meow co- blue green alge

Blue Green Algae and Other Water Toxins & Treatments

Reports of pet exposures to blue green algae (cyanobacteria) have increased of late, and as summer heats up you may encounter this toxicity in your practice. Here’s information from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center to help you with diagnosis and treatment.


Cyanobacteria is a group of organisms known to cause poisoning in dogs, cats, livestock, wildlife, birds and fish. There have also been a few documented toxicities seen in humans. The problem is most likely to occur in bodies of fresh water when the weather has been warm (over 75 degrees F) and sunny.

The overgrowth is stimulated by the presence of high levels of nitrogen, which often occurs following flooding or runoff from heavy rains or snows in fields and pastures where there is manure from livestock or wildlife, heavy fertilizer use or after grass or forest fires.

There are more than 30 species of cyanobacteria associated with toxic water blooms. Some will produce neurotoxic alkaloids called anatoxins while others produce hepatotoxins called microcystins – and some genera produce both. When both types of toxins are present, neurologic signs will appear within minutes; hepatotoxins will take one or more hours after exposure to cause signs.

Water containing toxic algal blooms will often have the appearance of a pea-green paint or slime on the surface. If certain wind conditions are present the film will often concentrate along the shoreline in areas where animals may drink or swim. With very severe blooms, there may be a die-off of fish or waterfowl in the area.


  • If possible, tell the owner to wash the pet off in fresh water immediately so the pet doesn’t lick bacteria from the coat.
  • Emesis should be induced as early as possible as long as the pet is not at risk for aspiration due to the onset of CNS signs.
  • Activated charcoal should be given if there is not a risk of aspiration.
  • If readily available, cholestyramine resin may be more effective than charcoal and may be dosed at 0.3-1 g/kg TID X 4 days.
  • Liver values should be monitored at baseline, 24 hours and 48 hours. Elevation of bile acids is one of the earliest signs due to the cessation of bile flow from the liver; elevations in ALKP, GGT, and AST are often seen as well. In recumbent animals there may be increases in CK and LDH. Blood glucose should also be monitored as hypoglycemia is a risk, and  5% dextrose can be added to the fluids to help maintain blood glucose. Electrolytes should be monitored and corrected as needed with fluid therapy.
  • Pets should be placed on IV fluids and seizures controlled with anticonvulsants. Many animals may develop vomiting and hemorrhagic diarrhea; cerenia should be administered to control vomiting and antibiotics should be considered to prevent secondary infections if signs are severe.
  • Intrahepatic hemorrhage may lead to hypovolemic shock; whole-blood transfusions should be considered to help treat these issues.

Other Freshwater & Saltwater Dangers

Salt water: Many dogs just love playing in the waves, and when they do they can drink a lot of salt water in a short time. Because of the salinity, hypernatremia can occur. Clinical signs may include vomiting, polydipsia, ataxia, depression, tremors and seizures.

Ocean creatures: Starfish, jellyfish, sea urchins, squid – there are a lot of creatures in the water that can cause harm. Fortunately most of them live far enough out in the water that most pets won’t come in contact with them. Pets often find sea creatures dead on the shore when they are likely to pose less of a problem.

Red tide: This is a common name for an algal bloom caused by certain species of dinoflagellates; they are recognizable by their red-brown color. Not all red tides produce toxins, however when they do regional differences are noted.

Brevetoxins are primarily isolated from blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. Concerns may include ocular and respiratory irritation, gastroenteritis, disorientation, ataxia and possible seizures. Pets can become ill from drinking the water, eating dead fish (mainly bivalves), or inhalation.

On the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts, paralytic shellfish poisoning may occur and is often noted by ataxia, restlessness, paralysis, tachycardia and potentially respiratory distress. Pets generally become ill by eating contaminated shellfish, particularly bivalve shellfish.


Halloween Cat Safety Tips

Halloween is a fun day for humans, but cats may become spooked (no pun intended!) by the altered appearance of their families. If your cat does not appear to recognize you and your children when you’re in costume, use caution when approaching him or her.

Dressing up pets in costumes

Some people like to dress up not only themselves, but their kitties, too, for Halloween (or other holidays). Because wearing a costume might be uncomfortable or frightening to your cat, introduce the costume slowly. Start by taking the costume out of the packaging and allow it to air out. Costumes may have strong smells that cats can be sensitive to. Lay the costume on the floor and allow all house pets to sniff it. If your pet avoids the costume, shows no interest, or is fearful, put treats or a favorite toy near the costume to make it a positive experience for your pet. If your pet walks up to the costume, praise him/her and provide treats. Wait until your pet is comfortable with the costume before attempting to dress your pet. If you have multiple pets, put the pets who aren’t going to dress up in a secured room. The reason for this is that your other pets may become stressed or fearful and have unexpected defensive behavior during the dressing-up process. The process of dressing your pet should be done in steps and using repetition. If the costume has more than one piece, try one piece a day. For example, on the first day practice putting on the cape, and repeat. On the following day, practice putting on the hat and repeat. The next day, try putting on the cape and the hat. During this process, remember to provide praise, encouragement and treats. If your pet demonstrates fear, stress, and/or defensive behavior during the process, your pet may not be comfortable dressing up. Be respectful to your pet.

Cats and Halloween candy

You probably know that candy can make your pets sick, which means you should always keep it out of reach of your pets, but be especially cautious on this holiday, when there’s so much of it around. You can encourage pet involvement in Halloween by making homemade cat treats for your own animals and for other people’s pets. (Just make sure they’re clearly labeled as pet treats.)

Keeping pets inside and safe on Halloween

Finally, cats should be kept inside on Halloween. If a lot of people will be coming to your door, put your pets in a quiet room with the door shut, perhaps with some soothing music playing, to prevent them from escaping into the night. Keeping them in a closed room will also minimize the fright they might get from loud voices and wild costumes.
obama and cat

Cat Hair Traces Back to Mailing Explosive to Obama

In a surprising turn of events, cat hair led to the arrest of a Texas woman who was accused of mailing homemade bombs to then-President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2016.

Evidence that helped authorities connect Julia Poff to the explosive devices included “cat hair found under an address label,” which was on a package sent to Obama, the Associated Press reported. (Other key items in tracking Poff were an “obliterated shipping label” with her address and a cigarette box she had purchased to make the device.)

According to court filings from a Nov. 17 detention hearing, an FBI crime lab found the cat hair on the package to be “microscopically consistent” with the hair of one of Poff’s cats, the AP reported.

Animal hairs, including cat hair, “can link a suspect or location to a crime of violence,” according to material on the FBI’s website. (Take, for instance, the 1994 murder of Shirley Duguay, a crime that was solved thanks to cat hairs found in the killer’s jacket lining.)

“When an animal hair is found, it is identified to a particular type of animal and microscopically compared with a known hair sample from either an animal hair reference collection or a specific animal,” the FBI site notes. “If the questioned hair exhibits the same microscopic characteristics as the known hairs, it is concluded that the hair is consistent with originating from that animal.”

Poff—who has been indicted by a grand jury on six counts, including mailing injurious articles and transporting explosives with the intent to kill and injure—reportedly “didn’t like” Obama.

At the hearing, a federal agent testified that Poff was angry with Abbott because she did not receive support from her ex-husband when Abbott served as Texas Attorney General, the AP reported. Of the three packages Poff sent (the third was sent to the Social Security Administration near Baltimore), only Abbott opened his, the article stated. Luckily it did not detonate because “he did not open it as designed,” court records stated.

Poff is currently being held at a Houston federal detention center, and a pretrial conference in the case is scheduled for early 2018.

Melanie Juarez

My Wife Almost Died Last Month – This is what I learned

I remember seeing the heartbreak in her eyes. It was an hour or so before the morning shift volunteers were scheduled to come in, and one of our neonate kittens had crashed.

The kitten had been fighting a severe case of Coccidia. We managed to catch the parasitic infection within the litter early on – unfortunately, the litter was already going upstream against underdevelopment and possible FELV infection.

Their Immune system was practically nonexistent, and every bacterial infection seemed to know it.

After staying up through the night shift with the neonate, my wife Melanie was getting ready to switch shifts with me – she’d been up all night caring for the little one.

During our morning briefing where we share what happened and what needs to be taken care of for the day shift, the kitten went from stable to critical and was gone before we knew it.

She tried everything she could to save that kitten: CPR, IVs, etc. But the baby was gone.

I felt the pang in my heart as did she. No matter how many times we’ve faced this scenario, it never gets easier. It always seems to break our hearts just a little bit more each time. And, I think it has more to do with the fact that we often care for these kittens since they’re a day old, or come in half dead and we manage to stabilize them – watch them grow up.

I stepped away to give her some space, I knew she was devastated, but she doesn’t like to show it. The reality is, that even though situations like this break our hearts, she still has an organization and shelter to run. The shelter doesn’t stop, rescue pulls from county and city don’t stop, adoptions, Veterinary visits, paperwork, foster coordination, transport, donor management, marketing, community outreach, projects… none of it stops.

We have to constantly stay on top of everything and manage our time wisely. There’s no room to sit and sulk. The reality is, personal moments like that take away precious time and attention to the rest of the abandoned cats & kittens in our care. We have to always keep moving forward.

This all changed when I heard a crash from the other room. Normally, things falling or being knocked over are common in our shelter – I mean, it’s run by cats. But, this time it wasn’t followed by the usual “it was me” or “I’m okay.” It was uncomfortably silent besides the humming of the air purifiers.

“Is everything oh-kaa…” I lost my words as soon as I had seen Melanie laying on the floor in the Neonate Nursery. She doesn’t remember if she lost consciousness or not, but she was clearly disoriented. I helped her up. I was trying really hard not to panic.

After a few seconds, she started to come to. I started fumbling for my phone to call for an ambulance, but she urged me to give her a moment to collect herself. She finally decided it would be best if she would just go home and get some rest so she called her mom to come get her.

Ten Minutes later I was helping her into the car to go home. I kissed her goodbye and they drove off. A few moments later the volunteers started to show up for the morning shift and I had to get my head back in the game.

I had a difficult time focussing on the shift, so much was going on and all I could think about was my wife. Seeing her on the floor. My heart dropping. I was still obviously worried. That’s when I got the heart sinking text “She passed out again. We’re taking her to the Emergency Room.” I felt like my world had stopped.

“Oh Shit!” slipped out my mouth and the volunteers in the medical unit all stopped to stare at me. I was instantly panicking, and I knew they could see it. I told one of the Senior Volunteers that I had to go and she was in charge. And, I was out the door.

Now I wish I could tell you that I met her just as she was being taken into the Emergency Room with a doctor and nurses by her side, but the truth was that we just sat in an over crowded waiting room for hours. There was obviously some people that looked much much worse than my pale lethargic wife, so we sat patiently.

She eventually urged me to head back, finish whatever I had left, and she’ll keep me updated. Now, let’s fast forward to the next day, you know, after she was seen by the ER doctor who never looked up from her chart, said she was ‘okay,’ ‘drink more water,’ and prescribed some Tylenol for the pain. I’d like to pick up where I got another text while working at the shelter from her mother saying that they’re heading back to the ER. She passed out again.

This time it was different. She was far worse than she was the day before. Her skin looked like it was nearly transparent. And she was having a hard time concentrating let alone being able to finish sentences.

After getting her own bed in the ER, having numerous test run, the Doctor decided that she was to be admitted into the hospital. And, just like that, they were wheeling my wife away toward the Intensive Care Unit. The RN said it, but I already knew it… she was really bad, and this is much more serious than any of us had thought it would be.

Seven days. She was in the ICU for seven days. She had to be on fluids nonstop. On a controlled diet. She went through Thirteen rounds of various antibiotics. She couldn’t even get out of bed to use the bathroom on her own.

During this time, I’d spend the night and sleep on the chairs in her hospital room. Wake up to go manage the shelter, and come back to stay by her side. Each day was hard, both physically and mentally. I was running the shelter by myself. And of all the times for it to happen, volunteers just stopped coming in to help. I wasn’t entirely sure as to why, but all I knew was that I was by myself and had to figure out a way to make it all work.

Melanie Juarez

I had to psych myself out each day. Tell myself “one kennel at a time.” And that’s all I could do. My days at the shelter were starting at 7am and I wouldn’t be able to leave till around 8pm. I’d start catching up on admin work when I got to Mel’s side.

Somedays volunteers would come by to help, but it was in all honesty “too much” for them. A lot of them couldn’t handle all the work that came with the day to day operations – some left. Some never came back. I tried my best to come off as optimistic and motivate the volunteers, but pep talks can only go so far.

Seeing others leave the organization started to look tempting. There was a day where I sat on the floor of the nursery and just broke down, pouring my eyes out and sobbing as I hugged my knees tight. This went on for almost an hour – I didn’t want to get up. I had given up. I quit. As I looked up, all I could see were little paws against the glass enclosures trying to get my attention. They were hungry and crying, and I felt like I had failed them, the organization, and my wife.

When I’m anxious, I start counting. I’ll randomly run numbers, figures, statistics, all kinds of numerical crap through my head. It’s my way of calming down – I use it to find stability, as well as a balance to center myself. Eventually the numerics bled into my surroundings, and I started counting the kittens in the nursery. The numbers started connecting to stories, stories of the kittens and how they each had come to be there in the first place.

All the calls, messages, photos from members of the community… from staff at the county shelter. “Please, can you help take in this kitten?” “I have no where else to go…” And then I began to remember all the calls for the ones that we couldn’t take in – the ones that ended up being put to sleep. They died because we couldn’t help them. Now, I know we can’t save every single kitten (yet), but the ones that were right there in front of me were the ones that we were able to save.

I realized that if I didn’t get up, push through it, other kittens wouldn’t get this opportunity. They’d die because I quit. And I need to hold on, not just for them, but for my wife.

GERD, Kidney & Bladder Infections, over a dozen ulcers and kidney stones, hypertension, anemia… this is just a short list of what the doctor’s found with my wife. They said that the majority of it was caused from the high stress that comes along with not only working in a shelter, but managing it as well as a nonprofit organization. The thing my wife had built from scratch and loves was killing her – literally.

Melanie was working Sixteen hours shifts for almost a year straight. Her and I had honestly taken a total of six days off during that time. We even worked on our honeymoon. Everyone gave us crap for it, but somethings don’t get the luxury of being put on hold or to the side.. especially when you’re going up against the fact that if you don’t do your job, animals will die.

I remember the doctor, family and friends, asking if it was worth it… and each time without a hesitation she’d always say “yes!” She knew this struggle wasn’t going to last forever, that it would one day get better (and easier) – we’d just have to hang on and get through it. She’d tell them that as long as I was by her side, supporting her, that we’d be able to do it. As long as we’re together, we can do anything. And that includes tackling the Highest Euthanasia rate in the country and saving as many abandoned cats & kittens as we can.

So as I sat on the floor in the nursery, I just kept counting the numbers, and hearing my wife’s brave words replay in my head. I got back up, and kept moving forward…

We’re coming up on our one year anniversary since opening our No-Kill Cat Shelter in Bakersfield, CA. Within this time, we’ve successfully rescued and found loving homes for 500 abandoned Cats & Kittens. 500 that would’ve been put to sleep for being disabled, underage, senior, special needs, etc. But, we didn’t do it alone, we had volunteers give thousands of hours, donors fund operations, agency partners working along our side, but most importantly, an amazing leader (my wife). Save the Kitties.

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