If you have a big heart – or a “hole in your heart” – there’s hardly a better choice you can make than to rescue a pet from a shelter.
But what if you’re concerned about the health of a newly-rescued puppy or mature dog? In Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and Summerville, experienced, specialized veterinarians with state-of-the art medical equipment can answer any questions about your newest family member.
According to Shannon Graham, DVM, with Veterinary Specialty Care, the majority of health concerns seen in newly rescued dogs and cats are often due to a lack of basic veterinary care, including monthly heartworm, intestinal parasite, flea and tick prevention and vaccines. The good news is that rescues and shelters evaluate, test and treat these pets for these conditions before approving them to be put up for adoption.
The most common and most potentially life-threatening condition they encounter is worms. Heartworm disease is widespread and transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms in dogs include a dry cough, lethargy and weight loss. That’s because these worms live “in the heart and its arteries as well as in the lungs,” Dr. Graham said.
“These are the most serious of the worm infestations and, if untreated, can be fatal. Fortunately, the majority of dogs can go on to live a long and healthy life without significant long-term side effects if the heartworm is diagnosed and treated early. However, it can cause chronic inflammation and scarring to the lungs and heart,” she said.
Other infestations for a veterinarian to look for include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms, all parasites that live in the intestines. Dogs acquire them in ways that include nursing from an infected mother, fecal-oral transmission – stepping in fecal matter and grooming themselves – and ingesting infected fleas. Symptoms may include diarrhea and loss of or failure to gain weight.
Dr. Graham said that all these worms are diagnosed through analysis of your dog’s fecal matter.
“They are one thing we definitely look at in a dog that has been recently rescued,” Dr. Graham added. “Once diagnosed, all are readily treated by a range of proven deworming medications.”
Another malady VSC’s veterinarians look for is kennel cough, a combination of a viral and bacterial infection that causes a dog to have a loud, persistent cough, sometimes accompanied by a runny nose, sneezing or an eye discharge. Kennel cough can be acquired simply by proximity to other dogs, as would be the case in many shelters. There is a vaccine that can prevent kennel cough – or at least lessen its severity – but anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics may be indicated to prevent development of pneumonia.
Hunting dogs or other breeds that have spent much of their lives in South Carolina’s wilderness areas often present at VSC with flea or tick infestations that must be dealt with. The latter are the more worrisome as ticks can cause Lyme disease. Symptoms include fever, refusal to eat and generalized pain and sensitivity to the touch. An established vaccine can prevent Lyme disease, and there are products, both over-the-counter and by prescription, that can help kill ticks and prevent infestation. Once contracted, a regimen of antibiotics is the standard treatment.
When a dog has been rescued after suffering a physical trauma, such as a brush with an automobile, VSC may look for serious underlying issues.
“Occasionally, we get very serious injuries coming in,” Dr. Graham observed. “In one recent instance, we had to amputate an injured limb. Dogs tend to adapt rather well to the loss of a limb, and, especially if it is a hind limb, the dog can usually get around almost normally.”
Another condition dogs share with their humans is arthritis.
“This is fairly common among older dogs,” Dr. Graham said, “although I wouldn’t say it is more prevalent in rescue dogs – unless those same dogs have experienced bodily trauma.”
“If diagnosed, canine arthritis, like its human counterpart, is treated with NSAIDs – animal safe versions similar to ibuprofen – ‘water therapy’ and targeted prescription medications to quiet flare-ups,” she explained.
But what if your rescue dog is having behavioral issues, such as stealing food from the table, digging indoors, snapping or barking constantly?
Dr. Graham said these are legitimate concerns, “but VSC’s focus is always on each animal’s medical condition. We refer all those behavioral problems to the dog’s primary care veterinarian or to an experienced dog trainer.”
While some pets may have initial health concerns from a more difficult past, the advantage of adopting a pet from a rescue or shelter is that they are almost always already vaccinated, dewormed, spayed or neutered, and, most importantly, very grateful to live in a loving home.
HealthLinks is proud to welcome Veterinary Specialty Care as our official sponsor of our Healthy Pet; Happy Pet section.
Veterinary Specialty Care provides around-the-clock veterinary services to our pets in need.
For more information on Veterinary Specialty Care of Charleston, visit online at www.veterinaryspecialtycare.com
or in person at 3163 W. Montague Ave. in North Charleston, 985 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. in Mount Pleasant
or 319 E. 3rd North St. in Summerville or call 843-216-7554.