Adobe Animal Hospital, Los Altos
I am planning to adopt a dog from a shelter. I’m concerned that shelters might be breeding places for contagious diseases. What should I look for in order to make sure the dog I pick is going to be healthy?
I highly commend you for adopting a dog from a shelter. There are so many dogs at shelters that need and deserve loving, caring homes! All my dogs have been adopted as “rescues.” When evaluating a dog for possible adoption, one should assess both the behavior and the physical health of the dog. Pets can potentially be exposed to contagious diseases in any environment where there is a high concentration of animals with varying — or no — vaccine/medical history. Watch for these physical signs: If the animal is underweight; has evidence of diarrhea, which may be detectable as dried remnants on the fur; has a dull coat; has bald spots on the fur or is very itchy; labored breathing or coughing; or excessive discharge from the eyes or nose. These alone are not reasons to avoid adopting a specific animal, but discuss them with a vet. You should check if the animal has had any medical treatments or tests such as vaccinations, de-worming, and treatment for injuries or disease at the shelter. Be cautious if adopting a puppy that is not eating well, and showing signs of vomiting or diarrhea. If this puppy has parvovirus, it could be very sick and need hospitalization and intensive care. Soon after adopting an animal, I recommend you have him or her examined by a veterinarian to be sure it is healthy. Again, congratulations for choosing a shelter animal to adopt. They make amazing additions to any family!
Dr. Koga is a small animal practitioner at Adobe Animal hospital, where she’s worked since 1992. She graduated from the New York State college of Veterinary Medicine (Cornell) in 1988. She has four dogs, four cats, chickens, and fish.