Guest blogger seeks name

Excuse me.  I am broken so I am disrupting this foster blog.  Plans for this blog keep going astray.

Dr. Newbury had planned to write next with some more information about monitoring animals in foster homes. UC Davis KSMP has a wealth of information on that subject.  But I got stuck in a car engine (probably because the weather got a little cooler and the engine was warm).  Wham!  Next thing I knew I was at the shelter with two broken legs and a good thunk to the head.  Everyone was so worried about me even though I kept trying to show them I was just fine.

Dr. Newbury didn’t even want to introduce me to all of you because she thought I might not make it.  She had this whole plan that the first foster for the blog would be a nice, simple starter case so you could all walk through the basics together for how to get things set up and then get started. But she IS a veterinarian (convenient for me), and sometimes plans don’t work out.  I’m really cute and I really needed help.

So far, it looks like things are working out for me.  Thank goodness I got excellent care from the Dane County Humane Society.  They have an agreement with a local emergency clinic (Exceptional Care for Animals) so animals in urgent need of care can see a veterinarian even when the shelter clinic is closed.

I’m not totally out of the woods (lucky I have a personal veterinarian!) but she did allow me to guest blog because I can’t go around without a name forever.  My neurologic signs have gone away.  Besides we’re both thinking a little positive energy could help us out.  This has been a lot of work.

So any name ideas?  Please leave them in the comments. Let’s get some suggestions and maybe she can figure out how to do another poll to vote.

What normal looks like

Normal isn’t something we tend to strive for at my house in most things. But seeing clearly when something isn’t normal can be a life saving perspective.

Am I normal?

One of the reasons I wanted to use Gigi Ta as a case study (look one post back) was to introduce an idea – learning to recognize when something falls outside the range of what you might expect.  In medicine, we learn to call that the reference range.  We understand that just because something falls outside of it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong – but it does mean you need to check it out.

For most of you, that means contacting someone from your source organization.  Hopefully, when you picked up your new foster pets, you got information about what to do if you have a concern or problem.  We love it when shelters provide really clear instructions about who to call even after hours if you need help.  I’ll come back around to that in the next post.

So how do you learn to recognize problems? The best way to recognize when something isn’t normal is to have a really clear picture of what normal looks like. My favorite way to introduce this concept to vet students is to ask them to look at the undercarriage of a Guinea Pig.  Try it sometime.  If you haven’t spent some time looking at that you’ll never be able to guess if everything’s ok on a pop quiz! To humans, Guinea Pig normal looks a little strange.

I noticed from the poll we had on the first post that many of you are experienced foster caregivers.  A big special welcome to those of you who are just getting started!  I’m guessing almost all of you have spent a lot of time looking at animals and interacting with them.  That kind of experience is invaluable.  Don’t underestimate your powers of observation. One of the best tip offs I ever had as a shelter veterinarian was when a caretaker asked me to look at a dog because “his pee looks clear”.  The caretaker didn’t have any idea what that might mean for the dog but understood it was outside her expectations.  The dog had an infectious kidney disease we were able to treat because we picked it up early. The more you are conscious while you’re looking, the more information you’ll pick up, and the better off your foster animals will be.  Think of each walk or foster interaction as a training session for you and an opportunity for your foster to tell you if something’s wrong.

So here’s a fun and easy pop quiz to get you rolling?  Look at the picture of baby Ken at the top of this post and then answer the poll.

Stand Outs

Let’s take my new love, Gigi Ta, as a case study for a bit.  She is amenable to pretty much any kind of attention.

What happened?

Gigi Ta came in to the Dane County Humane Society as a very young found kitten, already sick with URI (upper respiratory infection) — goopy nose, red, swollen eyes… the whole bit.  After several rounds of treatment she wasn’t responding.  Maybe a little time in foster care?  Generally, we are able to turn those babies around pretty quickly at our house with some extra space, stress free living, and special care.  But Gigi’s URI was tough.  This picture is NOT the Creature from the Black Lagoon!

She was bright, active, and eating great, but she just couldn’t shake it despite a wide array of treatment trials, steam showers, and even nebulizers (a vaporizer that provides ‘mist’). Sometimes we’d see some nice improvement and then, just after we stopped treatment, the goo and conjunctivitis would just come streaming back.

What to do? We could do some diagnostic testing!  Idexx offers an excellent Feline Respiratory rtPCR panel that would tell us what pathogens were present. Idexx offers special pricing for shelters requesting this panel.  We wouldn’t want to run it for every case of URI, but this one stands out. If we saw a pattern of cats with similar signs in a shelter or foster home, we’d be concerned.

Why would we want to know?  Gigi’s swollen conjunctiva and her other respiratory clinical signs, along with her pattern of recurrence (especially in foster care where stress is low) suggested an infection with a bacteria called Chlamydophila felis.  The shelter doesn’t use a vaccine product with Chlamydophila so there wouldn’t be any chance of a false positive from a vaccine.  From studies the KSMP has done in shelters, we know Chlamydophila felis isn’t one of the most common pathogens for shelter cat URI.  When we do see it, it is often associated with husbandry issues like crowding and poor transmission control.  We don’t know where Gigi was before the shelter … but it looks like life was hard.  Chlamydophila requires targeted antibiotics (to check out what kind of antibiotics are often used in shelters, click HERE) and a longer course of treatment (putting foster parents more at risk of falling in love!) … so it is a good thing to have in mind for those cats who improve with short-term treatment and then relapse once treatment stops.

You can read more about treatment options for URI on the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program website HERE.

So we set out on a longer course of treatment.  It worked, but it took so long…well, I already told you about that in the last post. 😉  No posting on Craigslist or the shelter website for Gigi Ta … no need to describe how perfect she is to entice others … but thank heavens we did still get a chance to post her pictures on the Internet right here.  Success right?  Not foster ‘failure’ — although now we do have to wait on new foster kittens just a bit!

Just look one post back if you want to see her ‘after’ picture!  🙂

Kitten Tonic

Fostering.  We have so much to talk about.  Where to start?  Since we’re just getting rolling I’ll start out with a quick word on definitions. And since it is mid-kitten season in this hemisphere I thought I might sprinkle in a little positive thinking.

(Funny to think that when kitten season starts to settle down here it is just getting started somewhere else.)

Let’s start out with the terminology, “Failed Foster”.  I wonder how many of you use the term?  I wonder how many have fallen victim?

Now at first blush, that term doesn’t sound very optimistic.  But, it is, to be honest, where we are in my regularly fostering home right now and we’re feeling very positive.

We had planned to entice any adopters looking for a googlie eyed alien.

I had intended to start this blog with a brand new set of foster kittens.  Some people might be a little chagrined by this situation.  Some, like my colleague Dr. Hurley, might even be so cunningly desperate to cover up the situation that they name their new life-mate “Foster”, so that he will forever remain a “Foster” cat.

My son and I are diligent home finders for our foster pets. We bump into people all over town who have adopted an animal from our house.  We start taking pictures and plan for adoption readiness right from the moment we pick who we’ll bring home next. We focus on efficiency so they can come through as quickly as possible, never even needing to be returned to the shelter.  We’ll circle back to talk about all that and how important it is in a later blog.

I just can’t do it this time.  It isn’t even my son asking as he does each time we get ready for the adoptions, “Are you sure we shouldn’t keep them?”.  This time I’m sure.  I am in love and it doesn’t feel like failure at all even though it was an accident.  Isn’t that how love goes?

Here she is and she’s where she’ll stay. She’ll be a great case for us to discuss but for now, who cares about that.  Gigi Ta brings so much happiness to everyone around her our pet sitter calls her  the “Kitten Tonic”.