When I’m volunteering as an adoptions counselor at my local animal shelter, one of the biggest concerns potential pet parents have about the animals for adoption is their health. Are pets for adoption at shelters and rescues healthy? Can my family get sick if they are sick? Pets at shelters are just like pets from any communal environment, including pet stores and commercial breeders. It’s good to educate yourself before getting a new pet, and we’re lucky enough to have had the chance to ask a well-credentialed expert, Dr. Mary Beth Leininger with the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program, the most-asked questions many people have about adopting pets and their health! Dr. Leininger is a former President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and co-owned a successful, American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited companion animal hospital in Michigan for nearly 30 years. Read on for our first in a short series of shelter pet health Q&A articles, and check back here next week for the next installment!

Q: Are pets for adoption at shelters and rescues healthy?

A: Pets adopted from trusted shelters and rescues often are healthy. Most organizations employ trained specialists to evaluate the condition of each animal upon arrival. Ill animals receive appropriate treatment for their ailments.

Furthermore, most shelters keep animals current on their vaccinations, and often spay or neuter pets before adoption.

Most shelter and rescue animals are suitable for adoption, though it’s important to do your research first.

Q: How can I minimize the chances my newly adopted pet will be or will get sick?

A: First, make a check-up appointment with your family veterinarian. Then, you should spay or neuter your pet–there are many associated health and behavioral benefits.  

Next, familiarize yourself with conditions associated with your animal’s breed, even if your pet is a mix. Be sure to take your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year (more frequently if advised), and make sure they receive the proper vaccinations and health screens as recommended by your veterinarian.

Care for your animal by providing a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Prepare financially for your pet’s care with a pet insurance plan, which is growing in popularity among many pet parents.

Thanks Dr. Leininger! Next week, check back for her answering questions about if there is there anything you, your family, and your other pets could catch from a new pet, and then our third and final article about keeping indoor cats healthy!