April is Canine Fitness Month!

By: Shauna Greene, Veterinary Services Coordinator and Lipsey Clinic Manager

Western New Yorkers get pretty stir crazy this time of year and with a world-wide pandemic stretching into its second year, a lot of us are feeling extra cooped up. Humans aren’t the only species feeling the call of the outdoors – your dog wants in on the action! This month gives you the perfect excuse to get out in the sunshine and shed some excess winter/covid weight.  April is Canine Fitness Month!

Taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood is a great way for them to explore and satisfy their need for mental stimulation while giving you some exercise and the chance to socialize (from a safe distance, of course). If your dog is nervous or anxious around people or other dogs, consider using a yellow leash (or tying a yellow ribbon around their leash) to indicate your dog requires space from others. Here’s a little more information about this movement:

If you want to explore somewhere a bit more exotic, consider one of these dog friendly hiking trails in the WNY area: Guide to Dog Friendly Hiking Trails – Step Out Buffalo

And if you are stuck in the house, there are a lot of ways to exercise your dog indoors (remember, mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation and can help prevent destructive behaviors).  Use props made from common household objects like laundry baskets, hula hoops, buckets and exercise steps to build obstacle courses for your dog to work through.  My Australian Cattle Dog, Tex, LOVES it when I set up different tricks for him to figure out:

We’ll talk more about other ways to keep your dog fit throughout the month.  Until then, get outside!

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.

April 10 is National Hug Your Dog Day!

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

Some clever dog lover has deemed April 10th to be National Hug Your Dog Day. In case you needed a reason to hug your dog (besides the obvious), we have come up with several!

In both humans and dogs, oxytocin is released when you hug your dog. Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging. Oxytocin also has social functions. It impacts bonding behavior, the creation of group memories, social recognition, and other social functions. Basically, hugging your dog is way better than any prescription!

Hugging your dog also gives both of you a sense of unconditional love and connection. Unconditional love, simply put, is love without strings attached. It’s love you offer freely. You don’t base it on what someone does for you in return. You simply love them and want nothing more than their happiness.  I think that sounds just like a dog.

Hugging your dog calms and relieves stress no matter how bad of a day you had. Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. In fact, more than 50% of adults in the United States say they feel stress or anxiety daily. Adopting a dog (and hugging that dog…once the dog is properly introduced to a new environment) could certainly help lower that number!

The many health benefits of companionship are priceless. Dogs can decrease our stress, help relieve our anxiety, and can aid in the treatment of depression. They keep us active, lower our blood pressure, and make us feel safe. I can’t think of any one thing, other than a dog, that can do all of that. That alone deserves a hug.

Do you hug your dog?

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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SPCA Serving Erie County Offers Virtual Field Trips and Tours to Classrooms and Other Groups

April 1, 2021
By: SPCA  Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

SPCA Pop-Up Quiz:
My classroom cannot take a field trip to the SPCA.
___True  ___False

Your answer:
True

Our response:
Think again!

Right now, the SPCA Serving Erie County is offering virtual field trips and tours for school classrooms, homeschool groups, after-school programs, scouting groups, camp groups, and more!

A $50.00 tour fee will virtually bring participants to the SPCA’s 300 Harlem Rd., West Seneca shelter, where everyone will “visit” adoptable animals, Educational Farm permanent and temporary residents, wild animals receiving treatment in the Wildlife Department, enjoy an up-close-and-personal meeting with one of our animal ambassadors, and more!

Virtual tours can be personalized to showcase specific animals or subjects that tie in with classroom lessons and group needs, and can even include a virtual scavenger hunt!

Tours last approximately 30 minutes. For more information on virtual field trips and tours, please contact SPCA Humane Educator Katherine Gillette-Cockerill at KatherineG@yourspca.org, or (716) 875-7360, ext. 234.

March 30, 2021 — This story was released in 2019  to help pet owners make it a safe Easter for pets. This Easter is very different from 2019’s, but some of these reminders are still applicable for community members planning on bringing at least a few Easter traditions into the home on Sunday. 

LILIES, CHOCOLATE HARMFUL TO PETS; OTHER EASTER PET SAFETY REMINDERS

March 25, 2019
By: Gina Lattuca, SPCA Chief Communications Officer

The SPCA Serving Erie County reminds pet owners that chocolate and Easter lilies can be harmful, even deadly, to pets.

All parts of the Easter lily, day lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily, and others are toxic to felines. Ingesting even a small amount of the plant can result in kidney failure and, if untreated, death. Shortly after ingestion, a cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite. As the kidney damage progresses, these signs worsen. In most cases, a cat must be treated within mere hours of ingesting the plant, or damage to the kidneys will be irreversible.

Most chocolate contains high amounts of fat and methylxanthine alkaloids (theobromine and caffeine) that cause constriction of arteries, increased heart rate, and central nervous system/cardiac muscle stimulation.

These effects can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, excessive panting and thirst, hyperactivity, increased urinating, stiffness, and exaggerated reflexes. Cardiac failure, seizures, coma, and death can result if the chocolate ingestion is not found within four to six hours and treated appropriately.

Other reminders:

*Thinking about bringing a bunny into the home? Check out this important article from the SPCA’s former Rabbit Coordinator Mark Schnerle and the House Rabbit Society. You’ll see the truth about the nine most common bunny myths, you’ll learn how to select the right rabbit for you and your family, and more!

*If you color your Easter eggs, ensure the food colorings or dyes do not contain ingredients that are toxic to pets. And speaking of eggs, why risk salmonella by including raw eggs in your pets’ diet? Cooked eggs will offer them the same nutritional benefit.

*Check candy for the ingredient XYLITOL, extremely toxic to dogs even in very small amounts. Xylitol is a low-calorie sugar alcohol used as a sweetener, and does not raise human blood sugar levels or damage teeth. However, it’s extremely toxic to dogs and can cause liver failure, seizures, and death.

*Keep Easter basket ‘grass’ and foil candy wrappers away from pets. These items are non-digestible and can get caught in the intestines, leading to blockage and possible perforation. They can lead to choking, strangulation, and even worse, an internal obstruction.

*If you’re using garlic, onions, or chives in meal preparation, be extra careful about ensuring your pets aren’t sneaking a taste. These items are toxic to both cats and dogs and can cause gastroenteritis and hemolytic anemia. Adding to the risk is the fact that signs of both may not appear for several days. Signs of toxicity include increased heart/breathing rates, pale gums, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and lethargy.

*Tempted to share holiday table scraps with Fido or Fluffy? Use discretion. Be aware of bones in the mix. And don’t overfeed your animal with table food to which he’s not accustomed…diarrhea is never a pleasant thing with which to deal, especially on a holiday.

*Be careful in selecting spring plants for the home. The foliage, flower, or pod of daffodils can cause upset tummies, vomiting, or diarrhea; flower heads of hydrangeas can cause stomach pains, vomiting, and weakness; the seeds and pods of wisteria can cause all of the above plus dehydration and collapse; even ivy is toxic and can cause breathing difficulty, coma, or death.

*Be sure curious pets are not able to get at a garbage bag! Even if harmful items are properly disposed of, an unsupervised pet can chew through a plastic garbage bag and still have access to raw bones and other waste.

Contact your veterinarian for more information.  In an after-hours or holiday veterinary emergency, you can reach an emergency veterinary clinic at 716-839-4043 in Cheektowaga, or 716-662-6660 in Orchard Park.

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.