What made you a foster parent?

Ok.  I need some help from all you foster parents.   We are getting a lot of questions about foster recruitment in advance of our ASPCApro webinar next week.  I have my own opinions about what brings people to fostering (and keeps them doing it), but I’d like to know what did it for you.  I’ll share the results of our poll for the webinar next week.

Thanks in advance for your responses!

You can add in your own ideas at the bottom if we haven’t included them.

Ingredients of good monitoring: weight checking

Cheese is a great example of a kitten case that was important to monitor really carefully.  Now that he’s well on his way to recovery, let’s switch over to another recipe for success with a little bit of a case study about a litter of foster puppies we raised.  We’ll come back for more “Cheese” later.

The Weigh-In: one life saving ingredient of foster care

Here’s Dave the pup, weighing in on one of the best practices for care of youngsters, especially neonatal animals.

Daily weight checks can help you pick up on problems long before you would ever be able to really notice them with your eyes.  A simple kitchen scale is perfect for small pups and kittens.  You may need to get something more like a baby scale if you’re going to be working with larger pups.

Pups and kittens should always gain weight.  If they are losing, there is a problem.  If you know the birth weight, you can use it as a nice guide for growth because animals should gain about 5-10% of their birth weight every day. (If you don’t know, you can use an estimate as your basis.)

If growth is not meeting expectations, an investigation, and probably a vet check, is in order.  Weight loss can be associated with a lot of things ranging from dehydration (often secondary to diarrhea) to malabsorbtion of food or even internal parasites.  This is a RED FLAG item.

So here’s our story:  Wiffy, the mama, came to our house after being removed from a horrible situation of cruelty and neglect.  (The rescue was an amazing team effort by the ASPCA, HSUS, and the Dane County Humane Society that ended in a conviction.  (Click to READ MORE about the rescue.)

Wiffy was about as pregnant as a girl can be and thin as a rail (where she wasn’t bulging).  The District Attorney allowed her to come to our house since I’m a veterinarian.

Wiffy Mama, neglected and about to burst, when we first met her.
She is sleeping the only way she could get comfortable!

After delivery (YIKES! …but we will discuss that in another post), the pups were doing great and everything was rolling along in a dreamy way.  We had a horde of small children who would stop by daily to admire the new family.

Day 4:  Happy, healthy family

Here’s a graph of the puppies’ weight for the first 10 days.  They were turning into really substantial little bruisers.  (Check back in a few days.  We’ll post an Excel sheet for you, with graphing just like this, so you can track a spiffy graph for your foster animals too. )

Around day 10 is when I really started to appreciate how closely I was tracking everything.  By looking at the growth rates I could see that things were turning in the wrong direction.

To build a little suspense (and give you a chance to think it through a little bit)…  I’ll tell you the rest of the story in the next post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas about what’s going on here.  Bubbles (the only girl) is the one who tipped us off first.

We’ll talk about Wiffy Mama and her kids today during the first ASPCAPro webinar on foster care at 3 pm est: “Foster Vacation Planning”.  We’ll be doing a three-part series this month.  There’s still time to register if you want to try to cheat and get the answer.  Click HERE to check out the webinars now!

Name the guest blogger – poll

Here it is.  The opportunity of a lifetime! Please help us choose a name for this exceptionally cuddly, resilient (and demanding) little man.

I told you I need a name!

We didn’t include the “Lucky” names, even though we like them, because we’re too superstitious.

Problems, problems

Thanks everyone for your name suggestions for the guest blogger.  I’ll add a poll for the naming over the weekend after everyone has had a chance to nominate.  As I hope you can see, he is doing incredibly well!

On the mend!

Despite his insistence that he’s just fine, let’s talk about problems – we’ll use him as an example since he has so conveniently interrupted.

As veterinarians, we learn to make lists of problems as a way of organizing our thoughts and finding solutions.  Often the problem list shifts, growing or shrinking depending on how the animal is recovering or responding to treatment.  Sometimes new problems are found with close observation Problems can be related to health, behavior, being an orphan, or just not being old enough for adoption.

It’s a great idea for foster caregivers to use a problem list too.  Have you ever seen The Checklist Manifesto? It’s definitely worth a read.

We love it when shelters give their foster parents a problem list when they pick up new fosters.  It’s best if the list has accompanying instructions for what to watch, questions they are hoping to have answered, and what kind of treatment is needed for each problem.  Sometimes that list will be complete and sometimes things will need to be added as more observations are made.  Having a list helps you run through each thing you might need to think about when you are caring for your foster friend.

A form for listing problems can be as simple as this:

Problem Date noted Shelter notified (Y/N) Date resolved

Here’s a sample form for you to download:  Sample Problem List

Monitoring actions and treatments would be listed on a more detailed form.

Here’s a sample of that type of form:  Sample Medical Treatment Log

You can find a treatment sheet example on our UC Davis KSMP website too.

Be sure you understand and can handle all the problems on the list before you leave the shelter.

As I said, our little guy isn’t a good starter case but he did have a good list of problems.  This little guy had a traumatic injury and it took some time to figure out exactly what problems resulted.  Some were obvious; some a little more subtle, needing time for observation and more diagnostics.

Here’s his hefty but abbreviated first list along with some questions, expectations, and and some sample of what might be on a monitoring/treatment sheet.  We’ll come back to those later.

1.History of head injury and rolling to the left –Does he seem to be able to control this?

2.Several puncture and linear wounds –Is infection developing? Give antibiotics.

3.Blood in his eyes (hyphema) – Should resolve with no treatment. Should not interfere with vision.

After some observation time we were able to refine it to add:

4.Well aligned fracture in his left knee – Needs to rest

5.Fractured bone in his front paw – More rest

6.Tongue laceration – Monitor eating.  May need assistance or tube feeding. Infection developing?

7.Possible URI –  signs of infection or congestion caused by head trauma?

His fractures (broken bones) were hard to see because they were still mostly aligned.  At first, it was hard to tell if he kept dropping and flipping over because he had no neurologic control, or if he was just so painful and couldn’t use either of his legs on the left side.

In our foster home, we could watch his behavior and condition over time.  Pain medication calmed him down tremendously.  After one night his neurologic problems were going away.  The swelling over his knee and his unwillingness to use his front paw sent us back for more radiographs (x-rays), and the fractures were found.

By today, a little less than one week in foster care, he has his list down to just his two fractures, still a big deal but not life threatening.  Everything else has resolved well enough to need mostly a generally watchful eye.

Now his only problem is that sometimes people want to stand up … and the lap disappears 😉