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Long-Term Health Care Considerations

ASPCA, National Shelter Outreach

Long-Term Health Care Considerations

Plan ahead! If you suspect than an animal may be in the shelter for longer than a couple of weeks, during the initial veterinary exam, you may want to do a few extra things as soon as the animal is admitted. Obviously, if you have a veterinarian the animal should be examined immediately upon entering the shelter. If the animal is too fractious and cannot be examined “ASAP” note this on the record and make whatever notations you can about the animal from a safe distance.

Keep detailed records about any medical procedures that may be performed — what was done, by whom and when.


  • Record the animal’s weight.
  • Note any scars, wounds or other abnormalities even if they seem minor or appear normal, this includes mild ocular discharges, discharges from the penis or vagina, areas of hair loss or scratching, excessive dirt, matted hair, fleas or flea dirt, etc.
  • If you don’t normally perform fecals arrange to have one done AND use a broad spectrum dewormer such as Panacur.
  • Take a picture of the animal detailing such things as matting and overgrown nails.
  • Make certain to check the teeth if the animal will permit it, and wear gloves. Many animals won’t eat if the teeth are in bad shape and you need to know this upon entry.
  • Perform leukemia tests on cats. If the cat is positive, it should be isolated immediately. If the cat is to be returned to its original owners you don’t want them to say the disease was contracted while in your shelter.
  • Perform heartworm tests on dogs. Even though it is transmitted by mosquitos, it incubates for a long time and an asymptomatic dog may develop symptoms while in your care.


  • Routine Vaccinations
  • Vaccinate as soon as the animal is examined and admitted to the shelter. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and give boosters in two to three weeks.
  • Vaccinate puppies under four months of age for parvo.
  • Special Vaccinations
  • Consider giving rabies shots. Check your state regulations, they may be required. Consider other vaccinations for diseases that may be endemic in your area. Consult local veterinarians about Lyme disease, Corona, etc. Give strong consideration to intranasal bordetella/parainfluenza vaccine for kennel cough. Deworm on entry, and repeat in three weeks to break the life cycle of most parasites — do this even if the fecal was negative!
  • Physical Examination
  • A thorough hands-on physical examination should be given at least every two weeks to check health problems that may not be apparent from just performing rounds — for example, ingrown nails, abscesses, dental problems, etc. Record the animal’s weight at this time.
  • Follow up on abnormal findings as soon as they appear — delays can be costly.

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