Written by Jennifer Evans, DVM
Getting a new dog or cat is always exciting, and getting one from a shelter is a wonderful way to help an animal in need. Getting a new pet when you already have a dog or cat has its own set of complications. Many dogs and cats appreciate a new friend but it is our responsibility to make sure our new friend doesn ™t make our old friend sick. Any animal from any shelter or pet store has the potential to have some sort of infectious disease they could pass on to your current pets. Whenever many animals are housed together, or even just have contact with each other like at a dog park, there is a chance they could catch an upper respiratory infection or possibly something more serious. Just like kids get colds at pre-school, dogs and cats get upper respiratory infections anywhere they have contact with multiple others. The environments of shelters are just such a place. Many dogs and cats that have been adopted from a shelter either come home with an infection, or develop one within the first two weeks of being home. Cats typically have upper respiratory viral infections with sneezing, runny eyes and runny noses. Sometimes they are very sick and other times they seem to feel fine.
Dogs most typically have some form of ˜kennel cough ™- a broad term for many different infectious causes of coughing or upper respiratory infections. There is also the possibility that your new friend could have something even more dangerous such as parvo, feline leukemia (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Because of this possibility, a veterinarian should see all newly adopted pets as soon as possible. New cats should be screened for FeLV and FIV, all pets should be checked for giardia and any new pet should be kept separate from other pets in the household, ideally for 2 weeks. I realize this is difficult to do and may seem unnecessary, but it really is in the best interest of your whole four-legged family. Elderly pets are especially susceptible to infectious diseases and if they catch something it can become much more serious. Just like a cold in a 10-year-old kid is much less dangerous than one in a 90-year-old person, a case of kennel cough is just an annoyance for a 3-year-old dog but can become life-threatening pneumonia in a 13-year-old. Shelters are excellent places to find a new companion, but just be aware that they shouldn ™t instantly be integrated into the family. If you have any questions about bringing a new pet into the family or you have a new family addition that needs a check-over, we would be happy to help!!
Check out Wood ™s Humane Society or San Luis Obispo County Department of Animal Services to find a new furry friend. There are also several other local humane groups who can help you find a good match!