TEAM Tops 100,000


What's for Dinner

Products and Supplies

Employment Opportunities

Feline Facts

Another Reason to Spay/Neuter

Worming Your Cat

Fighting Flea Infestation

TEAM and Testing

Declaw? Just Say No!

Dr's. Q & A:

Ear Infections
Rabies Facts
Equine Deworming
Dogs in Winter

Been Skunked?

Please, No Puppies

Pets as Gifts

Hit Horse Racing Where it Hurts







Spay/Neuter Surgeries Since 1997:     Over 169,000!

Please note: 
Effective January 1, 2013 our spay/neuter package is $80.

We have great news!

Connecticut Has Nation’s Lowest Euthanasia Rate!

According to a report published in the July/August issue of Animal People magazine, 4.2 million unwanted dogs and cats were killed in U.S. shelters last year, at a rate of 13.8 per 1,000 people. In Connecticut, that number was 2,282 animals, at a rate of 0.6 per 1,000.

This significant and newsworthy difference proves that our goal of ending feline overpopulation through high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter can be reached with your continued participation and support. 

Since we began in 1997, we have sterilized and vaccinated more than 115,000 domestic and feral cats statewide. We have two mobile clinics on the road, and our surgeons continue to perform 40-80 surgeries daily, on average.

Thank you for making Connecticut the leader!

The Staff of Tait’s Every Animal Matters


TEAM TOPS 100,000

On April 16, 2007, the 100,000th sterilization surgery was performed aboard the TEAM Mobile Feline Unit.

The 100K cat honor went to a four-month-old black kitten named Puma who lives in West Haven with her human family. Puma was spayed by Dr. Art Heller with the assistance of veterinary technicians Dina Sicuranza and Anne Castellano.

This achievement coincided with our 10th anniversary.

Thank you for helping us to reach this significant milestone and congratulations! You are part of our winning TEAM.

The Staff of Tait’s Every Animal Matters



A few years ago it was a lack of taurine in their food that caused fatal heart problems for cats. Next, tainted wheat gluten from China threatened the health of our pets.

In response to the many calls we received from concerned pet owners, TEAM President John Caltabiano, DVM made these recommendations based on over 25 years as a large and small animal practitioner.

“Ever since the taurine discovery, I have been skeptical of the pet food industry’s claims that foods are nutritionally complete,” Dr. Caltabiano said.

“I tell my clients that the best thing cats can eat are mice or little birds—both of which are 100 percent nutritionally complete,” he said.

Of course, Dr. Caltabiano realizes that this diet isn’t appetizing to today’s cat caretakers for many reasons, so he says the next best thing is boiled chicken and rice or pasta with vegetables, and an occasional egg.

“You will find this to be more nutritious, more palatable, less expensive and probably safer than commercial food,” he says. He recommends this diet for dogs, too.

Fish, in moderation, can add variety to a feline diet, but Dr. Caltabiano cautions against feeding seafood exclusively.

“Fish all the time is not beneficial and can cause a painful inflammation of the fatty tissue,” he says.

If commercial foods get the “all clear” is it okay to use cat and dog food interchangeably?

Not according to Dr. Caltabiano. “Dogs can survive on cat food if they must, but cats cannot survive on dog food.”

Cats require more meat in their diets than dogs do, although both are carnivores. However, neither species can live on a vegetarian diet.

For dogs marrow bones, cooked or raw, provide good nutrition and satisfy the urge to chew.


HB 7194: An Act Concerning the Expansion of the Animal Population Control Program

TEAM President John Caltabiano, DVM and Executive Director Donna Sicuranza were named to a study committee established by Governor M. Jodi Rell to investigate and make recommendations for legislation regarding the expansion of the state’s Animal Population Control Program, and to address the needs of feral cat caretakers.

The 12-member committee included representatives of the department of agriculture and several of the state’s animal welfare organizations, ACOs, veterinarians and legislators. The committee voted 9 to 3 in favor of six recommendations which became the foundation for HB 7194.

At a public hearing on March 9, 2007, TEAM testified in support of HB 7194 which expands spay/neuter services to more of the state’s low-income pet owners and feral cat caretakers at no additional cost to Connecticut tax-payers.

TEAM also worked closely with the department of agriculture to ensure that up to $40,000 from a new grant program to spay or neuter and vaccinate feral cats was released in August of 2006.


FOR CONNECTICUT RESIDENTS ONLY: TEAM now offers these supplies to ensure your cat’s health and well-being.  

Flea & Tick Treatment
Frontline 3-pack                         $35
Frontline 6-pack                         $65

Complete Worming Kit           
Contains four treatments that will rid your cat of all worms, including tapeworms.  
Cats 1 - 10 lbs                          $12

Cats 11 lbs+                             $14
Ear Mite Treatment                 $6

Call the TEAM office to pay by check or charge by credit card**

 **Purchases made by credit card will be mailed and additional fees for shipping and handling will be applied.


 Employment Opportunities

                       TEAM is Hiring

TEAM has openings for veterinarians. We need incredibly proficient surgeons who are personable, motivated and enthusiastic to work aboard the nationally renowned TEAM Mobile Feline Unit. Excellent compensation for those who want to make a real difference for animals. Send resume to TEAM, P.O. Box 591, Westbrook, CT  06498. Attn: Search Committee or e-mail to


Feline Facts

Do you know these feline facts?

  • Cats and kittens that have not been wormed by a veterinarian almost always have worms. Kittens become infected through nursing (worm larvae reside in the mother cat’s mammary tissue), and adult cats that hunt or have fleas can pick up tape worms.

          Symptoms include diarrhea, relentless
          appetite, dull coat, pot belly and coughing.
          The treatment is simple and inexpensive.
          Contact your vet or purchase a complete TEAM  
          worming kit for just $10. See TEAM article
          Worming Your Cat.

  • The number one health problem in cats is Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS). Symptoms of this serious urinary tract problem are blood in the urine and frequent urination, often accompanied by straining, and occasionally “blockage,” or the inability to urinate.

    The best prevention is to feed your cat wet food mixed with a bit of water and a pinch of salt. This will help protect against FUS.

    Follow this advice for cats that are overweight, too, since wet cat food is lower in calories than dry food, contrary to what most people think. By adding a pinch of salt and a bit of water to wet food, your cat’s water intake will increase, he will feel full and eat less, aiding the weight loss process.

  • To declaw a cat is to amputate the last joint of each toe! Both the surgery and the recovery are very painful. Plus, declawed cats are more likely to hiss and bite, lose their balance, and become insecure.

          In England it is against the law to declaw a cat.   
          For tips on how to humanely prevent cats from
          clawing furniture, see TEAM article Declaw? Just
          Say No!

  • Antifreeze is poisonous to cats, dogs and other animals, but they are attracted to its sweet taste. Unfortunately, less than a teaspoon will cause an agonizing death if not treated immediately, so watch for leaks or spills around your car, or in the driveway or garage.
  • Collars can be deadly for cats—they can get their legs caught or hang themselves. Also a collared cat cannot groom itself thoroughly.

          TEAM advises against collaring a cat, but if you
           insist, make sure it is a “breakaway” collar, and
           check it frequently to make sure it is not too
           tight. Cats and dogs alike can quickly outgrow a
           collar and be severely injured or maimed by one
           that becomes painfully embedded in the skin.


Need Another Reason to Spay or Neuter?

Cats living in overcrowded conditions—be it in a shelter, a house, or a feral colony—tend to develop diseases they cannot overcome, including distemper, Leukemia, FIV (feline AIDS), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and respiratory infections, in addition to parasite and flea infestation.

“The sequelae of overpopulation are morbidity and mortality,” says TEAM President John Caltabiano, DVM.

Unlike dogs that form packs or herd animals such as horses or cattle, cats do not naturally live in groups. Lions, which live in a pride, are the only exception. Feral cat colonies are essentially man-made.

In response to feline overpopulation, many well-intentioned people collect or horde cats and kittens to protect them from life’s dangers. However, as one TEAM client put it, “they are so passionate about saving cats they don’t realize the potential harm they are doing.”

Fortunately, there is an answer that will not only reduce the number of unwanted cats and kittens, but also the incidence of disease.

“Few things in veterinary medicine are as simple as this, but it is true,” says Dr. Caltabiano. Spay or neuter is the solution to most problems.”


Worming Your Cat

In addition to spay/neuter and vaccines, ridding your cat of parasites is the most important thing you can do to ensure health and well-being. Here is why:

All kittens are born with roundworms (puppies, too); they get them from their mother’s milk because the larvae reside in the mammary tissue. When the kittens nurse, they ingest the larvae which then enters the gastrointestinal tract and, soon after, the blood stream. These larvae migrate throughout the body eventually making their way to the lungs (except those that go to the mammary tissue where they lay dormant until babies nurse). Once in the lungs, the larvae are coughed up, swallowed, and re-enter the gastrointestinal tract, where they mature and lay eggs.

These parasites rob your cat of essential nutrients, compromise immunity, and can be fatal for young kittens.

Unless your cat has been treated for worms, he or she has them. However, visible symptoms of parasite infestation include a dull coat, increased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, distended abdomen (pot belly), and possible weight loss. Cats that are severely infested may vomit up roundworms or pass them in their stool (they “look like spaghetti”).

Q. How do I rid my cat of roundworms?

Because of their migration cycle, one oral worming will not rid your kitten or cat of all worms. Treatment must be repeated at least three times at weekly intervals. TEAM has a complete worm kit available that is safe, effective and affordable. Kittens should be treated at 6 to 8 weeks; adult cats at any age.

Q. I’ve treated my cat as you recommended, will I need to do it again?

No, probably not, unless your cat spends time in an environment that is contaminated by feces, like a dirty litter box.

Hint: To prevent fecal contamination as well as behavior problems associated with a dirty litter box (such as urinating or defecating on the carpet or floor), TEAM recommends that each cat in the household have his or her own litter box. The cats may choose to share, but should have the option not to. Also, litter boxes should be cleaned at least once daily.

Q. What other types of worms can cats get?

Cats can also become infested with tapeworm, which they get from eating rodents or fleas. If your cat has tapeworm, you may see segments that look like pieces or rice or seeds around the cat’s rectum, but these are just the tip of the iceberg—tapeworms can be 30 feet in length!

Q. How do I get rid of tapeworm?

Praziquantel (droncit) given orally or by injection is the best way. This medication in oral form is included in our complete worm kit.

Q. I just got a new cat, which I am planning to worm, should I worm my other cat, too?

Not unless it hasn’t been wormed before. If you’re not sure, go ahead and worm the other one, too; it is not harmful to do so.  

Q. How do I order the complete worm kit from TEAM?  

Go to the products and supplies section of our website or call toll-free 1-888-FOR-TEAM. At this time, products and supplies are available to Connecticut residents only.

Directions for administering the kit:

For roundworm: mix the specified number of drops of liquid medicine in food once a week for three weeks. For tapeworm: place pill(s) as far back in cat’s mouth as possible. Gently hold mouth closed and rub cat’s throat until cat swallows the pill. Do not mix the pill in food.

Hint: To make the often difficult process of giving your cat a pill go more smoothly, coat the pill with butter and freeze. Then place in cat’s mouth.  The butter will melt and the pill will slide down easier. 

A cat (or dog) will lick its nose if it has swallowed a pill.  If your pet does not lick its nose, it has not swallowed the pill.


Fighting Flea Infestation

Unlike mites, lice or tapeworms—which are host parasites—fleas are lair parasites, which means they live in the environment and not on the animal. So, you can’t just kill the fleas, you’ve got to get them where they live, too.

Cats can get fleas from other animals and from infested bedding, furniture, floors or carpets. Fleas can live in a dormant stage for two years, waiting for a warm body to feed on. When you and your pet move into a new home and start walking around, they wake up, ready to eat! If you live in an apartment or condo complex, fleas can even “come over” from the neighbor’s place.

Aside from scratching, other signs of flea infestation are hair loss, bumps on the skin, and black flecks that look like dirt or pepper on your pet’s coat (this “flea dirt” is actually undigested blood). You might also see the fleas jumping.    

Fleas not only cause extreme discomfort, they can cause fatal anemia in kittens and cats. They also can spread to other animals, including humans, and are a necessary host for tapeworms.

To rid your pet and your home of this pest, we recommend only Frontline, Advantage or Revolution for cats and kittens 12 weeks of age or older. These treatments which kill fleas and improve the environment are available from your veterinarian and at some pet supply stores (TEAM sells Frontline). Other over-the-counter brands can be harmful to pets and we caution people against using them.

To apply a treatment like Frontline, make a part in the fur between your pet’s shoulder blades and pour the entire application onto the skin. Pouring it on fur doesn’t do any good. This is easiest to do with a helper: one holds the pet; the other makes the part and applies the treatment.

Flea collars might repel fleas—sending them to the rear of the cat —but they don’t kill them. Plus, collars are dangerous for cats to begin with: they can hang themselves and can’t groom themselves properly.

For kittens under 12 weeks, a warm, soapy bath using (green) Palmolive dishwashing liquid is a safe and effective treatment. You can also catch a flea by dabbing it with a Q-tip dipped in Vaseline. The flea gets stuck and you pull it off.

Another great home remedy is to use Borax laundry detergent to wash your pet’s bedding and then around the house instead of an expensive, potentially toxic flea bomb. Sprinkle the Borax powder on your furniture and floors—anywhere fleas might be. Let it sit for several hours, then vacuum it up, along with the fleas…just don’t forget to take the vacuum cleaner bag outside to the trash immediately.   

Finally, there is the Awesome White Pan Trick!

Fill a white casserole dish or pan (must be white) two-thirds full with water. Add 6-7 drops of dishwashing liquid, gently swirl, place on the floor where you suspect fleas may be dwelling. At night, shine a desk lamp or light on the pan. The fleas will jump in and sink to the bottom. It is nontoxic, inexpensive and it works.


TEAM and Testing: Why We Won’t Test

TEAM handles hundreds of calls each week for spay/neuter appointments, and it is startling to note how many people ask if we test for Feline Leukemia (FeLV). Unfortunately, these well-intentioned individuals have been led to believe by the veterinary and animal welfare communities that FeLV is as great a risk to cats and kittens as overpopulation is.

TEAM opposes routine FeLV testing of healthy cats and, for the sake of the innumerable cats that have been or will be killed unnecessarily because of a positive test result, here’s why.

The FeLV test was designed as a diagnostic tool for sick cats, not as a screening tool for healthy cats.

According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in a Special Report, positive Feline Leukemia (ELISA) tests (the test most commonly used), obtained in a screening program “should be interpreted with caution because a high proportion, approximately 72 percent of such, are likely to be false positive results.”

FeLV blood tests are not always accurate. That is why there is more than one type of blood test on the market and why radiographs, microscopy, histopathology and biopsies are often necessary to confirm a diagnosis.

People who adopt cats and presently own cats are concerned about the spread of leukemia from one animal to another. However, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, cats over the age of 16 weeks are virtually immune to the disease. As a matter of fact, pharmaceutical companies must artificially compromise the immune system of cats used for research to test the efficacy of their FeLV vaccines (JAVMA, 11/15/91).

If this isn’t enough, the FeLV vaccine has been implicated as a cause of cancer in cats.


 Declaw? Just Say No!

When TEAM is asked if a “declaw” is part of our spay/neuter package, the answer is emphatically “NO.”

TEAM staunchly opposes this painful procedure and we believe pet owners would, too, if they knew that a declaw—the layman’s casual term for onychectomy—is, in fact, an amputation of the last joint in each toe of a cat’s paw. And if that’s not gruesome discouragement enough, declawed cats— having had their best defense removed—are often more skittish and more prone to hissing, biting and urine marking. They are also easy prey if allowed outdoors.

So, what’s a humane home owner to do to reduce wear and tear on finely upholstered furniture? Try one or more of these recommendations, but remember—some shredding and scratching is an inevitable part of the “feline experience.”

1. Trim your cat’s front claws monthly. This practice is best begun when cats are kittens, so they get used to it, but many older cats will adjust. Gently squeeze the toe pad so that the claw extends, then clip the tip, but be very careful not to nip the quick. This is easiest to do with assistance—one person holds the cat, the other clips. Buy nail clippers at a pet supply store.

2. Purchase an inexpensive scratch pad. Since most cats ignore expensive carpet-covered posts as if by instinct, try the corrugated cardboard type that can be found for under $10 at a discount or pet supply store.

Cork board and carpet remnants are also great choices, as are hemp or sisal door mats. For cats that crave the feel of wood, place a split log where kitty has access. Just make sure it’s positioned so it doesn’t roll.

To make a scratch pad appealing, sprinkle it with cat nip and run the cat’s paws over the top—he’ll get the idea. But a little nip goes a long way. Keep your cat attracted to the scent by not using it everyday; make it a special treat.

Finally, make sure the scratch pad is placed securely. Cats hate shaky ground (one reason most aren’t crazy about car rides) and will avoid using the item if it moves underfoot. Remember, too, some cats like to stretch upward when scratching…others prefer a horizontal pose.

3. To discourage scratching, squirt the cat with a water pistol or spray bottle when he is caught in the act, shake a can of coins, or place double-stick carpet tape on the spot where he scratches—the cat won’t like the tacky surface and will move on to another spot (hopefully one you approve of).

4. Consider purchasing Feliway, an odorless Pheromone spray that helps prevent scratching and clawing of rugs and furniture or talk to your vet about temporary nail wraps, such as Soft Paws.

5. Follow this writer’s advice: invest in slipcovers for when company comes and designate one piece of (irreparably destroyed) furniture as “the cat’s.”


Dr.’s Corner Q & A

Got a question? A TEAM vet has the answer.

Q. My dog keeps getting ear infections. What can I do?

A. TEAM veterinarians agree: Causes for ear infection can include yeast, bacteria or external parasites such as ear mites. Dogs naturally have species of yeast and bacteria in the ear canal and when conditions are right—for example, decreased air circulation or a build up of moisture in the ear—these organisms simply overgrow. Many toy breeds have excessive hair in the canal, other breeds have large, heavy ears that cover the canal, and others love to swim.

We treat the condition by eliminating the predisposing factors. If a dog has an abundance of hair in the canal, pluck it or shave the inner surface of the earflap to help increase air circulation (your veterinarian or a dog groomer can help with this). If your dog swims, dry his ears by using a cotton swab gently within the canal.

Simple infections of the external canal can be treated with a topical product containing an antifungal (yeast), an antibacterial, and an anti-inflammatory. Refractory, or recurrent, infections and those of the middle or inner ear may require systemic therapy, like an antibiotic, as well as topical medication, based on the results of a culture and sensitivity test which identifies the organism and determines what medical therapy will kill or stop its growth.

Once the infection has been treated successfully, periodic ear cleaning can help prevent further infections. Severe chronic cases many require surgery.

Q. Am I at risk of catching rabies from the stray cat I have been feeding?

A. Dr. John Caltabiano responds:

There is always a risk. As a matter of fact, in U.S., approximately two animals annually contract rabies even though they have been vaccinated, so it is important to have a basic understanding of how this fatal infection runs its course.

When an animal—or human—is bitten by a carrier of rabies, the virus travels through the central nervous system to the salivary glands. This can happen quickly or over the course of several weeks; however, rabies cannot be spread until it has reached the salivary glands. This is also the stage at which the symptoms of rabies appear.

Rabid animals seem to have a “fear of water” or to “foam at the mouth”; this is because it is painful to swallow. Furious attacking and disorientation are also signs, but any central nervous system anomaly can indicate rabies—there are no steadfast rules. Once these clinical manifestations are present the animal has about two weeks to live.

If you are bitten by the stray cat, wash the wound immediately in cold, soapy water. Don’t use warm water since it will increase circulation to the area and hasten the speed at which an infection travels. Then, call your doctor.

Since there is no cure for rabies, and the only definitive test is decapitation, prevention is imperative. A rabies vaccination is required by law for domestic animals and livestock.

Raccoons and skunks are the reservoir hosts for rabies in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast, and feral cats often share space, food and diseases with them. However, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, rabies is significantly down in Connecticut.*

Since TEAM has vaccinated over 111,000 domestic and feral cats, we like to think that we, and the thousands of Connecticut residents who have utilized our program, played an important role in reducing the incidence of the disease in our state.

If you are to continue to care for this stray cat—and I hope you do—you should have it vaccinated against rabies as soon as possible.

*The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dec. 15, 2004

Did you know? Rabies is fatal to all mammals except bats. These winged creatures can  harbor and spread the disease without dying.

Q. Do horses need to be wormed and, if so, what regime is best?

A. According to TEAM veterinarian Art Heller, DVM, establishing an effective parasite control program is critical to your horse’s health and well-being. In fact, it is second only to providing your horse with clean fresh water and high quality feed.

There are numerous species of equine internal parasites and many of them can be present in your horse at once, with some species laying more than 200,000 eggs per day. Some can damage tissue and vital organs as they migrate through the horse’s body to complete their life cycles. Others can cause obstructions and ulcerations in the digestive track. Parasites can lower a horse’s resistance, rob him of essential nutrients, and cause gastrointestinal distress. At their worst, they can cause colic, intestinal rupture and death.

Fortunately, most parasites can be controlled, if not eliminated, with a complete management program that addresses the particular needs of the horse, taking into consideration age and stage of development, environment, and exposure potential. No single horseshoe will fit all horses perfectly; likewise, no single parasite management program is appropriate for all horses. Every animal is unique and every farm situation different—a single horse enjoying ten acres of pasture will have different needs than 25 horses sharing a stable and a one-acre pasture. The best way to determine what is best for your horse is to consult with your veterinarian, but in general parasite prevention falls into three categories:

1.    Fecal examination. This simple process               performed by your veterinarian determines the type and number of parasites infecting your horse.

2.   Treatment. There are a variety of drugs available for the treatment of gastrointestinal parasites and they are divided into different classifications as follows:


Fenbendazole (Panacur, Safeguard)
Mebendazole (Telmin)
Oxfenbendazole (Benzelmin)
Oxibendazole (Anthelcide EQ)

Macrocyclic Lactones
Ivermectin (Eqvalan, Phoenectrin, Zimectrin)
Moxidectin (Quest)

Pyrantel pamoate (Strongid paste and suspension, Anthelban)
Pyrantel tartrate (Strongid C)

These medications may be administered using an oral paste syringe, a feed additive, or through a nasogastric tube (tubing). All methods are effective: the key is that the proper dose must be given at the proper time, and be fully consumed and retained by the animal.

Parasites may develop resistance to the chemicals used to kill them, however, so it is important to rotate the classes of drugs used in your program. Some manufacturers claim that certain products do not require rotation. Do it anyway, so that there is no question about resistance developing, but don’t simply change brands since many products contain the same drugs under different labels. Ask your veterinarian how often dewormers should be rotated.

3Pasture Management. There are two parasite populations on every farm – those in the ground and those in the horse. Since parasites are transferred primarily through manure, you should:

  •       Pick up and dispose of manure at least twice weekly;

  •       Mow and harrow pastures regularly to break up manure piles and expose parasite eggs and larvae to the elements;

  •       Rotate pastures by allowing other livestock such as sheep or cattle to graze them, thereby interrupting the life cycles of equine parasites;

  •       Group horses by age to reduce exposure to certain parasites and maximize the deworming program geared to that group;

  •       Keep the number of horses per acre to a minimum to prevent overgrazing and reduce the fecal contamination per acre;

  •       Use a feeder for hay and grain rather than feeding on the ground;

  •       Remove bot eggs from the horse's haircoat to prevent ingestion.


Q. My dog loves to play in the snow—should I take any precautions to protect her from the elements?

A. TEAM veterinarians concur:

It depends on what breed of dog you have. Breeds such as the Alaskan malamute and Siberian husky actually thrive in this environment. If you own a dog with a dense undercoat such as these, there really aren’t any precautions to take aside from having fresh water available. If, however, you have a short-coated breed such as a Doberman or Boxer, you may elect to have your pet wear a sweater to protect from wind and snow. Some pets also have sensitive feet, and are prone to developing ice/snow between their digits and some may even result in small lacerations of the foot pads. K-9 boots can prevent discomfort from these conditions.

As a general rule, use common sense. If your dog enjoys the snow-- great! If not, don’t force the issue; limit your dog’s outside activity to bathroom purposes only. Dogs do get frostbite! If there is a winter advisory warning you to limit your exposure outdoors, do the same for your pet. Finally, be careful of poor footing. During the winter months it is not uncommon for dogs to rupture ligaments in the knee or injure their hips after slipping and falling on the ice.

Q. My dog starts scratching in October and continues all winter long! Why? Does he have dry skin?

A. TEAM veterinarian Art Heller, DVM responds:

Welcome to Canine Seasonal Dry Skin Syndrome!

Winter is a common time for pets suffer from dry, flaking, scaling skin. Sometimes there is severe itching. As soon as we turn on the heat in the fall, our skin and theirs require more care. Dry types of heat, such as electric, radiant, and especially forced hot air, dry the coat much worse than in houses where humidifiers are part of the heating system.

"Dry skin" is a result of the outer layer of the skin losing excessive amounts of moisture. This causes the skin to become dry, brittle, flake excessively and itch.



Help for dogs with dry skin
Healthy hair and skin comes from within. The addition of fatty acid supplements can make for healthier, glossier hair and improve the general well being of your pet.

Use a good quality food and consider the addition of digestive enzymes which can increase the absorption of vital nutrients and essential fatty acids from your pet's food and supplements.

Brush your dog often to remove dead hair and dander.

If bathing is necessary, use a moisturizing shampoo made for dogs. Their pH is different from ours, so don't be tempted to use a human shampoo-- it is much too harsh for their skin. When necessary, follow a bath with a moisturizing rinse made for dogs.

Consider the addition of a humidifier for your house.

Warning signs that your pet has more than dry skin

Skin problems and poor hair quality in pets can be symptoms of allergies, infections, parasites, hormonal imbalances, hereditary, and/or dietary disorders. All of these conditions may appear to be "dry skin" to the pet owner, but they actually require treatment by a veterinarian. 

If you notice any of these conditions consult with your veterinarian.

  • Skin irritation, including redness, bumps, and rashes.
  • Open sores of any kind.
  • Excessive hair loss, either in concentrated patches or all over.
  • Dull, dry hair that pulls out easily.
  • Constant licking, scratching or face rubbing (with or without runny eyes or itchy ears).


What’s Black and White…?

For dog owners, it’s a rite of passage that usually occurs late at night, just before bed, when someone opens the door to let the dog out one last time. A few minutes later the dog races in and, with the first potent whiff, all thoughts of sweet dreams are dashed as reality dawns on the household: the dog has been sprayed by a skunk!

Many people think filling a tub with gallons of tomato juice is the solution to this odiferous problem, but what follows is a more practical, proven method for removing skunk odor from dogs. The recipe as printed here appeared in the April 2003 newsletter of the Neponset Valley Humane Society, Norwood, MA, but our own Dr. Caltabiano has been recommending it to clients for years.

 Mix together the following:

1 quart of 3 % hydrogen peroxide
¼ cup baking soda
1 teaspoon liquid soap

 Soak the dog with water and then work the solution into a thick lather on the dog. Leave the lather on for 3-5 minutes, then rinse off. Do not to get any solution in the dog’s eyes.


Please, No Puppies!
By Donna Sicuranza

My boyfriend is threatening to get me a puppy for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong. I like puppies, but adding an energetic bundle of fur and needle-teeth to the menagerie I have at home—two house cats, two barn cats, two horses, a dog and a pony—is nuts.

“Are you insane?” I asked him the other night at dinner when he brought it up—again.

“No. I think the dog needs a puppy to play with.”

“The dog?” I asked. “Is she going to train it, too? Or are you planning to do that-- because I’m on animal overload.”

“You’ll see,” he said, laughing.

The truth is: he isn’t the only one with this crazy idea. TEAM got a call just last week from another well-intentioned suitor.

“Do you have any puppies?” the young man asked assertively, interrupting my telephone greeting.

“No. We’re not an animal shelter,” I said, ready to follow up this statement with an explanation of what we do but before I could go on, he continued.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, “but I called the pound and I got a recording. I left a message, but nobody got back to me, and I want to get my girlfriend a puppy for Christmas.”

I wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t heard from the shelter. Most conscientious animal welfare groups won’t adopt out pets during the holiday season in order to reduce the number of returns afterwards, but I could hear the determination in his voice. He was going to get a puppy—any puppy.

“Does your girlfriend want a dog?” I asked, trying to make him think. There was silence, and then, “I don’t know.” Then, another pause, followed by an emphatic declaration: “But if she doesn’t, I do. And I want it for Christmas. Thanks anyway.” He hung up.

I could only hope, for the dog’s sake, he would want it after Christmas, too. But that’s not always the case.

In my old neighborhood, the O’Brien family got a puppy for Christmas every few years or so. It was always a short-coated black and tan type with floppy ears and a skinny, pot-bellied body: a happy little mongrel that Mr. O’Brien, an orderly, picked up on his way home from third shift. He’d sneak it into the basement while the kids were sleeping, tie a big red bow around its neck, and bring it upstairs first thing in the morning.

Later that day, the O’Brien kids would cart their wriggly new pup door-to-door through the neighborhood for the rest of us kids to see. “This is Tippy,” one of them would say with excitement, which is what they always called their dogs.

During the week off from school between holidays, we spent our days on toboggans and ice skates. We made snow angels, built Eskimo forts and played long and hard, impervious to the cold, until somebody’s mother called us in for hot chocolate. Through all of this, the little Tippies tagged along, eager to please, delighted to be part of the pack.

By the time the break was over, however, so was the novelty of a puppy. From that point on, each and every Tippy was chained to a ramshackle dog house in the O’Brien’s back yard where they would remain, in confused isolation, for six months or so until they “ran away” or “went to a farm to live.”

As a child, I didn’t question this fate since a kitten my Uncle Richie gave me ran off to a farm, along with the two rabbits he gave my sister. Now I know what really happened.

Oh, sure. Some pets stray and become lost—especially those that are not spayed or neutered. Others are stolen. Some even find their way to my farm—like the young German shepherd who wandered into our barn one bitterly cold day. She was half-starved, shivering and scared. There was no collar, no sign posted for her return. We called around, but nobody answered. We named her Tracy and she lived with our family for 12 years, but the majority of abandoned pets don’t last long on their own. Those that are surrendered to shelters are sentenced to life in a cage to await an adoption that may never happen, or they are killed by euthanasia.

I know my boyfriend knows better than to surprise me with a puppy; it’s just his way of teasing me about a lifestyle that’s been shaped by the needs of animals. However, there will be plenty of unsuspecting recipients of cats and dogs this year, including the friends of a woman who cancelled a spay appointment with our mobile clinic a month ago.

“My cat’s already pregnant,” she said indifferently. “I might as well let her have the kittens and then give them away as Christmas gifts.”

Would she take them back if they didn’t fit her friends’ lifestyles? I hope so.

The shelters are full of living, breathing gifts that nobody wanted. The others ran off to that farm.


Pets as Gifts? No Returns or Exchanges, Please!

Although a puppy or kitten seems like an adorable holiday gift, animal shelters are inundated by mid-winter with dogs and cats that were given to, or purchased by people who were not prepared for pet ownership.

“Shelters are full of animals that were purchased or adopted in the spirit of the season by people who did not think about the long-term responsibility of pet ownership,” says John Caltabiano, DVM, president of Tait’s Every Animal Matters, of Westbrook. “This means not only providing the animal with food, exercise and affection, but also covering the cost of routine check-ups, vaccinations, spay or neuter, and medical treatment if the animal is sick or injured.”

A pet is a gift that is meant to last a lifetime, so before you let that cuddly ball of fur tug your heartstrings, use your head.

Where to find your new pet:

There are countless dogs and cats in shelters that need homes, although most conscientious rescue groups do not release animals during the holidays in order to prevent impulse adoptions. You can use this time, however, to visit the shelter and get acquainted with the staff and animals. Take a photo of the pet you are considering, wrap it up, and give the family something to look forward to after the holidays.

If only a purebred will do, thoroughly research the breed that interests you to become familiar with its characteristics, from size and temperament to activity level and potential medical problems associated with the breed.

When selecting a breeder, ask your veterinarian for a referral, or contact the American Kennel Club for information. Make sure to visit the breeder’s facility, check the health and temperament of the animal’s parents, and see how they are cared for.

If purchasing from a pet store, make sure it is clean and that the animals are alert, friendly, and have plenty of room to move in their cages: diseases are easily transmitted in overcrowded conditions.

The age factor:

Young animals, like children, get excited by holiday activity. A puppy or kitten might jump on the tree, eat ribbons, tear at packages, or break ornaments in addition to the typical mischief like climbing on furniture and curtains, or chewing shoes, cords and other items. What is more, winter isn’t the optimum time for housebreaking.

Older animals, in contrast, are most likely housebroken or litter box-trained, calmer, and might have obedience training in addition to already being spayed or neutered. If you’re at work all day, an older pet could be better suited to spending time alone without getting anxious or destructive.

Once your new pet comes home:

Pets need time to adjust to new surroundings, including other household animals. Make sure your pet has a comfortable bed or crate to go to, away from noise and activity. A crate must be big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around in, and should be used as a safe place, not as punishment. Getting the pet used to the crate, bed, or any quiet place is especially helpful when you have a houseful of holiday guests.

Remember that pets, like people, are not perfect. Accidents will happen. There will be muddy paws, scratched upholstery, hairballs, and an occasional flea or tick-- it’s all part of pet ownership. Furthermore, adults who buy a pet for a child must realize that they will become the animal’s caretaker, no matter what the kids say before the pet arrives.

If you aren’t ready for the commitment of pet ownership, there are plenty of other gifts to give. For the sake of the millions of unwanted animals that die on the streets or in shelters each year, keep shopping.


Hit Horse Racing Where it Hurts
By Donna Sicuranza

I remember my first Kentucky Derby. It was 1972 and I was a 12-year-old horse-crazy kid. My parents, my sister and I joined several other families at our riding instructor’s house to watch the race. The adults sipped cocktails and made friendly wagers while we kids munched chips and picked our favorites by color, name or a resemblance to a beloved horse. Then, they were off.  And whether we were winning or losing our dollar bets, we cheered in unison as Riva Ridge led the field, awed by the speed and spirit that drove the bay colt across the finish line ahead of his peers. After all, we weren’t gamblers. We were horse lovers. And I’ve loved horses and looked forward to the Triple Crown races ever since.

But this year was different. On Thursday before the Derby, my friend Penny sent an e-mail that now seems prophetic. “Root for the filly Eight Belles on Saturday, or have you sworn off racing after the ugly accidents?” 

“I haven’t sworn off yet,” I replied, but after Barbaro’s breakdown in the Preakness Stakes and George Washington’s fatal run in the 2007 Breeder’s Cup, I was having a tough time getting psyched for the party I was hosting. But the cheese platters were ordered and the guests on the way, so with a pit in my stomach, I told myself that the odds of another prime-time injury were slim.

Sadly, there is a thorny side to racing. Hundreds of horses suffer fatal injuries every year, hundreds more are permanently crippled, and thousands die in the slaughter house—although the two foreign-owned horse slaughter houses in the U.S. have closed, horses are still trucked to meat-packing plants in Mexico and Canada. 

Until now, these dirty secrets were kept on the back-side of the track. Yes, racing has its share of unscrupulous individuals, but we expect more from those at the pinnacle of the sport. Triple Crown contenders put on racing’s best face for the millions of viewers who tune in that day. The catastrophic accidents that are common at bush-league tracks across the country aren’t supposed to happen—live—at Churchill Downs. So when Eight Belles fell, the living room fell silent. The poor filly never recovered and neither did the party or I for that matter.  If this is happening at the top, what is happening at the bottom?

I do not believe horse racing is inherently cruel. Few of God’s creatures love to run like the thoroughbred. And as a horse owner and rider, I do not believe anyone gets into equestrian sports to abuse animals. But money talks and the welfare of these great athletes is too easily sacrificed in favor of investor return. Race horses are in serious trouble when their careers are to be managed like hedge funds, the way Derby winner Big Brown’s will be.

The only way to enforce change is to hit racing where it hurts:  TV ratings, race attendance, tourism, sponsorship, advertising dollars—yes, even wagering. Those who believe there is still beauty and purpose in the Sport of Kings—and I do—must refuse to support an industry that sweeps away horses like cards on a Blackjack table.





©2002 Tait's Every Animal Matters