Vetting is a critical element of shelter rescue, second only to foster care. Dogs must be deemed healthy prior to transport, and you have bought your foster dog the time necessary achieve that.
Dog Bless has two vetting coordinators: Cathy McClung and Beth Sampson. Cathy and Beth correspond with rescues and schedule vet appointments for foster dogs. They will notify you of your foster’s appointment(s), and will follow up on your visit.
Your foster dog’s receiving rescue will pay for all necessary vet care, and make all medical decisions regarding your foster dog. Should you feel your foster dog needs medical attention, please contact Cathy or Beth to request approval. Vet visits without prior authorization may not be reimbursed.
With a few exceptions, foster dogs must be spayed or neutered and receive a rabies vaccine (if old enough) before transport. Depending on their rescue, any number of other services (heartworm test, fecal, microchipping, etc.) may also be required prior to transport. Dogs showing signs of illness or presently taking medication will not be permitted to undergo surgery. If your dog falls into this category, please notify Dog Bless immediately.
Dogs receive a “6 in 1” shot (for parvo, lepto, corona, distemper, and both adeno viruses) and a nasal bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine while at the shelter. Some rescues request a follow up vaccine (booster) be given before transport. If your foster dog’s rescue requires this, you will be notified.
Parasites are a common health issue in shelter dogs. KCHA de-worms all dogs with Panacur upon intake. Dogs are treated for hookworms, round worms, and whipworms over a period of four days. Panacur does not treat tapeworms or parasite protozoans like coccidia and giardia. Protozoans cannot be seen with the naked eye. Depending on the length of stay at the shelter, and also on the severity of the infestation, your foster dog may need another round of Panacur or another medication entirely. See below for more information on intestinal worms. Contact Dog Bless if you notice any worms or diarrhea.
Fleas are a common problem in dogs. The shelter does not typically treat for fleas, so it is very likely your foster dog will have them. Not only are fleas a nuisance, but they can also have negative implications on your foster dog’s health. Adult fleas bite the dog and ingest blood for nutrition. This loss of blood can cause puppies to become anemic quickly, a condition which may cause death. Some dogs have flea allergies, causing hair loss at the site of flea bites. Also, tapeworms are commonly contracted from fleas. If you notice fleas on your foster dog, bathing with a flea shampoo and removing visible fleas with a fine toothed comb are recommended. Puppies can be safely bathed in blue Dawn dish detergent to reduce fleas. Since dogs cannot be sent on transport with fleas, please let us know so we can treat your foster dog with a 30-day preventative right away.
The shelter does not treat for ticks, so it is likely your foster dog will have ticks when the weather is warm. If you notice ticks on your foster dog, remove them carefully.
- Using tweezers, pinch tick’s head (or as close to the animal as possible) firmly
- Pull away from animal slowly
- A small amount of skin will come off with the tick if removed correctly
Roundworms are the most frequently diagnosed parasite in puppies. You may see these worms in the stool or the dog may even vomit up the worm. Round worms are white and resemble spaghetti noodles. The de-wormer Panacur, used by KCHA, does treat Roundworms. However, it is likely that puppies will need the treatment repeated. Clinical Signs of Roundworms include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and pot belly.
Tapeworms are segmented, white worms. The segments that are shed in feces resemble rice or cucumber seeds. Dogs contract tapeworms from eating fleas. If your foster dog has fleas, it is very likely they also have tapeworms. Panacur, the de-wormer given at KCHA, does not treat tape worms. If you notice tapeworms in your foster dog’s stool, please contact us immediately. You and your pets cannot catch tapeworms from the shed segments. The life cycle of a tapeworm requires a flea as an intermediate host.
Note: DO NOT treat your foster dog with any medications, especially over-the-counter medications, without explicit permission from Dog Bless or a veterinarian.
Unfortunately, and despite their staff’s best efforts, animal shelters are dirty places. Stray and neglected dogs enter from all over, bringing with them a host of germs and disease. (This is why we recommend bathing the dog immediately at home or even before you leave the shelter.) Because dogs who find themselves at the shelter are rarely vaccinated, shelter borne disease is common. The following diseases are common in animal shelters:
Kennel cough is a very contagious respiratory infection in dogs. Because the bacteria are airborne, kennel cough runs rampant through shelters. Symptoms include a dry, hacking cough, runny eyes and/or nose. Kennel cough is caused by a virus and just like the human equivalent rhino virus (a common cold), there is no cure. We treat KC with a broad spectrum antibiotic to prevent it from becoming a sinus infection, or URI.
For a home remedy in addition to antibiotics, Dog Bless recommends adding a teaspoon of honey to a dog’s water twice daily. If you suspect your foster dog has kennel cough, notify Dog Bless.
Parvo is a nasty, often fatal, virus that affects puppies. Highly contagious, Parvo is virus that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Signs include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
Parvo is “shed” via bodily fluids, thus is spread through waste, vomit, etc. Unfortunately, the virus is very hardy and can live on a surface (concrete, tile, carpet, soil, etc.) for years. To clean up after Parvo, use bleach solution on every surface the dog touched. If you have had Parvo in your home or yard, please let Dog Bless know.
Early detection is the key to surviving Parvo. If your foster puppy is exhibiting signs of Parvo, isolate the affected dog, bleach the entire area, and call one of the vetting coordinators immediately!
Diet & Nutrition
Many shelter dogs are severely underweight. Occasionally, others are overweight. As a foster family, you are charged with getting your dog on the right track nutritionally. Dogs should be fed according to their life stage (i.e. puppies, seniors) to meet their optimal nutritional needs.
If your foster dog is underweight, it is likely that food may “shock” their system resulting in diarrhea. Consider feeding three small meals per day. If your foster dog is overweight, consider a weight management blend and feed according to the serving recommendations on the bag.
Due to food donations at the shelter, it is likely your foster dog has eaten a different food each time it was fed at the shelter. Sudden changes like these can cause a dog to have diarrhea. This diarrhea should not be severe and should go away after a few consistent meals in foster care.
Pregnant & Nursing Dogs
If you have committed to care for a mother and her brood, thank you! This is an imperative role in rescuing, and one very difficult to fill.
If you have just picked up a pregnant/nursing foster dog, bathe her immediately! Even if she appears healthy, she may be carrying contagious diseases from the shelter on her fur, teets, and feet. Puppies are more susceptible to disease, so keeping mama clean is vital to keeping her puppies healthy.
You should feed high quality “growth” or puppy formula to the mother, and make food available to her at all times. Increasing caloric intake is important in puppy growth and milk production.
Because it is unlikely that we will know the mother’s due date, indications of labor include milk production, temperature dropping below 100° F, “nesting” or seeking solitude. Once she is in active labor, a puppy should be born every 10-30 minutes. If she pushes for over 30 minutes without delivering, veterinary assistance is needed.
When to Call the Vet
If you are experiencing a foster dog emergency, contact Dog Bless immediately! All vet visits should be approved by Dog Bless and/or your foster dog’s rescue. Dog Bless has two vetting coordinators: Cathy McClung and Beth Sampson. Cathy and Beth correspond with rescues and schedule vet appointments for foster dogs. Your foster dog’s receiving rescue will pay for all necessary vet care, and make all medical decisions regarding your foster dog. Should you feel your foster dog needs medical attention, please contact Cathy or Beth to request approval. Vet visits without prior authorization may not be reimbursed.
Dog Bless is a rescue advocacy group in Charleston, WV. We are a 501c3 exempt organization. We are a group of friends that love dogs.