Rattlesnake Bites and Cats

Cat outside

Rattlesnakes are common here in Southern California, particularly the western diamondback.   While much is known about rattlesnake bites in humans and dogs, less research has been done on the effects of, and treatment for, rattlesnake bites in cats.

Recently, a study of cats bitten by rattlesnakes was published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. Eighteen cats bitten by rattlesnakes and referred to a Southern California emergency clinic were studied. Fifteen of the cats survived but three died. Two of the cats developed partial paralysis of the back legs. None of the cats experienced adverse reactions to the anti-venom.

Interestingly, there were 367 cases of dog rattlesnake bites at the same clinic. Dogs are at greater risk for snake bites when they accompany their owners on hiking and camping trips. Rattlesnake bites are much less common in cats, but cat owners should still be aware of the dangers posed by snakes if they let their cats outside.

Here are a few tips on snake-proofing your yard:

  • Keep your grass short and your yard free of overgrown plants, woodpiles, rocks and debris, all favorite snake habitats.
  • Be sure to remove any containers filled with water.
  • Control rodents (snake food!) by removing fallen fruit from the ground and keeping sheds rodent-free.

For more on the study, check out the Winn Feline Foundation blog HERE.



From Head to Tail: The Language of Tail Wagging

Happy dog

Think a dog’s tail wag is always an indication of happiness? Think again! Recent research suggests that tail wagging is a complex form of canine communication and can mean many different things.

A tail’s height and style of movement can be good indicators of a dog’s mood. Did you know that a tail held vertically indicates dominance, and a tail held in a lower position indicates submissiveness?

The movement of a tail wag can say a lot. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • A slight wag is a shy, tentative greeting.
  • A broad, wide wag is friendly and happy.
  • A slow wag with a lowered tail can mean insecurity.
  • A small, fast wag means that the dog may be about to run or fight.

New research adds a third level of meaning to the tail wag. An Italian study shows that a tail wagging towards the right is positive, while a tail wagging towards the left can be an indicator of negative feelings.

When dogs were shown their owners, their tails wagged strongly to the right. They wagged less vigorously to the right when they saw unfamiliar humans and cats. Tail wags towards the left were most common when dogs saw aggressive, unfamiliar dogs.

Experts theorize that this illustrates left brain/right brain differences. In humans and other animals, the left brain is associated with positive feelings and the right brain controls feelings associated with fear and sadness. Because each side of the brain controls opposite sides of the body, the tail wagging differences become clear.

Next time you say hello to your favorite dog, check out that tail!  An understanding of canine body language can improve human/dog interactions.

For more information, see Dr. Stanley Coren’s excellent article in Psychology Today.

The Future of Pet Assistance: How Social Media is Changing the Way We Help Pets

FACE welcomes guest blogger Dr. Elizabeth Benson, DVM of Paws Into Grace:




Much like everything else in the modern world, social media is changing the way in which businesses operate. Even non-profits are seeing increased exposure (see: The Ice Bucket Challenge), receiving donations from outside of their normal donation pool, and watching as pets that were normally only aided within a community are now being flown hundreds or even thousands of miles cross-country to settle into new homes or receive specialized care.

Social media is a game changer for non-profit animal well-being organizations.

Social Media and Visibility for Animal Wellness Groups

Social media is an unstoppable force for wellness organizations whose primary goal is delivering a message and increasing visibility for the cause. Never before in history has it been possible to spread a story any faster than it is today. A puppy mill in Missouri that wouldn’t have made the front page in the local paper is now known by people worldwide, bringing about a large concern for the well-being of our animals.

In my time at Paws Into Grace, where we specialize in care during the final days of your pet’s life, I’m continually amazed at the response of people when they find out (typically through social media) that services like ours even exist. Having a social media presence, as well as a website where people can get more information, allows us to expand our reach and deliver a message to an audience that often provides us with additional tips, responses, or resources that we didn’t even know existed. Facebook has become the new referral. When our audience knows that a friend or loved one has a pet that may be in their final days, they quickly tag us and let them know about the services we offer.

The FACE Foundation and Social Media

The FACE Foundation has experienced great success in spreading the word about the important work they do–providing grants to help family pets receive life-saving veterinary care–through social media outlets. This is often difficult for small, specialized non-profits, as people typically learn about them through word of mouth. For example, new people are “Liking” their Facebook page daily, and a look at the demographics on the “Insights” page shows that FACE has found fans from all over America and other parts of the world (Pakistan, Germany, the Philippines, to name a few). Another example of how social media has benefitted FACE is when their grantees post about the help they have received from the organization, and that gets shared with their friends and family. When this happens, FACE sees much-needed donations come through from people who heard the good news about a saved pet and learned about FACE’s mission, which might not happen without social media.

How Social Media Helps Shelters and Rescue Organizations

Gone are the days of adoption events at a local pet store, walk-ins to the shelter, or classified ads being the only real education and adoption tools that rescues had at their disposal. With social media, we’re able to send a targeted message worldwide, and reap the benefits that this sort of engaged audience provides.

A great example is a local shelter here in San Diego that recently sent out a plea for donations in the form of cash, food, or pet toys via Facebook. The response was overwhelming and due to one simple Facebook post the story went viral, allowing them to receive the support they needed. The story was picked up in local papers, news networks covered it, and it became a sort of rallying cry for the power of social media in animal well-being organizations.

While donations are great, at the end of the day it really boils down to being able to help more pets. A shelter with money is still nothing if they aren’t placing pets into new homes so that they can rescue additional animals in need.

Social media works wonders in that regard.

What was once a furry face amongst many other furry faces can now be shared with audiences that often number in the hundreds of thousands all while telling the animal’s story and providing pictures or videos to accompany it.

People love a good story, and these sorts of messages are being spread like wildfire through the community of animal lovers. It’s now commonplace for a social media message detailing a rescued animal to reach audiences worldwide, and because of this, we often see donations coming from far outside the geographic limitations that many rescues experienced pre-social media. In addition, we’re now in an age where a dog in Boston can easily be transported to his new companion in Colorado, making it easier than ever to find rescued animals a new home with a family that may have been unreachable just a decade or so ago.

The rescue and animal well-being groups of today have resources available at their fingertips that just weren’t available in decades past. Animal lovers are animal lovers, no matter what their location, and we’re seeing how this tight-knit group of people is increasingly going above and beyond in ensuring that animal welfare organizations receive more donations, while helping more pets, all through the power of social media.

Raising awareness, increasing donations, and aiding animals in need is an on-going battle, and social media is quickly becoming the weapon of choice.


What’s all the FUS about?


One of the most common reasons for an emergency trip to the vet for cats (especially males and neutered males) is urinary obstruction. Feline urinary obstruction is a life-threatening veterinary emergency. What do cat owners need to know about urinary/litter box problems in cats to prevent this dangerous situation?

Time for some alphabet soup! If your cat (male or female) is experiencing such symptoms as urinating outside of the box, going frequently but with little output, vocalizing while urinating, excessive grooming and licking of kitty private parts, and blood in the urine, you may have already heard these terms:

FUS: feline urologic syndrome
FIC: feline idiopathic or interstitial cystitis
FLUTD: feline lower urinary tract disease

Feline urinary problems require veterinary care. If there is no obstruction, your cat may be experiencing inflammation of the bladder or urinary tract and require treatment. This can range from a change in diet, the addition of supplements to the diet, medication, and encouraging your cat to increase water intake. Sometimes no physical cause is found for the inflammation, and your vet may talk to you about ways of reducing stress in your cat. This can include adding extra litter boxes in a multi-cat household and trying calming pheromones.

Males and neutered males are at greater risk for urinary blockage, and should always be examined for a physical cause when experiencing litter box problems.   Males can be obstructed by mucus plugs or bladder stones. There are two common types of stones, struvite and calcium oxalate. Luckily, struvite stones can often be dissolved by feeding your cat a special urinary diet. Calcium oxalate stones may require additional treatment besides diet. Consult with your vet about appropriate treatment options.

Urethral obstruction in males and neutered males is a true veterinary emergency. Please seek immediate treatment if you suspect a urinary blockage. A completely obstructed cat can die in as little as 24 hours, so emergency intervention is critical.

For more information on feline urinary problems, check out the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Feline Health Center HERE.