January 12, 2024
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

Snow is predicted to return with a vengeance to Buffalo and surrounding areas. As many veterinary clinics (including the Lipsey Veterinary Clinic at the SPCA) are dealing with smaller work forces, it’s a little more complicated to receive emergency veterinary care.  Plan ahead for the upcoming snowy days and nights now to ensure your pets stay safe and healthy today and throughout the rest of the winter. Read on for some of the SPCA Serving Erie County’s winter pet safety tips.

*OUTDOOR ANIMAL SHELTER MUST BE SUITABLE FOR INCLEMENT WEATHER: …and if it’s not, animal welfare officers can rescue the pet even before he or she shows signs of suffering, thanks to New York State’s Shelter Law that went into effect in 2003. Thanks to a legislative push in late 2018 that led to stronger laws concerning the tethering of dogs within Buffalo city limits, the SPCA and other law enforcement organizations can now take even more steps to ensure dogs are protected from the elements.

* Keep a Tight Leash:
Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Pets can lose their scent on snow and ice, especially if snow is falling at a fast rate, and your pet can easily lose his sense of direction. Pets may also panic during a snowstorm and run away; many pets are lost during the winter months. Remember to keep current identification on your pet at all times!

*Keep Pets At Home: Never leave your pet alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold. Your pet could literally freeze to death.

*Always Dry Pet’s Wet Feet: Thoroughly wipe off your pet’s legs and stomach when she comes in and out of the rain, snow or ice. Check her sensitive foot pads, which may be bleeding from snow or ice encrusted in them. Your pet may also pick up salt and other chemicals on her feet accidentally. These chemicals could hurt her if she swallows them while licking her feet.

*Lay Straw for Dogs’ Visits Outdoors: Can’t get your dog to wear booties? Lay straw on top of snow for trips outdoors by dogs reluctant to step out onto a freezing surface to relieve themselves.

*Check Cars for Cats: During the winter, stray or neglected cats outdoors sometimes sleep under the hood of the car where it’s warm and comfortable. If you start the motor, cats could get caught in or flung about by the fan belt, causing serious injury or death. To prevent this, bang loudly on the hood and sides of your car before turning on the ignition to give the cat a chance to escape.

*Keep Outdoor Sessions Short: Take your dog outside only for as long as it takes for him to relieve himself. Dogs, particularly small, short-haired breeds like Chihuahuas and terriers, suffer from the cold despite their seemingly warm fur coats. Live within Buffalo city limits? Don’t forget Buffalo’s new laws pertaining to tethering dogs in inclement weather.

*Bathe Pets Only When Necessary: Your pet runs the chance of catching a cold when wet, especially in cold weather. If you absolutely must bathe your pet, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian.

*Keep Pets Warm: Limit the clipping of your pet’s hair in the cold winter months, keeping your pet as warm as possible. Brush your pet daily in lieu of clipping to keep your pet’s coat healthy, shiny, clean and mat-free. Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep far away from outside drafts.

*Hungry Pets: Speak to your veterinarian about increasing your pet’s supply of food, particularly protein, to keep his fur thick and healthy through the winter months. Inquire about vitamin and oil supplements.

*ANTIFREEZE IS POISON TO PETS: ANTIFREEZE, EVEN IN SMALL DOSES, IS A LETHAL POISON FOR DOGS AND CATS! Because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. Be sure to clean up spills thoroughly, and consider switching to an animal-friendly antifreeze. Ensure that, if you store Antifreeze in a garage, shed, or other places accessible to your pets, it is well out of pets’ reach.

If your pet becomes lost, be sure to visit YourSPCA.org’s Lost and Found page for recommendations on where to post lost pet listings, and tips for finding your lost pets.

For more tips regarding keeping pets safe and healthy during the winter, please contact your veterinarian.



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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“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!

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