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Pet Education

Caring for an Adopted Shelter Pet—Special Needs


You have adopted a new pet…congratulations!  Get your new pet started off on the right paw with these basic behavioral and health care pointers:

  • Be gentle and patient—animals in shelters are usually under tremendous amounts of stress.  Most often they are not used to being housed in cages and may not be used to other animals.  They are often missing their old home and territory and may be disoriented from the move from the old home to the shelter and now to a new home. 
  • Bonding—it is important to bond with your new pet and assure them that this will be a lifelong home.  Give a little extra attention and spend as much time with him or her as possible.
  • Training—take training slowly at first.  Establishing a bond and gaining the trust of your new pet if of the utmost importance.  Train with patience and quiet firmness.  Be consistent—all family members must use the same commands. 
  • Nutrition—many shelter pets will have had very poor nutrition—some will be too fat or too thin, depending on the circumstances from where they came.  Work with your veterinarian to determine what your new pet should weigh and make a feeding plan.  It is important that you continue to feed the food that your pet had in the shelter initially.  After one or two weeks slowly start to change the food to a high quality natural diet.  Read my article at http://www.halopets.com/pet-education/pet-articles/transitioning-to-spots-stew.html to learn how to properly transition their diet. 
  • Veterinary care—some pets that end up in shelters have been previously neglected.  Many shelters will have evaluated a pet's general health and identified any pre-existing conditions with bloodwork, urine and fecal testing.  If not, it is important to visit your veterinarian to have these things performed.  It is also important to get your pet on a routine schedule for heartworm and parasite evaluation.  It is not uncommon that newly adopted pets will have problems with stress that commonly appears as digestive upset or skin breakouts. 


Many animal shelters offer post-adoptive services such as medical care and training or behavior classes.  Contact your shelter with any questions.


Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM, ,is a renowned, board-certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and other leading institutions. She is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Donna has written and lectured extensively on topics including nutrition, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, kidney failure and respiratory disease. She is widely recognized for her role as consulting veterinarian to HALO, Purely for Pets, her TV appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and her widely-quoted pet health advice in print and on radio.  Dr. Donna performs medical, nutrition and weight loss consultations for dogs and cats through her web-based veterinary consulting service, www.SpectorDVM.com.


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