Pet Life

Looking to Rescue a Pet This Year?

Dr. Jeanne Haggerty

A New Year encourages new knowledge on how to take care of our furry friends.

Are you looking to rescue a pet? Rescues can be very rewarding and there is no greater feeling than knowing that you’ve helped a pet in need. But you also need to be aware of what could be in store for you and your family.

Many puppies or kittens rescued by shelters have been started on their vaccine series. However, depending on their length of stay with the organization, they may not have finished all the vaccines, or perhaps they might not have all the vaccines for your particular environment. Make sure to check with your veterinarian after adoption to ensure that all vaccines have been given and that they have been administered at the proper times. Shelters and rescues will vaccinate to the extent that the animal is in their possession. So a “fully vaccinated pet” may only be fully vaccinated for the age at the time of adoption.

Flea Control
Many rescues and most local shelters will provide initial flea control on dogs and cats, but remember to make flea control part of your plans. Depending on your environment and your pet’s lifestyle, flea control can be a substantial cost for many people.

Very few rescues and shelters provide heartworm testing and prevention. Unfortunately, this cost is passed on to the adopter. If heartworm prevention is started at a very young age in puppies, a test may not be needed. However, older puppies and adults need heartworm testing prior to starting on heartworm preventatives.

Nearly all shelters and rescues will implant a microchip prior to adopting out each pet. Be sure to get the microchip number and information so you can register the chip.

Some shelters and rescues do a very good job of screening pets for behavioral issues. Others do very little. You should assume the pet has had no screening and go do your own assessment. Make multiple visits. Bring your kids. Ask a lot of questions. Observe how the pet behaves around the other animals. Make sure the pet you are adopting seems to fit with your lifestyle.

Testing in Cats
All shelter/rescue cats should be tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and FIV (commonly known as feline AIDs). Many shelters test only one kitten from each litter, and some shelters do not test at all. The FeLV/FIV status of the cat is the single most important thing to know when adopting a cat. An infected cat, although it may be able to live a normal life, may also be plagued with health issues, can infect other cats in the household and should remain an indoor cat for the rest of its life.
Adopting pets as rescues is a great way to find an addition to the family. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that these are “free” pets. They come with medical expenses just like any pet that has been adopted from a breeder. Be sure you are financially and mentally prepared to care for your new best friend.

Dr. Haggerty is co-owner of Live Oak Veterinary Hospital in Morgan Hill and has been a practicing veterinarian for more than 14 years.

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