Kevin Schargen, D.V.M
Bay Ridge Animal Clinic
Q: What are the medical risks associated with rescuing a dog or a cat? What should I be on the lookout for? Are they more prone to disease or health problems? I’ve heard that mixed breeds are actually healthier than purebreds, is that true?
A: Aside from good karma, adopting a pet from an animal shelter is a rewarding experience that yields countless benefits for both pet and human. The heavily researched perks include improved cardiovascular and mental health in humans who care for a well-behaved, well-trained pet. Animals, in return, are given a pass to leave an overpopulated and understimulated environment, and get to participate in the joyful and meaningful human-animal bond.
Adopting comes with similar health risks that exist when acquiring a pet from any source. Coming from a shelter setting though, there may be a greater chance that the animal will exhibit upper respiratory signs (nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing) or gastrointestinal upset (soft stool, vomiting, lack of appetite) that result from stress and overcrowding. Because most shelters in the U.S. employ a team of dedicated veterinarians and veterinary technicians, most pets you adopt from a shelter will already be spayed or neutered, up-to-date on their vaccinations, de-wormed, and on a course of therapy for any previously diagnosed diseases.
Due to varying incubation periods of disease-causing organisms, clinical signs of illness may not develop for a few days to a few weeks after the adoption date. Whether or not a newly adopted pet seems sick, he should have his first visit to a veterinarian within a week of adoption.
Another benefit of rescuing an animal, as opposed to purchasing from a pet store or breeder, is the fact that the animal is more likely to be a mixed breed. In general, when animals of different breeds produce offspring, those offspring are less likely to acquire certain genetic and environmental health problems. Experts refer it to as “hybrid vigor.”
From my point of view, there are so many benefits to adopting a shelter pet. Your bond will be stronger and you’ll know that you have saved a life.
ABOUT the Vet
Kevin Schargen practices veterinary medicine and surgery in New York City. He received a B.S. in animal science from Cornell University, followed by a B.Sc. in animal biology and a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. His travels have taken him to the far reaches of the world to work with animals—including Cambodia, Thailand, South India, and various islands in the South Pacific. His passion for animal health and preservation of the human-animal bond started when he was a child chasing ducks, bullfrogs, and honeybees through the vast Greenbelt parks of Staten Island.