand, and focusing more on reaching our common goals than on who gets credit for the effort.

The challenge for many nonprofits is not just admitting this reality but learning how to find those essential partners. Perhaps even more important, though, is identifying partners who are the right fit for both organizations and our beneficiaries. The bigger the goal, the greater the challenge and the more resources required to reach it. No one organization can single-handedly tackle these challenges alone and be successful.

Neighboring Wyoming County is home to the Wyoming County SPCA, a much smaller animal welfare organization than the SPCA Serving Erie County in size, but certainly not in heart. While the SPCA Serving Erie County has nearly 100 employees and more than 1,000 volunteers (not yet all reactivated due to COVID), Wyoming County SPCA has one employee and far fewer volunteers. They’re served the community with love and compassion since 1905, and access medical care and treatment for every animal in their care with the intent of placing a healthy, fully vetted pet in his or her forever home.  It’s with an intentional collaborative relationship that the SPCA Serving Erie County got to meet and help Nugget and Abbey in their journeys to their forever homes. (Even though Abbey is a fantastic cat, I’m going to tell you Nugget’s story.)

Nugget had been in the care of Wyoming County SPCA for several months. He had an incredibly comfortable room, with a window seat and a sunny view to the outdoors. He received love, attention, and all the wet food his adorable orange heart desired. He had pretty severe medical needs and would not be eligible for adoption before those were addressed. Wyoming County SPCA does not have an in-house veterinary team (not terribly uncommon) and relied on a local veterinary hospital to help with the shelter population when needs arose. This is a perfectly normal arrangement for many rural shelters throughout the country. The board of directors at Wyoming County SPCA is very hands-on, and while satisfied with what they could provide to their community, knew they would like to do more, and were open to the idea of doing what they were doing better, all in an effort to provide the safest and most compassionate service to pets in need.

Wyoming County SPCA reached out to the SPCA Serving Erie County and arranged for a visit to the shelter in late 2020. The ideas began brewing, and each organization looked forward to future conversations and the endless opportunities ahead to collaborate on how to place healthy pets in loving homes. COVID created new challenges with access to veterinary care, especially in areas that were already limited. SPCA Serving Erie County wanted to help.

Nugget’s initial veterinary exam indicated that he had some serious dental concerns, and that he also had an unidentified mass in his mouth that was causing severe swelling and discomfort. Dental procedures are costly in a best-case scenario; and Nugget had several concerns that would require specialized care and attention. The SPCA Serving Erie County was able to coordinate a transfer from Wyoming County to Erie County so we could treat Nugget and monitor his extensive recovery in our in-house ICU. Nugget recovered beautifully, and the biopsy of his mass came back benign. Nugget was even more charming once he felt better, and we couldn’t have imagined that was even possible.

The cost of Nugget’s treatment and care was nearly $1,600, and this cost isn’t always as feasible for smaller organizations, especially as funding has been impacted heavily because of the effects of the pandemic. This effort on the part of the SPCA Serving Erie County, and the trust of the Wyoming County SPCA resulted in a healthy Nugget finding a perfectly loving owner shortly after being released from medical hold! Nugget didn’t know he was part of a larger effort, and neither did his adopter.

The result of any collaborative partnership is that ideally both organizations are stronger. The alliance effectively secures a sustainable future for both organizations and tangibly demonstrates trust, collaboration, and a unified message to the greater community. We look forward to more opportunities to help more pets in need and couldn’t do this work without the trust and backing of our supporters.

Beat Spring FLEAver with Proper Prevention!

By: Melanie Rushforth, Vice President, Veterinary Services SPCA Serving Erie County

Spring has sprung! These beautiful spring days bring with them a pesky nuisance – fleas and ticks. These critters not only cause our pets to itch and scratch, but they can also carry diseases. Pets that are allergic to fleas can have a severe reaction to even one flea. Spring and summer mean long walks, exploring nature and maybe even a hike through the woods. Unfortunately, these places are also common hiding spots for fleas and ticks. Whether you have an adventurous pup or an indoor cat, these pests can cause major problems.

These pesky critters are not just a seasonal concern, but instead, the gift that keeps on giving year-round. They start hatching in the early spring as soon as we have several consecutive 60-degree days. As the weather gets cold, the fleas will be killed after a few good frosts, but ticks can persist late into the fall or even through a very mild winter. Of course, if fleas are already in your house, they can remain there throughout the cold weather.

Contrary to popular belief, fleas do not live out in the grass. Adult fleas only live on animals. What gets into the environment is the eggs. Flea eggs are slippery little things, and they slide off the pet into the carpet or grass, where these eggs then hatch into larvae. The larvae grow into a pupal stage, and they can stay at this stage for a long period of time. Vibrations, such as those caused by an animal walking by, will cause the adult flea to come out of the pupae and jump onto the pet. Your pet does not have to be directly exposed to an animal with fleas to become infected. The pet just has to walk through the same place a flea-infected animal passed by.

Ticks are pesky, and in a whole different way. Ticks like to inhabit areas with tall grasses and brush. They climb up to the tips of the grass, and from there they can jump onto you or your pet. They don’t reproduce in the house like fleas. Therefore, pets that are completely indoors are at very low risk of tick infestation. Pets that go to parks, wooded areas, or near unkempt outdoor areas such as meadows or even some backyards are at highest risk.  You’ll find a tick on a dog far more frequently than you will a cat.

These parasites can lead to disease, which is no good for anyone involved. Tapeworms are the main threat that fleas bring. Ticks carry Lyme Disease, Babesia, Ehrlichia and several other infectious diseases. In addition, both parasites can lead to anemia, especially in very young or very old animals.

The good news is it is now very easy to protect your pet from these threats. There are several very effective products available that, when used monthly throughout the whole year on all pets in the home, will keep these pests away. The products proving to be the most effective and least toxic to your pet are available only through veterinarians, so please talk to your veterinarian or make an appointment to visit with us in the SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic by calling 716-531-4700.

Do-it-yourself products and essential oils can often cause more harm than good. Also, beware of over-the-counter products that claim to protect pets, especially ones available through third-party sites, because they often use older and more toxic chemicals. When you use the appropriate medications correctly, you can help your pet be free from fleas and ticks!

Don’t let fleas and ticks ruin spring! By being informed and staying ahead of the threat, you can ensure you and your pets are able to fully enjoy the warm weather and sunshine!

The SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic offers veterinary services for cats and dogs! To see all available services, please visit LipseyClinic.com. To make an appointment, please call 716-531-4700.

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Pediatric Spay and Neuter: Is it Safe?

By Melanie Rushforth, SPCA Serving Erie County Vice President of Veterinary Services

Short answer: Yes. Long answer with a background on how we got here: Keep reading.

The SPCA Serving Erie County and the Lipsey Veterinary Clinic promote and perform pediatric spay and neuter. Kittens and puppies can be safely spayed or neutered at eight weeks, or as soon as they weigh two pounds (and are healthy). The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ (ASV) guidelines recommend that a veterinarian should make the final decision regarding the acceptance of any patient for surgery, but it is just as important to note that the opportunity to spay or neuter an individual animal prior to adoption into a home in the community may not present itself again, and it is the only way to prevent overpopulation by way of compliance post-adoption.

Pediatric spay and neuter is safe. Endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the ASV, the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA) and in practice in clinics and shelters across the country, pediatric spay and neuter surgery and the anesthesia associated with the surgery show no adverse effects on animals both in short- or long-term studies.

There are many benefits of pediatric spay and neuter surgeries for cats and dogs. Veterinarians who perform pediatric spay and neuter report that it is an easier, faster procedure; the patients recover quickly; it provides the highest level of litter prevention; and it produces the most prevention per dollar invested. Research tells us that kittens and puppies spayed or neutered before 12 weeks of age have fewer complications from surgery than those over 12 weeks. Also, kittens and puppies rebound much faster after the surgical procedure, with less stress than pets spayed or neutered over six months of age.  If you compare it to a human ailment, think back to being a kindergartener on the playground.  If you were six years old and you yelled to your friends, “WATCH THIS!” and then slipped off of the monkey bars and broke an arm, you’d probably be out on the playground shortly after being casted up. If you did that now? You’re looking at lots of time off of work and you have likely convinced yourself that you can predict rain based on that nagging pain in your wrist. Little healthy animals heal quicker than big, and maybe not as healthy animals. Don’t delay!

Spaying and neutering young pets improves their lives. Spayed and neutered cats and dogs lead healthier and longer lives. Spayed females enjoy happier and longer lives without the constant stress of endless pregnancies and nursing kittens, and neutered males are calmer and no longer suffer injuries in fights over females and territory. Additionally, spaying and neutering virtually eliminates the chances for mammary and testicular tumors. Even young pets who have been in heat only once have a significantly higher risk of developing mammary cancer.

Any surgical procedure comes with risk, and the professional team at the SPCA Serving Erie County supports the concept and practice of pediatric spay/neuter in dogs and cats to reduce the number of unwanted animals of these species. Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should continue to use their best professional judgment based on the current scientific literature in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on each individual animal. For pets not already spayed or neutered prior to adoption, the decision should be made by the pet’s owner in consultation with a veterinarian after discussing associated risks and benefits.​

The SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic offers veterinary services for cats and dogs, including spay and neuter surgeries! To see all available services, please visit LipseyClinic.com. To make an appointment, please call 716-531-4700.

“Happy Visits!”
What They Are and Why You Should Schedule Them! 

By Melanie Rushforth, SPCA Serving Erie County Vice President of Veterinary Services

One of the positive effects of COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders we’ve experienced over this past year is that there has been a nationwide increase in pet adoptions throughout the pandemic. Pets provide companionship, endless love, and are known to reduce stress in their humans. Did you know there is something we can be doing to return the favor while keeping your pets healthy at the same time?

The Lipsey Veterinary Clinic and other vet hospitals around the country has been practicing curbside service. Curbside service consists of a relatively (human) contact-less experience for treatment and exams and is designed to keep humans safe and protected from the spread of COVID-19. However, this experience is new to our furry friends, and may be a stressful and unfamiliar time for them. The Lipsey Veterinary Clinic has begun offering “Happy Visits” to prepare pets to feel at ease when coming to the vet. Here’s what those look like, and why we think they’re important.

For some background on why we decided to start this we will turn to the psychology behind it. Classical conditioning happens when animals learn to associate certain things in their environment with a positive or negative experience. Classical conditioning is at work all the time in everyday life, whether we intend for it to happen. Animals learn to associate what they experience with different things that occur in their environment. Figuring out how to contribute to a positive experience can be useful to pets, pet owners, and veterinary providers.

When we see your pet at the Lipsey Veterinary Clinic, we love them. We tell Fluffy that he is the best and most handsome boy around, and we mean it every time! We have cheese in a can and all the ear scritches that he can handle. However, we also have sharp things that poke. And scales that they must stand on (and who likes that?!). And a million unfamiliar smells. And as nice as everyone is, mom and dad must wait outside for now, and the foreseeable future.

COVID-19 has contributed to an environment where newly adopted pets may not be getting as much socialization outside of their household as pets were getting pre-COVID. Scheduling a “Happy Visit” will help your pet become familiar with the vet’s office BEFORE going in to be vaccinated or to have a procedure. This creates a positive environment before anything needs to happen and gives your pet a place to be excited about returning to. “Happy Visits” will let your pet meet the staff, sniff around, meet the scale, get treats and pets and compliments, and end with a plan to return for the needed services like vaccinations and nail trims. New places are sometimes anxiety-producing – just because they are new. Scheduling “Happy Visits” occasionally reduces your pet’s anxiety by simply transforming the vet’s office from an unknown to a known environment.

Better yet, take along some great treats, preferably something that is incredibly special to your pet like steak or hot dogs. If you have a puppy or kitten, start your “Happy Visits” as early as possible. But don’t worry if you have an older pet or a pet that is already anxious about vet visits. “Happy Visits” can dramatically reduce an adult pet’s stress level, too.

Some things you can work into your home routine include some simple things that you’re already doing, but now you can do them knowing that they will help your pet be a great patient. Getting your pet accustomed to being touched all over is essential for your pet’s comfort during an examination. In a routine exam, the veterinarian may look in your pet’s eyes, ears, and mouth, listen to his heart and lungs, touch and probe his belly, manipulate his joints, and take his temperature. Pets that are handled, petted, and touched all over daily will be less likely to perceive this as invasive, and more likely to regard it as affectionate (if somewhat personal!) touching.

In addition, when you regularly spend time touching your pet, you will be more likely to notice changes such as lumps, swelling, or tenderness that may indicate health problems.

Another very important part of this routine is to take note of your pet’s sensitive spots. Most pets have one or more spots where they prefer not to be touched. Some pets don’t like to have their paws touched. Others may not like their hips, ears, or tails touched. This is great information to offer to the receptionist when making an appointment; that way, we can be prepared to know what to expect.

You can help even the most reluctant pet accept the handling of sensitive areas with a little patience and some great treats. Have your pet near you in a comfortable position. Then feed your pet his favorite treats while briefly touching the sensitive spot. For example, if your pet is sensitive about having his paws handled, gently and quickly stroke your pet’s paw and then give him a great treat. Once your pet is happy about the brief touch (because he knows the treat is coming!), you can leave your hand on his paw just a little bit longer before giving him the treat. Gradually work up to holding the paw, then giving gentle squeezes, and eventually touching between his toes.

We love seeing your pets, and we look forward to their visits. Even though we don’t see your pet often, we consider them part of our clinic family. Regular wellness visits are helpful for long-term health, so please get those appointments on the calendar! If you would like to schedule a “Happy Visit” for your cat or dog in anticipation for a future service at the Lipsey Veterinary Clinic, please call the clinic at 716-531-4700!


By: Melanie Rushforth, Vice President, Veterinary Services SPCA Serving Erie County

A lot of times we approach the cause for why spaying your pet is important by advocating for overpopulation prevention. If pets are spayed, they cannot bring more puppies or kittens into the world, thus they are not contributing to the 19 million homeless pets in the United States. However, another important aspect of spaying your pets is for the health benefits. An unspayed cat or dog produces hormones and goes through heat cycles once a month. For each heat cycle a female goes through, her uterine lining thickens, until eventually, cysts begin to form. These cysts create an environment that is ideal for bacteria to grow. This bacteria growth causes an infection called pyometra, which, left unattended can be fatal. The only way to truly get rid of the infection is to perform a spay surgery and, when the infection has already set in what is normally a simple surgery can be much more complicated.

We see pyometra most often in older dogs who have been left unspayed. A particularly notable one that we’ve seen was in a dog weighing 54 pounds with her infected uterus weighing 10 pounds. It was nearly five times the size a healthy uterus would be! Imagine how painful it would be to carry 10 pounds of infection around in your belly. Nip this potential problem in the bud (literally) and make sure you make an appointment for your pet to come in to be spayed.

Today is World Spay Day! Launched in 1995, World Spay Day is an annual campaign that aims to encourage people to save animal lives by spaying and neutering companion animals and feral cats. Initiated by Doris Day and her Animal League as Spay Day USA in 1995 when the estimated euthanasia rate in overcrowded shelters was between 14 and 17 million dogs and cats each year, this annual event has grown to global proportions in 74 countries, resulting in the spay/neuter of millions of animals since its inception.

The Lipsey Veterinary Clinic is proud to offer affordable spay and neuter surgeries for dogs and cats, and while they are with us, they will receive high quality and compassionate care. You will do right by your pet, and your pet will be happier, healthier, and better for it.

Please contact the SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic for an exam and a spay or neuter appointment by calling 716-531-4700 or visit us on LipseyClinic.com!


It’s Walk the Dog Day!

By: Melanie Rushforth, Vice President, Veterinary Services SPCA Serving Erie County

Today is National Walk the Dog Day! When the shutdown first began early last year, nearly every pup everywhere thought it was National Walk the Dog Day every day. Workers shifted to home offices, and families were starting to feel a little stir-crazy.

Here are some reasons to celebrate this day, rain or shine, from the SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic staff:

Walking your dog is about so much more than just “potty breaks.” Walking your dog provides mental stimulation, physical exercise, chances for socialization, and opportunities for behavioral training. Moreover, it gets both of you out and about while helping to grow the bond you have with your dog. Walking can be as good for humans as it can for dogs. Dog owners enjoy numerous health and social benefits by walking their dog a few times a week. Benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and bones (built up by walking regularly), and decreased stress. A regular walk is vitally important for your pet’s health too for those same reasons.

Living in WNY and think it’s too cold or snowy to get in a good walk? Lucky for all of us, we live in a time when doggie boots and coats (and other clothes) are available for dogs of every size. Maybe you can get matching coats and hit the great outdoors together!

The SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic offers veterinary services for cats and dogs! To see all available services, please visit LipseyClinic.com. To make an appointment, please call 716-531-4700.

The SPCA’s Lipsey Veterinary Clinic continues their quest to educate everyone about the importance of your pet’s dental health! In today’s video, they show what happens when you bring your dog in for a dental cleaning with the help of their new little friend Chewy.

The Clinic offers veterinary services for cats and dogs! To see all available services, please visit LipseyClinic.com. To make an appointment, please call 716-531-4700.

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