Friday, May 14, 2010

For Animals Inc. | Dedicated to Eliminating Animal Homelessness | New York, NY

I am proud to announce that I have teamed up with For Animals Inc. and am now on their board of directors.

Let me tell you a little about their organization.  For Animals, Inc. rescues stray and abandoned dogs and cats and then transports them to a veterinarian office where they are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, dewormed and checked for general health. Afterward, they are fostered in a cage free environment until they are adopted into safe, loving homes.

With tens of thousands of feral cats on the streets of NYC, the focus is on TNR as an effort to humanely reduce the overall population, one colony at a time. By neutering & spaying the feral cats in the colony and adopting out friendly strays and kittens, the colony stabilizes and begins to shrink over time.

For Animals was founded in 2001 by Theresa Bachu when a pregnant stray cat gave birth in her backyard.  Unable to find a shelter to take in this cat and her kittens, caring for the litter proved to be a life-changing experience for Theresa resulting in her commitment to bettering the lives of homeless animals in New York City.  Upon learning about Trap-Neuter-Return as a humane and effective method for reducing animal overpopulation, Theresa began trapping and altering cats in 2002 by purchasing traps from the hardware store and leveraging low cost spay/neuter resources available throughout the community.

In 2005, For Animals forged an important relationship with me and my hospital Manhattan Cat Specialists.  What began as a partnership for saving rescued kittens grew into a consistent spay/neuter resource for Theresa's TNR and eventually a veterinary support system for many of the cats newly adopted from For Animals.  As the volume of cats Theresa was helping increased, she began discerning feral from friendly, stray cats who had been abandoned on the streets.  In 2006 the For Animals shelter and adoption program was established to provide temporary care for cats in transition.  After incorporating in 2008, For Animals joined the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals and began participating in mobile adoption events through North Shore Animal League America.

Since its inception in 2001, the For Animals TNR program has altered thousands of cats across hundreds of colonies, educated dozens of caretakers about proper care for feral cats, and developed a strong network of community participants who assist in identifying new colonies and trapping feral cats.  During this time the For Animals adoption program has also placed hundreds of homeless cats and kittens in loving, permanent homes while raising awareness about companion animal homelessness and the importance of spay and neuter.

Make sure to visit the For Animals Inc. website and also connect on Facebook and Twitter:
  • Become a Fan of For Animals on Facebook
  • Follow For Animals on Twitter
For Animals Inc. relies on volunteers to operate. If you would like to make a difference in one of the following ways, please go here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cream of Tomato Soup

Today I overheard my veterinary assistant, Kamilla, imploring a caller to bring her cat into our hospital for an examination. From what I could gather on the phone, the caller was not yet a client at our hospital, and was just calling for advice about her cat. The caller was Japanese, and I could tell that there was a bit of a language barrier at play here. (We have a large Japanese clientele, and we get a lot of Japanese referrals, thanks to my technician Hiromi who serves as a translator, reducing the anxiety and uncertainty these clients feel when trying to explain to a non-Japanese veterinarian exactly what is wrong with their cat.) I asked Kamilla what was going on. Apparently, the cat was having trouble breathing. Breathing problems are something that need to be addressed promptly, and Kamilla wisely convinced the woman to come in.

About a half hour later, I find myself examining the cat. Pumpkin is a large cat. Very large. Okay, let’s not mince words. This cat is grossly obese. Small instruments in the room begin to orbit the cat’s body. But it is clear that indeed, the cat is having breathing problems. The chest is heaving, the abdomen is pumping, the nostrils are flaring. There’s a problem here.

There’s a second problem here, too. Hiromi is on vacation this week. I’m trying to explain to the client, using crude drawings scrawled on a paper towel, that I think that there is fluid between the lungs and the chest wall (pleural effusion), and that I need to take an x-ray to confirm this. She nods in agreement, but I can’t be sure she really understood. Hiromi did say, however, that if I need her for translating purposes, I can call her. So I call. Alas, it goes into voicemail. I leave a message asking her to call back. The client agrees to the x-ray.

The x-ray shows a chest completely full of fluid. I’m wondering how I can explain to the client that I need to stick a needle into the chest and draw this fluid off of the chest so that the lungs can expand, giving the cat some relief. As I try to figure out what to say, the phone rings. Yay! It’s Hiromi. I tell Hiromi what’s going on and what I need to do. Then I bring the client into the room, put Hiromi on speakerphone, and after five minutes and a couple of konichiwahs, we’re good to go.

Normally, when we “tap the chest” (remove the fluid from the chest cavity; the technical term is thoracocentesis) we use a standard butterfly needle. This is a ¾” needle with a long thin piece of tubing attached to it. The tubing allows you to see the fluid as its being drawn off. The problem here is: this cat is fat! Super fat. I try using our standard needle, but the needle does not penetrate into the chest. In fact, it barely reaches the cat’s ribs! I try again, but to no avail. My technician Rita then suggests that we hook a regular 1 inch needle, but hook a t-connector to it. A t-connector is a short piece of tubing that we use when placing an intravenous catheter. She’s right…this might work. So we rig the device. I call in Kamilla. This is going to be a three person job. Rita will hold the cat. Kamilla will keep the needle pressed firmly into the cat’s chest, and I’ll draw off the fluid. After scrubbing the skin again, I insert the new, longer needle in, and presto! Pay dirt. Out comes a torrent of fluid, the appearance of which can only be described as a cross between Pepto-bismol and cream-of-tomato soup. This, I’m certain, is blood-tinged lymphatic fluid, and this cat has a condition called chylothorax. I’ll need to send this fluid to the laboratory to confirm it, but this is my working diagnosis for now.

Twenty minutes and 300 milliliters later, the cat’s chest is emptied, and she is breathing like a normal cat. Relief all around.

Two days later, the laboratory confirms my suspicions. Chylothorax.

There are several possible causes for chylothorax in a cat. Lymphosarcoma in the chest is one reason. Heartworm disease is another. Cardiomyopathy (heart disease) is a third. Trauma (causing rupture of the thoracic duct) can cause chylothorax, although this is unlikely, as the cat is housed completely indoors. The most common cause is “idiopathic”, a fancy way of saying “no reason at all”. What we really need to do is an ultrasound of the chest. That one test will rule out heartworm, cardiomyopathy, and lymphosarcoma. Unfortunately, the owner cannot afford the ultrasound. More worrisome is the fact that if it turns out to be idiopathic (and I suspect that it will), the only real successful treatment is a surgical one, and that would be cost prohibitive for the client (we’re talking thousands). For now, the client will try to manage things medically, with a low-fat diet and a drug called rutin, which can be obtained in a vitamin or health food store. I know from experience, though, that medical management is rarely successful, and that this cat’s chest is going to fill back up with fluid. Exactly how quickly is impossible to say. I had Hiromi explain this to the client. All I can do now is wait and see what happens.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hairball Roundup 2010

Dr. Arnold Plotnick made a cat hairball awareness tour-de-force for Spring 2010.  In case you missed it, here is a round up of interviews with Dr. Plotnick recently published for National Hairball Awareness Day 2010.

* – Cat Expert: How To Avoid Hairballs

* – National Hairball Awareness Day

* – Hack Attack

* – Happy Hairball Awareness Day: Romeo The Cat Interviews Dr. Arnold Plotnick

* – Everything You Wanted To Know About Hairballs Explained

* – There's More To Life Than Hairballs

* – Warm Weather Wellness Tips from Cat Expert Dr Arnold Plotnick

We would like to thank FURminator Inc. for partnering up with Dr. Plotnick and sponsoring this year's National Hairball Awareness Day.
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