Are cats who are positive for toxoplasmosis a threat to human health? No, says Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, Director of Clinical Programs for the Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University.
Cats often get blamed as the source of human toxoplasmosis infections. In a review of current research at the 2013 ASPCA/Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Conference, Dr. Berliner separated fact from fiction about cats, people and toxoplasmosis.
From her presentation:
(Cats) can absolutely remain positive for antibodies for life, just like we do, so once you test positive you're going to be positive for life. And those cats are really a minimal zoonotic risk if they're not sick. So they're not shedding. They may have been exposed a long time ago, and if it's actually a positive serology, that is not a reason to consider that cat a risk. And this is a common error, where people will say, "That cat is toxoplasma positive on serology, and now that cat is a threat." No, it's not.
In the most recent Maddie's InstituteSM webcast, Helping Cats Who Hiss and Hide: Assessment, Behavior Modification and Re-Homing Strategies, boarded veterinary behavior specialist Dr. Sheila D'Arpino kept the audience engaged with practical solutions on how to help shy and fearful cats.
You can now view the free on-demand presentation and all handouts, resources and the pre-webcast survey report on our website.
If you couldn't make it to Jacksonville for the 2013 University of Florida Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Program Conference last October, don't worry! Maddie's InstituteSM was there to record all the shelter medicine sessions, as well as the day-long "Face to Face with Feral Freedom" program.
At these events, held in conjuncation with the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference, experts in the field of shelter medicine conducted workshops on a variety of health issues that affect dogs and cats in shelters across the county. You can view them on our website, or by clicking on the individual links below.
Face to Face with Feral Freedom Day-Long Sessions:
Traditional methods of behavior therapy for dogs and cats may not work for those animals rescued from hoarding and puppy mill situations, and may even make their condition worse.
Franklin D. McMillan, DVM, DACVIM, Director of Well-Being Studies at Best Friend's Animal Society, surveyed people who sheltered and adopted hoarding case and puppy mill animals. Those results helped identify methods that were most effective, which were least effective and what, if anything, caused a setback in the animal's progress toward recovery.
Dr. McMillan presented his findings at the 2012 Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Conference at the University of Florida.
Those findings included:
What therapeutic methods have shown the best results in rehabilitating rescued animals from puppy mill and hoarding environments.
What methods and situations have been least successful and detrimental for these animals' recovery.
What to do when attempting one of the "best" methods of rehabilitation and instead it has a detrimental effect on the animal's progress.
How can animal shelters do a better job of protecting their dogs from contracting canine distemper? Can outbreaks be prevented? And is treatment a realistic option for infected shelter dogs?
Please join Maddie's InstituteSM on January 9, 2014, at 9 PM Eastern, when Dr. Cynda Crawford, one of the country's leading experts on canine respiratory disease, will present a free webcast on Everything Shelters Need to Know About Canine Distemper.
Are temperament tests and behavior tests useful for predicting how a shelter dog will behave after adoption?
A study to be published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science suggests canine temperament tests and behavior assessments currently used in animal shelters have not undergone scientific evaluation for how well they predict a dog's behaivor after adoption.
Even a protocol designed specifically to address this gap, the Behavioural Assessment for Re-homing K9's (B.A.R.K.) protocol, was found to be weak in that ability.
From the study abstract:
This poses a significant welfare concern for shelter dogs; life and death decisions might be made based on invalid assessments of behaviour. The aim in this study was to develop a standardised shelter dog behaviour assessment, called the Behavioural Assessment for Re-homing K9's (B.A.R.K.) protocol, implement it into an operational animal shelter and evaluate the reliability and predictive validity of the tool.
Amongst dogs that initially passed the test and were subsequently rehomed, the predictive validity of the protocol was also quite poor, with ‘fear’ (r = 0.42, n = 67, P < 0.01) and ‘friendliness’ (r = 0.49, n = 67, P < 0.01) being the only measures that proved to be predictive.
The results of the study imply that a standardised behavioural test may be of less value in identifying the suitability of dogs for placement in the community than is currently believed. If so, this has significant implications for how such tests are employed.
A lack of predictive validity means a dog who is actually dangerous may be placed for adoption, and a dog who would do perfectly well as a pet will not have that chance.
Are you a veterinarian who would like to connect with like-minded peers who share your interest in shelter medicine? Do you want to gain the special knowledge and skills needed to care for a large number of homeless dogs and cats? And would you like to earn 45 contact hours of continuing education credits per online course you take?
Until recently, few veterinary schools have offered training to prepare veterinarians to work in shelters or care for animals who come from shelters. Now, the Maddie's® Shelter Medicine Online Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine allows busy working veterinarians to learn at their convenience.