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April 28th @ 8am
"Shelter medicine" is a relatively new phenomenon that has become the latest emerging field among top veterinary colleges. Although animal shelters and veterinary medicine both have long established histories, the specialized veterinary field of shelter medicine only arose with the advent of No Kill sheltering in the mid-1990’s.
The role of veterinarians in "Private Practice" is, ideally, to provide a lifetime of wellness care for pet animals. The contribution of veterinarians in animal shelters, by contrast, focuses on keeping animals healthy for a short but critical time period.
Until recently, veterinarians have played a relatively limited and fragmented role in addressing the health problems of shelter animals. When veterinarians have worked with shelters, the focus has often been only on spay/neuter surgery, individual animal health care, or oversight of humane euthanasia. Population-level health care, when it has been addressed at all, has commonly been the responsibility of shelter managers with little or no medical training. However, as an increasing proportion of pets come from shelters, veterinarians clearly see the disease impact of such environments.
Shelter medicine, and even surgery, encompasses “herd” health principles as well as individual animal care. Clearly, infectious disease control has great importance in the shelter environment. Ideally, veterinarians will emphasize prevention rather than treatment of infection in animal shelters, as this is both more effective and more humane. Disease prevention encompasses traditional medical practices such as vaccination, parasite control, and nutrition as well as areas less commonly considered in small animal practice, such as air quality, facility design, stress reduction and management of population density.
Traditional kill shelters operate under a system of herd management, where sick cats and dogs and the pets housed in direct proximity are killed before they can contaminate the rest of the shelter population. Pets with injuries or those who are deemed too young (litters or others not yet eight weeks) or too old (often only at six years of age) are classified as “unadoptable” and killed because they require too much time, care and resources to be ready for adoption.
Shelter Medicine at ARF
Practicing ‘Shelter Medicine’ at ARF is really all about preventing disease. Vaccination and parasite control are key along with good nutrition, air quality, facility design, stress reduction and management of population density.
By integrating facility protocols unique to every situation, we are equipped to treat shelter animals with a large variance of illnesses while still working to contain and prevent future illness. These protocols and procedures are designed to get our ARFans adoption ready quickly and safely so we can save more animals in need.
Our Pet Health page provides information pertaining to common ailments affecting shelter animals and how ARF works to prevent the spread of disease once they arrive at our facility.