Foster dogs, special concerns

It is important to consider that most of the rescue dogs that come into foster care are already very stressed due to their personal loss. In spite of whether they are strays, from a shelter, or given up by their person, the stress level may interfere with successful vaccination or cause them to decompensate for any illness not immediately evident. More vaccine NEVER translates into MORE protection. We may erupt an ailment after vaccinating or simply cause undue stress to an already stressed system.

Most of the foster dogs that come into foster care are adults and either have had extensive prior vaccination history or are simply NOT very susceptible to these puppyhood diseases. Most of these dogs have one or more existing medical issues that need to be treated and therefore, vaccine titers are much less harmful than vaccinating. I would suggest that a person who acquires a dog with unknown or an “overdue on vaccines” status, do antibody titers to measure protective levels.

If the foster is a puppy, depending upon age, a vaccine titer should be done or, if the puppy is young and healthy enough, a single combination core vaccine is advisable. I suggest the animal health company Merial who now has core vaccine combination available. They continue to seek ways to research vaccines and provide safer adjuvant (the substance used to bind modified live or killed vaccine). Most reactions occur as result of leptospirosis vaccine or adjuvant.

Here are the steps you should take when you first acquire a foster or unknown dog:

Take them to your Vet and have a heartworm test, fecal and full physical exam done.
Treat any conditions that are found.
Slowly transition to whole food diet with 60 to 70% meat and organs, and 30 to 40% nonstarch vegetables. Add a multivitamin made for dogs, a human grade ingredient natural vitamin, not synthetic. Remember calcium supplement bone meal may be used to balance the calcium phosphorus ratio.
Determine habits, good and bad, and use only positive reinforcement to correct.
Keep yourself safe, remember you do not know this dog.

Do not hesitate to utilize the knowledgeable people around you for information and support for the expertise they can provide.

Robin L. Cannizzaro D.V.M., C.V.A.
June 6, 2004