The Hunt for Huckleberry: Finding Your Lost Pet

June 25, 2014
Huckleberry

Huckleberry

A couple of evenings ago, I received a frantic phone call from one of my cat-owning clients. Their young cat, Huckleberry, had been missing for a couple of hours and had not come to the kitchen at his appointed dinner hour.

Search Everywhere
When my clients discovered him missing, they took immediate action: opened all the room and closet doors in their apartment in case Huckleberry had accidently been shut in or out of his favorite hiding places, checked the dryer for a cat toasting in a pile of warm, clean, fluffy towels and looked in the hallway outside their apartment door. They even went so far as to disassemble some electronic devices. But, no Huckleberry.

Alert the Veterinary Community
I emailed the front desk and the Emergency Service at The Animal Medical Center alerting them to a possible “injured stray cat” meeting Huckleberry’s description. The front desk in turn emailed Huckleberry’s photo and microchip number to all of the 24 hour emergency hospitals in our area and gave Huckleberry’s home phone number in case a good Samaritan found him and took him to a local animal emergency room.

Use Social Media
Next, I tweeted Huckleberry’s photo, giving his New York City neighborhood and The AMC’s phone number in case someone recognized the little guy on the street looking for a way home. If I had a “do over” I would use a neighborhood hashtag and would have tagged some neighborhood and cat Twitter handles. Still, over 5,000 people got the tweet.

A Happy Ending
This story has a happy ending. After ten hours of searching, Huckleberry was discovered, hungry and in serious need of a litterbox, in his apartment building’s freight elevator. His family speculates the curious cat hopped a ride with a repairman earlier in the day.

I hope none of my readers ever have to search for a missing pet, but the hunt for Huckleberry brings up some important points and ideas for finding lost pets:

  • Be sure your pet has a microchip and the information in the microchip database is up to date.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet readily accessible for making “lost/missing” posters, emailing and posting on social media.
  • Use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to broadcast photographs of your missing pet. The wider you broadcast, the greater your chance of finding your pet.
  • If you live in an apartment building with security cameras, ask the building staff if you can review the security tapes for clues to your pet’s whereabouts.
  • Check strange places like inside a box spring or an electronic device with an open area inside the case.

International Health Papers: How to Avoid a Justin Bieber Epic Fail

May 21, 2013
Justin Bieber and Mally

Justin Bieber and Mally

International travel with pets is a complicated affair. Each country has its own set of rules about vaccinations, blood tests, deworming and microchipping. For island countries free of rabies, an elaborate scheme of testing and vaccination is required to prevent a dog or cat from introducing the disease to the country.

Some families handle the international health paper requirements better than others. Take for example Justin Bieber and his pet Chapuchin monkey, Mally. Passports are required for band members on the Believe Tour to enter a foreign country, and Mally the monkey needed special health papers to enter Germany. The problem was, proper papers were lacking and Mally’s concert touring days prematurely ended. Apparently, Mally remains overseas.

Here’s a better story of a family that did their homework regarding international pet travel. Today I saw a cute dog named Avatar, in need of an international health certificate. One of the requirements for entry into her home country is a health certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian. Not every veterinarian is accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but this family knew to ask for an accredited veterinarian because they had carefully researched this information.

Avatar came to my office with a pile of papers carefully detailing all her vaccinations. I need this information to be sure she meets the entry requirements and to document vaccinations on the international health certificate. Another requirement for Avatar’s destination country is vaccination against leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria spread in the urine of wild animals. Happily, the paperwork indicated a vaccination against leptospirosis and I quickly checked off that requirement.

Avatar’s destination country did not require a microchip, but documentation of a microchip is a common requirement for entry into many countries. Some countries also have their own import paperwork, but Avatar’s accepted the USDA form. Once I signed off on my part of the health certificate, Avatar had another stop: the USDA area office at JFK Airport, where she received the endorsement of their New York area veterinarian.

How can you avoid a Bieber epic fail when traveling internationally with your pet?

  • Start early to ensue you have enough time for required testing or vaccination protocols.
  • Do your homework. Start with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website and the website of your destination country for pet import requirements.
  • If you need the signature of an accredited veterinarian like me, check to see if your veterinarian is accredited or ask for a recommendation.
  • Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations and other preventive health care measures to avoid any delays in getting your pet’s international health certificate.

Plan Ahead for International Pet Travel

January 16, 2013

dog with suitcaseWith the holidays over and summer not yet here, now is a good time to think about advanced planning for the upcoming trip you and your pet will be taking. If you haven’t thought about taking a trip with your pet, think again. Millions of Americans travel with their pets both locally and internationally and according to an August 2012 TripAdvisor.com survey, 49% of the pet owning public have plans to travel with their pets.

Get some ID

Entrance into many countries requires your pet to have a permanent form of identification. The best form is a microchip placed by your veterinarian. Even if you don’t plan to travel anytime soon, every pet should have a microchip to help get them back home if they are lost. If your pet already has a microchip, double check and make sure the registration information is paid and up to date. Inaccurate information in the microchip database prevents animal rescue groups from contacting you when they find your pet.

Do your homework

Research the pet entry requirements for your destination. Every country is different. As a start, review the information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Their website contains both general information and some country-specific information about pet travel.

You should also locate information on pet travel on the website of the country you plan to visit. Although you and your pet are simply going on vacation, the information about pet entry requirements may be found under import/export regulations. If you cannot find the information or you need further clarification, call the country’s consulate or embassy. The United States Department of State has a listing.

If you find conflicting information about entry requirements, the destination country holds the trump card, so rely on their website and embassy.

Pack the paper

Not newspaper, but your pet’s papers. According to TripAdvisor.com, only 45% of pet owners travel with health certificates and rabies documentation. I find this surprising. Keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date and keeping their vaccination certificates on file will help streamline obtaining critical travel documents. Bring copies with you and ask your veterinarian for a summary of your pet’s medical conditions and medications.

Important reminders

  • Start early. Some countries require your pet to have a special rabies blood test performed. Only certain laboratories perform this test and timing is critical.
  • Even though you may have started preparing early for your trip, certain travel documents must be signed only days before departure. Allow time in your schedule to finalize any of your pet’s travel documents.
  • Some countries require your pet’s health papers be signed by a USDA accredited veterinarian. Not all veterinarians are accredited, so check with your veterinarian well in advance of your trip to make sure you have an appointment with one who can sign the travel papers.

Resolve to Be a Responsible Pet Owner

January 2, 2013

woman with dog2It’s that time of year again; the time when we make New Year’s resolutions. I seem to make the same ones every year: eat healthier, exercise more, be kinder. My suggestion for 2013 is for every pet owner to be a responsible one. To achieve that goal, the American Veterinary Medical Association has developed a list of guidelines for responsible pet ownership.

Fur the Love of Pets believes this is a good list for pet owners to review before making their 2013 list of resolutions:

Commit

As the holidays approached, I received several tweets discouraging pets as holiday gifts since a pet is a lifetime commitment and acquiring one should not be an impulsive decision. You must choose the right pet for your lifestyle and should have as many pets you can comfortably care for, both physically and financially.

Good pet care involves more than food and water. A successful pet parent provides exercise, a stimulating environment and training.

Invest

Having a pet requires an investment of both time and money. Preventive healthcare saves money in the long run and helps prevent costly emergency visits.

Although vaccinations are part of a preventive healthcare program, the rabies vaccine protects human health as well.

Identify

Every pet should have both permanent and temporary identification. Permanent identification should preferably be a microchip, but a tattoo is a viable alternative. A collar with tags is a good temporary and immediate method of letting people know where your pet belongs if he should become lost.

Limit

Help decrease the nation’s pet overpopulation problem by spaying or neutering your pet. Preventing unwanted litters limits the number of animals entering shelters each year.

Prepare

Prepare for your pet’s future like you prepare for your family’s future. Assemble a “go bag” for your pet. Include your pet in estate planning; don’t assume your family is prepared to add your pet to their household and make provisions for your pet in case you can no longer be the primary caretaker.


Plan, Prepare and Respond: Disaster Planning for Your Pet

September 24, 2012

September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Whether it is a hurricane, flood, or fire, disasters affect every member of the family, pets included. To help the furred and feathered members of your family weather a disaster safely, here are The Animal Medical Center’s suggestions for disaster planning.

Plan

Advanced planning is critical. Identify a safe place to take your pets in an emergency. New York City shelters will house animals in the event of emergency, but not all shelters will. Check NOW to see if your local emergency shelter plan includes pets. If not, find a boarding facility that will. Make a list of pet-friendly hotels in your area. Visit PetsWelcome.com for a state-by-state listing.

In case you and your pet are separated, be sure you pet is both microchipped and is wearing a collar with ID tags for quick identification.

Prepare

Create a Pet Go Bag for each pet in your household. The Pet Go Bag should contain information about your pet and necessary supplies. These include: your pet’s medical records and contact information for your veterinarian, proof of identification (including microchip number, photo of you and your pets), food, water, medications – enough for one week, pet first aid kit, leash, muzzle, toys, a sheet to use as bedding or to cover the carrier, towel, litter and pan, trash bags. Keep everything together with your pet’s carrier and consider storing your pet’s medical records in the “cloud” using a service like Microsoft Health Vault.

Respond

Remember first responders’ primary goal is helping people, but keep these following tips in mind once disaster strikes: Take your Pet Go Bag if you and your pet are evacuated. If your pet has sustained injuries administer first aid until veterinary help is available. Bathe your pet as soon as possible to clean wounds. Feed your pet only safe food such as that in your Pet Go Bag. Register your family and your pet as “Safe and Well” using the Red Cross website.

For more information about disaster planning for your pet, go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.


Finding a Lost Pet: Prevention and Response

August 20, 2012

Some startling numbers about lost pets were recently released by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The article states that more than 10 million pets are lost annually. Over a five-year period, that translates to 15 lost pets of every 100 owned in this country.

Interestingly, dogs have a much higher chance of being reunited with their families than cats do. Only 74% of cats were returned to their homes while 93% of lost dogs were. Since cats see their veterinarian less often than dogs do, my theory is there are fewer cats with any form of ID, collars, or chips and fewer with a rabies tag to serve as identification.

Since these statistics show that the possibility of losing your pet is very real, here are some proactive steps to take before your pet becomes lost and how to respond if your precious pet disappears.

An ounce of prevention

  1. Your pet needs to wear some form of ID every day. Having two forms of ID, a collar and a microchip, increases the chances your pet will be returned home safely. If your pet is not microchipped, see your veterinarian and do it today!
  2. Keep up-to-date photos of your pet. I recommend a head shot and a whole body profile for making lost posters if you need them. Make updating the photos part of your pet’s birthday celebration or annual health check-up visit to help you remember to have a new version on hand.
  3. Anticipate escape. The Fourth of July is the number one day of the year for lost pets. Spooked by fireworks, pets often bolt and become lost. Another worrisome time: holiday parties. Be sure your pet is carefully locked away during these events. Guests coming and going through your front door offer a perfect opportunity for your pet to escape.

The pound of cure

  1. Harness the power of the internet. Many online organizations can help find a lost pet. Here are some for your reference:

    -The Center for Lost Pets-Fido Finder(dogs only)

    -Tabby Tracker (cats only)

    -craigslist

    -Pet Amber Alert

  2. Blanket the neighborhood with posters. Using your up-to-date pictures, put flyers in your veterinarian’s office, around your neighborhood, in the local shops, and on the website of your neighborhood association.
  3. Call your local animal shelters. Alert them to be on the lookout for your pet. Visit their website to view new pets admitted to the shelter. Visit the shelter in case the busy shelter staff doesn’t recognize your pet from the photos you provide.

I hope these tip help prevent your pet from becoming a statistic. Make a plan today!


Summer Safety for Pets

May 13, 2011
As the weather warms up, we spend more time outdoors with our pets. Everyone is happy for the fresh air and sunshine. But are you and your pet prepared? Here are The Animal Medical Center’s suggestions for a safe summer.

All Pets Need Double ID

A loud noise, a thunderstorm or a careless barbeque guest, and your pet could escape the house or yard unnoticed. Research has shown only 20% of dogs and 2% of cats in animal shelters are reunited with their families. Make double sure your pet comes home by having your veterinarian implant a microchip and always have your pet wear a collar with an ID tag.

Open Windows Need a Screen

Every summer, the AMC’s emergency room sees cats that have fallen or jumped out of apartment windows onto the street, garden or in pursuit of a pigeon on the fire escape. So many fall, we have a name for it — high rise syndrome. Cats typically fracture their wrists, lower jaw and rupture their lungs. Most cats survive, but not all.

High rise syndrome is a completely preventable injury with a trip to your local hardware store for window screens.

Sadie and the BreezeGuard/Photo: MuttManagers LLC

Dogs are less likely to fall or jump out of an apartment building window, but will jump out of car windows. MuttManagers manufactures a customizable screen for your car’s windows. Your dog can feel the wind in his ears while you drive, but the sturdy screen keeps him safe inside. Best of all, the window still closes with the screen installed.

Don’t Let Your Pet Roam

With the pet obesity epidemic, we all want our pets to exercise more, but pets on the loose have a greater risk of automobile injuries, contracting infectious diseases, getting lost and irritating your neighbors. Tying your dog to a long lead may be disastrous, since tethered dogs left alone in a yard are more likely to bite humans. A traditional fence will confine your dog, but may not be so successful with your cat.

Harry with his Invisible Fence collar/Photo: Philip Fox, DVM

My patient, Harry, left, loved to chase squirrels, deer and the occasional skunk. So his family got him an Invisible Fence to keep him close to home. In this photo he is sitting in the garden, wearing his special collar which first emitted an audible warning sound, and if Harry went too far, the collar gave an unpleasant but safe electric shock to teach him to stay within the fence boundaries. It takes about 10-14 days training for a dog to learn his boundaries. Invisible Fence technology can also be used with cats, who I am pleased to say learn it faster than dogs do! Other safety applications of the Invisible Fence include teaching a pet to avoid potentially dangerous areas in the home or yard, such as a garden with toxic plants, the garage with antifreeze, swimming pools, and terraces which might result in high rise syndrome.

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For more great pet safety and wellness information, please join the Animal Medical Center’s Junior Committee for PAW Day 2011: Pet and Wellness Fun, a health fair for families and their pets! Sunday May 15, 2011, 9am –12 noon, featuring AMC veterinarians, information on preventative care, children’s area with Spot the dog, pet safety information, and much more! For more information or to make a contribution, please call 212.329.8660 or visit http://www.amcny.org.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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