Friday, November 28, 2008

Exciting breakthrough for US rabbits

Petco, one of the major US petstore chains, has announced that plans to phase out sales of pet rabbits in favour of in-store adoptions from rescue organisations. As in this country, rabbits are the third most popular pet in the States, and a huge headache for welfare organisations because so many become unwanted when buyers find out how expensive and difficult it can be to care for them properly. 

Unlike cats and dogs, low-cost spay/neuter provision for pet owners doesn't help very much because the majority of unwanted rabbits are not the result of unwanted litters born to pets, but the result of purchases of animals deliberately bred for the pet trade. If this comes off, it should be an important step in bringing the productivity of the rabbit population in line with the availability of good homes.  I believe it has the potential to be a win/win situation because rabbits are cheap, but the kit you need to keep them properly is expensive, to say nothing of vaccination, parasite treatment, etc. etc. Hopefully, PETCO will end up with a smaller number of genuine rabbit enthusiasts who spend more per individual rabbit owned.

Puppy Spam?

Has anyone else been getting emails that are ostensibly from someone who needs to rehome a litter of bulldog puppies because of family problems? We've had several, with slightly different variations on the story, and are wondering whether they're some kind of scam. Bulldogs are a comparatively rare breed and it would be very surprising to have several owners who'd bred one litter having family disasters in quick succession. Actually it would be surprising if a genuine breeder of pedigree bulldogs wasn't already in contact with other breed enthusiasts —the owner of the puppies' father, for starters — who would be able and willing to take on the job of placing the pups. 

Possible motivations might be:
  • They're spam adverts targeted at anyone with an animal-related web page from someone who's breeding bulldogs commercially but wants to give the impression that these are puppies reared in a domestic home. 
  • They're some kind of advance-fee fraud - hoping to get a payment before puppies are delivered.
  • They're not actually anything to do with dogs, and they're simply trying to provoke a response to verify that they've harvested a live email address.


Nicola transported bladder trouble cat 1 to the kennels last Friday and I'm hoping that the fact that they've not been in contact about him means he's not had any more problems.

Bladder trouble cat 2 (with the fractured pelvis) started peeing on Monday & I've now got him in my spare room in cat pen (back to the Vet School for a recheck X-ray in 2 weeks). They think the not-peeing was just because it hurt and that he's got no long-term medical problems. He's a very nice looking male (all black), was entire but the Vet School castrated him when they fixed his pelvis. Other than warning any new owner that he's got metal screws inside, which will show up on any future x-ray, he should do well. 

He ate his supper last night and used his litter tray, but still looks rather horrified when anyone comes in the room, poor little chap. Fear of vets seems to be a hazard for cats with pelvic fractures as they get quite a lot of very painful handling during the initial period of examination. My own Elsie has the embarrassing distinction of being banned by the vet unless she's really, really ill because she turns into an insane fear-biter at the surgery. At her last visit she had to be recaptured as she tried to exit through the window-glass by putting her carrier over her and sliding a board across the top, rather like someone catching a wasp with a drinking glass and a piece of card.

The vets phoned this morning to say that Darcy, the pyothorax cat, had a good night and looks quite bright. They'll do another x-ray of his chest on Monday.

The stray terrier has a broken pelvis, which they'll probably operate on today, but they are hopeful that his head injuries aren't serious as he seems brighter in himself. He'll need several weeks cage rest before he can go to the kennels for rehoming and we hope one of our fosterers will be able to take him.

If you might be interested in fostering animals for the branch, please email

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Raining cats

We gave some financial help to treat a cat suffering from pyothorax at a private vet earlier in the week, but it became obvious to the vet that the cat's owners weren't going to be capable of dealing with the situation and she persuaded them that it would be in his best interest to be signed over to us for treatment and rehoming. As the cat was so poorly the private vet was keen to get him transferred to the Vet School hospital to give him the best possible chance, but this can be a convoluted process because of the terms of our agreement with them.

Basically this means incoming RSPCA animals must initially be presented at our clinic (because its teaching utility is the reason why the School give us such favourable charges). By Murphy's law it turned out that today was more or less the only one when none of our volunteer drivers was available. Finished up booking a morning's leave and taking a taxi from my home to the private vet; onward to the clinic; touch base there and on to the hospital. 

This annoying scenario in fact may have been for the best, as it meant I was on the spot when another set of cat owners appeared several hours after the deadline to admit RSPCA cases and with no money or proof of benefits. They'd come from Littleport and must have driven past about ten vets on their way to Cambridge. After some frantic phone-calls, I managed to get them an appointment with one of the vets in Ely later in the afternoon. The two cats definitely needed to be seen before our own next session as one of them had a crushing injury to his tail (owner's initial description of it "hanging off" was fortunately exaggeration) and his sister has a probable broken leg. 

Collected Nicholas (the cat with the pelvic fracture) in exchange for Darcy and his nasty infection.  Nicholas has been using his litter tray quite happily, so should be OK in a pen in my spare room for his two weeks enforced cage rest.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And another

Elderly ginger and white tom cat (they think neutered - they hadn't checked until I asked). He doesn't seem to be injured, just a bit doddery on his pins, so he may just have wandered out of his own garden and got chilled. 

Update on cat at Pet Doctors

He's doing well, and the person who originally found him is going to adopt him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Update on cat with dislocated hip

At least some good news for a change! Dislocated hip cat turns out to have an owner and is fully insured, so no further cause for concern about his treatment. It looks as though he's going to make a full recovery. Excellent. 

Injured stray dog

Not completely sure whether this was the result of miscommunication, lack of money or just general snafu. The 24 hour vet phoned last night to say someone had brought in an injured stray: probably from one of the local Traveller sites and probably hit by a car. The dog warden service normally only works 9-5, so I wasn't surprised to be asked if we'd help with funds for initial treatment. I asked the vets to contact the local dog warden service first thing in the hope that they'd be able to help with further costs, or at least provide transport to our clinic.

They did try, but were told South Cambs no longer has a dog warden service, which is very bad news if true. Their website still gives contact numbers, so this may just be temporary, or it may be that they simply don't have any funding to deal with injured dogs. By then all the volunteer drivers who might have helped with transport were otherwise occupied, so I asked the vet to use the pet taxi service to send the dog to the clinic to give him at least a chance rather than simply having him put down there and then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chris Nice on TV

Four days left to watch Chris Nice (our local inspector) dicing with death as he tries to rescue a trapped starling (via BBC i-player). 

Not a good weekend

Got up on Saturday morning and checked on fostered cats as usual only to find that Grace was having some kind of seizure. Phoned the emergency contact for the Vet School and took her straight down. They gave her diazepam to stop the fitting, put her on a warmed saline drip and took a blood sample to try to find out what had caused it. I was expecting them to find that she was uraemic, which basically means that kidney failure has caused a rise in toxins which should be eliminated in the urine, but no, her blood results weren't normal, but they weren't bad enough to explain the fitting either.

Because of her age I agreed there wasn't any point in doing an MRI scan as that costs £1,000 and she would have been very unlikely to survive a brain operation if it showed she had a brain tumour in any case. The most likely cause of the fitting was probably a small bleed or clot within the brain, for which supportive care in the hope that the body will heal itself is the only real treatment. 

Sadly they phoned later in the afternoon to say that she'd died. 

Earlier in the morning Pet Doctors phoned to tell me that the rabbit they treated on Friday had died during the night: sad, but not a huge surprise because rabbits are so delicate compared with cats and dogs, and because their digestive systems tend to shut down if any trauma stops them eating for any length of time.

Sad as Grace's death is, at least she had a couple of months' comfort in a (relatively!*) normal domestic setting with warmth and food that she enjoyed. It does reinforce my conviction that, if we are going to take in very old animals at all, we need to move heaven and earth to transfer them to foster or permanent homes rather than putting them into kennels.

*Tim Wass once described my squalid domestic arrangements as, Not somewhere he'd fancy having a cup of tea, but with dedicated care for the animals. Hmm.