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The Dilemma of Homeless Cats

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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Free-roaming cats without owners have recently become the center of a national controversy. Some groups see these animals as victims that should be provided with food and shelter, while others see them as villains that should be eliminated by humane euthanasia. Many of these cats are feral or “wild,” the descendants of unaltered tame cats that were abandoned and gave birth to kittens that never had contact with humans. Although ferals are fearful of humans, they are still domesticated and ill-equipped to live on their own. Feral cats do not die of “old age.” They fall victim to disease, starvation, poisons, attacks by other animals, mistreatment by humans or are hit by cars.

It is estimated that the number of free roaming abandoned and feral cats in the United States may be as high as owned cats (about 73 million). Since most owned cats are sterilized, these unowned cats are the primary source of cat overpopulation. Many people who encounter feral cats start feeding them, but feeding alone can actually make the situation worse by increasing the birth rate of kittens. Animal shelters nationwide receive several million unwanted cats each year. Due to a shortage of available homes, approximately 75% of these cats are euthanized. Locally, the cat euthanasia rate at animal shelters is about 90% and less than 1% of these cats are ever claimed by owners.

The impact of both owned and unowned freeroaming cats upon the environment is an ongoing subject of debate. Even well-fed cats will hunt and kill prey. These predations cause a significant and preventable loss of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Free-roaming cats pose a small but important threat to human health. They can carry and transmit to humans such diseases as rabies, cat scratch fever, plague, tularemia and ringworm. Also, serious injuries can occur if feral cats are handled without precautions or experience.

Historically, communities have responded to feral cat colonies by capturing and euthanizing these unowned animals. In areas where there is a natural food source (mice), this resulted in the influx of more cats as the resident feral cats were removed. As long as there was a food source, the feral cats would repopulate the area. In areas where feral cats are fed by humans, a strong bond is created with these cats and usually the feral cat feeders will not cooperate with control strategies that involve euthanasia.

Most veterinarians and animal welfare groups now support managing these colonies by trapping, neutering, releasing and monitoring feral cats. The goal is to eventually reduce the feral cat population; however, eliminating the colony may not be possible due to immigration of new cats. Ideally, these colonies should be located in an area where the cats do not pose a threat to wildlife. The location should be inconspicuous so as not to encourage abandonment of pet cats. All cats within the colony are humanely trapped and receive a health exam, tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS, neutered/spayed and vaccinated against rabies. Socialized adult cats and kittens should be adopted out to permanent homes and those that cannot be adopted should be returned to the colony. Most importantly, a monitoring program must be in place to identify new cats joining the colony, as well as cats requiring medical attention.

Stitch in Time is a local spay/neuter program for feral cats run by Street Cats, a local non-profit organization. Vouchers are issued that will cover a spay or neuter and a rabies vaccination. Over 50 vouchers are issued each month and once issued are good for three months. To receive a voucher call 918-298- 0104 and leave a message for Stitch in Time. Other local organizations that offer feral spay/neuter programs are Spay Oklahoma (918) 728-3144 and PAWS (Pet Assistance and Welfare Society) 918-376-2397.

- Dr. Judy Zinn

Arthritis in Our Older Pets

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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By Erin Reed, DVM 15th Street Veterinary Group, Tulsa

How do you feel as the weather gets colder? Do you feel stiff and sore when the temperatures drop? Many of our pets experience the same changes.

As our family pets get older, they also exhibit signs of arthritis. We have to rely on changes that we see, since they are unable to communicate with us. Decreased activity, increased difficulty getting up and down, limping and behavioral changes are some of the signs that are suggestive of arthritis.

Both dogs and cats get degenerative joint disease (DJD, also known as arthritis). There are many factors that predispose an animal to DJD. Genetics, obesity and injury are the most common causes of arthritis.

Genetics play an important role, especially with large breed dogs. When possible, it is recommended to research familial and breed problems before purchasing a puppy. Many breeders have breeding dogs OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified to decrease the chance of elbow and hip dysplasia being passed on to their offspring.

Obesity is a significant problem in both dogs and cats. By preventing obesity we are able to decrease a significant amount of wear and tear on the joints, therefore decreasing arthritis as pets age.

Previous injuries can also cause arthritis to occur at an increased rate. Many dogs experience torn cruciate ligaments, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and traumatic injuries that lead to arthritis.

There are many signs that suggest a diagnosis of arthritis, but your veterinarian will usually recommend a thorough examination and laboratory work to rule out any metabolic problems that may initially mimic the vague signs of arthritis, such as Hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease. Once a tentative diagnosis of arthritis is determined, trial therapies may be started. Radiographs are needed to definitively diagnose arthritis, but many times a patient’s response to treatment is also used. Radiographs are needed to rule out any other problems, such as infection or tumors.

Treatment of arthritis has many components. Glucosamine-chondroitin is often started at first signs of arthritis or following injury or surgery to decrease arthritis. Glucosamine helps stimulate synovial fluid, slow down destruction and improve healing of the joint’s cartilage. There are both oral and injectable products that can be used.

Many veterinarians recommend weight loss diets and increasing exercise to battle obesity in all stages of arthritis.

As arthritis becomes more pronounced, NSAID’s (non steroidal anti-inflammatories) are often used to help control pain and inflammation. Even though there are many products obtained from drug stores, never administer any medications without checking with your veterinarian. For example, aspirin can cause stomach ulcers and other medications, like ibuprofen cause kidney damage, even at very low doses. Most dogs respond very well to anti-inflamm atories. Each patient’s response will determine if they need to stay on medication daily or if the medicine can be decreased and given when needed. Before starting any ongoing medication, your veterinarian will usually recommend laboratory tests to check kidney and liver function and then repeat this every 6 months.

Seeing our pets get older is difficult, but in many cases there are preventative measures that can be used to improve and lengthen their quality of life.

Story by Erin Reed

Good and Bad Behavior

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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Q. We have a Labrador retriever, almost a year old, who jumps up on us all the time. We can hardly walk outside without him jumping all over us. He knocks down the kids, and is impossible to pet because he’s so wild. Will he outgrow this?

A. The short answer is, no, he will not outgrow this. He is jumping on you to get attention, and if he spends a lot of time outdoors alone, he is lonely! You can, however, teach him how you would like him to greet people. The first step is to prevent him from practicing this behavior, especially when children are present. The goal is for him to sit as an alternative to jumping up on people. You can accomplish this without using harsh methods such as kneeing the dog in the chest, which are ineffective and potentially dangerous to dogs and people.

To begin, set aside 15 minutes that you can spend working with your dog without any other people or animals around. Practice in the area where he is used to greeting people. Have a good supply of really yummy dog treats in your pocket, or fanny pack. With a treat in your hand, step toward the dog, into his space, and while he has four feet on the ground, give him the treat. Keep the treats coming as long as he has four feet on the ground. You can step into the dog’s space or you can turn away from the dog, but you must only reward when he has four feet on the ground.

To teach sit, you will let the dog sniff and lick the treat in your hand, but don’t let him eat it. Lure the dog using the treat so that while he is licking, you cause his nose to point upward. While his nose follows the treat, his knees will bend and his rump will touch the ground. At that exact moment, give him the treat, say, “Sit,” and follow with a “Good Boy!” Lure him with the food only a few more times, then wait for him to sit voluntarily. He will, and then you will reward him with treats and praise. Again, wait for him to sit voluntarily and reward him.

Practice a few times alone with the dog, and then recruit an adult volunteer. Now the praise and reward will come from the other person. The dog will anticipate getting food, and will try what worked before…the sit!

As your dog learns to sit when a person approaches, he will also be learning to sit to accept petting. As he sits, and you praise him, pet him with long strokes. If he gets up, you will say “anh anh” and remind him again to sit.


Q. I’m the proud owner of a 10 week old puppy. He’s doing really great in most areas, but he bites at our hands all the time and even draws blood. How do we stop him when he bites?

A. Congratulations on your new addition! I suspect he is really mouthing rather than biting you. All puppies go through a process of learning bite inhibition. They begin using their teeth on their mother and their littermates in play, to get resources, when they’re mad, or when they’re excited. We must teach them that humans are not tough like their siblings nor do we like to be treated like chew toys. It takes lots of patience on your part and lots and lots of practice to help him learn to use his teeth appropriately.

The first step is to“yelp” like a puppy would when his sibling bites hard. When you receive a “bite” that is particularly sharp, make a high-pitched “ouch” sound, and stop petting or playing. You may see the puppy retreat slightly, which is a good sign. You should act offended, and he should act sorry. You will probably repeat this process several times in a row, and if he persists, just end the interaction. Walk away, do not continue giving him attention.

Offer him a toy to chew on instead of your hands. As you are petting, grooming, or playing with your puppy and he puts his teeth on you, firmly say, “No Bite.” As you say this, rest his chin in the palm of one hand, so that your fingers curl upward and gently around his lips (not over the top of his muzzle), and place your other hand on his collar. Hold him very gently, as if you were holding a bird in your hands. You should see his tongue quickly flick out and lick his lips. That’s his way of apologizing. When you see this, remove your hands, pet him gently and tell him that he is a good boy.

Never discipline a puppy by shaking him, spanking him, or clamping down on his muzzle. Never tease him with your hand gestures. Play with toys with him rather than your body!

Mary Green, Certified Pet Dog Trainer, is the owner of K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow. She is a consultant for the Tulsa SPCA, trainer for TheraPetics Service Dogs of OK, and is a monthly guest on the KOTV Noon News.

Story by Mary Green

ASK THE VET

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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This issue’s participating veterinarian: Stephanie Ensley, DVM

Q. My seven-year old cat has developed feline diabetes. Is there any chance that it could disappear as quickly as it developed? Also, will this disease affect the longevity of my cat’s life? D. Blackburn, Tulsa

A. 24 TulsaPets Winter 2007 Diabetes, a metabolic disease diagnosed in an estimated one out of two-hundred feline patients, can sometimes seem to develop overnight. Many owners can look back (good old hind sight) and recognize early indications of the illness that were not alarming initially. Examples might include increased litter box use, change in appetite and/or water consumption, change in activity level, vomiting, diarrhea and weight changes.

Feline diabetes is managed in most patients with diet and insulin. Some cats are able to be managed without insulin, or with decreased doses over time. Cats that develop diabetes following steroid treatment for other medical conditions may revert to a non-insulin dependent state if steroid use can be discontinued. I never consider diabetes to “disappear” but rather to be controlled. A big part of diabetes management is monitoring glucose levels and clinical signs. In a case where a cat reaches a point of no longer needing insulin I continue a supportive diet with regular monitoring and caution owners that the cat has shown us the predisposition to the disease and can at any time become ill from diabetes again.

Diabetic cats, if well managed, may live a fairly long life. Unfortunately some diabetics have other disease processes affecting their bodies that make glucose control difficult or they are not presented to the veterinarian for evaluation until they are deathly ill from the effects of diabetes, making the prognosis poor. Additionally, diabetics must be treated early and aggressively for any illness that develops. In many cases periodontal disease or a urinary tract infection can precipitate loss of glucose control in the diabetic patient. To help your diabetic cat live a long and healthy life it is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to set up monitoring guidelines, treatment plans and regular medical evaluations. Home management takes dedication on your part, but the reward…your feline friend…is worth it!


Q. I live near a location where the emergency sirens blow every Wednesday at noon. My lab puppy, who has never heard this sound before, has started running outside and howling when he hears the noise. Why does he do this and are the sirens hurting his hearing? S. Kirkpatrick, Tulsa

A. Dogs tend to bark and howl with sirens in chorus…sort of an instinctual pack behavior. The good news is the sirens are not harmful to your dog’s hearing at the level and duration they are used in a testing mode. The greatest problem with barking at sirens is that dogs build a habit of the behavior and cannot discern between barking at the noon test sirens and emergency vehicle sirens in the wee morning hours…an activity not many neighbors appreciate

Test sirens at a set time afford you a great training opportunity. If you are available at the times the sirens blow you can train your dog to go to a specific location and do a ‘sit’ or ‘down’ at the appointed place and then reward him as he stays put till the sirens stop. Since we live in an area of severe storms it is better to have dogs under control and in a predetermined location than out howling at sirens should a true emergency situation exist. In addition to having treats handy at this location you should also have leashes (or crates) as needed for your pets so that you can control them should you need to seek shelter with them. This training method may also be applied when doing monthly testing of your in-home smoke detectors.

That said, civil defense sirens at close range (100 feet) or for extended periods that would occur during a disaster can be damaging to the ear drum due to the high decibel (sound pressure) level required for the warning sirens. If your dog is particularly sensitive, agitated by the sirens, or they are activated for more than test duration you can place a cotton ball in the ear canals (gently…. don’t push it too far in) to muffle the noise and make your dog more comfortable.


Q. I have a very old dog who sleeps mostly all day in one favorite spot in the living room. She has started developing a strange habit of getting up and scratching furiously on the carpet where she has been sleeping. It’s almost like she is in a trance-like state when she’s doing this. In addition to saving my carpet, I’d like her to stop. Why has she started to develop this behavior? What can I do to help her stop it?

A. Older dogs do sleep more than young ones and can develop new, and not always desirable, habits. In some cases these new behaviors are due to underlying disease, pain or a dementia-like illness called canine cognitive dysfunction. I encourage you to take your dog for a thorough physical examination and blood work to look for related problems that can be addressed. Evaluation may reveal a problem that can be treated with a special diet and/or medication.

If you have a video camera it would help for you to record the described activity once without disturbing your dog, letting her cycle through her entire routine. Get someone to help you record it a second time and try to get your dog’s attention during the event to see how she reacts. I like to keep a written log of episodes observed including time, date, duration of episode and feeding time or other activities on the days you observe the event. In the meantime I recommend you take a cutting of carpet remnant to a carpet store where it can be finished off on the edges….you can place this in your old gal’s favorite spot so she will not further damage your carpet but will

BRUSHING JOCK AND ANGEL

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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“Perhaps it is also maudlin to wonder why a sane person should be fool enough to let himself care for a dog, when he knows that at best he is due for a man’s size heartache within a pitifully brief span of years.”
–Albert Payson Terhune

It’s a holy communion.

I never miss a day.
For nine years the wooden brush
has glided
through their lush golden fur.
Their coats are soft,
softer than the clouds’ shadows
dappling a summer meadow
and softer than the fragrance
of its wild flowers.

Throughout the ritual
Jock stands still as stone,
like a statue of the lion
he is.
Sister Angel fidgets and whimpers
and strikes at the brush
with feather bites.

The game fires and quickens
her eyes.

Soon enough
this holy rite will be no more.
Gone will be
the stoic giant I thought immortal,
and scampish Angel
whose eyes flame and dance,
and the rough hand
that gently grooms them.

Only the chipped, pitted brush
will remain,
its supple bristles still laced
with strands
of deathless gold.

- Caleb Hiller

Estate Planning for Pets

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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Story by D. Faith Orlowski

Do you have furry or feathered children and worry what might become of them if something happens to you? Well, you should. Animals within the control of humans are considered personal property. Ownership of property is fundamental to our legal system. The reason d’être for all attorneys practicing in the area of estate planning is to provide for the orderly transfer of property after the death of a person to his or her heirs and/or beneficiaries. Ideally, as part of your estate planning, it is wise to advise your attorney if you have pets and if you would like arrangements made for your pets after your death.

Options for Pets in the Estate Planning Process
If you have pets, there are a number of alternatives for the care of those pets in the event of your death or disability:
A. Gift the pet(s) to a caregiver;
B. Adoption through a shelter, veterinarian or rescue group;
C. Creation of a trust for the care of the pet(s);
D. Placement in a “retirement home”; or E. Euthanasia (the “If I die, so do you” philosophy).

Gift the Pet(s) to a Caregiver
This is the most common solution in an estate plan because it is the simplest with little advance planning or expense required. The problem is often, however, that you have no assurance that the pets will be properly cared for or, more specifically, that the pets will be cared for in the same manner that you have provided. This is the same quandary that you must face when choosing a guardian for your human children. Most estate planning attorneys – if they do anything at all – may just insert one sentence that says “I give all my pets to my daughter, Betty Sue.”

Designation of the Caregiver:
Just as with naming a guardian for your minor children, you should name a primary caregiver and an alternative caregiver. Obviously, they should be consulted in advance and agree to undertake the responsibility, especially if more than one pet is involved. Also, make sure you discuss with your potential caretaker whenever a new pet is added to the mix or replaces a deceased pet.

Should the Caregiver be funded:
You next need to decide whether or not to provide funds to reimburse or compensate the caregiver for caring for the pets. If a lump sum is provided, then there is always the question of whether the money will be used for the care of the pets and/or whether the caregiver agreed to the arrangement because it was funded. In certain instances, you may want to specify that your estate will fund certain “improvements” to the caregiver’s residence, such as dog doors and fences.

Adoption
But many times people that come in for estate planning tell me that they do not have a friend or family member to be a caretaker or “pet custodian.” If that happens, then we discuss adoption through an animal shelter, veterinarian or rescue organization. The availability of this option will depend on the breed, age, special needs/requirements and temperament of the animal. A list of local animal rescue groups can be found in the directory section of TulsaPets Magazine, and also at www.tulsapets.com/specialty.asp. Also, many veterinarians, for a fee, take in animals for adoptions. Be sure to verify with the veterinarian that the animal will not be euthanized after a period of time.

Trust
In many instances, I recommend a Trust for the benefit of the pet(s). This can be a section of a Revocable Living Trust that the client may need anyway, or it can be a Trust specifically for the care of the animals. In Oklahoma, a trust where the pet is the named beneficiary is not allowed. The trust statutes state that a trust must be for the benefit of a “person” (individual, partnership, corporation, etc.). A trust with an animal beneficiary is unenforceable or void. Most states follow this same theory.

Just think of these critters as four-legged, minor children and the same rules apply. Establish the trust with a caretaker (“guardian” or “custodian”) and instruct the Trustee to distribute the funds to that person for the care of the pets.
The hard questions are:
How much money to fund the trust?
What happens to the money when the animals die? (Obviously, this again can create a conflict of interest).
How explicit do you get with the instructions of how to care for the animals?

Does the client want to leave instructions for the final disposition
of the pet upon its death? (Pet Cemeteries and Crematories are
in most major cities. The Tulsa area has at least three.)

Should the trustee be given the power to name a new caregiver if the primary and successor caregivers named in the trust fail?
Just as with trusts for human beneficiaries, trusts for animals can be established during the pet owners’ life (intervivos) or by will (testamentary). The benefit of having it established as a Revocable Living Trust is that it is in place and available for the care of the pet(s) if the owner becomes disabled or must be moved into a facility prior to their death which does not allow pets.

With either a testamentary or intervivos (“Living”) trust, the Trustee can fund the care of the pets either by a lump sum or by periodic payments. You can also leave instructions to the Trustee to check on the animals or you can leave it to the complete discre- tion of the caregiver. If your caregiver is out of state, your Trust should also fund the transportation of your pets to their new home. Remember, the good thing about a Living Trust is that it is private and does not go through probate. It is not published anywhere, so you can be as “eccentric” as you like and no one will be the wiser. Remember also to name a remainder beneficiary upon the death of the pets. If the caretaker is named as the remainder, it could create a conflict of interest in that there would always be a suspicion if the animal met a quick demise. If someone other than the caretaker is named as the remainder beneficiary, this creates someone with an interest who would have standing to question how the trust is being administered – which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the people involved.

Pet “Retirement” Home
For certain people and certain pets, a viable alternative is the pet retirement home. This alternative will also give peace of mind if you would worry about who may adopt your pet(s) once you are gone and whether they would be cared for appropriately (i.e., to your liking).

These facilities usually offer lifetime care and nurturing for a pet in a home-like environment in exchange for a contribution to the organization. OSU offers such a program and there are other programs available out of state. The OSU program is called the Cohn Family Shelter for Small Animals (www.cvm.okstate.edu/development/CohnFamilyShelter.htm). This facility currently takes cats, dogs and horses. The “contribution” is tax deductible and can be made during your lifetime so you can use the tax benefit now. You can also instruct your trustee or personal representative to make these arrangements after your death. The “contribution” is per animal and begins at $10,000 for cats and increases from there. If this is something that you may be interested in, contact the Cohn Family Shelter and they will be happy to give you a tour of the facilities.

Euthanasia
There is really no reason for someone to request that their healthy pet should be destroyed at their death. If you know someone who says that this is what they want, at least discuss with them why he/she thinks this is the best alternative. If the pet owner’s answer is that they do not have anyone to take care of the pet when they are gone, they are probably unaware of all the various options that have been outlined here.

Immediate Care in Case of Emergency
Making arrangements in your estate planning for the long-term care of your pets is wonderful, but first someone must know that in cases of emergency, there are pets involved who are relying on their owner to come home and take care of them. To take care of the immediate emergency, you should have an emergency card in your wallet and an emergency notification in a conspicuous place in your home. A convenient place is on or near the front door, on the refrigerator and/or in a medical information jar in the refrigerator.

If you are injured while away from the house, the card will notify the emergency personnel that your animals may need immediate attention. If you die or are injured while in the home, the emergency personnel will know who to call. This is especially important if you live alone, or do not have family in the immediate vicinity. It is not uncommon for emergency personnel to notify the local animal shelter if they see animals on the premises and by the time the family is contacted and arrive on site, the animals may have been euthanized by the shelter.

You should also prepare an “animal information document” and keep it with your important papers. This document should list the veterinarians who have the pets’ medical records as well as any medical needs of the pets. It should also list their breed, age and any other pertinent details as to the care and condition of the pets.

Since proper estate plans also include a Durable Power of Attorney in most instances, the agent under a general durable power of attorney has the authority to act for the principal. The attorney-in-fact under this document should also have the authority to act to care for the pets. If you already have a Durable Power of Attorney but do not desire for that person to deal with your pets, you may wish to discuss with your attorney a special Durable Power of Attorney for pet care purposes only.
Examples of the Pet Card and Pet Emergency Sign are shown on page 29.

Important Animal Tidbits
Be sure to correctly name (the legal name) any organization, shelter and/or rescue group to avoid confusion. Many groups become known by a handy “catch phrase” (like “ARF”). If in question, designate the current address or at least the city.

If a shelter, specify a “no-kill” shelter, if you are attempting to save the life of your pet. Many shelters euthanize on a regular schedule or if over-crowding occurs.

If all else fails, consider leaving a “Letter of Direction” even if you do not want to include one of the above described methods in your estate plans. The Letter of Direction is not legally enforceable but is written by you and kept with your estate planning documents and/or other important papers. It directs your Personal Representative or trustee to whom the animals should go and any special instructions regarding the animals. This is well suited for younger individuals who may outlive several generations of pets but who still want to let someone know how they wish their pets cared for should something happen to them.

Most importantly, print off or post by your phone or on your refrigerator the phone numbers and addresses of emergency veterinarians for after-hours animal injuries. That is not the time that you want to try to fumble with a phone book to locate a vet. Put this information where you can get to it immediately. Also call your veterinarian and see what his or her policy is on emergencies. They may tell you to call them if anything ever happens and they will meet you at their office.


Conclusion
The Bottom Line – Your pets need you to provide for them. Do not be intimidated to bring this up with your attorney. If your attorney needs assistance, I can provide them with forms and articles. Many attorneys understand the importance of providing for your pets and can help you make the correct decisions. Others just need you to educate them that this is an important area that they need to be aware of and offer assistance. This is the only property that you have that will miss you when you are gone.

Faith Orlowski is with the law firm of Sneed Lang, P.C., in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
She practices in the areas of commercial real estate, oil and gas law, estate planning, probate, and animal law.