Archive for October, 2009

Heartworm In Pets
October 31, 2009

Dear Liz;

A few weeks ago you were talking about a dog your rescue was helping who had heartworm. Can you please explain what heartworm is?

Signed, Curious in Canton

Dear Curious:

Heartworm is a blood parasite (worm) that lives in the heart of dogs and cats and can be deadly if not treated.

The parasite enters the body via a mosquito bite. The mosquito introduces the filaria into the animal’s blood stream. From there the filaria travel to the heart of the animal and there they start to develop. As the filaria grow, they start to take up more and more space, literally choking off the blood supply through the heart. If left untreated, the heartworm, which actually looks like spaghetti, will kill the pet.

Now, there are tests to see if your pet has been exposed but it is much easier to tell in the dog than it is in the cat. The tests for cats are generally not reliable enough and there is no treatment for heartworm in cats. So, if your cat does contract heartworm, it will most likely die.

There are several stages of heartworm. The lower the stage (1-2), the less likely health risks to the dog will be permanent. The higher the stage (3-4) the more permanent the damage is that occurs to major organs. If caught and treated at the lower stages, the dog should not have any lasting effects and can live a normal, happy life.

Treatment of heartworm consists of injecting medication into the dog and keeping the dog EXTREMELY quiet for the next 6 weeks. It often involves keeping the dog in a crate for the 6 week period, taking it out for bathroom breaks and eating only. Treatment for heartworms can run up to $700.00 or more.

The reason for the extreme quiet is that once the treatment has begun, the heartworms are killed and the body needs to re-absorb them, which usually takes 6 weeks. Any increase in blood-pressure (or activity) to the dog will make the heart have to work harder and the dead heartworms can actually cause a blockage, causing a stroke or death in the dog.

So, in the long run, prevention is much less costly than treatment. And prevention is easy with the chewable tablets, etc., that can be given monthly to both dogs and cats. Hope that answers your question!

And Maggie, the dog being treated through the generosity of our Channel 3 viewers, is doing GREAT! I get updates from her owners who say that it’s very tough keeping her quiet but that everyone (including Maggie) is cooperating! I’ll keep everyone posted as Maggie’s treatment continues.


Halloween Hazards
October 23, 2009

Dear Liz,

Every Halloween I hear the warning about giving chocolate to dogs. Is the warning a myth or fact? Can a little chocolate be ok for fido?

Signed, Coco

Dear Coco (or should I call you Punkin!): NO, NO, NO!!! Chocolate (or any caffeinated item) can be VERY dangerous to your dog OR cat! Anything with caffeine in it (tea, coffee, chocolate, etc) can even be deadly.

So, too, can be sugar-free gum or other sugar-free items. We have a dog at home now who got into the sugar-free gum my 8 year old daughter hid in her room. (Don’t ALL kids hide stuff in their rooms?) Anyway, Piggie got into the gum and we had to induce vomiting to get the gum OUT of her. Long, LONG night we had there!

So with Halloween just around the corner, PLEASE, PLEASE make sure your children give you ALL the candy and keep it up in a high place, inaccessible to your pets. Candy is for KIDS, not for PETS!

This reminds me, too, that while trick-or-treating is a lot of fun for kids, it’s not so much fun for your pets. Strange costumes, strange people, weird noises, doors constantly opening and closing, doorbells ringing, pumpkins lit with candles, etc., can all be extremely stress-inducing for the pets (not to mention a fire hazard!). Please, please, please keep pets inside, in separate rooms where they can be calm and away from potential hazards.

We all want to enjoy the festive atmosphere of Halloween. Let’s make it a safe one for everyone!! Keep your pets OUT of the spirit!

Cat Box Blues
October 17, 2009

Dear Liz:  We decided to ad another cat to our family of 3 already.  However, since we’ve had him, someone has been peeing outside the litter box.  What should we do?


Grossed Out in Goshen

Dear Grossed Out:

You’ve heard the expression “Too many cooks spoil the soup”?  Well, too many cats spoil the house!

Actually, what’s happening is that there is an upset in the feline balance and someone is complaining in a way to get noticed.

If you can pinpoint which cat is doing it, make sure there are no medical reasons why kitty is doing this.  If medical reasons are ruled out, it’s probably a behavioral thing.

First, put litter boxes on every floor of the house, including the basement.  The cats are trying to tell you that there are too many cats for the boxes you have.  The rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than you do cats.  For multiple cat households, though, this can be an issue!  Here a box, there a box, everywhere a box, box!

Then make sure the litter is the unscented kind and scoop it daily.  Cats can get very territorial and each one requires it’s own “personal space” in order to be happy.  Keeping the box clean helps the cats not get territorial over using it (or NOT using it!).

If things don’t improve or the situation starts getting violent, it may be time to take the new kitty back.

As with every situation that may result in someone being evicted, talk with your veterinarian to see if they have other solutions not mentioned here.

Bad Rescues
October 10, 2009

Dear Liz:  I adopted a dog from a local rescue and found out that she has heartworm.  We were told she tested negative for this before we got her.  What recourse do we have?

Signed, Heartbroken in Hebron

Dear Heartbroken:

Well, this is a tough one.  I’m not sure what recourse you’d have except to file complaints with the CT Department of Consumer Protection or the Better Business Bureau.  Taking the rescue to civil court is another alternative that should be done in conjunction with filing a complaint against them.  Just taking them to court won’t alert the State that this group is not reputable.  Unfortunately, for as many good rescues there are out there, there are just as many, if not more, bad rescues.

I know we took in a dog a while back that was supposed to be heartworm negative but when he was checked by my veterinarian, he was found to be positive.  Turns out they forgot to test him before we got him.  That’s a huge expense for any rescue to under-take, both financially and time wise.  Fortunately, we were able to make it through that nightmare.

I also know it’s too late for many people who are in your shoes, but for those thinking of adopting a pet through an animal rescue, I have a few tips.

First, check with the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Consumer Protection. Ask them if the shelter you’re thinking of working with has any complaints filed against them.  They are a business and complaints made against them will be kept on file.

Ask the organization if they’re a registered, non-profit group.  If they are, get their ID number and check it with the IRS.  All registered, non-profit groups are registered through the IRS (that’s how we become non-profit!).  This will not ensure they’re reputable, but it at least proves they made the effort to become non-profit.

Ask the organization what their return policy is.  If the pet is found to have pre-existing medical problems such as heartworm that have not been disclosed on the adoption papers, is the adoption fee refunded?  There are certain illnesses or conditions that may not have been detected or tested for prior to adoption, though.

All in all, it’s a gamble any time you get a pet.  Whether it’s from a breeder or from a rescue, there are things that can not be foreseen.  However, any reputable breeder or animal rescue should be willing to work with you, the adopter, when issues do come up such as in your case.  Simply telling you, “tough luck – you got what you paid for” is, at least in my opinion, an extremely poor way to conduct business and one that should be addressed with the proper authorities.

My best to you and I hope that things do turn out well for both your family and your new best friend.

Domestic Abuse And Pets
October 2, 2009

Dear Liz.  I am thinking of leaving an abusive relationship but I am afraid that if I leave my dog behind, my ex will harm him.  What can I do?

Signed, Trapped in Tolland.

Dear Trapped:

It has long been known that there is a connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty.  The abuser, in an effort to retain control over the victim, can sometimes use the family pet as leverage to keep the victim at home.  The abuser will threaten to harm the animal if the victim leaves so the victim, afraid that she will not be able to take the pet with her, may stay in an effort to keep that pet safe.  Approximately 50% of all abused women will not leave because they fear their abuser will harm or even kill their pet. Unfortunately this often does not solve anything and actually gives the abuser more confidence.

If you or someone you know is thinking about leaving an abusive relationship but are afraid for the fate of your pet, I’m going to offer a few suggestions that might help.

First, if it’s a critical situation and there is imminent danger to yourself, obviously you need to call the police and leave NOW.  If you feel it’s necessary, take your pet.  Call the police and get out.  I can not repeat that enough.  I’m sure that the animal control officer for your town can be asked to keep the pet until you are able to get it back, once you’re in a safe place.

If you are thinking of leaving and have time to plan ahead, contact your animal control officer and ask if they can help until you can relocate.  Ask friends or relatives if they can take the pet until you can get settled.  Try to make arrangements for your pets and take them with you when you do decide to leave.  There are also many shelters that would be willing to take in pets under these circumstances as well.  But planning ahead is critical.

On October 1st, 2007, Governor Rell put into effect a law that permits courts to issue protective orders for animals owned or kept by victims of family violence, stalking or harassment.  “The orders may, at a minimum, prohibit respondents or defendants from injuring or threatening to injure the animals.  In family violence cases, the order may be a civil restraining, or criminal protective, order.”

So which ever way you decide that you must leave, know that there is help out there and that the State does recognize that your pets deserve protection as well.  My best wishes to you and your dog.