Archive for the ‘Caring Creatures Pet Partners’ Category

A Kiss Changes Everything

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Animal Health Foundation’s Caring Creatures Pet Partners Team Jane Horsfield and Kiss are celebrated in Pet Companion Magazine!

From  Pet Companion Magazine  http://digital.petcompanionmag.com/publication/?m=40178&i=651393&p=38    “Reprinted with permission from Pet Companion Magazine, Spring 2020.”

Just like the rock band for which she’s named, the black-and-white­masked Kiss never gives up, even when people might count her out.

Like KISS, whose members have been rocking for 4 7 years, she keeps coming back, stronger each time, just when you think she’s thrown in the towel. KISS the band is traveling the world throughout 2020 on their The End is Near tour-this time, they say, they’re really going to retire. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Kiss the border collie, however, has no plans to throw in any towel or slow down, and certainly not to retire. This rock star therapy dog/athlete has a can-do attitude that won’t quit, and all the curve balls she’s been thrown so far haven’t taken her down. She’s tough as nails, and yet sweet as the pink swipe of a gentle doggie smooch. She’s one special dog who has defied unthinkable odds to not just survive but also stay at the top of her game.

And what game is that? Well, for starters, she used to give other dogs a run for their money in flyball, agility, dock diving, nosework, and Frisbee catching. But being a top athlete wasn’t where Kiss found her calling. It turns out her best talents emerged during her 11-year career (so far) as a therapy dog-part of the Animal Health Foundation, an affiliate of Pet Partners. Kiss visits hospital patients, helps elementary school children learn to love reading, and appears at many public service events benefiting various causes for pets and children, including her local Rotary Club’s fundraising efforts to raise awareness of skin cancer. Since 2013, she has served as a crisis response dog, sent on deployments where she has helped people affected by disasters or other crises cope with their losses. But her best trick yet? Beating her own cancer, a soft-cell sarcoma on her front left leg, and now living with a complex disease called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). This 13-year-old takes it on the chin, but she never takes it lying down. Despite a grim diagnosis and multiple complications, Kiss is making steady progress and will soon be back visiting her local hospitals and elementary schools, putting smiles on the many faces she loves.

Kiss was six months old when she was given to Jane Horsfield and Dan Balza of Fountain Valley, California, by a fellow flyball enthusiast. Horsfield and Balza previously owned several dogs involved in the sport-which, heartbreakingly, they had lost to various forms of cancer. A lover of border collies, Horsfield was all in for taking Kiss home. However, she and Balza had recently discussed how their household was definitely at its maximum dog capacity. Grudgingly, Balza agreed to take a look at a photo of the striking black and white little furball. It wasn’t long before Kiss became part of the family.

Horsfield describes young Kiss as “one wild little banshee.” She recalls, “She barked, she chased, she screamed … and she ate everything in sight. She chewed clothes, glasses, furniture, walls (not kidding!), and the oak baseboard. I’d get home from work and, with drywall hanging from her mouth, she’d look at me with those big, brown, loving eyes. Who could be mad? Eventually, the bad behavior faded, and a wonderful ‘teenaged’ doggy emerged.”

At that time, Horsfield was doing pet therapy work with another of her beloved athletic dogs, who was 11 and nearing retirement age. All of her dogs do dog sports, but therapy work-that’s a raised bar that Horsfield says only a few dogs can reach. Because Kiss was proving to be a loving and sensitive dog, she began to train her. At just 2 years old, Kiss passed her Pet Partner evaluation, and with that opened
a new chapter in her life. Although her primary job was now therapy work, Kiss still enjoyed participating in dog sports in her spare time.

In 2017, Kiss’s image was featured on a surfboard that was part of a fundraiser by the Huntington Beach Rotary Club. Local artists were paired with local surfboard shapers, and 22 surfboards were decorated and auctioned off, with the money donated to local hospitals benefiting skin cancer research, prevention, and care. At the unveiling of her surfboard, a participant visiting with Kiss felt a swelling on her front left leg and alerted Horsfield to it. It turned out to be a soft-tissue sarcoma, and Kiss was referred to a specialty hospital.

Having lost four previous dogs to cancer, Horsfield and Balza were devastated, fearing the worst. But after 18 months of treatment, including 6 months of rehabilitation, Kiss was declared free of cancer and cleared to go back to work.

Horsfield got word of a grant from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo that was available to therapy dogs with cancer. The foundation donated $3,000 to help cover some of the costs ofKiss’s treatment, and Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo shared Kiss’s story on their websites for the 2018 Pet Cancer Awareness campaign. The two companies have invested more than $15 million into pet cancer research since the campaign began in 2010. Asked to participate again in 2019, Kiss’s face was featured on ads in People magazine, on Petco’s Pet Cancer Awareness website, on posters in nearly every Petco store, and even on a reuseable tote bag, a gift for donating $10 to the campaign in any Petco store nationwide.

Sadly, between the time she was declared cancer free and the start of the 2019 Pet Cancer Awareness campaign in May 2019, Kiss was diagnosed with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, or IMHA. “It’s a horrible, not-so-common disease where the immune system goes haywire and starts destroying its own red blood cells,” explains Horsfield. “She liter­ally was fine on Saturday, then on Sunday morning she didn’t want to eat her break­fast.” While that symptom didn’t seem particularly alarming, Horsfield discovered discoloration in Kiss’s mouth and imme­diately took her to a veterinary specialist. From there, her condition went downhill fast, but thankfully Kiss’s condition today has been mostly stabilized through medica­tion. But not before she suffered an intes­tinal blockage that required emergency sur­gery and a severe bout of pneumonia. The road has been long, and it’s been rough. But Kiss is not a quitter. She fights on.

And Horsfield, who “researches absolutely everything” but was too terrified to even look up this disease at first, is fighting along with her. Every day, she’s learning and, more importantly, educating others about IMHA. It’s a complicated disease with no “one-size-fits-all” treatment-veterinarians must try protocol after protocol to find one that strikes the right balance for Kiss. “This story is far from over, and she has not been ‘cured.’ Knowledge is everything when treating this disease,” Horsfield points out. She says if she’d waited a day to take Kiss to the vet or not gone straight to a specialist, Kiss likely would have died, according to her doctors. “Dog owners need to be aware of what IMHA is and know the warning signs” she cautions. “IMHA packs quite a punch, and Kiss’s life has taken a drastic side road.” Younger dogs who make it through this disease are generally more able to get back to normal, says Horsfield. “Kiss got this ugly disease at 12. She’s not a young dog, but she was in great shape before this hit, which is probably why she’s been able to fight it. I am just grateful to still have her with me 12 months after diagnosis.”

While Horsfield admits that Kiss probably won’t be competing in flyball or dock diving anytime soon, she still enjoys her nosework and catching the occasional ball or Frisbee. A pivotal moment in her recovery was when she was finally able to take a swim once again in the family’s backyard pool with her pack, the other family dogs. She’s also back to visiting hospital patients, and will head back to school for the elementary reading program very soon. In December, when a student from Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead was tragically murdered, Kiss was there to lend support. In January, she helped deploying military service men and women and their families prepare for the year ahead.

With all she’s been through, you might expect Kiss to just bask in the sun and take life easy for the rest of her days. But that’s not who she is. That little banshee who barked her head off, ate everything in sight, and chewed her way through puppyhood (and the drywall) isn’t resting on her laurels or her haunches. She’s forging ahead, mending hearts and spreading joy and kisses along the way. Because, sometimes, a kiss changes everything.

Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia
By Julie Stegeman, DVM 

Immune-mediated hemo­lytic anemia (IMHA) is an autoimmune condition wherein the patient’s immune system attacks their own red blood cells as if they were a foreign invader. IMHA is more common in dogs than in cats, and it is an almost daily occurrence in the caseload of a referral hospital because of the need for inpatient support­ive care and often the need for blood transfusion. It is most often seen in middle-aged dogs and in young cats, and some breeds are more at risk ( cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, miniature dachshunds, etc). IMHA represents a loss of immune system “tolerance of self.” Our immune system has checks and balances built in, but when there is a disturbance in that balance, a red blood cell can “look” like a virus to an immune system cell. It then be­comes a target for destruction, leading to severe anemia and death if left untreated.

Symptoms ofIMHA initially can be vague. Lethargy, poor appetite, even a fever may be seen. Pet owners might notice a red or orange discoloration to the pet’s urine, or they might notice pale gums. The gums and skin might even appear yellow (“jaundiced”) due to buildup of bilirubin, which is a byproduct ofred blood cell destruction. Orange stool is also commonly seen. These symptoms lead to taking the pet in to their veter­inarian. Blood tests will show anemia and may or may not show elevated bilirubin levels, elevated white blood cells, low platelets, or elevated liver or kidney values. If the platelet count is low, the pet may have autoimmune destruction of their platelets as well-this is called Evan’s syndrome.”

It is recommended to screen for a variety of immune system triggers in an IMHA patient, such as various tick-borne illnesses, viral infections, other infectious diseases, and cancer. Other triggers can include a variety of medications and even (rarely) vaccinations. If there is an underlying triggering con­dition, the immune destruction will continue until the trigger is eliminated. This is especially important because treatment for IMHA requires immune suppressive medications, and if there is an infectious disease present, the immune suppres­sant medications will allow the triggering infectious disease to overcome the patient. It is very important to provide a full medical and travel history to the attending veterinarian, so that these issues can be discovered right away. Various blood tests, chest radiographs, and abdomi­nal ultrasounds are usually per­formed to screen for underlying conditions, depending on the patient and their exact history.

If no inciting cause is identi­fied, then immune suppressive treatment is begun. The corner­stone of immune suppressive treatment is glucocorticoid (ste­roid) treatment, most commonly in the form ofprednisone or as injectable dexamethasone. High doses of steroids are required at first, because the immune reac­tions in IMHA are very intense, and progression is rapid if left unchecked. It can take several days to start to see the benefits of the immune suppressive treatments. In some patients, if the immune system is attacking red blood cells at the level of the bone marrow ( where they are being produced), it can take 4 to 6 weeks for stabilization of the red cell levels to occur. Until the red cell level ( often determined with a Packed Cell Volume [PCV]) stabilizes and starts to increase, blood trans­fusions are often necessary. Transfusions help “buy time” until the steroids can control the situation. Unfortunately, the transfused red blood cells are often destroyed as quickly as the pet’s own red blood cells, so repeated transfusion may be needed.

In addition to steroids and transfusions, sometimes other treatments are used. Intrave­nous gamma globulin treatment (IVIgG) is an expensive but often effective way to shorten a hospital stay. This treatment binds to auto-antibodies and keeps them from attacking the red blood cells. It also may reduce antibody production by the patient’s body. It helps “win the battle” but is not proven to improve long-term outcomes. Plasmapheresis is another treatment available at a few referral hospitals in the nation, with a similar end result as IVIgG. Other immune suppressive medications such as cyclosporine, mycophenolate, azathioprine, or leflunomide, often started in conjunction with prednisone, take longer for full effect and are most helpful to reduce how much prednisone is given over the long run.

Patients with IMHA have a high risk for development of abnormal blood clots, and pulmonary embolism is actually one of the leading causes of death in these pets. Therefore, it is common to prescribe blood thinners such as aspirin, clopi­dogrel (Plavix), and/or heparin. A blood thinner is often given as long as the prednisone is given.

Because anemia affects the entire body, gastrointestinal support is often needed, in the form of antacids, anti-nausea medications, and coating agents.

Survival ofIMHA is, un­fortunately, not 100 percent. Estimates vary, but the author’s experience is that approxi­mately 75-percent survival is expected. Not all pets respond completely to treatment. Others succumb to pulmonary embo­lism. Rarely, they develop sec­ondary opportunistic infections, such as fungal infections, due to chronic immune suppressive therapy.

Close monitoring is critical after the patient is discharged from the hospital. A patient may need to be rechecked a couple of times a week at first, gradual­ly reducing to once every 2 to 3 weeks. The medications are ta­pered over time, and usually by 4 to 6 months after diagnosis, the pet is either off medication entirely or is on the minimum dose of medication required to maintain a normal red blood cell level. Relapses can occur, as can other immune-mediated diseases.

In summary, IMHA is a life-threatening but treatable disease, which most but not all patients survive. A thorough evaluation of the patient is needed initially, and most re­quire hospitalization to survive the initial part of the illness. Long term, the pet owner will need to work closely with their veterinarian to adjust medica­tions and watch for relapses.

AHF Pet Partners at CSUF

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

From DailyTitan

Titanwell advocates self-care with four-legged friends

Students with AHF Pet Partner Jen McCormick and Moana

A photo of students gather in front of the Titan Wellness patio to de-stress with therapy animals.
(Jiyo Cayabyab / Daily Titan )

Before the full force of the sun shined on campus and thousands of students rushed to their classes, the early risers got the chance to play with some four-legged friends.

Titanwell hosted its monthly Animal Therapy session yesterday at the Student Wellness patio. Animal Therapy gives students a new way to de-stress from the challenges they face at school.

“As students, we get so caught up in being focused on when the next paper is due — when our next exam is — but pet therapy allows us to really take in the moment, live in the moment and just pause,” said Angelika Sann, a social work graduate student.

After signing a liability form, everyone is welcome to spend time with the animals. In order to make the animals feel safe, groups are limited to 2-3 people at a time. Each animal has a handler with them at all times who is happy to answer any questions visitors may have about the animals.

“I believe that it’s a good way to advocate self-care, which is really important for college students,” Tiffany Nguyen said. “It’s our stress reliever because now school is getting harder.”

Titanwell is focused on giving their students and faculty members the best resources they can for mental health, which includes picking the right animal therapy organization to team up with.

Pet Partners and Animal Health Foundation have very high standards. They’re one of the few organizations that are allowed to be around children. So we figured Cal State Fullerton deserves the best,” said Gloria Flores, peer health educator at the wellness center.

Pet Partners is a nonprofit organization with more than 10,000 volunteers that offer animal-assisted therapy to diverse facilities such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

The Animal Health Foundation is a charity organization that works together with the California Veterinary Medical Association to improve the health and well-being of animals by supporting and promoting animal-related activities.

People wanting to become Pet Partner volunteers go through a screening process where the AHF assesses the interested applicants. The pet and pet-owner are viewed as a unified “team”; therefore, both must pass the screening process together. The test depends largely on the pet.

Jen McCormick, a therapy animal handler, registered her jet-black mini-rex rabbit, Moana, after being told that Moana would make a good therapy animal.

Before Moana helped the mental health of Titans, her partner saved her from a high-kill shelter. Moana had a mangled leg when Jenn adopted her, but she got help from SomeBunny Rabbit Rescue for an amputation.

“It’s very different from what dogs have to do. The dogs have to know how to sit, stay and leave it. The rabbits have to be calm. This is not normal for a rabbit. Rabbits, because they’re prey animals, they don’t like to be touched or picked up,” McCormick said.

The prey mentality makes rabbits unlikely therapy animals; however, Moana is one of 150 registered rabbits with Pet Partners. Her velvet-soft fur and big, entrancing eyes made her a big hit with students.

The student wellness center introduced animal therapy between 2015 and 2016. The positive reactions from students have motivated the center to provide more animals.

“We like the simplicity of it, so we try to keep it that way but decided to bring more animals because more people were coming,” Flores said.

Student Wellness workers look forward to seeing the students’ reactions with the therapy animals.

“First, [the students] come in and they come out and the reaction to all the animals is really rewarding,” said Sabrina Gonzalez, a peer health educator.

All forms of mental health care are equally important. Even if some methods like animal therapy seem small in comparison to more formal ones, like one-on-one therapy, every step counts.

According to CRC Health, some of the benefits from animal-assisted therapy can include a decrease in feelings of anxiety, loneliness and grief. It can also improve focus and attention, as well as offer an alternative to those who are resistant to other forms of treatment.

“Things like this are very important for us to have access to. I feel like people don’t realize  that even just petting animals is very therapeutic,” said Sarah Stahl, a social work graduate student.

Almost 40% of college students struggle with mental health issues; therefore, they can benefit the most from something as simple as petting animals.

Therapy Dove, Cloud, Visits UCI

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

AHF’s Caring Creatures’ Therapy Dove, Cloud, and his partner, Daleen Comer, visited student at UCI

this past week to help with stress relief during finals week.

Pet Partners at Petco in La Habra

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Several AHF Pet Partners teams were at Petco in La Habra on Saturday, October 12th, CA to talk to people about Pet Therapy!

Team from Left to Right are:  Katy Trumbo and Delilah, Daleen Comer and Cloud the Dove, Ingrid Eck Pullen and Cody and Jane Horsefield and Kiss.

 

Letter from Student Thanking Janell and Piper!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

AHF Therapy Dogs help kids during school exams relieve stress

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

 

SJC High Schoolers DeStress after PSATs

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Kiersten Ballard, 15, attributes her lowered blood pressure to Blue’s “unconditional love” at San Juan Capistrano’s Saddleback Valley Christian on Weds., Oct. 11. His looks lowered too. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Animal Health Foundation Caring Creatures Pet Partners Therapy Animal Teams make many visits in the community. Here are several of our teams in San Juan Capistrano helping students relax after taking PSATs! Read on for a GREAT story from the Orange County Register!

 

Two dogs and a ring-necked dove help Orange County high schoolers de-stress after test

Welcome Moana and Jen to AHF Pet Partners

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Jen McCormick and Moana are sure to bring smiles on their visits!

Moana came to a high kill shelter with a mangled leg. She was unable to use the leg, but the shelter could not spend the money to remove it. Save Some Bunny Rabbit Rescue took her in and arranged for amputation surgery.

She has fully recovered and she doesn’t miss that useless leg at all!! She enjoys running and jumping on the couch and sleeping in her own little
bed! Because she has had some health issues, she is a good example for children and adults who are struggling with their health. She has a very calm, loving demeanor and her fur is so velvety soft that you will not want to stop petting her.

AHF Therapy Dog with Cancer Received Petco Grant

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

“Rock star” Therapy Dog Gets Sidelined with Cancer
Jane Horsfield and Dan Balza of Fountain Valley, California, adopted their dog Kiss at six-months-old when her previous owner no longer had time to train her for flyball. Through the years, Kiss’ super energetic nature has made her a perfect participant in flyball, agility, and nose work competitions as well as in recreational dock diving and K9 Disc.

Named after the rock band Kiss because of her black and white face, her outgoing nature also made her an ideal candidate for pet therapy work. As part of the Animal Health Foundation, an affiliate of Pet Partners, Horsfield and Kiss started visiting adults and children at local hospitals as well as elementary schools where children practiced their reading skills with Kiss sitting by their sides.

“There is not a person she doesn’t love to meet,” says Horsfield. “She loves everyone, and everyone loves her.”

As a “rock star” therapy dog, Kiss also gets invited to special events around town to raise awareness and money for skin cancer awareness through the local Rotary Club. It was during an event that Jane noticed some swelling above Kiss’s front left paw.

“At first, I thought it was related to her athletic activities,” says Horsfield. “So, I put some ice on her leg when we got home, and it looked a little better the next day.”

The family had been down this road before

But a week later, Kiss’ lower front left leg still looked swollen. Her veterinarian, Dr. Wayne Kopit of Brook-Ellis Pet Hospital, biopsied the lump and called Horsfield the day after Thanksgiving with the results. Kiss had a soft tissue sarcoma on her leg.

He decided to refer Kiss to Southern California Veterinary Specialty in Irvine, California for the cancer treatment.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be cancer,” says Jane. “The news struck terror into my heart.”

That’s because the previous Thanksgiving, the couple also had received cancer news about their dog Sheila. She died seven months later despite extensive surgeries and treatments to save her life. Unfortunately, the heartbreak doesn’t end there. The couple has lost four dogs to cancer through the years.

“My veterinarian says 50% of dogs die of cancer these days, and that none of the cancers my dogs have had have been related,” says Horsfield. “But that doesn’t make the news any easier when it’s your fifth dog with the diagnosis.”

New treatment delivers the right stuff

When Horsfield contacted the Animal Health Foundation to let them know about Kiss’ diagnosis, they told her that Pet Partners had grant monies from the Petco Foundation’s Pet Cancer Awareness campaign to help therapy dogs with their cancer treatments.

A $3,000 grant provided help with Kiss’ surgery and chemotherapy. “We had already spent thousands on Sheila’s treatments, so we really needed this support to help Kiss,” says Horsfield.

In the past, doctors might have amputated Kiss’ leg because of the difficulty in removing the entire tumor. But a new therapy combined surgical removal of the tumor with chemotherapy beads implanted directly into the tumor site. “The beads dissolve over four to five weeks releasing chemotherapy drugs to where it’s needed most,” says Horsfield.

So far, the results are good. The tumor hasn’t grown back, but Horsfield checks the leg daily, since if it returns, it will come back in the same spot, doctors say. She and Kiss are making therapy visits again, and Kiss is participating in some of her favorite sport activities on a limited basis.

“She won’t officially be out of the woods for 18 more months,” says Horsfield. “But in the meantime, we’ve got our sassy girl back. I am grateful for the help in saving her life. I never had kids, so my dogs are everything to me.”

 

The Power of a Therapy Dog Visit

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Recently retired team John Smead and Kasey shared the following experience with us at Children’s Hospital of Orange County:

John told us about a special day at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (Anaheim, CA):

Kacey and John went into a room with a 9 year old boy with leukemia who had not really been eating and didn’t even want to get out of bed.

When his mom read him the card that we give all the kids (there is a part that says she is a picky eater and shy when she meets people for the first time), he looked at Kacey…he then got out of bed and sat next to her and said “wow sometimes you don’t feel like eating either – nice to meet you Kacey”.