Dr Polina Ilieva introduces you: Anubis (Hypothyroidism in dogs)

Posted on 17 June 2019

Dr Polina Ilieva is a head veterinarian in “Franziska” clinic.
She has graduated at “Trakia” University in Stara Zagora and has had many specialization courses in Bulgaria and abroad.

Most people don’t know their dogs or cats can also have hormonal diseases and in fact, this happens quite often. Just like humans, the reasons for an animal to got sick from a hormonal disease are varying a lot – stress, bad food or life conditions, autoimmune conditions, cancer etc.

I often see hypothyroidism at dogs. Of course, pets suffer it too, but in my work with stray animals, it is very often met.

The thyroid gland is located in the throat, near the trachea. It produces the hormones T3 and T4 and their amount is controlled by another hormone – TSH, produced by the  pituitary gland, located in the brain.

If the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, the condition is called hypothyroidism. If it produces too many hormones, it is called hyperthyroidism.
In both cases the work of the whole organism changes.

Hypothyroidism can be inherited or cause by a variety of reasons – thyroid cancer, autoimmune diseases etc.

The truth is, that every sudden change in the mood or in the appearance of your dog, you must visit your vet – early diagnostic is half of the successful treatment.

– Sudden weight gain;
– Apathy;

– Hair loss;

– Pigmentation /spots on the skin)

Although it isn’t described in the literature, in my work I have met tens of cases, when hypothyroidism causes weight loss, instead of gain.

Laboratory tests of T3, T4 and TSH is sufficient for a certain diagnosis.


A dog with hypothyroidism will take hormone pills during its whole life. The medicines aren’t expensive and with good care, the dog can have long and normal life. Often checks of the hormone levels is required in order to determine the dosage of the medicine.


We took Anubis after he spent a few months roaming the streets of Vratza. For the small sized pet, the fear and the stress was so big, that his condition worsened extremely quickly.
In addition to the unnatural weight gain and baldness, he also has a secondary infection and dermatitis.

He is treated for a months now – hormones for the hypothyroidism and antibiotics for the secondary infections – and results are now visible.

Photo credit: Ivanka Patterson for Stardust Pictures

Vectorborn disease – the plague no one speaks of

Posted on 10 December 2018

Year after year, the climate in Bulgaria changes, the winter is softer, the average temperatures are getting higher and higher.

Probably this is the main reason for the wider spread of the vectoborn diseases in Bulgaria.

Unfortunately, as often happens here, instead of taking measures and informing the society, Bulgarian authorities prefer to deny the existence of these diseases and even – stopping the medicine import for them.

As if not speaking about it, the vectorborn diseases will disappear.

We prefer to speak, though. Most of the vectorborn disease are dangerous for people as well. And they are spread by insects – mosquitos, ticks, flies – creatures everywhere around us and our animals.

Each month hundred of new  dogs are accepted in “The Farm”

and they are all tested

If you haven’t made prophylaxis against these, you should test your pet, as soon as possible, and if negative – include the prophylaxis without delaying. It really is a matter of life and death.

Every dog, entering “The Farm” is tested for the most common diseases – anaplasmosis, erlichiosis, boreliosis, heartworm and leishmaniosis.
Sadly, too often they come out positive.
This is how it looks statistically:



Adopting a dog: Manual for use

Posted on 18 July 2018

Adopting your best friend from a shelter is generous and noble act. Fortunately, adopting becomes more and more popular way to get a pet in Bulgaria.

Yet, there are some misunderstandings and delusions, connected to this act and we would very much like to share them with you. Hopefully, we will manage to debunk them.

Delusion 1:
An adopted dog has no value

According Bulgarian laws, adopting a dog from a shelter is free and without any taxes or fees.

Sadly, for some people this mean, that the adopted dog doesn’t matter and has no value – it is a different kind of a dog, not as important as the dog you pay for.

It doesn’t matter at all where your dog comes from – it is a living creature with emotions, fears and memories! If you don’t think so, don’t get a dog, neither from a shelter nor a pedigree one!

Delusion 2:
Everything is better than life in a shelter

The amount of candidates, according who providing a good medical care, food, home and human company, is not necessary for adopted dogs, is way too big!

Too many people think that both dog and humans from the shelter should be grateful to any piece of bread, given to a shelter dog.

We all know even the best shelter is not a home. But adopting a dog means giving a home and family. Anything less than this means that probably you are not the best option and for the dog is better to wait a little bit longer in the shelter.

Delusion 3:

The adopted dog is not mine

(it belongs to the shelter)

Most of the candidates we meet are wonderful people, fully aware of the responsibility they are about to have. Yet, there are people, who consider the shelter is responsible for their adopted dog. Dewormings, annual vaccinations, vet bills, training – none of these isn’t their responsibility.  Once you adopt (or buy) a dog, it becomes your responsibility and you must fully aware of this.

Delusion 4:

Returning the adopted dog

Yes, we admit that sometimes there is nothing you can do and there is no way of providing good care further more. In cases like this, we also insist on taking the dog back in the shelter.
Yet, our experience shows, that many people consider “returning” the adopted dog to the shelter is something absolutely normal, even after you’ve been taking care of it for 2, 3, 5 years.
No, it is not normal. Your dog is not a chair from IKEA. And you are not “returning” it. You are abandoning it.



Delusion 5:

Adopted dogs don’t need medical care

Shelter dogs have strong immune system, they don’t need vaccines for the rest of their lives“
Adopted dog has no value, you don’t need to waste money on vets “

And many more idiotic beliefs, spread around. Our vets speak and explain but yet – only in one month, 3 of our adopted dogs were tested positive for heartworm, clearly because adopters didn’t take seriously our warnings.

Delusion  6:
Medical guarantee

It doesn’t matter if your dog comes from a shelter or a breeder, if it is a puppy or an adult – there is no such thing as medical guarantee. Do not expect that your adopted dog is not going to get sick. Ever.
All living creatures get sick sometimes. And the responsibility, including the financial part, for the treatment, will be yours. It is fine, if you cannot manage unexpected situation and ask for help. But it is wrong to expect that all medical expenses for your adopted dog will be paid by the shelter.

Delusion 7:

Adoption is made for your convenience

If you want to adopt a dog, the whole world must go in a way, that there is no need for you to make any efforts. Wrong. Taking care of a dog means you are willing to invest time and efforts in taking a dog. If you are not ready to do make any effort to get a dog, may be you are not ready to get a dog.

Delusion 8:

The adopted dog will be sick

Well, it depends also on the shelter you take your dog from as well, but still – most animal welfare organization invest much more efforts and money  in the dogs, than most of the merchants.

The dogs in “The Farm” are dewormed, deflead, vaccinated, tested for vector and infectious diseases and under the care of team of vets and professionals.

If you think of adopting a dog, make sure you are not into any of these delusions!

We tell you these things, not to change your mind and not adopting a dog.
We just want you to know, that taking a dog means giving it love, home and family forever.

If you are not willing to provide FOREVER HOME to a dog, just don’t take one!

Trap, Neuter and Return for novices

Posted on 13 September 2017

Many people believe that the Trap, Neuter and Return program cannot solve the stray dog and cat problem. There are also those who consider that the only way to get rid of the homeless animal population is by killing them all. In a few words we will try to explain why the sterilization is necessary, but also why it is insufficient to solve the entire problem.

Imagine a boat at sea. There are several holes in its hull which allow the water to enter. The people sitting inside bail the water out of the boat constantly – some using buckets, others cups. Nevertheless, the water keeps on filling the boat. This example, in a quite accurate manner, represents the burning problem with the stray animals.

The leaking holes are the sources of new stray dogs, while the water inside the boat represents the already existing stray animals. And no matter how hard we try to bail the water out of the boat, we will not make progress unless we plug the leaks.

What are the main sources of new dogs on the streets and what are the ways to eliminate them?

As you will see, from the table shown below, the sterilization of stray dogs solves only a fraction of the entire problem. For the final solution of this complex matter, there is an urgent need of comprehensive measures to be taken. Without them being taken, trying to clear the water out of the boat would be futile, while there will be more and more homeless animals roaming the streets.

Source of new stray animals Practices of solving the problem
Generations of stray dogs Sterilization and returning to their previous locations
Abandoned domestic dogs Mandatory microchipping and registration for domestic dogs; imposing fines for discarding dogs
Abandoned generations of domestic dogs Sterilization of domestic dogs; Education for owners


Natural migration



Artificial migration


The return of already neutered animals to their habitat  prevents the arrival of new animals;

Many municipalities deal with the problem by catching stray dogs and simply dumping them into another municipality. The correct way to solve this problem is strict control by the State toward the municipalities.


In Sofia, the biggest sources of new stray dogs are the unwanted generations of domestic, mostly courtyard dogs and guard dogs at warehouses, car parks and construction sites. The majority of stray dogs are now neutered, and subsequently we rarely encounter homeless mothers with puppies. At the same time, the number of puppies being dumped all the time is enormous.

Why sterilize homeless and domestic dogs (as opposed to being killed, taken to a shelter or adopting the homeless ones)?

The reason is, in their place will come newly cast animals that will accommodate themselves in the places left by the slaughtered/sheltered ones. However, the newcomers will not be neutered and therefore, will give birth twice a year. The return to the capture location of sterilized stray dogs prevents natural migration as a source of new stray dogs, and the castration of domestic animals (especially those that fall into high-risk groups – courtyard and guard dogs) interrupts the vicious circle of throwing away more and more puppy litters.

What exactly is the Trap, Neuter and Return Program?

Every dog captured from the street is being castrated, dewormed internally, vaccinated against rabies, and returned to the location it was captured.

What kind of dogs cannot be returned to the street after being processed?

There are dogs that do not fit into the Trap, Neuter and Return model and cannot be returned locally because:

  • They will not survive there (former domestic dogs, discarded puppies, sick animals);
  • They are socially unacceptable (too big and “scary” for people; aggressive or noisy);
  • Their habitats are listed according the law, as areas banned to stray animals (yards of hospitals; kindergartens; schools).

Many people are upset that we do not take every stray dog they encounter into the Farm. Aside from our limited capacity, the reason is that we are only trying to shelter animals from the three groups mentioned above.

GALLUP: 50% of the dog owners dump their unwanted pups

Posted on 27 August 2017

A poll by Gallup International, ordered by animal welfare NGO Animal Rescue Sofia shows there are 2 400 000 owned dogs in Bulgaria in total. The number of dog owners equals the number of smokers in the country, two third of the dog-owners also have a cat.

Two shocking facts have surfaced in this study:
-80% of the owned dogs in Bulgaria are being cared for outside the house;
-50% of the owners admit that they dump the unwanted puppies their dogs produce.

The stray dog problem in Bulgaria will not be solved until true control is enforced on dog owners and responsible dog ownership is introduced through an education program, Animal Rescue Sofia comments.

“Only 17% of the owned dogs are neutered, and that is only in the cities” said ARS spokeswoman Stella Raycheva for Btv. She adds: “In the 4 years since the efforts to decrease the dog population began, the Ministry of Agriculture has not fined a single person for pet abandonment.”

– – –

A more detailed analysis of the survey can be found PDF HERE (sorry, Bulgarian only)

S. Raycheva comments the poll for Btv – VIDEO HERE (sorry, Bulgarian only)

A guide to responsible pet ownership

Posted on 09 May 2017

Sorry, only available in Bulgarian

Newborn Kitten Rescue and Care

Posted on 22 May 2014

feeding 3

If we had to give a charming expression of sad news, it would have been the face of a baby kitten that had just been fed by its foster parent. Last year it was very difficult for all of us who are helping animals in need, especially orphaned newborn kittens, because of the huge number of cases of abandoned kittens. The sad news is that, unfortunately this year things are even worse. Since March we are receiving tens of cases per week about abandoned newborn kittens that need our help to survive.

growing up (1)

Each story of those babies begins in the hardest way – they are separated from their moms when they need them the most. The chances for survival of so young babies without their mom-cats are very slim. They need 24/7 care from their foster guardian for at least a month. The newborn kittens are vulnerable tiny babies.

3 4

The most effective ways to help abandoned newborn kittens are two: to be adopted by a nursing cat or to be hand-raised by a foster guardian. The proper care for newborn kittens is crucial for the survival of the baby. Therefore, in order to help everyone who wants to save orphaned newborn kittens we have created a group in Facebook named: “Newborn Kittens Care – Новородени Котета в Беда.”

feeding 1 feeeding 2

We are posting some important tips for proper care for the newborns.

1.When you find newborn kittens look around for their mom cat. In some cases the cat would be too scared to get closer to you but she will stay around. Ask people in the area about the cat.

2.Warm up the kittens. Before you feed them or do anything else, you need to be sure that the kittens are warm. You can use bottles with hot water covered with soft clothing or heating pads with rice. NEVER Feed Cold kittens!!! This is extremely important. Feeding kittens with temperature below the normal is not doing anything good. It can actually cause diarrhea and potentially increase the risks for the life of the kitten.

3.Feed the newborns. Use special kitten milk from a veterinarian clinic. In case you cannot find special milk you can use either formula for human babies or home-made recipes. Feed the kittens ONLY with warm formula – around 39 degrees. It is crucial NEVER to feed kittens with cold formula or formula with room temperature. Only warm formula is appropriate! Formula that is not warm enough cannot be digested and causes diarrhea. Never feed the kittens only with cow milk.

4.Feed the kittens with dropper or special kitten bottle. Do not use syringe. Feed the kitten only in the pose it would naturally nurse from its mom. See the photo below or look on the internet.

5.Stimulate the kittens with warm dump cloth and gentle massaging the area of the anus and the bellies. Kittens should pee every time.


Additional helpful tips:

–          weigh the kittens daily to monitor whether they gain weight

–          monitor the kitten poop – in cases of diarrhea, blood, mucus or constipation you must seek veterinarian help

–          keep the kittens dry and warm. They should not get wet, because they easily catch cold.

–          explore the kittens for any eggs of flies or other parasites and clean them gently.

growing up 3 growing up


Three women and a dream (To say nothing of the dogs)

Posted on 27 October 2013

“Some women met in an online forum” may be the opening scene for a number of Bulgarian initiatives and organizations. The one that we are talking about here is about a few girls and a lot, really and truly a lot, of dogs. This is a story about the beginning and the end of the dog shelter in Bogrov. A tale about love, hope, bravery, kindness and of course – the dogs.

ot segashnia ni priut (4)

Once upon a time there were three girls. They happened to meet in an Internet dog lovers discussion board. Although completely different, they had a couple of things in common – the love of dogs and clear understanding that a lot of work is required to ease the pain and suffering of the stray dogs living on the streets of Sofia.

At the beginning they all had jobs and devoted their free time to tend to the dogs in the municipal dog shelter of Seslavtsi – finding people to take care of the dogs temporarily here in Bulgaria, looking for suitable adopters in the Netherlands, organizing transport and sending them off to a new life. Other members of the discussion board tried to help as much as they could and slowly a supportive group of working dog lovers emerged and started changing the world around them. One dog at a time.

It happened that one day the girls got the golden opportunity not given to everyone in life – to fulfill their dream, if only they can muster the courage to do it. It was 2010 and the city council were looking for someone to work for 3 years in the biggest, at the time, dog shelter – supporting up to 500 poor souls. Our three heroines thought about it, fretted over the decision, then took a deep breath and jumped in. This is how the adventure called Animal Rescue Sofia started.

ot segashnia ni priut (5)

A lot has passed since then, our girls grew up to be the crazy dog ladies that always lurked somewhere in them. They don’t have the security of the regular work hours and good salary now, but how inspiring it is to know that everything depends on you? I know it, because I am one of them – the crazy ones, the ones that believe the stray dogs’ problems can be solved only by people who care. We have laws, we have methodology, the only thing that is left is to put the work in. And there is a lot of work to be done.

For the three years Bogrov dog shelter is functioning we managed to find homes to 2300 dogs from the streets of Sofia and to neuter 5400 more. Written down these numbers seems unreal, but try to count to 2300 and you’ll see – we’ve taken care and cared for thousands, each having their place in our hearts. So many doomed and unloved strays now have their own family in Bulgaria, Austria, Germany or the Netherlands.

volunteers (8) volunteers (14)

You may be wondering how we pay for all this without the help of the government, EU support initiatives or an international charities. Believe it or not, the whole shelter is funded by only private donations, people who know us and believe that everything they donate will be used in the best way to save animals, slimming down the number of strays on the streets and bettering our city. And those people are not rich – our highest donation is 130 euro, with the bulk of them being between 5 and 20 levs (3-10 euros). The secret is in the community spirit – everyone gives within their means, so we can all help our little silent friends.

Whether because we believed and continue to believe that Bulgarians have big hearts and we can solve our own problems, or because enthusiasm is contagious when it yields results, but somehow we can reach people. The shelter is open 365 days a year and in addition to the doctors and carers a lot of volunteers give their time to work here. I dare think this kind of self-driven community spirit is the civil society that we wish for in Bulgaria.

ot segashnia ni priut (1)

But enough said from the human perspective. I thought long and hard whether, like many of my colleagues, to tell some deeply upsetting and heartbreaking stories that will touch your soul and leave a mark. Like the one of the little baby Mook – a puppy, that got two of its legs cut off by some mindless maniac – now a loved companion in a wonderful home in Canada. Or the one of Zoran, the malamute, who we got from the police cut in pieces, confused and angry, who is now enjoying life in his new home in Sofia. Or Mecho and Missy, now “citizens” of Germany, who had suffered someone incredibly evil pouring acid in their ears. Or the one about Tihomir – the living skeleton… And hundreds upon hundreds of abused, beaten, tortured, sick, broken, agonizing dogs that had came to us on the brink of death, who now live a second life in a new home, with no memories of their past misfortunes.


But no. I am not going to emotionally blackmail you. We decided to be the people who take care of the unwanted and unloved and we will continue doing it. Now, three years after we started our journey, when we have proven our ability to deliver results, the end of our contract with Municipality of Sofia is near. We have to leave the shelter by December and are left with no place to continue our work. There is no point in whining about all the hurdles we had to overcome to get the land for the Bogrov shelter. Our time is running out, there are 2 months left to fix a new deal and we know that the only way for something to happen is if we do it ourselves.

Our little story can end here – without the happy ending, however anyone who cares can help us change this. We have found a property that is perfect for our needs and we can continue our work there – a big unused dairy farm. The only thing left is to find the money to buy it. The price is 210 000 euro – as much as a big apartment in the city, but still more than we can afford.

tajni ot priuta (4)

I believe that we can find more people with big hearts. I believe that this home for the unwanted can continue to exist. I believe, no matter how hard and un-achievable it seems, that “some girls” can find the funds and give shelter to the most miserable inhabitants of the city streets. I believe, because I can see the impossible happening every day. No one can help the whole world, but everyone can help a bit – today, here and now. Because there is no one else to do it for us and their fate is in our hands.

Stella Raycheva, “Women today” magazine, October 2013

How to help us?

ot segashnia ni priut (3)

Even if we are not rich, we have the numbers. If you think that ARS needs to continue forward, you can help. Every bit counts and even a small donation is of real importance – a matter of life and death for hundreds, no, thousands poor homeless souls.

CLICK HERE for online donations through and

Bank details of The Farm of Dreams:


IBAN (EU) – BG50FINV91501215999956

IBAN (BGN) – BG07FINV91501215999954

ACCOUNT HOLDER: “A R Sofia Foundation”

novia priut (1) novia priut (2)


Posted on 23 July 2013


In the country where guide-dogs are altogether denied entry to public buildings and transport it is no surprise that the Municipal councils in the largest sea-side cities have voted a prohibition to walk dogs on the beach.

It is just as un-surprising that we, the people who love dogs, do not want to spend our vacations without them (what kind of vacation would that be!) and find ways to enjoy Bulgaria’s sea and mountains in the company we like.

Luckily, there still are some places at our seaside where you don’t have to walk across pink sweaty bodies to get to the water and there is a way to have a great time with your dog and enjoy the nature.

Such a wonderful vacation already happened to the Ianevi family – Atanas, Yana, Michaela and their flying dogzilla – Maya, adopted from Bogrov shelter.

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You know Maya and Atanas from their great sports achievments. If you have the desire and enthusiasm to join their colorful group – you are welcome to Agility Club Bulgaria! Dog sport is not just a fun thing to do, it is also a great bonding time and great for your health.

Click HERE for a list of hotels in Bulgaria that accept guests with dogs.


Some useful tips for the people traveling with their dogs for a sea vacation:

To avoid nasty intestinal surprises in the car – don’t feed your dog if you have a long drive, or at least 6-8 hours before you get in the car. Take regular bakes and offer your dog water to drink.

At the beach – always carry fresh water with you and have it available to the dog. You can’t explain to your friend that salt water is dangerous and before you know it, the thirsty animal will be full of salty poison which will only dehydrate it more.

Don’t let your dog run around as much as it wants to – it has no clue about sun protection and you might be risking a thermal shock in the middle of nowhere. Provide a shadow and make sure it is using it as often as necessary.

Never, ever leave your dog alone in the car. No matter if it’s parked in the shade or windows are open. Just don’t.

And of course – be a responcible “parent” to your 4-legged child. Noone has to love your dog, especially if their mouths are full of sand or their towels have been used as for a roll after you took your dog out of the water. Control your dog, it’s your responsibility.

Parasites – our unwanted pets

Posted on 25 April 2013

Sorry, this article is available in Bulgarian only…


10 things you should learn from your dog

Posted on 25 December 2012


1.   When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
2.   Run, romp, and play daily.
3.   Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
4.   Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
5.   When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
6.   No matter how you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing.
7.   Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
8.   When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit closely and nuzzle them gently.
9.    Never pretend to be something you’re not.
10.  Be loyal.

IMG_5157 IMG_5153


GALLUP: 50% of the dog owners dump their unwanted pups

Posted on 03 December 2012

A poll by Gallup International, ordered by animal welfare NGO Animal Rescue Sofia shows there are 2 400 000 owned dogs in Bulgaria in total. The number of dog owners equals the number of smokers in the country, two third of the dog-owners also have a cat.

Two shocking facts have surfaced in this study:
-80% of the owned dogs in Bulgaria are being cared for outside the house;
-50% of the owners admit that they dump the unwanted puppies their dogs produce.

The stray dog problem in Bulgaria will not be solved until true control is enforced on dog owners and responsible dog ownership is introduced through an education program, Animal Rescue Sofia comments.

“Only 17% of the owned dogs are neutered, and that is only in the cities” said ARS spokeswoman Stella Raycheva for Btv. She adds: “In the 4 years since the efforts to decrease the dog population began, the Ministry of Agriculture has not fined a single person for pet abandonment.”

– – –

A more detailed analysis of the survey can be found PDF HERE (Bulgarian only)
S. Raycheva comments the poll for Btv – VIDEO HERE (Bulgarian only)