Veterinary clinics help Tsunami People and Pets

Robert, one of our policyholders who came back from a work posting abroad, asked me last year if we could spread the word to help find expired suture material for a charity he co-founded called the Tsunami Animal-People Alliance.

Right away, we've reached out to the clinics we work with and they have donated many many yards of suture material that they would otherwise have thrown away.

Here's what Robert had to say about this organization:

Tsunami Animal-People Alliance at work in Sri Lanka The Tsunami Animal-People Alliance spays and neuters dogs in the devastated tsunami zone of Sri Lanka. Our purpose is to assist the animals and people of Sri Lanka in long term recovery from the Great Tsunami. Even though the tsunami has long been off the front page, recovery will still take years. Our team of ten well-trained Sri Lankans (including three vets, vet techs, and animal handlers) sterilizes about 500 animals per month from our tented field clinic (like a M*A*S*H unit) that moves from village to village in the tsunami zone. We seek to improve the welfare of the animals through humane population control, and to improve the welfare of the people through reducing the risk of rabies (presently about 100 human rabies deaths per year in Sri Lanka) and reduce the incidence of dog bites, which also reduces the potential for animal cruelty by those fearing rabies.

We have sterilized almost 25,000 animals since the tsunami. About half the dogs we sterilize are street ("community") dogs that we catch in large butterfly nets, spay/neuter in our field clinic, and then, after recovery, return to the exact spot where taken to resume guarding their territories (Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release). The other half are dogs owned by poor villagers, who have no money to pay for sterilization services even if it were otherwise available. We also implement an education program in the villages where we work for kindergarten through adult to teach the facts and myths about rabies, how to avoid dog bites, and responsible pet ownership. All our services are offered without charge and we are supported by donations.

A full description of what we do, including photos and videos, is on our website at The photo below shows our team at work.

Tsunami Animal-People Alliance team Thank you to all the clinics that have participated in our suture drive and for all those that continue to do so. If you would like to participate in this drive, please email and our Vet Outreach team will get in touch pronto.

I'm really glad Robert asked us to help; it's a great way for us to help using the Embrace reach.

Ask Laura: the impact of toe amputation surgery

Stock.xchng.706020_big_foot I received the following question from Regina as a comment to another post on toe amputations and I asked Dr Riggs, one of our advising veterinarians:

Regina's question:
I have a 8 year old Boxer mix that has a bad foot infection from being poisoned. She will be loosing the two middle toes on her left hind and some dead tissue with it. Will she be able to run and play normally again?

Dr Riggs' answer:
I just did the same type of surgery on an 18 year old cat with a lymphocytic tumor of the the left rear paw. I had to remove the two middle toes and subsequently gave her a "Spock" like look to that paw. She is walking great. Dogs and cats are amazing. They can compensate so well. Your dog will not miss a beat. I was just at a lecture given by a surgery professor from Colorado State, about reconstructive surgeries of the feet. Her quote was "dogs and cats are born with more toes than they need" and she showed some pretty interesting cases to prove that. Your dog will do fine.

Pretty interesting don't you think? I had a friend who lost his big toe in a construction accident (a human friend, not a cat or dog!) and he said it did hinder him more than he thought it would so I had no idea cats and dogs could be so flexible.

Have any of you had to have some of your cat or dog's toes removed? How did it go?

Related articles:
Toe Amputations for Cats and Dogs
Ask Laura: the impact of toe amputation surgery
Ask Laura: dog weight bearing toe amputation appropriate or not?  
Ask Laura: infected ingrown toe nail on cat  
Ask Laura: to amputate or not to amputate the cat's toe, that is the question
Corns on a greyhound's toe: Dr Riggs discusses

Laura Bennett FSA CFA is the new Chair of NAPHIA's Board of Directors

Naphia NAPHIA is the North American Pet Health Insurance Association and at our recent meeting in Las Vegas, I was voted in as Chairman of the NAPHIA Board (Chairman, Chair, Chairperson - it's all the same to me.)

I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead NAPHIA's development at this stage of the organization's maturation - there's a lot to do!

We spent our last meeting setting NAPHIA's long-term strategy and short-term tactics for the next year and have some interesting projects on the go. As part of that process, we spent a lot of time prioritizing our efforts this year to be the most effective for our membership and thus our membership's policyholders, as resources are always tight.

Right now, the NAPHIA board members are focused on two areas:

  • helping the industry process claims faster and with less cost through electronic interface with the veterinary practice management software;
  • benchmarking ourselves against our NAPHIA peers on areas such as pets covered, operational expenses, and growth. Once the data is pulled together (and that's what the project is all about - defining the measures and how they are pulled together by a third party) , each NAPHIA member company will be able to see where we as individual companies compare to the group as a whole and where we can improve the pet insurance experience for our customers.

Our next meeting is in early May in Boise, ID so there's a lot to do before then. Back later!

Blogpaws 2010 - 1st Pet Blogger Conference

Blogpaws A few years ago, I went to the Blogher conference in Chicago and had a great time, learning all sorts of blogging tips and tricks. But  I really missed meeting other pet bloggers - the place seemed to be filled with fun mommy bloggers instead. Nothing wrong with that but not related to my blog.

That's why I'm so excited to be attending Blogpaws 2010, the first pet blogger conference (mommy bloggers of a different kind?) Will you join me there?

Some particulars for you:

Date: April 9 & 10  Location: Columbus OH

Cost: $129 but if you use my special discount code "VIP-LB" you get 20% off, making it $103.20. (I'm helping out so I get a nice code to offer my readers).

Registration: Register here

As the website says, join us for a weekend with like-minded people who are  passionate about their pets and who spend inordinate amounts of time online blogging, tweeting and networking with other pet lovers.

Remember, use the discount code VIP-LB.

Perineal Urethrostomy, incontinence and bladder atony

IMG_3098 Wendy posted the following question as a comment on my blog post about  perineal urethrostomy, which I thought was worthy of a blog post all of its own.


Has anyone else had issues with incontinence after the surgery? My cat Henry had the procedure done almost one year ago. Everything was going great until this last month...No matter where he sits or lies, he leaks urine. I love my cat and I am heartbroken that this is happening to him. I have heard that in rare cases there can be permanent nerve damage during the procedure, but why would it have just started??? Any advice????


I passed Wendy's question on to Dr. Riggs, one of our consulting veterinarians and this is what he had to say in response.

You can see incontinence in this situation occasionally but it probably is not nerve damage from the surgery; more likely a result of bladder atony.  The sphincter of the urethra is at the base of the bladder, not at the end of the urethra.  When cats get "blocked" he is not able to urinate and the bladder gets distended.  The muscles in the bladder wall that are responsible for constricting the bladder are stretched and are not able to work as well.  This is called bladder atony.  When the bladder becomes full enough, the pressure within the bladder overcomes the urethra and he dribbles. 

Have Wendy ask her vet about  two drugs that can help in some cases, phenoxybenzamine and bethanechol.  The phenoxybenzamine will help decrease the urethral tone and the  bethanechol helps the bladder muscle contract.  I would also look to see if there are no strictures in the urethra. 


Lastly, bladder infections are common after PU surgeries since the urethra is wider and bacteria can get in the bladder easier. This is the same reason bladder infection is more common is female cats as compared to males. So I would  check a urinalysis and do a culture of the urine. 


I hope all goes well with Henry.


Have you had this issue before and were you able to resolve it?


UPDATE 3/8/10:
Sadly, I received this message from Wendy today:

Unfortunately I had to put Henry down yesterday.  X-rays revealed he had developed eight more stones in his bladder and although he had the surgery to help him with this issue, he was unable to pass them on his own. 

Henry had several more infections after the original surgery, he was facing another surgery, and there were no guarantees that this would be his last.  It was a very hard decision, but in the end I did what was best for Henry.  He filled my life with unconditional love and companionship and I did not want him to continue suffering. 

I want to thank you for your kindness and your concern.



RIP Henry


Related Posts:
Pet health story: Tallulah, a grey tabby cat
Perineal Urethrostomy: description and costs
Perineal Urethrostomy, incontinence and bladder atony
Ask Laura: what are the chances of success for Perineal Urethrostomy surgery?