The Ringworm Post

It’s an inevitable fact of animal shelter life: sooner or later ringworm’s coming to town. Every shelter deals with it and more than once. It infiltrated the APCSM last spring and then just this past Monday it reared it’s ugly head again. Yuk. So what is it? How do we contract, contain, and treat it at the shelter? What does it mean going forward. Strap in ladies and gentlemen because this is The Ringworm Post!

First things first: what is ringworm? Well, it’s not a worm for one thing; in fact there are no worms involved at all. It’s a fungus that grows on the skin and presents as a rash that looks like a worm curled into a ring under the skin, hence the name. For perspective think athlete’s foot, that’s a fungus too. It doesn’t present immediately but can incubate for 7-21 days before the distinctive rash develops along with skin flaking and hair/fur loss on the affected area. Most often we see it present on the head and ears of an animal and we are ALWAYS on the lookout for it because it’s highly contagious. If we even suspect a cat may have “the worm” we segregate it until we’re sure one way or the other.

The shelter takes a number of precautions to keep everyone healthy. First, we clean every day! That means each individual cage is cleaned with a special cleaning solution, all food and water dishes are sanitized every day, all laundry goes through a bleach cycle, toys too. Floors are scrubbed and mopped with a bleach solution and a special cleaning product called Kennel-Sol. In fact, while the shelter doesn’t open to the public until noon or 1pm staff is here at 8am. We need that 4-5 hours just to clean to our standards each day.

The next thing we do is keep both ourselves and the public clean between “interactions.” If you’ve been to the APCSM you’ll have seen hand sanitizer everywhere. That’s because every time we touch an animal we sanitize. If we pet a cat we sanitize immediately after. If we hold a guinea pig, we sanitize. If we touch a dog, we sanitize. This not only keeps us safe but it also prevents the spread of anything that might be on one animal to any other. So if we’re doing all this cleaning, sanitizing, and taking all of these preventative measures, how do we get ringworm at all?

Animals can contract ringworm in a number of ways. The spores are incredible hardy outside and can survive for up to a year without a host. They can live in the soil as well as on bedding, brushes, furniture, rugs, etc. It often enters a shelter on a cat (simply because we take in more stray cats that have been out in the elements than dogs, who are usually surrendered by owners) and it’s extremely contagious so it can spread like wildfire once it gets in. It can actually spread as easily as hair follicles falling off the cat during the shedding process and coming in contact with another cat. Here are some other ways it happens:

  • If infected kitty is in a kennel with another cat underneath and kitty sheds that fur can spread the disease on the cat underneath.

  • If any staff member or volunteer doesn’t sanitize after touching infected kitty whatever animal the human touches next is exposed.

  • At some point during shelter hours if a potential adopter pets infected kitty and then without sanitizing their hands in between pets another one then that animal is exposed.

  • If someone plays with infected kitty with a toy and then puts that toy back in the toy bin instead of the laundry pile for bleaching the spores can get on anything the toy touches and then all the cats that play with that toy are exposed.

In 24 hours ringworm can spread from that one infected kitty to the whole cat room. So once we find it we take serious measures to stop it.

When we found the first case of ringworm this time it was actually due to staff being extra cautious. A cat was surrendered with what a veterinarian had told the owner was a flea allergy. Staff accepted the cat based on the diagnosis but kept the cat in the evaluation area and ran a ringworm check just in case. When the test came back positive we immediately quarantined the cat but it was already too late. One of the cats that had been in a cage in proximity to our patient zero went onto the adoption floor and when we checked, he showed symptoms. It had officially entered the cat room on Monday afternoon, less than 72 hours after we accepted the infected cat. We closed the shelter the following day and began sterilization and treatment procedures for every single cat in the shelter.

IMG_1027Treatment for ringworm in the shelter looks like a cross between the TV show ER and Holi, the Indian festival of colors. Staff don full sterilization gear and dip every cat in a lyme-sulfur solution that not only kills ringworm but temporarily dyes the cat yellowish orange. As you can imagine, the cats are not consulted about this. To keep moral up we turn on “the tunes” which this time around alternated between early Christmas music and classic rock. The cat room is completely sterilized and any furniture that can’t be bleached is tossed.

If you’ve gotten this far you might have a couple of questions. FAQ’s we encounter during a ringworm outbreak include:

Is it contagious to humans?

Yup. That’s why we have hand sanitizer everywhere and ask the public not to stick their fingers through the cages. We don’t think any humans who visited us on Sunday would have contracted it but just in case you can see what symptoms on a human look like here.

I adopted an animal this past weekend. Is it infected?

We caught this case very quickly and we think we have it well contained. Remember, the patient zero cat never went onto the adoption floor. What we’ve done though is sent out an email to everyone who adopted a cat this past weekend with symptoms to look for and what to do if they think they see ringworm on their cat.

When can I adopt/surrender/visit a cat?

We’re not going to open for cat adoptions or surrenders or adoptions until we’re sure it’s gone. We’re sure it’s contained right now so we will be adopting and taking dogs and small animals but for cats be prepared to go to another shelter or wait for at least 2 weeks.

What’s happening to the cats?

As we started treatment we took the cats that we think had been exposed to ringworm and quarantined them. They will be treated and made available for adoption once they are well. We are also treating every cat in residence with the lyme-sulfur dip to be absolutely safe. If you would like to help sponsor the care of a ringworm affected cat please consider donating to our Life Is Precious Fund.

How can I help?

We’ve created a “Ringworm Revenge” wish list in Amazon with everything from bleach to sterile gowns. If you can help us out there we’d really appreciate it. We also need towels and flat sheets because we had to toss so many. Finally, we also need your help educating people so that everyone understands how seriously we take cleanliness at the APCSM and the welfare of our animals, and managing a ringworm outbreak.

Thanks for bearing with us as we treat the animals. If you have any other questions please feel free to call the shelter. We are always happy to talk.

The Old Man and Me

Chapter 2: Coffee

Making coffee is the second thing I do in the morning, right after I let Little Bit out for her morning piddle.  It’s an iron clad routine. Weekday or weekend, lazy summer Sunday or Christmas morning the first thing I do is let Little Bit out.  Then I make coffee.  I have a Keurig Rivo espresso machine.  They’re discontinued now but Keurig still makes the pods and it works just fine for me.  I stand at the counter and run the machine through twice to clear any grit in the water, then two long pulls of Lavazza Delicato blend espresso and I let the attached steamer heat up 6oz of milk to pour on top, hot and foamy.  The whole process takes roughly 5 minutes and I often pop over to the slider somewhere in between pulls to let Little Bit inside and see what, if anything, Bella has left for us in the night.

The morning after the old man’s arrival though something new adds itself to that “ironclad routine.”  Just after turning on the Rivo I see, or rather hear, the old man padding in from the dining room towards me and meowing at the top of his ancient lungs. I have found over years of cat ownership and many cats both resident and foster, that each cat has his or her own distinct meow.  Floof, for example, has a full-throated, deep “MAO” that he seems to wrap his whole jaw around and push out from inside like an opera singer.  Bella chirps a short alto “mrup” and Charlie has such a high pitched voice that he could sing for an Italian boys choir.  The old man’s voice is like listening to the crumpling of ancient yellowed paper.  It crackles.  You can hear the raspy age in his meow and when he stutters through the end of one he starts another almost immediately, as though he thinks I might not notice he’s there.  He’s incredibly loud. When he arrives at my feet he butts his head against my legs and, once he’s sure I’ve spread them enough to make room, winds his way through them and back again, scenting me.  He continues meowing until I reach down and rub his head, then he stops and cocks it back to give me access to the spot just under his right ear.  I scratch it and when his eyes drift closed we share a moment of understanding because I do the same thing when Steve rubs my feet.  Then I laugh a little because when Steve does rub my feet I almost always think, “God, I love this man.” And looking at the cat’s face I believe he might be thinking the same thing about me just now.  The milk steamer beeps to let me know it’s finished and I pour the froth over my half full mug of coffee.  Then I carry the cup over, let Little Bit (who’s barking by now) inside, and go back to pick up the old man.  In the past day I’ve learned that in addition to the base of his tail, arthritis also plagues his front shoulder joints and back legs so I carefully avoid the sore spots when I lift him and carry him over to set him next to my spot on the sofa.  I know that my lap is uneven so I decide to let him navigate it himself which he does, picking his way over my thighs to settle facing the computer screen balanced on the arm of the sofa.  And there we stay.  I check CNN and Facebook and keep a running monologue up for him.  We check my APCSM email and I ask him what he thinks about upcoming events.  When 7:30 rolls around I know I need to wake the boy up for school and get ready for work but the old man’s so content that I linger awhile longer.  “I’ll just leave my hair wet and put it in a braid.” I tell him.  When I finally do get up to start the day I gently place him on the sofa where I had been sitting, where it’s warm, but he doesn’t seem to be interested without me there.  As soon as he knows that I’m not coming back he jumps down and wanders off towards the sunroom.


From the day he was born the boy has been a notoriously poor waker.  It’s not just that he’s slow to rouse in the morning, he wakes up physically angry at the world for turning again while he slept, at school for existing, at me for making him go to said school, and at the sun for daring to breach the sky in the first place.  Normally he’s a sweet, if energetic, kid who’s a joy to be around but in the mornings?  Yikes.  Even though I don’t drop him off until 8:30 I wake him an hour earlier with an eye toward the inevitable moans, attempts to go back to sleep, and shouted exclamations that, “YES I’m getting DRESSED!  I heard you the FIRST TIME!!!!!” On the old man’s first morning he stomps down the stairs, socks in his hand and murder on his mind.  “Do we have any CHEERIOS???”

“Excuse me was I rude to you just now?”

The floor suddenly becomes very interesting.

“I don’t think I was.”


“If I’m being polite to you I think you should be polite to me back, don’t you?”



“Hey, is that the cat from last night?”

Sometimes you have to pick your battles. “Thank you for asking nicely.  Yes he is.”

“He’s 20, right? How old is that in cat years?”

“Three Million.  There are cheerios in the cupboard.”

“No.  It’s only 140 right? Seven years for every people year.”

He grabs the cheerios and pours far too many into a bowl.  Dispensing with a spoon he scoops up a small handful of cereal and pops it in his mouth as he perches on a chair at the kitchen table and regards the old man laying in an early morning sunbeam.

“Is he gonna die?”

“Everything dies honey but I’m not expecting him to go tomorrow.”

Another handful of cereal and I start my second cup of coffee. Please God, it’s too early for this conversation.

“Is he the oldest cat in the world?”

“I don’t think so but you can google it.”

“If he is can we get him in the Guinness book?”

Thank you God!  I can’t handle doing the death talk with the 10 year old at 8am but Guinness book conversations? That I can do.

“Why don’t you google ‘oldest cat in the world’ first and see if he’s a contender.”

And that’s all it takes.  The morning monster is banished for another day as my inquisitive and now fully awake boy slides off his chair and carries the still-too-full bowl of cheerios into the living room to grab his laptop and research the oldest cat in the world.  Little Bit follows him and jumps into the worn, brown leather recliner with the full expectation that once he finishes he’ll forget to take the bowl to the sink and she’ll be the lucky recipient of any leftover cheerios.

*The oldest cat in the world is named Cream Puff. He died in 2005 at the age of 38 years and 3 days.  Thank you Google!

What Happens “When Life Is Precious” Runs Out Of Money?

A Candid Conversation With Kim K.

Friends of the APCSM will know that the shelter was recently blindsided by the sudden health crisis of resident guest dog Jodi on Friday, October 13th. If you’re not familiar with the story you can read it here but the upshot is that Jodi is currently paralyzed from her middle down and looking at a long and expensive road full of physical therapy and medications on her way to a full and meaningful life.

At the shelter we are dedicated to treating the medical needs of any animals that come in but we’ve also made it part of our mission not to turn any animal that needs our help away if we can possibly help it. Jodi’s story is just the latest in what has been an exceptionally busy year of treating animals with medical needs above and beyond typical at the APCSM, animals like:

  • Little One, the kitten with the broken leg

  • Arwen, the cat with the jaw tumor

  • Bella, the dog with cancer

  • Emme the Chinchilla with severe eye infections in both eyes

  • Bob Marley, the cat with severe dread-lock like mats

and of course, the Great Ringworm Outbreak of 2017 (as a side note I truly believe we should start selling t-shirts that read “I survived the Great Ringworm Outbreak of 2017”). Part of this “popularity” is, ironically, because we’re becoming more and more successful. This year has marked an upswing in visibility programs for the shelter ranging from television appearances on WBZ’s Pet Parade, to radio interviews and Pet Of The Week mentions on several stations, to new events like Dogtoberfest and Pages With Pets which let the community know about who we are and what we do. This is all fantastic because the more people know about the APCSM, the more people will come to adopt our animals. The other side however is that as more people learn about the shelter and it’s mission word has gotten out that if someone has an animal to surrender they can bring it to the APCSM and not only will we find it a new home but we’ll treat any medical issues and get the animal healthy first. We do this with money that we take from a fund dedicated for this purpose, called “Life Is Precious.” The money comes from donations that people have specifically asked go towards the medical care of animals in need. In fundraiser speak, it’s “restricted” to that purpose. In 2017 we have taken in more animals that need special care than ever before and so far this year alone we’ve spent over 30K in above-the-norm animal medical care. For the record, that’s a lot more than we’ve taken in for the same purpose which finally gets us to the title of this week’s blog post. What happens when Life Is Precious runs out of money which, in case you were wondering, we did somewhere around 10am on Saturday, October 14. That’s when Jodi had her MRI.

It took a bit of explanation to get here so so I’ll cut to the chase. The first thing that happens when LIP goes dry is that we start to run a tab. Over the years we’ve built a great relationship with both of our partner veterinary offices, VCA South Shore for emergency services (think Jodi’s sudden paralysis) and Lloyds for non-emergencies and ongoing needs (Jodi’s long term physical therapy). These two great businesses not only give us a significant discount on services but they also extend us credit when funds get tight. In the interest of transparency, we currently have a tab of around 6K with the VCA and Lloyd’s sends us another big number that we pay off every month.

The next thing that will happen is that we’ll have to suspend treatments for animals in need. That’s not only painful for us but trickier than it sounds. You see, if someone comes in with an animal in need of treatment we can refer them to other shelters that may be able to help or even some low cost veterinary clinics that we know of; we hate sending them away but we will if we have to. If animal currently in residence gets sick or injured though, we’re in trouble. Again in the interest of transparency we do have the capability to euthanize at the APCSM and we do it occasionally. If someone comes in with a terminal animal and can’t afford the veterinary bill for euthanasia we’ll help. As another example, sometimes Brockton Animal Control will come in with an animal they’ve picked up that’s sick or badly injured past the point of help so we’ll do it then. However, LIP has always afforded us the luxury of being able to say that if an animal can be treated it will be treated. The state of the fund right now puts that in jeopardy and believe me, it’s torturing us here. We practice plenty of preventative care at the APCSM, keeping animals up to date with shots and testing, feeding good quality food, maintaining clean facilities, and washing or sanitizing our hands after every animal contact to cut down on the spread of any germs. All of this hard work means that so far we haven’t had any cases that require additional medical care but we all know that it can’t last forever and we dread the possibility that an animal will get sick before we can replenish the fund and pay off our debt.

Right about now you’re thinking this is the part where I guilt you and ask you for money.

I’m not going to guilt you and ask you for money. Well … not today.

We have 8,000 likes on Facebook and our website sees thousands more in unique visits every month. Our mailing list is over 7,000 strong and that’s not even counting the people who receive our monthly e-newsletter. In short, a lot of people like animals and like the way we help them. We’re proud of that and want to keep doing it. Keep growing the shelter, keep helping connect animals with their forever families, keep treating animals in need. To do that we need to be open and clear about when, where, and how we spend our money. We need to let you know how we spend it and what happens when we run out of it. That’s how we become and stay Southeastern Massachusetts’ community animal shelter.

Tips for Keeping your Elderly Dog Healthy

This week we have a special guest contributor to our blog: Matt Barnette

Matt is a dog enthusiast and blogger. When he’s not working on the Dog Dojo, you can find him exploring the mountains and country with his 3 dogs.   He’s written a great post for us today on caring for an elderly dog.  I really enjoyed it and we hope you do too!!

Tips for Keeping your Elderly Dog Healthy


Anybody who owns a dog knows how much responsibility it is and how attached you can get. Once you adopt a dog, you will discover all the little quirks and personality traits, including loyalty.

Loyalty is one of the leading reasons why dogs remain one of the best pets and companions. Over time, our bond with our dog grows and soon enough if hard to picture life without them.

The unfortunate reality of dog ownership is dog’s age a lot faster than us. Although aging doesn’t mean the end of your adventure with your furry friends, it does mean there are a new set of responsibilities. While human beings can take care of themselves, our dogs need us to ensure they are getting the proper care.

It’s crucial for us to take certain health steps to make our dog’s senior years more enjoyable, and even extend their life. Take a look at the following tips to help you keep your elderly dog healthy and active for as long as it lives:

Visits to the Vet:

Scheduling regular checkups for your pup is an easy step to stay on top of your senior dog’s health. Unlike man, dogs don’t have an idea of what is happening to their system. They need regular checkups from their doctors that will help determine their physical and mental health.

Every 6 months, or as recommended by a vet to get a complete picture of your dog’s health to ensure that they are not sick. Animal physicians will help in determining the mobility of your dog.

Specialized Diets:

As dogs age, their diet starts to become more tricky. While some dogs may become less mobile and gain weight, some elderly dogs may have issues keeping weight on. After you have consulted a vet about your dog’s weight, start giving it specialized diets for dogs their age.

Carefully take note of everything that your pet consumes, since it can affect its health later on. Avoid feeding your dog junk food, and aim to keep all their food healthy. Taking special care of elderly dogs helps them to remain immune to many diseases that aged canines face. Moreover, a healthy diet for your dog will help it stay at a healthy weight and may even increase a few years of its life.


It is important to groom your pups from time to time for sanitary purposes, and also for the dog’s general wellbeing. When your dog is groomed, the professionals focus on its skin and fur.

Any wounds that may be present are revealed and can be treated immediately. As dogs age, their skin tends to soften, which is why they will scratch themselves, which can lead to infections or other skin issues. Grooming your pups will help them to avoid different bacterial infections and stay strong.

Oral Care:

Most people do not take their dog’s oral health very seriously. This mistake can lead to several diseases in your canine’s mouth.

Make it a habit of brushing your dog’s teeth often to help achieve oral health. If your dog does not appreciate the idea of its teeth being brushed, then use different dental toys that can help clean its mouth. Take your dog to a dental vet and discuss how you can take care of its oral hygiene to help prevent mouth ulcers and other diseases.

Special Accommodations:

To keep your dog physically fit, you will need to take care of its various needs according to its health. For instance, if your dog has joint problems, then avoid stairs or long walks, for it can be excruciating for your dog. Similarly, provide bedding that will allow the most comfort for your dog, and give it your full attention it if it’s sick and needs rest.

Treat your pet as you would your child to ensure a healthy and painless recovery. Receiving affection is one of the fastest treatments for your elderly dog.

Dogs give us their whole lives and give us complete and unconditional companionship. It’s our job as owners to help them with their health and wellbeing, to ensure their senior years are comfortable and pain free.

Are You Ready For The Paws In The Park Dog Olympics?

dog-olympics-logo-300pxThat’s right, we said Dog Olympics!  All dogs and their handlers are welcome to compete in these most glorious games free of charge!

The great games will start at noon with a Parade to the competition stage and there will begin an epic contest of strength, smarts, and style!!

First the Loudest Bark and Best Tail Wagger contests will determine who are the loudest and proudest among the doggie competitors.

Next a test of love and smarts as we determine which of our four legged Olympians gives the Best Kiss and does the Best Trick!

Finally our canine competitors will show off their most fashionable selves in our Costume Contest!   

An awards ceremony will be full of proud puppies and parents and the winner of each competition receives a $10 gift card courtesy of Especially For Pets!