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Kittens

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

The weather is warming up and the days are getting longer. This can only mean one thing: kittens, kittens, kittens and more kittens! All these kittens need homes, but care should be taken in introducing them to your home if you have other cats. The two most common diseases that we worry about before introducing cats to our households are the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Just to be clear: These viruses are no risk to humans — these viruses are species specific, cat to cat only (even dogs are safe). However, healthy looking kittens could be carrying (and potentially infecting other cats) with these viruses. Also, the prevalence of these viruses is low (both less than 10 percent in multiple studies) in kittens adopted from shelters and rescues.

FeLV and FIV are in a family of viruses called Retroviridae, or retroviruses. All retroviruses have the unique ability to incorporate themselves into the DNA of normal cells. This means once infected, always infected, and the diseases these viruses cause in cats are always fatal. FeLV causes leukemia and other forms of cancer (e.g., lymphoma) as well as suppresses the immune system.

FIV is similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in that the virus over time destroys the immune system and the most benign infections eventually become lethal. To compound the problem a kitten or cat may be positive for infection and negative for any symptoms for months or even years.

The nice thing about the tests that are available are that they are point of care tests, or tests that can be run at the shelter/rescue/animal hospital and have results within less than 15 minutes, as well as these tests also rely on antibodies against these viruses.

Kittens that are infected with FeLV or FIV will produce antibodies and test positive long before they start showing signs of disease. The flip side of this equation is there is a lag time between when the kitten was infected and when they produce enough antibodies to produce a positive on the test.

It takes about four weeks after infection to test positive on the test for FeLV and could take three to four months to test positive after infection for FIV. Most kittens are adopted between eight to 10 weeks of age so there is a window where a healthy-looking kitten could be carrying the virus.

Someday we will have effective medications to cure these diseases but, for now, we don’t. The best thing we have is testing and, if positive, isolating the kittens that are positive to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Make sure that before introducing a new kitten to your household, there is proof that he has been tested. If testing was not done (even if the mother or littermates tested negative), I recommend testing each individual kitten through your own veterinarian before introducing the kitten to your other cats.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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A PRAAT dog serves as a reading assistant at a local library. Photo from Dr. David Roy Hensen and Dr. Pamela Linden

By Lisa Steuer

It is quite obvious that people love their pets. In fact, 62 percent of U.S. households contain a pet, and about $45 billion is spent on pets annually, according to Pamela Linden LMSW, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor in the Occupational Therapy program at Stony Brook University.

But what many people may not realize is that these animals could be positively impacting the pet owner’s health, and that emerging research shows that therapy and comfort animals could have a place in therapeutic and trauma settings. Currently, a lot of the research on the health benefits of pet ownership has to do with the bond between the animal and its owner, Linden said.

“There’s a book by Meg Daley Olmert called ‘Made for Each Other’ and the whole book is about oxytocin — and that’s why we bond with others, including other mammals, like dogs,” said Linden. “A lot of it has to do with the gazing and the staring, so studies have been done, especially one interesting study that measured oxytocin levels in both the human and the dog after gazing— oxytocin levels raised for both of them,” resulting in good feelings not only for human, but for the dog, too.

Pella, of PRAAT, visits the children cancer ward at Stony Brook Hospital. Photo from Dr. David Roy Hensen and Dr. Pamela Linden
Pella, of PRAAT, visits the children cancer ward at Stony Brook Hospital. Photo from Dr. David Roy Hensen and Dr. Pamela Linden

Linden’s hope is that more people will be motivated to understand the role of pets in our lives. She developed the first social work internship with Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy, a not-for-profit organization in Patchogue that screens, trains and supports human-dog teams that visit individuals in schools, hospitals and hospice facilities. Linden hopes to work with PRAAT to research the effect that comfort animals have on people who are already sick.

In addition, Linden is the faculty advisor for Stony Brook University’s first Animal Assisted Activity student club anticipated to begin in spring 2016. So far, more than 150 students have signed up for the club, which has goals to help provide education about animal -assisted therapy while partnering students with organizations like PRAAT and local shelters to help prepare dogs to become adoption-ready.

Linden pointed out that people often get confused between service animals, therapy dogs and comfort animals. Service dogs are protected by law, are allowed anywhere animals typically aren’t allowed and have been trained to perform special functions, like open doors, push buttons and retrieve objects for people with visual impairments, for instance. A comfort dog has been trained to visit hospitals, nursing homes and similar places to provide comfort to patients, and a therapy dog is an animal used by a licensed health professional to achieve a therapeutic outcome.

“I’ll give you an example [of a therapy dog],” said Linden. “As a social worker, I’m working with someone who is grieving. And they’re either too numb or too emotional to process the grief. I might bring in a dog with a therapeutic goal of bridging between the client and the therapist by doing those behaviors that we do— you can snuggle up to a dog, pet it, stare into the eyes and have your oxytocin kick in and relax.”

Physical, Psychological and Emotional Benefits

Although the research is limited, studies have demonstrated the healthy benefits of pet ownership and companionship. Linden shared the physical, psychological, and emotional benefits:

Hans, of PRAAT, provides comfort to students during college exams. Photo from Dr. David Roy Hensen and Dr. Pamela Linden
Hans, of PRAAT, provides comfort to students during college exams. Photo from Dr. David Roy Hensen and Dr. Pamela Linden

• Physical: Pet owners have fewer minor health complaints and have greater levels of exercises and physical fitness. Studies have found that pet owners had reductions in some common risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as lower systolic blood pressures, plasma cholesterol and triglyceride values.

“People experience a decrease of blood pressure talking to pets. Blood pressure decreases for people with normal pressures and those with hypertension when watching fish in a standard aquarium,” said Linden.

• Psychological: Studies have found that pet owners enjoy better well-being than non-owners, and that pet owners have greater self-esteem and tend to be less lonely.

“People find comfort in talking to their animals. People walking with their dog experience more social contact and longer conversations than when walking alone — pets stimulate conversations between people,” Linden said. “Companion animals can help people to laugh and maintain a sense of humor.”

She added that Children with ADHD and defiant disorders exhibit significantly less antisocial and violent behavior than a matched group that did not involve animals.

• Emotional: Companion animals have been shown to alleviate anxiety. Stony Brook brings dogs in during exam time to help relax the undergraduate students.

“Any discussion regarding pets should include the notion of responsible pet ownership — ensuring that their physical, medical and emotional needs are met. This requires adequate financial resources and time to devote to caring for the pet,” added Linden.

Figgy is one of the dogs up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Residents who visit the Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter on Oct. 17 can adopt a dog or a cat for free, as part of a Halloween-themed “Barktoberfest” event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The family-friendly event also includes music, games and face painting.

While dog adoptions at the shelter typically cost $137 and cat adoptions cost $125, those fees will be waived. All animals have been spayed or neutered and microchipped, and received their vaccinations and licenses. They have also been tested for heartworm and fleas.

The shelter is located at 300 Horseblock Road in Brookhaven. For more information, call 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter.

Penny just recently got adopted after more than a year at Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington. Photo from Arleen Leone

Huntington residents will have spaying, neutering, and adoption fees for pit bulls waived from Oct. 1 until Oct. 31 in recognition of National Pit Bull Awareness month.

Arleen Leone, the special programs manager of Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington, believes that every day should be pit bull awareness day.

“They are gentle, sweet loving dogs,” Leone said in a phone interview. “There is a huge need for education, and on a daily basis we try to bring awareness to these dogs.”

Leone said that Little Shelter has many different education programs. In one program, Leone said the shelter staff travel to approximately 100 schools a year and try to educate kids on how to handle themselves around different dogs. They also discuss the importance of spaying and neutering.

“They think they are pocket poodles,” Leone said of pit bulls. “All they want is love and affection.”

According to Leone, pit bulls were originally bred to be family dogs, however over the course of time, people began to breed them as fighting dogs. This “ruined the breed” and it’s why there is a need for much education about the animals. The shelter said they had a pit bull named Penny who took more than a year to get adopted because “she looked like something she was not.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) offered town board resolutions at the Sept. 16 Huntington Town Board meeting to waive the fees at the town animal shelter on Deposit Road in recognition of the month.

“Anytime we can help lower the amount of animals we have housed in shelter, regardless of the breed, is a good thing,” Berland said in a phone interview. 

Berland said that it is important to be smart about what kind of animal you chose to adopt and what type of household you’re bringing it into.

Although Berland does not own any pit bulls, some of her friends do, and she said they are “totally friendly and adorable.”

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A Boy Scout says hi to a puppy at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Hartlin Inn parking lot was full of furry friends from puppies to older dogs and kittens for the Sound Beach Civic Association’s fourth annual Pet Adopt-A-Thon in Sound Beach, Saturday.

Tanner is a 10-month-old hound that was up for adoption at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Tanner is a 10-month-old hound that was up for adoption at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Shelter’s and organizations like Save-A-Pet, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Grateful Greyhounds, Last Chance Animal Rescue, Long Island Bulldog Rescue and other organizations showed their many pets that are up for adoption. Organizations like the Regina Quinn Legacy Fund, which helps provide funds for animals in need, was also in attendance.

According to Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach civic, four dogs and one cat were adopted several hours into the adopt-a-thon, and three more dogs were adopted by the end of the event. In addition to adopting pets, people could also get their face painted, enter a raffle to win a basket of pet-related prizes and donate money to organizations to help their cause.

All proceeds went to the animal organizations in attendance.

The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted its first Pet Adopt-A-Thon in 2012, and the association intends on continuing its efforts to find loving homes for local pets in need.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, second from left, sits at the table with advisory board members pictured left to right, Lucille DeFina, Diane Madden and Elizabeth Stein. File photo

The Smithtown Animal Shelter’s inaugural advisory council has called it quits.

It has been about eight months since Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) rolled out the panel of animal welfare experts, geared toward moving the town’s shelter forward, but those same experts spoke before the Smithtown Town Board last Thursday night, accusing Nowick of failing them as the shelter’s government liaison. Animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein read a letter she had sent to the board on Sept. 15, calling out Nowick for failing to serve as a bridge between the animal experts and elected town officials concerning one of the advisory group’s biggest points: hiring an animal behaviorist at an annual salary of $45,000 to train the eight dogs being housed there.

“We reassured the public, on countless occasions, that we were not on the advisory council as window dressing and that we would never compromise what we felt was necessary to protect the animals,” Stein said. “We were told the town council was supportive of our efforts, and were promised the council’s full cooperation. These promises were empty and the cooperation was never forthcoming.”

Stein said the experts were adamant about having an animal behaviorist working with the shelter dogs on a regular basis to address behavioral issues so they can find homes, but were stonewalled due to fiscal constraints.

In response, Nowick said she had brought the recommendation to the town attorney and comptroller, but had put it on hold when Susan Hansen took over for the retired George Beatty as shelter director in August.

“I did start the process of trying to get a behaviorist. We tried almost everything,” Nowick said in response to the advisory council resignations. “We talked item-for-item and decided to wait and see what the new director of the shelter wanted for the position.”

Stein and her former panel members, animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden, said they had brought a potential candidate forward who was willing to take on the behaviorist role on a full-time basis. Nowick said she could not yet iron out a full-time contract due to fiscal constraints, but reiterated her commitment to the position by exploring if it could be done on a volunteer basis instead.

“A behaviorist is necessary to make the shelter a progressive, no-kill shelter,” Madden said to the board last Thursday night. “When you have a 2016 budget that has cuts and making do with what you have, you’re not going in the right direction.”

Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) told the animal experts that it was the first he had heard of their recommendation to install a behaviorist. In his remarks, the councilman said he felt it was unfair for the panel to place blame on the town board as a whole if Nowick was not communicating their concerns to her colleagues.

“I object to the finger being pointed at me,” he said. “There has never been a discussion by this board involving these recommendations at any time that I’m aware of. Perhaps this board should cease-and-desist doing business like that.”

That news left DeFina stunned.

“I cannot believe my ears, because Lynne Nowick was supposed to be the liaison, and she put together this committee and I watched her for months and months on the video tape at home, bragging about how great we were and all the wonderful things we did,” she said. “To find out that the board knows nothing about our requests for a trainer, which we were all asking for from day one — it’s hard to accept.”

At the end of the meeting, Hansen mentioned some of the improvements at the shelter she and her staff were ushering in, including a new dog-walking plan and training program for volunteers, while acknowledging that it was only the beginning of progress.

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Save-A-Pet kittens are up for adoption at the annual Kitten Shower. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center is hosting its annual Kitten Shower on Saturday, Oct. 3, offering felines for adoption.

The event, at the shelter on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when kittens can be adopted for $50. The furry friends are all spayed or neutered, are up-to-date with their vaccines and have had flea prevention treatment applied.

Refreshments will be served.

The shelter is also requesting donations of much-needed supplies, like canned kitten food, Purina Kitten Chow, and kitten milk replacement, for kittens in local foster homes.

For more information or to learn how to volunteer for the nonprofit organization, call Save-A-Pet at 631-473-6333.

A black dog at Kent Animal Shelter sits in one of the buildings closest to the Peconic River. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kent Animal Shelter has always been close to the Peconic Lake. Maybe too close.

The 47-year-old facility was built on River Road in Calverton less than 50 feet from Peconic Lake, which leads to Peconic River. As the lake flows into the river, so does the Shelter’s wastewater.

In 2012, the shelter began its process to get a waiver to expand its five-building facility and install a new septic system to avoid contaminating the Peconic’s surface water. According to Pamela Green, executive director of the shelter, the shelter also wants to tear down two of its building and construct one, approximately 10,000 square foot building closer to River Road. The hope is that relocating these buildings will put 300 feet between the shelter and the water, which will limit the amount of wastewater dumped into the Peconic Lake and river.

But Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the shelter doesn’t qualify for the waiver for its prospective projects. Although Amper said the society doesn’t oppose the shelter’s projects, he said the facility’s desire to move closer to River Road infringes on Long Island Pine Barrens’ core preservation area. According to Amper, construction is not permitted by law in that area to help “protect the Island’s purest source of water.”

“The only way anyone can get a waiver is to demonstrate that they have no beneficial use of the property absent the waiver, or that public health and safety depends upon the construction occurring in the Pine Barrens core,” Amper said. “Kent does not meet that requirement, and if the waiver were granted, it would create a dangerous precedent for others who want to develop in the Pine Barrens core.”

Amper claimed that the shelter’s new proposed septic system would discharge 2,700 gallons of wastewater daily into the land’s underground aquifer. However, Green said the wastewater isn’t in close proximity to the aquifer for drinking water, as the wastewater goes into the Peconic.

Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Currently, the shelter wants to demolish its kennel, which rests on the river bank, as well as the small cottage located across from the kennel. The shelter also wants to relocate its clinic and include it into the nearly 10,000 square foot building, alongside a new kennel and cat facilities. One of the cat facilities, also on the bank of the Peconic, houses senior cats that will live out their lives at the shelter.

Thus far, the shelter has received permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Department.

“The last hurdle is the Pine Barrens commission,” Green said, about Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

Where the commission differs from the Pine Barrens Society is that the commission decides whether the shelter will receive the waiver to expand its facility and upgrade its septic system. The commission is comprised of County Executive Steve Bellone (D); Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R); Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (R) and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D). A fifth individual will be added at a later date.

Amper said the society reached out to these supervisors, who are in the Pine Barrens towns, hoping that at least one of these officials will help provide the shelter with two to three acres of property for the shelter to expand and install a new septic system.

Green added that the Pine Barrens Society is threatening the commission with a lawsuit if the commission grants the shelter a hardship permit, which Green believes the shelter is eligible for as parts of the shelter are dilapidated and won’t be useful once the shelter cannot use the facility.

But Amper said this is a standard procedure. He also said even if the commission likes the shelter’s proposal, they can’t legally grant a waiver to the shelter to build on the area.

“If the commission is allowed to say, ‘We don’t care what the law says; we just like this project,’ then there’s no protection of the core area and the underground water supply,” Amper said. “The commission can’t make the law nor can they make decisions that contradict the law. It’s not that any of us dislike what they’re proposing; it’s not the value of the project, it’s where they’re proposing to build it.”

Romaine denied to comment on the issues and process the shelter is experiencing.

“As a member of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, it is not appropriate for me to comment at this time regarding an issue which is still under consideration,” Romaine said in an email.

The commission will vote on whether the shelter will receive a waiver on Oct. 21, at the Pine Barrens Commission meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall, according to Amper. The shelter will need three out of five votes to acquire the waiver to go through with its reconstruction plan, including the installation of a new septic system.

“We’re trying to prevent [surface water contamination] from happening by putting a new septic system and removing the channel off the river and abandoning the leaching field,” Green said. “This would be an upgrade for the environment.”

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

In the Aug. 13 article we focused on the causes of chronic otitis externa (external ear infections). This article will focus on treatment. First, relieve yourself of the guilt that you did not treat the “infection” correctly. If your pet has chronic ear infections, that usually indicates some predisposing factor (usually genetic in origin). Second, get over the frustration of assuming that because we veterinarians use the term “ear infection” that if treated once, it will never return. 

Chronic otitis externa is a problem that can be managed, not cured.  Therefore, general maintenance of the ear is much better than waiting for things to get out of control. Talk to your veterinarian about ear cleaners, or if you look for an ear cleaner at the pet store make sure it states that it is a cleaner and a drying agent. This means it will have some isopropyl alcohol and usually propylene glycol to not only break up the wax but also to dry the lining of the ear canal.

Those dogs (or cats) that produce excessive wax should have their ears cleaned regularly (once to twice weekly).  If your pet’s ears are really inflamed/infected, you will need medication from your veterinarian to get things under control. However, once the infection clears up, maintenance cleaning is imperative. I have many a pet owner tell me how guilty they feel about cleaning their pet’s ears because they know it hurts and the pet runs away.

However, these same owners usually wait until there is a full-blown infection. Therefore, it is much easier to clean the ears when there is no infection, as compared to waiting until the lining of the ear canal is inflamed and sensitive.  Remember, “an ounce of prevention…”

There are some cases that get so out of hand that your veterinarian may suggest sedating your pet to obtain samples for testing (ear cultures, etc.), as well as a deep ear flush to evaluate the ear drum and the middle ear behind it. Although the problem may originate in the external ear canal, it can progress to a middle ear infection (otitis media) and systemic medication may be indicated. 

Talk to your veterinarian about exploring the underlying causes of the ear infection. As we discussed in the previous article, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of recurrent ear infections are secondary to allergies. Newer, more accurate blood tests can diagnose food allergies, seasonal allergies or both. Avoiding certain foods (including treats), as well as managing seasonal allergies can decrease (or sometimes eliminate altogether) the need for cleaning the ears at all. 

As a last resort, there are two surgical procedures that can be performed in severe cases. The first is called a lateral ear canal ablation. This procedure reconstructs a portion of the external ear canal so it more resembles a human ear canal. This allows better airflow and makes cleaning and treatment easier.

The second procedure is called a total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy, or TECA-BO (pronounced, “teeka-boo”) for short. This is reserved for end-stage ear canals where over the years so much scar tissue has developed, no medication can be introduced into the canal. This procedure involves removing the entire external ear canal and part of the middle ear as well.

A percentage of patients lose their hearing, but it will eliminate a significant source of chronic pain. The good news is that in almost every case, the patient is deaf before the surgery secondary to chronic disease. 

I hope this sheds a little light on a confusing (and sometimes frustrating) disease in pets. 

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years and is pictured with his son, Matthew, his dog, Jasmine.

Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center hosts 18th annual Pet-A-Palooza

The Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington held its 18th annual Pet-A-Palooza event over the weekend, featuring cats, dogs, a Chinese auction, live entertainment, face-painting and more. The weekend-long event at the Warner Road shelter is a celebration of all things furry and friendly.

 

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