A veterinarian’s visit to Romania and Moldova reaps emotional rewards
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Just over a month ago, I was on a flight to Romania with the goal of observing and aiding rescue groups and veterinary practitioners providing care to human and animal refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. I went there as a board member of United States-based World Vets, founder of Fear Free Pets and -- unofficially -- as a representative of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Our first stop took us to a rural, family-run dog shelter in southeastern Romania called Sava’s Safe Haven. Housing approximately 300 dogs and 20 cats, it was about 50 dogs over its normal capacity, yet I was amazed at how clean it was. The Sava family -- father Gabriel, mother Oana, daughter Alex (the beating heart of the shelter) and son Adrian -- keeps it spotless, with the help of friends and a few volunteers. More than that, they provide loving care.
And the dogs! Considering their circumstances, most of the dogs I met were happy and excited to meet people. Fear, anxiety and stress in pets are common during veterinary visits for routine care, but here were these animal refugees -- who had fled chaos and bombs and gunfire with their people, who couldn’t begin to understand what was causing the disruption in their lives -- and they were seeking attention, leaping up to give kisses and diving for the treats I tossed in the air.
Beyond taking in dogs -- both Romanian and refugee -- in need of shelter, the Savas have leapt into action to help pets unable to escape Ukraine, sending tons of much-needed food and supplies across the border to help people and shelters feed the animals in their care. Right now it’s delivered in their personal vehicle -- midsize at best. A large van would allow them to transport much more in the way of aid.
My journey also took me to Moldova, another country that borders Ukraine and is taking in refugees. There I toured Centrul Veterinar, a veterinary hospital that has long worked in partnership with World Vets. While there, I was able to share Fear Free handling techniques and even demonstrate them while I examined Bax, a male spaniel-mix whose owner Ina had fled Ukraine with her daughters and dog. Bax had injured himself during their escape, but they didn’t know what was causing his lameness. I happened to be there when they arrived, and conducted Bax’s exam.
But first, I wooed the pained, frightened dog with a small container of gourmet dog food. As I let him lick it off my fingers, he stopped shivering, panting, yawning and licking his lips -- all signs of fear, anxiety and stress. His body relaxed, and I began my exam, using a stethoscope that had been cleaned with an odor-free disinfectant and then sprayed with a synthetic version of a dog-appeasing pheromone to help calm him further.
After a thorough physical (going through all the steps I take at my home clinic when examining a pet) and taking X-rays, I concluded that his anterior cruciate ligament was strained, not torn, as I had first suspected. Bax received an injection of an analgesic for pain as well as oral pain medication for Ina to give at home. He would be rechecked in a week. If he needed surgery, World Vets would cover the cost.
I came home marveling at the resilience of animals and the kindness and generosity of people.
If you, like me, have been wondering how to help people and pets affected by the war in Ukraine, I can’t think of two better organizations to support than Sava’s Safe Haven and World Vets. Learn more or donate at the following links: Sava’s Safe Haven (savasafehaven.com or cuddly.com/donate/4904113/ukrainian-animals) and World Vets (worldvets.org/2022/03/helping-pets-from-ukraine). You can also read more about my travels here: fearfreehappyhomes.com/saving-pets-on-the-ukrainian-border-you-can-help.
Q: I am moving to a new home that doesn't have a fence, and I can't afford to install one. I've heard that pouring ammonia around the perimeter will keep the dogs in their place, but does it really work?
A: Ammonia won't prevent your dogs from exploring their new neighborhood. Secure fencing is the only long-term solution. In the short term, you'll need to take your dogs out on leashes, put them on tethers or place them in runs.
Tethering is not a good long-term solution. Dogs do not do well when tied up; some even learn aggressive behaviors that lead to attacks on anyone -- especially children -- wandering into their reach. Tethering has other hazards, too. Your dogs can tangle their lines and become unable to reach food, water or shade, or loose dogs can attack them. Dogs should be tethered only for short periods and always under supervision. And never use a choke-chain collar with a tether. It's too easy for dogs to strangle.
Ready-made dog runs can be found for a couple hundred dollars, and less if you are able to find one secondhand. These will keep your dogs safe during potty breaks.
I don't recommend electronic fences (systems that give dogs a shock when they near the perimeter of a property). While they may keep an animal on the property, they won't protect a pet from other animals, pet thieves or harassment by neighborhood kids. And a strong-willed dog will sometimes choose to take the shock to get out of the yard with enough temptation (such as a squirrel), but he won't choose to do so to get back in.
Real fences are always the best choice for safely and securely containing a dog. If that's not possible, keeping your dog inside and leash-walking for exercise and relief is the next best thing. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
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-- You’re probably familiar with destructive chewing by dogs, but did you know that some cats chew destructively as well? Known as wool-sucking, the behavior is seen most commonly in Siamese cats and related breeds such as Birmans. They will suck and chew on sweaters, blankets and other items made of wool. The behavior has been attributed to kittens being weaned too early or to the taste of lanolin in wool material, but it most likely has a hereditary component. One 2015 study found that early weaning and small litter size were associated with an increased risk of wool-sucking in Birmans, and the presence of a medical condition was associated with increased risk of wool-sucking in Siamese cats. If your cat exhibits this behavior, a veterinary exam should be your first step.
-- Jack Russell terriers and Yorkshire terriers are among the longest-lived breeds, with a life expectancy of nearly 13 years, according to an analysis of more than 30,500 mortality records conducted at the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, England. Dogs with the shortest life expectancies were those with the shortest faces: French bulldogs (5 years), bulldogs (7 years) and pugs (8 years). The findings were published online April 28 in the journal Scientific Reports (nature.com/articles/s41598-022-10341-6). -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.