What is Heartworm?

August 24th, 2020 | Posted by Chelsea Cappellano in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
By: Lisa Malkin, Director of Hospital Administration for Humane Veterinary Hospitals — Information provided by the American Heartworm Society
  • What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a preventable, but serious and potentially deadly, parasite that primarily infects dogs, cats and ferrets.

  • How is Heartworm transmitted?

Heartworms can only be transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, young heartworms called microfilariae enter into that mosquito’s system. Within two weeks, the microfilariae develop into infective larvae inside the mosquito; these infective larvae can be transmitted to another animal when this mosquito takes its next blood meal.

The infective larvae mature into adult heartworms in approximately six months. During the first three months, the larvae migrate through the animal’s body, eventually reaching the blood vessels of the lungs. During the last three months, the immature worms continue to develop and grow into adults, with females growing to lengths of up to 14 inches. The worms damage the blood vessels, and reduce the heart’s pumping ability, resulting in severe lung and heart disease. When the animal shows signs of illness due to adult heartworm infection, it is called heartworm disease.

  • How can I tell if my dog has Heartworm Disease?

If your dog has been recently or mildly infected with heartworms, he/she may show no signs of illness until the adult worms have developed in the lungs and signs of heartworm disease are observed. As the disease progresses, your dog may cough, become lethargic, lose his/her appetite or have difficulty breathing. You may notice that your dog seems to tire rapidly after only moderate exercise.

  • Where are Heartworms found?

Geographically, heartworms are a potential threat in every state as well as in many other countries around the world. All dogs, regardless of age, sex, or living environment, are susceptible to heartworm infection.

  • What pets should be tested for Heartworm Disease?

Because heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, any pet exposed to mosquitoes should be tested. This includes pets that only go outside occasionally. Remember that mosquitoes can also get into homes, putting indoor-only pets at risk as well.

  • How the Veterinarian tests for Heartworm Disease?

Blood tests are performed by your veterinarian to detect the presence of adult heartworm infection (>6 month old infections) in your dog. The antigen test is most commonly performed, and is very accurate in dogs. Antigen tests detect the presence of adult female heartworms, and antibody tests determine if your pet has been exposed to heartworms.

Further tests, such as chest radiographs (x-rays), a blood profile and an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart), may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, to evaluate the severity of the disease, and to determine the best treatment plan for your dog.

All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care.

 

Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

  • Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.
  • Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.
  • You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately re-start your dog on monthly preventive—then retest your dog 6 months later. The reason for re-testing is that heartworms must be approximately 7 months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog tested, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

 

  • If my dog tests positive, how can my dog be treated?

Heartworm is a progressive, life-threatening disease. The earlier it is detected and treated, the better the chances that your pet will recover and have less complications.

As with most medical problems, it is much better to prevent heartworm infection than to treat it. However, if your dog does become infected with heartworms there is an FDA-approved treatment available. There is substantial risk involved in treating a dog for heartworms. However, serious complications are much less likely in dogs that are in good health and when you carefully follow your veterinarian’s instructions.

The American Heartworm Society recommends testing pets every 12 months for heartworm and giving your pet a heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

For more information, visit: www.avma.org or

American Heartworm Society   www.heartwormsociety.org

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By: Suzanne D’Alonzo, Community Outreach Programs Manager for Humane Pennsylvania

Our Community Outreach Team meets many pet owners facing complex issues, and Spike’s Pet Pantry lets us repeatedly connect with clients.  Before social distancing protocols were put into place, we knew a fair amount about the pets, situations, and families of our pet pantry clients.  We’ll get back to a time when our client connections will again be more interactional and conversational, less transactional.  And thinking about the conversations that currently have to be skipped as we limit client interactions got me thinking about conversations I’ve had.  And I realize I’ve learned a lot from those I serve.

Spike’s Pet Pantry clients are motivated to find ways to meet their pets’ needs.  While every client and their situation is unique, similar threads crop up in the stories:  pets are considered family and the fear of not being able to provide weighs on pet owners.  No matter the situation that led them to our program, our pet pantry clients have a variety of ways to stretch their limited resources.  They do their best and that keeps their beloved pets in their homes.  Frankly, it’s impressive.

It’s also universal.  A colleague is publishing his multi-city study of how pet owners cope with pet food insecurity.  The lessons I find here in Berks and Lancaster counties match those of pet owners around the country.  Effort and ingenuity keep animals in their homes and out of the shelter system; that’s a win for everyone.  Knowing details about how owners provide for their pets means our program has important facts.  Having these details means the opportunity to improve our program so it’s the best fit for pet owners in need.

Owners tell us about how they forgo other purchases so they can provide for their pet.  Sometimes it’s the stuff that makes life easier- pre-made meals from the grocery or a restaurant after a tough week, a favorite treat, or a little something new.  Sometimes it’s a tougher decision, with pet owners juggling which bills get addressed right away or deciding which prescriptions can wait.  It’s usually about making things work on a fixed income, even creating a timeline for purchases of all the things that are needed- the family’s food, school supplies, gas for the car, pet food, etc.

We hear about future plans for purchases of pet-related items- which stores have what on sale, what coupons can be used, the best places for online pet-supply shopping, etc.  That might leave room for vet care or grooming supplies when they’re needed.  Often it comes down to strategy: supplement pet food with what comes from Spike’s Pet Pantry, purchasing only a small amount if the month’s allotment isn’t enough.  Or consolidate pet supply purchases, getting only a larger, cost-effective bag for when more food is needed.  Switch to a cheaper brand when possible.  Save some of the brand or flavor a pet really likes in case it’s needed to convince pets to eat a flavor they don’t like, so no food goes to waste.  Many creative ideas are shared with us and we see the amazing budgeting people use for their pets!

Clients will stretch dog food by adding cooked rice, sometimes vegetables, to their dogs’ meals.  They’ll convince finicky cats to eat with a few choice bits of their own dinner meat added in.  And we’ve learned about how pets other types of pets’ meals get managed when things are tight (did you know the best place to get a bale of hay for a rabbit?  I didn’t either until I got the scoop).  We also know that pet owners will skip meals themselves or share whatever they have with their pets if they aren’t able to secure an ample amount of pet food.

I’ve heard clients trading babysitting favors with relatives for a bag of dog food.  I’ve known owners to jointly purchase a big bag of pet food and split it, benefiting from the savings of bulk buying. Others borrow money or directly ask for pet food from friends or relatives.  I know folks who “share custody” or have sent pets to temporarily stay with an ex or a relative so pets’ needs get met.  It all works: the pets get fed and are still with the people who love them.

We even hear about some of the choices that, initially, seem to make less sense but that are logical in the long run.  Some of our clients may have long walks to get food home, or may be facing an eviction or upcoming move, or may have trouble lifting or storing larger amounts.  These are times we’ve come to realize when pet owners may need to take smaller quantities than they’d like to, or, when purchasing additional pet food, have to purchase smaller quantities at higher prices given their circumstances.  I recall one pet owner who knew she would likely be living in her car between rentals and did not have the space for a large amount of pet food.  Another had to get a ride from a friend while the friend made work deliveries.  Only so much would fit in the car at the same time as the other delivery items.  Yet another was a senior citizen taking care of her older sister.  Her elderly two dogs and cat were her world.  She was only able to lift about 5 pounds at a time, and she planned carefully as to how she could manage to get, then unload, a larger amount.

Since Spike’s Pet Pantry permits someone other than the client to make the monthly food pick up it’s pretty common that neighbors come together, sharing a ride.  That saves on gas, letting limited funds be wisely used.  There are a number of clients who pick up for relatives- one vehicle that will make the circuit between granny’s, an uncle’s, and home.  This works to get pet food to those who don’t have reliable transportation, who don’t have the time to make it to our pantry, or who physically cannot get out to pick up supplies.

I’ve been inspired listening to clients share what works for them.  I hear different perspectives, and one is not more “correct” than another.  Some clients who own both a dog and a cat will skip getting food for one type pet if they still have a supply at home, in hopes this helps everyone in the program get what they need.  I find this seems common with pet owners of a single cat or a petite dog.  Other clients go home with with the maximum we are able to provide, even if they still have some food, in hopes they might skip coming the following month if they have enough.

Pet owners facing pet food insecurity are doing a good job with what they have.  As I continue to meet clients- and get to know them, their families, their pets, and what’s happening in their lives- I really appreciate what they tell us.  Sharing your life and its challenges is uncomfortable, which makes the information all the more valuable.  Understanding how solutions to challenges can be cobbled together holds lessons.  It’s that information that help us modify and improve current programs.  It also lets us consider future projects or programming that could further assist wonderful pet owners who are finding ways to keep their pets in their homes!

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By: Lexi Vollmer, Animal Care Technician at the Humane League of Lancaster County

Bringing a new cat home is an exciting experience and one that should be positive for all involved. In order for the transition from shelter to home to go as smoothly as possible your new kitty friend should be given a decompression period. You may be asking just what does that mean exactly? A decompression period is a low stress time where you set up your feline companion in an area where they will feel safe and secure as they adjust to their new environment. A whole new house or apartment, people, sights, smells, and maybe even other animal housemates can be overwhelming for any animal.

So what steps are needed to set your cat up for success? The first step, preferably before the new arrival comes home, is to designate a room for the new addition. This can be a bedroom, bathroom, or other smaller space where the cat can feel safe and isolated from the rest of the house at first. This room should contain a litter box, food, water, toys, and places for the kitty to hide if they want to. This will help to establish where the cat can find all their basic necessities in a quick and easy manner. No searching the whole home for the litter box or food. This room will also provide a space where the cat can acclimate to its surroundings gradually. Being thrust into an entire large area, especially after being more confined in a shelter, can be a shock to the cat.

The physical environment is just one aspect of your cat’s new life, they must also adjust to the other occupants of the home. If there are other pets in the house, it is a good idea to take the carrier your new cat came home in and leave it out for your established animal(s) to smell. Scent carries a wide array of information for dogs and cats. By leaving the carrier out with the scent of the new cat inside, you are giving your other pets the least stressful introduction to their new friend. This way no animals have to invade each other’s personal space in order to get the initial information via smell. Another soft introduction between pets can happen at the door to the decompression area. This door serves as a visual and physical barrier, limiting the stress involved with interactions. However, the animals can still smell and hear each other under the door. This is helpful because the fear of meeting the other animal is reduced due to the safety of the door.

When it comes to slow introductions, it is not just other pets that need to give the new kitty time to adjust. Try to keep the number of people interacting with the new cat to a minimum at first. Too many people coming in and out before the cat has adjusted can be stressful and make the cat more likely to hide. Try to put yourself in their position, bounced around from place to place, and now a bunch of strange people keep invading your space and interacting with you before you have gotten a chance to settle in. That can be quite overwhelming for anyone or animal. It can be hard, resisting the urge to show off your new feline friend, but just give them a little time and eventually they will be ready to introduce themselves to your friends and family.

A question you may be asking at this point is, how long do we give a cat to decompress? And that is an excellent question. It will vary from cat to cat, each has their own personality, experiences, and comfort levels. All these factors play a part in how fast they will adjust to a new environment. For some cats it may be as quick as a day or two, for some more shy cats. A few weeks. To know when it is best to open your cat up to the rest of the home will depend on their body language. Is the cat confident, coming up to you when you enter, or trying to make a break for it when you open the door? If so, this can indicate that they are feeling comfortable and are ready to explore more of the living space. Allow them to get a feel for the rest of home, but still keep their room set up as a safe space in case they need a place to get away if stress rises.

Once your new cat has acclimated to their new environment you can change the placement of their litter box, food and water if you no longer want it stored in the decompression room. These items should have the cat’s scent on them by now, making them easier for the cat to locate them when needed. It also helps to show your cat where you have moved these items to. Now that your new cat has been fully integrated into the household you can watch your kitty really come into their own. Sometimes even after a proper decompression period. It may take weeks or even months for a shelter animal to display their full personality. You may begin to see small quirks pop up or watch as your more timid cat opens up and gains some confidence. As with most things, the transition back into a home takes time and patience, but the reward for both you and your new cat is tremendous.

From personal experience I can say this process can surprise you. I brought home my first cat last summer (as a foster fail). She began in my bedroom. The very first thing she did was hide under my bed. I wanted to interact with her badly but didn’t push it, just put her dishes under the bed so she could eat where she felt comfortable. The next morning I was in for a huge surprise. I woke up to her curled up in my chest, purring up a storm. For context, she was not the nicest resident in the shelter so to see this side of her actually made me cry. The longer she stayed the more I saw the traits her previous owner had described come out. She loves cardboard scratchers, climbing up high where she shouldn’t and knocking items off of said high places. After a week and a half I slowly began to bring her on trips downstairs to meet my family’s other pets. She had never lived with other pets before and was very scared. The way she manifested her fears and insecurities was by being the biggest baddest one in the room. To be honest, getting her accustomed to the other animals is still an ongoing project. I think her biggest breakthrough was when she met a second foster, a small but spunky kitten. My cat was confused and grumpy at first. But gradually became interested and even tried to play with the kitten near the end of its stay.

Now, I have a cat that was quite a handful from the get go, so her journey is taking longer and I expected as much. That be said, every cat goes at their own pace, and most likely will not take nearly as long as my knucklehead is. Being in tune with your cat and their comfort level is key to gauging when it is appropriate to progress through the steps of decompression with your new cat companion.

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By: Heather Lineaweaver, DVM for Humane Veterinary Hospitals – Lancaster

Many of us currently spend the majority of the day at home with our dogs.  They, of course, enjoy the extra attention and time spent with their family, but this can lead to stress and anxiety when the family returns to work and school. Signs of separation anxiety can include excessive barking, crying, pacing, drooling, destructive behavior, and acting withdrawn.  Taking preventative steps now can help ease the transition back to a normal routine.  Basic strategies will be covered here; however, if your dog already has a history of or is under treatment for separation anxiety, you may need to contact your veterinarian for a more tailored plan.

A good first step is to take 10-15 minutes each day to work on basic commands.  If your dog does not already know it, teach a “bed” or “crate” command that you can use before leaving.  Give praise and attention whenever they go there on their own to reinforce the behavior.  This way, they have a predictable, comfortable place to go when you leave. A favorite toy or blanket can provide additional comfort. If it’s not already, the designated area should be out of sight of the door.  For dogs that are food-motivated, you can give them a Kong stuffed with a mix of food and peanut butter or a treat dispensing toy to distract them from your departure. It’s important that they associate you leaving with something positive.

Another way to make your departure more positive is to practice with treats.  Do all of the things you normally do to get ready to leave  – put on shoes, pick up keys, grab your purse or briefcase, etc. – while giving small treats.  Repeat this a few times each day.  Your dog also needs to become used to being alone, so leave the house for increasing amounts of time. At first, you can just go out side for a few minutes, then come back in.  Gradually increase this to several hours.  Make sure you send them to their bed area before leaving.  Also, it is extremely important to not make a big deal out of your departure or your return.

Hopefully, the above tips will help ease your dog’s transition when you return to work.  If your dog develops signs of anxiety despite your efforts, additional training techniques and possibly short-term anti-anxiety medication will be needed.  Your veterinarian can assist you with additional strategies as needed.

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The Stories Behind The Need

July 15th, 2020 | Posted by Pam Keeler in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Humane Pennsylvania’s community outreach team is all about helping people in our community take better care of their pets. We start from a baseline of no judgment – our mission is not to shame people for what they can’t provide but to step in and fill gaps where needed, whether that’s offering free food, hosting vaccine/microchip clinics, or providing other essential services. In many instances, to describe these services are “lifesaving” is not an exaggeration.

Very often, though, we hear people say “if people can’t afford to care for their pets they shouldn’t have them”.  That sentiment is of course rooted in good intentions – after all, without proper care the animals suffer. But it misses the larger point — pets aren’t luxury items reserved for the privileged few.  And many times the people who wind up needing our lifesaving support are truly lifesavers for their pets. Here are just a few examples:

One of our Spike’s Pet Pantry clients currently has 6 cats and 3 dogs. That would be a lot of pets for someone who has a considerable amount of disposable income, let alone someone who barely scrapes by, so it would be easy to say “what a foolish, uncaring woman she must be to have taken on that many animals!” But if you were to dig deeper and actually ask about her story you’d find that she never set out to acquire any of those pets — each one was either abandoned or needed a new home because their existing owner found themselves in an even worse financial position than hers. Taking those animals into her home was an act of kindness.

A recent addition to Spike’s Pet Pantry’s client list is a young couple who had no intention of taking on the expense of an animal but heard a tiny kitten struggling to escape from a storm drain and just couldn’t leave him behind. The free services we’ve been able to provide allowed them to save that kitten and ensure he has a permanent loving home.

Then there’s the road crew worker who comes to Spike’s Pet Pantry still in uniform to get free pet food.  She was able to make ends meet with her 2 dogs and 2 cats, but now that her son and daughter-in-law have had to move in with their own 3 pets because they lost their jobs, money is just too tight. Without our help, their family would have lost something even more precious than just their income – they would have lost their beloved family members.

It’s easy to judge from the outside – it’s a lot harder once you start learning peoples’ stories.  Every day we meet exceptional people who are going to great lengths to ensure the best possible care for their animals.  We are grateful that we can be their safety net.  And we are grateful to each and every one of you who has donated your time, money and contributions of food and supplies to allow us to continue serving others.

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We appreciate everyone’s continued support in allowing us to modify procedures to best accommodate our clients, supporters, volunteers, and staff as we acclimate to this new normal.

We are thrilled to announce that our Danielle Ruiz-Murphy Dog Park in Birdsboro has officially reopened! If you are using our free dog park, please keep social distancing in mind, and keep yourself and others safe and healthy.

Also starting July 6th The Humane League of Lancaster County will be accepting appointments for those wishing to visit our shelter. If you are interested in making an appointment to come to our shelter, please call our front desk at 717-393-6551.

Our Spike’s Pet Pantry program in Berks and Lancaster Counties remains open and available to meet your needs. If you, or someone you know needs pet food assistance in Berks County, please visit our Community Resource Center every Tuesday and Thursday from 2 PM – 6 PM. If you are able, please consider donating to help feed pets in need by dropping donations in the blue bins outside of The Humane League of Lancaster County or Humane Veterinary Hospital, Reading.  If you, or someone you know needs pet food assistance in Lancaster County, please contact The Humane League of Lancaster County at 717-393-6551.

We are sorry to inform you that low-cost spay/neuter surgeries are not yet available. Regular price surgery appointments may be scheduled through our Humane Veterinary Hospitals; if you are in need of low-cost services, we recommend you call No Nonsense Neutering at 1-866-820-2510.

Upcoming pay-what-you-can vaccine and microchip clinics will be scheduled from time to time over the course of the summer, please watch our Humane Pennsylvania Facebook and website for announcements. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate through this difficult time together, and we look forward to adding additional services as circumstances allow.

Humane Veterinary Hospitals are increasing their services offered. Clients are welcome, and encouraged to schedule their wellness visits, and continue providing routine care for their pets. Please contact Humane Veterinary Hospital, Lancaster at 717-393-6551 or Humane Veterinary Hospital, Reading at 610-921-2348 to schedule an appointment.

In accordance with the Pennsylvania Business Safety Order, all visitors to Humane Pennsylvania locations are asked to wear a mask.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to work to keep you and your pets safe and healthy.

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By: Lauren Henderson, Director of Events & Corporate Relations for Humane Pennsylvania

When we first kicked around the idea of hosting this year’s Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest virtually, I wasn’t sure how that would shape out. Our annual Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest has been built to be an in-person event. The vendors, the dogs, the packs, the live music; every detail has been thoroughly figured out to make sure the in-person Walk is enjoyed by all. But how does it work when the in-person Walk becomes virtual?

On June 2nd we officially announced this year’s 43rd Annual Walk for the Animals & Walktoberfest, Virtually, and it was so well received and supported, that not one day has passed without a registration, sponsorship, raffle ticket purchase, or donation. It’s quite literally amazing to see in the midst of a pandemic.

The support was so incredible, we extended the original virtual Walk dates to ensure everyone who wanted to support had the opportunity to do so. It is now set for July 24th – July 26th, which means if you haven’t yet registered there’s still time!

This year’s Walk will no doubt look, and feel different. But over the course of those 3 days we encourage you to take your canine companion out on a stroll, proudly wear your virtual Walk t-shirt, and let every know you’re walking for the animals! We’ll share photos and videos of other walkers doing the same thing. Together we can still accomplish what our in-person Walk sets out to do every year. Visit our virtual vendor websites and support their services. Thank our sponsors for their unwavering support, especially this year. If you haven’t already, join our virtual Walk Facebook event, and join a group of people walking for the animals.

The lifesaving funds raised through this year’s virtual Walk are critical. Please register. Purchase some raffle tickets. Tell a friend. Ask a relative or friend from out of state to donate and help us complete our 50 State Challenge. Please donate.

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Summer Snackin’

June 22nd, 2020 | Posted by Chelsea Cappellano in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
By Madisyn Marker, Animal Care Technician for the Humane League of Lancaster County

With summer coming up, there’s no better time to learn new ways to keep your pups cool in the heat. First, let’s talk about why it’s so important to keep dogs cool when it’s hot out. For starters, dogs don’t sweat like humans can so they rely on panting and releasing heat through their paw pads and nose to regulate their body temperature. Overheated dogs can suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke or sudden death from cardiac arrhythmia. While these are all serious issues people run into, there are plenty of ways to help prevent it.

Frozen dog snacks are a great way to help keep your forever friend cool in the summer. Not only is it tasty and refreshing but they can make great enrichment too! Frozen snacks can vary from ingredients to size to complexity. What’s your dog’s favorite snack? Is it something you can incorporate into a frozen treat? The answer is likely yes and here’s how.

Frozen water bowls are fun and enriching for the brain. They are super easy to make too. All you need is a container that will fit in your freezer. Your container can be a dog bowl, an old box laying around or Tupperware. Your container of choosing has to be able to hold water without leaks. You can fill the whole container up, freeze it and serve as is or you can make it a fun game. If you want to add a little pizzazz to it there are different routes you can go. If you’re uninterested in making layers all you have to do is fill your container, drop some of your dog’s favorite snacks (fruit, veggies, etc.) freeze it up and serve. If you want to go all out, you can freeze different layers with different snacks. Example: Fill the container just a little bit, drop some cut carrots in and freeze. Next fill the container up a little more, drop in some chopped watermelon and freeze. Lastly fill the rest of the way, drop in some chopped banana and freeze. Viola! Now you have a complex, layered treat and awesome enrichment for your dog. This will not only help keep your dog cool on those hot days but it’ll give them something to work for as they try to lick their way each frozen treat.

If you are looking for a special frozen goodie for your dog, don’t worry I have just the thing. Now, my dogs love watermelon but that’s not the same for every dog so this recipe will vary depending on what fruit your dog likes. All you need is fruit, molds for fun shapes (cupcake tins will also work) and plain Greek yogurt (optional). Of course, yogurt and other snacks should be given in moderation but every good boy and girl deserves to be a little spoiled from time to time. First, you’ll start by placing a little Greek yogurt in the bottom of your tin or mold. You can surpass this step if your dog is lactose intolerant or if you don’t want your dog to have yogurt. Next, blend your fruit until liquid and pour into tin or molds. Lastly, place your work of art in the freezer and once frozen, serve. These treats are sweet and satisfying.

Even though frozen treats will help cool your dog down, please remember that if your dog is outside they should have access to fresh water, shade and the option to go inside if they choose. These are a couple frozen choices but the possibilities are endless! Now that you’re a pro at making some pawsome frozen fun, get creative and explore new ideas! Don’t be afraid to get your paws a little dirty and have a blast while bonding with your furry friend over ice cold snacks.

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Written By: Dr. Alicia Simoneau, Chief Veterinary Officer, Humane Pennsylvania

The Humane Veterinary Hospitals are still here for you and your pets. Access to affordable veterinary care is paramount in our mission as an organization. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania we have commenced a partial shutdown of both our hospitals. Services we regularly offered are being altered at this time. The whole veterinary community nationwide has had to adapt. Our main goal is to do our part to help keep you, our staff and our community safe. We are doing this by maintaining social distancing, decreasing public access into our facilities and implementing stringent cleaning protocols.

To this end, we have moved to a curbside concierge service to bring your pet into our hospital when an appointment to see a doctor is needed. You speak to a doctor via a phone call during the appointment as if you were in an exam room. We are prioritizing sick pet visits and postponing elective procedures at this time. Elective surgeries such as sterilization have been suspended by the veterinary community locally and nationally mainly to conserve the use of personal protective equipment such as disposable gowns and gloves. This also allows us to utilize time to serve a greater number sick pets. Lifesaving surgeries will continue to be offered on an as needed basis. These measures are consistent with what all healthcare workers have been asked to do by the state government.

By concentrating our efforts in this way we are helping the community by offering advice to clients’ pets over the phone, utilizing telemedicine as much as possible and continuing hospital appointments as needed to avoid a trip to the emergency vet. Medication pick-ups have continued to be available with a parking lot pick up by calling ahead. Of course, end of life services are still available as needed. Previously postponed vaccination appointments for puppies and kittens will be able to be scheduled starting in mid-April. Our adapted protocols are expected to continue into summer. Our staff is prepared to meet the challenges of our current national situation while maintaining our AAHA standards and our community’s needs. Updates will be provided regularly via our Facebook pages and website.

Thinking of us? As we our part as an essential business in your community continued donations of cleaning supplies like Clorox wipes, bleach, laundry detergent, washable triple layer cloth facemasks, hand sanitizer and hand soap would be appreciated.

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By: Inga Fricke, Director of Community Initiatives of Humane Pennsylvania

At the beginning of this year, Humane Pennsylvania’s (HPA) Healthy Pets Initiative was truly hitting its stride. We were holding mass vaccination/microchip clinics for dogs every week and for cats every other week, creating a consistency of service that pet owners in our community could rely on. Spike’s Pet Pantry was serving a steady flow of clients, establishing personal connections with people who love their pets but just needed a little extra support. Our subsidized spay/neuter surgeries were booked out months in advance as people took advantage of our low-cost pricing.  And we were just days away from launching our brand new initiative, a targeted wellness program aimed at bringing veterinary care directly to those who needed it most: the homeless, at-risk veterans and victims of domestic violence.  We were proud of the help we had already been able to provide and were looking forward to doing even more.

Then our world went sideways, just as it did for the rest of you, and it felt like all of our planning and momentum went right along with it. In the blink of an eye we could no longer invite people into our pantry and chat with them about their pets’ needs. We couldn’t perform spay/neuter surgeries anymore, low-cost or otherwise, even though to most animal welfare professionals they are absolutely essential for healthy communities. And we certainly couldn’t invite hundreds of people into a community center to perform mass pet vaccinations. It would have been completely understandable for us to feel helpless and defeated.  But at HPA we look for opportunities to serve no matter the challenge before us, so instead of simply waiting for “normal” to return, we looked for new ways to help, and boy did we find them!

Our first challenge was to completely revamp our in-house Spike’s Pet Pantry to ensure we could continue providing pet food to residents without compromising safety. That meant figuring out a system for communicating with clients without actually coming face-to-face with them. We purchased a video doorbell to facilitate conversations, and figured out a system whereby we hold up signs at our door to ask questions like “How many dogs do you have?” and “Do you need more cat food or dog food today?” While it sounds very impersonal, I can honestly say a highlight of my day is hearing my colleague laughing with Spike’s patrons about the challenges of through-the-glass-door communication, making the very best of a completely unnatural situation. And our numbers tell the story of how critical our service has become – since March 15, more than 13,000 lbs of pet food have passed out the doors of Spike’s Pet Pantry, a more than 200% increase over the same period last year. Perhaps more telling is the fact that over 55% percent of those receiving that food had never had to use our services before this pandemic hit.

Next, we saw an opportunity to leverage the unique relationships we have cultivated with national organizations like Greater Good to allow us to serve as the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team’s official pet food distribution hub for Eastern Pennsylvania.  Within a week we had secured donated warehouse space (our thanks to NAI Keystone) and begun accepting, inventorying and tracking truckloads of donated pet food. To date, we have fielded more than a dozen deliveries to that warehouse and have distributed over 75,000 lbs. of pet food to dozens of groups from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, including schools, community organizations and food pantries.

While that effort alone would have been enough for most organizations, HPA continued looking for opportunities to serve. We began providing pet food delivery to individuals who found themselves unable to reach our pantry, and we arranged multiple drive-thru pet food giveaways in communities across our region. Almost 13,000 lbs. of pet food has been distributed through these efforts, enough to keep more than 1,300 pets fed for a full month, and more of food giveaway events are planned.

Most recently we asked ourselves “How can we restart our mass pet vaccine clinics safely?” We’ve found a way, holding our first ever drive-in pet vaccination clinic at the end of last month. By adapting our service delivery in this creative manner, we are able to ensure that we can continue providing critical, lifesaving, preventative vaccinations and microchips to pet owners in our community without compromising safety, and we are in the process of adding more drive-in clinics to our calendar.

Are we 100% back to normal? Certainly not. Spay/neuter services are still largely on hold due to state and national veterinary restrictions, and despite our best efforts, our drive-in vaccine clinics will likely not serve every pet owner the way our prior walk-in clinics did. But HPA will continue stretching, adapting and innovating to keep meeting the challenge of helping as many pet owners in need as possible. It’s what we do, and it’s all part of our commitment to make this the best community anywhere to be an animal.

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