Saturday, October 11, 2008


This does look sore, although I imagine they selected the most dramatic case they could find to get a good photo. Having seen it, I have a better understanding of the drama surrounding a clinic client whose dog has the condition, and which I hope and trust will very soon be sorted out.

Vaginal prolapse looks very dramatic (which is why the owner's neighbours kept making complaints to us about it in spite of the fact that she had taken the dog to our clinic).

It resolves itself spontaneously between heats (so there's a bit of a tendency for an owner who is very pushed for cash to give a sigh of relief and hope it's gone away naturally).

It can't easily be surgically treated while the bitch is still in heat (the safest treatment is to spay her between seasons and put in some stitches to make sure the remaining vaginal tissue stays put where it ought to be).

Taxi drivers recoil in horror and won't have the bitch in their vehicles (so it's very difficult for a very low-income owner to actually get her to a vet for diagnosis and treatment).

Hardly any vets will do home-visits nowadays. We are extremely lucky that Clarendon St vets in Cambridge and Royston Veterinary Centre will do call-outs in their local area.

Collar injuries again

Just as Grace and Madison were having their re-checks at the clinic, there was a frantic phone-call from a clinic client who had just found her cat in a shed, caught by her collar, after being missing for three weeks. Amazingly the cat was still alive, but her frantic struggles to free herself had embedded the collar in the flesh under her foreleg. The vet on duty sent her straight over to the hospital, where they'll probably have the cat on a drip over the weekend to rehydrate her and do the surgery to remove the remains of the collar and stitch the wound on Monday.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Apologies to anyone with one of our collecting boxes

I've been dilatory about getting the boxes in Cambridge emptied and counted because of the number of cats I'm currently fostering and needing to take to and from the vet on Saturdays. I hope normal service will be resumed (as they say) as soon as possible.

Peter is doing sterling work overseeing collecting boxes in the Newmarket area. If you have a shop or other suitable location for an RSPCA collecting box in that area, please email Lorna ( and she'll pass on the message.

Back to Square One

Bother! It turns out that I do not possess any identification which NatWest will accept as proof of identity for the purpose of opening an interest-bearing deposit account to run alongside the branch's current account. 

This is not a complete disaster as they are prepared to open an account with three other branch trustees as signatories. I could operate this by filling in the transfer slips and getting the others to sign to authorise them. Fortunately there seems to be no question of withdrawing my ability to sign cheques for payment from the current account — which must be a relief to the 20-odd veterinary practices we deal with. It's aggravating, though, as it means we are back to square one with the multi-page form to open the deposit account. 

The conversation with the NatWest employee was pure farce, as the poor woman grew progressively more desperate with suggestions about possible suitable sources of ID: firearms certificate? Wait fifteen years until I have a pension book? Certificate of naturalisation? Learn to drive (provisional license won't do)?

At least our funds are in a bank that shows no signs of dying on us, although I would be happier if I could speed up the process of splitting them up into £50,000 chunks in separate organisations so that all the money was covered by the savings guarantee.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Website Statistics

According to Google Analytics, our main site is averaging just over a thousand unique visitors per month, mostly roughly evenly split between searchers interested in the rehoming pages and ones looking for information on help with the cost of veterinary treatment. 

So... it looks as though the web is serving us well in terms of animal welfare and improvements to our rehoming rate, but is possibly less useful as a tool for recruiting new volunteers. 

This diary gets roughly a hundred unique visitors per month — with a smaller percentage of completely new visitors than the main site, which suggests it's serving a useful purpose as a way of keeping in touch with our regular supporters.

Rehoming Figures for September

Fortunately adoptions seem to be moving again, after a scary drop during July and August. Eight cats, two dogs, one cockatiel, five guinea-pigs and a hamster out, two dogs booked (awaiting home-visit). 

No signs so far of any increase in animals being handed over because of evictions, but it looks as if more people are feeling the pinch and asking for help with veterinary treatment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Internet Resource on Animal Shelter Management

The University of California Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program site is mainly intended for their own veterinary students, but is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in learning more about proper animal care in rescue conditions.

The site includes downloadable copies of their class lecture notes and links to videos and "webinars" where animal shelter professionals can discuss shared problems and solutions online. UK readers do need to bear in mind that US conditions are sometimes different from ours — some diseases found here don't occur over there and vice versa, for example. However many of the issues (trapping and neutering feral cats; behaviour assessment and temperament tests; assessing prospective animal adopters and so on) are relevant to both sides of the Atlantic.

Some interesting comparisons of the organisational structure of the RSPCA in this country compared to the US in one of the introductory lectures:
Questions from Shelter Medicine Overview Lecture, 04/04/2008
Kate F. Hurley
UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program
Questions generally about shelter standards and regulation:

"I didn't realize that local SPCAs were not affiliated with each other. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing--I can see that it would be good to retain some regional individuality, and it probably creates less paperwork/bureaucracy that needs to be worked through. It's probably easier to implement changes, and easier to tailor what the shelter offers to the community. On the other hand, I wonder if it would be easier to get funding, and better for research purposes (easier to access a large amount of "herd health" data) if the shelters were associated."

"Good point about the up and down sides of having all shelters linked. I was recently in England, where the vast majority of shelters are under one of their major charitable umbrella organizations. (Unlike here, all RSPCAs really are part of the same group, for instance.) The power of a large organization gave them broad recognition, seemingly lots of fundraising clout, the opportunity to collect and compare data between numerous shelters, and the ability to implement a set of standards that were generally impressively high in terms of animal housing, health and adoptions. On the down side, chatting with people it sounded like the organizations can be unwieldy to change, there are layers of bureaucracy, and it could be that it’s harder to respond to specific regional issues – likely more of an issue in the U.S. since we are such a large and varied country. Just as we’ve seen many individual veterinary practices absorbed into corporate chains or groups, it does seem possible that we will eventual see something like a large non-profit group operating multiple shelters on a franchise-type model – there are a few groups, such as the Massachusetts SPCA that do operate multiple shelters within a single state. However, I think it’s unlikely that we will ever see the kind of cohesive arrangement that exists in the United Kingdom, just because of the fractured and independent way that shelters sprang up on this side of the ocean. "
Continuing the ringworm theme from yesterday, there's an online presentation on ringworm control in animal shelters with useful pictures of infections (and other conditions which can look similar). It's interesting to see that the cat cages in the shelter they show wouldn't be acceptable in our units except for cats needing to be closely confined for medical reasons, such as fractures or heart problems.

The really striking difference between us and the States is cats — we don't declaw and we do expect they'll normally have more or less free access to the outdoors. Most US animal welfare agencies deprecate declawing, but are absolutely vehemently opposed to letting cats roam freely outside.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Madison's test results are back!

Madison is a very pretty long-haired black cat who was picked up as an injured stray on 14th September after being hit by a car. She had a lot of soreness and bruising which has almost healed, except that she still can't hold her tail completely upright, but she also had dreadful skin trouble, with bald patches which we originally thought were grazes from the accident. After initial first aid at Vet24 and admission to the Vet School hospital it became obvious that the sores were skin disease, rather than injuries. She was infested with fleas, so the most probable underlying source of the problem was flea allergy, but (especially in a long-haired cat) another possibility would have been ringworm.

Ringworm is very bad news indeed for any animal rescue. University of California Davis' Shelter Medicine Program has some detailed information which explains just why we are so paranoid about it. A rescue facility which has had an outbreak will be out of action for a minimum of four months while all animals are treated (twice weekly medicated baths for all cats!).

Anyway, Madison's culture results came back today and she has NOT got ringworm — just very nasty flea allergy, which is responding nicely to treatment. Relief all round.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Training day

The Cambridgeshire branches (Cambridge, Peterborough and Hunts & March) are planning to hold a training day for new volunteer home visitors within the next few months. If you might be interested in this, please email

Home visitors play an essential part in helping to achieve a successful match between our animals and prospective new homes. They're not trying to catch people out, or pry into their domestic circumstances, but they make simple checks to ensure new owners have suitable conditions to keep the type of animal they want to adopt (as an example we do insist on a secure fenced exercise area for dogs). They also have a general informal chat to satisfy themselves that the new adopters appreciate the work and responsibility involved in caring for a pet and answer any questions about the process of adopting from the RSPCA.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Vomiting dogs again

Yet another owner with two young, recently-acquired puppies with vomiting and diarrhoea with blood in it. It is enormously expensive to treat puppies like this effectively, because the vets have to set up barrier nursing if they admit them as inpatients. She's been quoted £300 per day, which in fact isn't unreasonable of the vet when you consider the cost of a veterinary nurse's salary; vet's salary and of completely disinfecting their isolation facilities (plus the initial costs of building an isolation unit at the practice).

These two puppies aren't insured or vaccinated and they're not registered either with the PDSA (for help with treatment at a local private vet) or with our own clinic in Cambridge — and in fact we wouldn't be able to have them admitted to the University Vet School who provide our hospital facilities because of the risk to their private patients.

I've agreed that we could help with the cost of giving the puppies intravenous fluids at the private vet, followed by home nursing by the owner, which will at least give them a chance.

Sadly, this is the situation we see over and over again. If you buy a puppy, ask for proof that the mother's vaccinations were up to date, and ensure that the puppy is vaccinated at 8 weeks (preferably by the breeder before leaving the mother) with a follow-up booster according to your vet's advice. Never, ever buy from an establishment where puppies are brought in from multiple sources — mixing different groups of puppies means spreading any infection. Make sure any adult dogs who will be in contact with the new puppy are up to date with their vaccinations. Take out pet insurance to cover vet bills, (or register the puppy with the PDSA, RSPCA or Blue Cross if you are on benefits and can't afford insurance).