Animals Were Affected by the Hurricane Too

November 16, 2012

Patches the cat was rescued after Hurricane SandyHurricane Sandy created hardships for people living up and down the East Coast. Residents were displaced from their homes and sent to evacuation shelters or lived in flooded apartments, and life in general was disrupted. Sandy spared few. Animals, too, suffered as a result of the high winds and flood waters inflicted by the storm. The concept of zoobiquity springs from the fact that animals and humans share many of the same diseases. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I would argue we share much, much more.

Animal homes flooded

The ponies of Chincoteague Island have always held a special allure for me, and after visiting this barrier island last summer, I was concerned for the ponies’ safety as the storm surge rose. Before the storm, the pony caretakers opened the gates on the fences around the pony habitat, allowing the ponies to go to higher ground and have free range of the entire island. All the ponies safely weathered the storm, as you can see on this video of their hurricane experience.

The New York Aquarium sits right on the famous boardwalk of Coney Island and is at the epicenter of New York City hurricane damage. Although the aquarium was without power for several days, generators ran filters and staff members pumped oxygen into tanks, keeping the fish, invertebrates, and mammals well cared for in their watery homes.

One of the newest aquarium residents, Mitik, an orphan baby walrus, seemed to enjoy the storm, not unlike many other New York City youngsters who rejoiced when school was cancelled for a full week.

Animals displaced

Aquarium residents were not evacuated from their home, but many New York City pets were. All New York City evacuation shelters accepted pets and Mayor Bloomberg encouraged residents to take their pets with them as they evacuated. The New York Veterinary Emergency Response Team has monitored the census of pets in evacuation shelters in the New York area. As of Veteran’s Day, 141 pets still remained in the city’s shelters.

Other animal displacements were a pair of brown pelicans. Brown pelicans are normally southern birds and are neighbors of the Chincoteague ponies. Wildlife rehabilitators reported two displaced brown pelicans blown off course by Hurricane Sandy and found in Rhode Island.

This time of year, Rhode Island is much colder than the birds’ normal southern habitat and these fellows are currently resting and recovering from their harrowing hurricane experience while awaiting transport home.

Families, animals included, reunited

Despite the upset and havoc Hurricane Sandy caused, there are happy stories too. Neighbors helping neighbors, runners of the cancelled New York City Marathon helping in relief efforts and families reunited. Patches the cat was rescued from the rubble of his home by a dump truck operator and Sandy the dog is back with his family.

My fellow animal lover, Jill Rappaport of NBC News, made this touching video about pet families and the hurricane.

What you can do

Microchips are a large part of the reason why happy post-hurricane stories can be told. If your pet is not microchipped, don’t wait until the next big storm. Now it the best time to get one.

The Animal Medical Center’s friend, Amy Sacks at The Daily News, has posted great information about how you can help pets affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Do you know anyone who had their lives or those of their pets disrupted by the storm? Share your stories in the comments below.

Photo: Matt Stanton


Can Hurricane Sandy Make Your Pet Sick?

November 12, 2012

The deadliest feature of Hurricane Sandy was not the wind and rain, but water from the storm surge. The storm surge was so massive it brought water into the lobby of The Animal Medical Center, but my basement, prone to flooding during a heavy rain, stayed dry.

The severe flooding has displaced families, ruined homes and washed away cars. Flooding can also make you sick when it contains bacteria, viruses, and parasites from sewage. Severe flooding can also make your dog sick by providing ideal conditions for a bacteria known as leptospira. It rarely affects humans, but at The Animal Medical Center we see several serious cases of leptospirosis in dogs each year. Recently, leptospirosis in outdoor cats has been reported.

Fall hurricane season provides an optimal situation for leptospirosis to occur. Even without a hurricane, cases are more common in the spring and fall. Several different varieties of leptospira bacteria are responsible for illness, but all are considered waterborne illnesses, explaining why flooding increases the risk of contracting it. Rats are considered the major reservoir of leptospira bacteria in urban areas such as New York City. Sandy’s flooding “displaced” rats from the subway tunnels, bringing rats and their leptospira bacteria into the city streets.

Because of the increasing interface between wildlife and suburbia, even dogs in flooded suburban areas are at risk for contracting leptospirosis carried by mammals other than rats, including deer, mice, skunks, raccoons, cattle, and rabbits.

Dogs infected with leptospira bacteria are lethargic, refuse to eat, and vomit. When veterinarians test the blood of these dogs, anemia, decreased blood clotting ability, kidney failure, and liver dysfunction were commonly found. In severe cases, the lungs also lost function. Leptospirosis is treatable with antibiotics, but severe cases of kidney failure may require intensive treatment, including dialysis.

  • If your dog is sick and has been exposed to floodwaters, tell your veterinarian.
  • Don’t let your dog walk in or drink water where flooding has occurred.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s need for the leptospirosis vaccine.
  • Read The AMC’s post hurricane safety tips.

 

Photo: Purina ONE


Hurricane Sandy: The Animal Medical Center Story

October 31, 2012

The view down E. 62nd Street on Monday night

By Sunday night, the Governor and Mayor had shut down all mass transit in NYC, our schools were already closed for Monday, and by Monday morning even the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for the day. New York City was silent; everyone was indoors and the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy had not yet arrived. Despite all the closures, The Animal Medical Center was open for business as usual.

As far back as anyone can remember, The AMC has never closed. We mean it when we say we are open 24/7. When a disaster is anticipated, the staff work together to determine how best to cover shifts and maintain adequate nursing and medical expertise for our patients. During blackouts, natural disasters, and human disasters, our staff comes to work prepared. Many employees came to work on Sunday with food, clothes, and bedding, planning to stay for the duration of the storm. The AMC stores inflatable beds for those employees sleeping at the hospital. The beds got blown up Monday afternoon since the electricity fluttered on and off during the day. Lucky for us, our favorite deli and neighborhood diner were still open.

It was a good thing we were open for business, as really sick animals needed care. Here is a sampling of the Sunday night admission list: a stray cat and a stray dog were brought to The AMC since the shelters were closed for the night; Harley, a cat, came in with complications of diabetes; Lexi, a bulldog, was admitted for serious vomiting; Gus the cat developed heart failure; Monkey, a Pekingese, required an emergency MRI and back surgery; a golden retriever named Aristotle became unconscious and he too required an emergency MRI ; Rysiu was admitted for feline bladder stones resulting in a urinary blockage. On Monday, he had an urgent surgery to remove the stones.

Visits to our emergency room were steady on Monday morning, but most scheduled patients cancelled their visits. The ER continued accepting patients overnight, even though there was at one point a foot of water in the first floor lobby. Our power went out from about 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., during which time our generator kicked in to run essential electrical equipment. Once the high tide began to recede, the lobby was squeegeed dry and, except for internet service that was slow to be restored, we were back to normal. The banners on the north side of the building are in tatters and our awning has a rip, but these are cosmetic only and we feel very fortunate to only be slightly damp around the edges.

New York pets were fortunate, too. For the second hurricane in a row, pets were allowed in evacuation shelters and in his Monday press conference, Mayor Bloomberg announced 73 pets had already been accepted into shelters.

Find more information about Hurricane Sandy and pets here.

For help in planning for the next disaster, click here.


%d bloggers like this: