by Dr. Jean Hofve & Jackson Galaxy
Library of Congress ISSN #1550-0764
Volume 7, No. 6  — August 2009

In this issue:

1. News Bites

  • California battles over declawing
  • Pet Airways takes off!
  • Are We Heading for Mandatory Vaccination?

2. Constipation in Cats
3. Veterinary Ethics
4. Rabies Challenge Fund Needs Support

New in our Free Article Library: Preventing Vaccine Adverse Effects

1. News Bites

California battles over declawing. In response to the high court victory of the West Hollywood declaw ban, the California Veterinary Medical Association rammed through a measure barring “laws contradictory to the practice of veterinarian medicine.” In other words, vets should be able to do anything they want as long as it fits within “the practice of veterinary medicine.” This new law doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2010. Meantime, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering banning declawing within its city limits, subsequent to passage of a recommendation to do so from its Commission of Animal Control and Welfare.  If the Supervisors can get it done before the end of the year, the law would stand despite the new state law. If you’d like to support the declaw ban, you can email the Supervisors at If you don’t live in San Francisco, you can still act: tourism is the city’s #1 industry, and it will make a difference if they know that your travel dollars will go elsewhere if they fail to outlaw declawing. (If you don’t know why we are opposed to declawing, or if you need more information about it, please see “Declawing: A Rational Look.”)

Pet Airways Takes Off! If you’ve ever had to travel a long distance with your cat, you know how difficult it can be! (See Traveling with Cats for tips on kitty road trips.) If your cat needed to be shipped by air, it got even more complicated. Few airlines allow pets in the cabin, and shipping them as cargo is fraught with danger (not to mention terrifying for your cat!) But a solution has finally appeared–Pet Airways is up and running! This unique service flies only pets, and only in the pressurized, temperature controlled cabin. They even provide the carrier! It’s a service long in coming, and we wish Pet Airways the best of success!

Are We Heading for Mandatory Vaccination? For our pets, the rabies vaccine has long been is a legal requirement. There are similar requirements for a variety of vaccines for children entering school. Now, there is concern that vaccination against “swine flu” may soon become mandatory for U.S. residents. Click here to find out how to protect your family.
cat colon

2. Constipation in Cats

One of the most common questions we get is about constipation (abnormal accumulation of feces and difficulty defecating), and similar but more serious conditions such as obstipation (complete obstruction of the colon by feces) and megacolon (damaged nerves and muscles in the colon causing an inability to defecate). Constipation is uncomfortable, even painful. Constipated cats may defecate (or try to) outside the litterbox, because they associate pain or discomfort with the box itself. Other signs of constipation include irritability, painful abdomen, lethargy, and poor appetite or even loss of appetite. Read more….

Check out Jackson Galaxy (Little Big Cat’s fabulous behaviorist) at his new website,, for information on solving cat behavior problems.

3. Veterinary Ethics

As the declawing debate heats up in California, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) updates its ethics policies, it is important to note that no American veterinarian (or physician, for that matter) has actually taken an oath to “do no harm.” While it’s commonly believed that they do, neither the Veterinarian’s Oath nor the Hippocratic Oath of today use that phrase.

In fact, the Veterinarian’s Oath is really directed toward “the benefit of society”–which in most cases refers to financial gain. “The relief of animal suffering” is only one of several uses for veterinary training; and in practice, it takes a distant back seat to the others. This is why routine abuse of animals in agriculture, science, and entertainment are tolerated–even supported–by the very people who should be at the forefront of protecting them.

Veterinarian’s Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

In regard to declawing, the AVMA’s policy states:

  • Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a zoonotic risk for its owner(s).
  • The AVMA believes it is the obligation of veterinarians to provide cat owners with complete education with regard to feline onychectomy.
  • (The full policy statement goes on to elaborate all the points that should be covered by such education. Of course, in real life, this rarely happens.)

What this means is that “preventive” declawing of kittens is against AVMA policy. Declawing of cats who do not engage in destructive scratching behavior is against AMVA policy. In other words, the majority of veterinarians in the U.S.–most of whom will gladly declaw cats simply upon request of the guardian–without providing behavior counseling and provision of alternatives, are directly violating AVMA policy.

If destructive scratching is a problem in your home, there are many humane alternatives to irreversible surgical amputation of the cat’s toes. See “Cats and Claws — Living Happily Ever After” for solutions!

4. Rabies Challenge Fund Needs Help

The goal of The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust is to extend the legally required interval for rabies boosters to 5 and then 7 years, based on the findings of the rabies challenge studies currently underway at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. If the studies’ results demonstrate that the rabies vaccine confers 5, and possibly 7, years of immunity, there would be a significant impact on controlling rabies and reducing adverse reactions associated with the vaccine.

The Rabies Challenge Fund relies on donations to finance the multi-year challenge studies that began in November 2007. Due to the economic downturn, the Fund has a $125,000 shortfall for the third year of the studies, scheduled for this fall. This deficit threatens the future of the research.

Costs for the studies’ third year are $175,000. Since January, they have raised nearly $50,000 of that amount. We need to have eighty percent of the total funding for the year’s budget in hand to begin the third year of the studies. Please contribute what you can, as soon as you can. All donations received will be used to finance the direct research costs of the rabies challenge studies. Click here for more information or to make a donation.

For less than a minute of your time every day, you can feed homeless animals and needy children, provide books and health care for kids, fund mammograms for women, and protect a patch of rainforest for all time. Where? At the Animal Rescue Site, of course! Just click on the buttons under each tab. You can even request a daily email reminder. Isn’t it worth a minute to do so much good?