Health: What to Look For

When adopting a rescue dog, you are not likely to receive “papers” for this dog, stating the extensive genetic testing and health history for generations back. All you can do is ask for the most recent Veterinary workup which should include a physical exam and blood work results.

More especially, if the rescue dog has been imported from another continent, you must be aware of the typical diseases and parasites that plague dogs there and ensure they are tested for these diseases and parasites (many of which are zoonotic, meaning that they can transfer from dog to human) prior to adoption. 

Years ago, I worked with a client whose dog was imported by a rescue with hundreds of others, placed in foster homes or adopted out straight from the transport or airport. The dog hopped up in my lap upon meeting me and gave me a proper face-cleaning. I was delighted and had a good laugh, happy to see such a social rescue dog. We continued with our assessment, and moments later, during my health questionnaire, I found out that the dog came with paperwork in a different language so they did not understand the health history. They assumed he was healthy and was told that he didn’t need to see a vet until he was due for his boosters. 

I had a colleague quickly translate the paperwork for me and to all of our surprise, the paperwork was for a cat. The paperwork did not match the animal and border services did not catch it, nor did the rescue. 

Needless to say, I was furious. 

You can imagine the emotional turmoil I went through once the dog saw the adopters’ local vet for a physical exam and blood work only to find that the dog is a carrier of a zoonotic parasite. Here, they had the dog sleeping in their bed, cuddling them on the couch, kissing their faces and hands, and I too had a proper face-cleaning before I knew about this parasite for which there was limited treatment here in North America. 

I took time off work to see my doctor and have my own blood work run, but I also booked time with a Social Worker to work through the emotional stress this put me through. I lost a lot of paid work as a result of this one session. 

If the rescue had done their due diligence and were ethical, none of us would have had to go through all of this. I was tempted to send them my bill, but I bit my tongue. 

Trust me when I say that the dog needs to be fully vetted before coming to live with you. Spay and neuter are not as important as physical health unless you plan on breeding this dog upon arrival in your home. (I am being a bit facetious, yes.)

Questions to ask when adopting a rescue dog:

  • Which vet does the dog see?
  • When did the dog see the vet last? Physical exam and blood work? 
  • What is the vaccine history on the dog?
  • Has this dog had any health issues in the past?
  • Is the dog on any medication?
  • What food and supplements is the dog on?
  • Has the dog ever had surgery?
  • Is the dog altered (spayed/neutered)? At what age? 
  • Is the dog microchipped?
  • Can you provide me with your vet’s contact information and give permission to discuss the dog with me?
  • Will you provide me with the full medical history either by giving me the full file, and/or by giving permission to your vet to transfer the file.