5 Common Health Problems To Know Before Adopting A Pet


By Sherry L. Granader

dog adoption, dog diseases
Rescuing or adopting an animal from a shelter can be a loving and rewarding experience. However, there are some common health problems that you should be aware of going into the process. Let’s take a look at some of the health concerns that may need to be addressed after you bring your new pet home.

1. Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that affects the hair, skin and in some cases, the nails of both animals and people. There are three species of ringworm fungus that can affect dogs and cats. Any outbreaks need to be managed in a shelter and something you should ask about to prevent any future outbreaks and have an effective and consistent strategy to manage the disease. It can be passed between cats and dogs as well as other animals and humans.

Young and geriatric animals are more susceptible and cats are at greater risk for ringworm than dogs. However, Yorkshire Terriers and Persian cats are at relatively high risk. Stress and conditions that compromise the immune system such as URI, fleas and external parasites can make them more at risk. Ringworm can be contracted through exposure to rodent nests, another infected animal or contaminated soil. Plus, it can persist in furniture, carriers, furnace vents and filters. Ringworm can spread on bedding, contaminated toys, grooming tools, hands and clothing.

Signs and symptoms include:
• Circular area of hair loss and scaling
• Face, ears, feet and tail are usually affected
• Infection of toenails and nail beds
• Resembles flea allergy dermatitis
• Itching


It is important to have an accurate diagnosis of ringworm. If an animal is diagnosed with a false positive, it can be more severe, allowing ringworm to spread to your adopted pet and you. Without performing a fungal culture, clinical signs of a classic ring-shaped lesion in a kitten are most likely ringworm. It is uncommon to see ringworm in adult dogs unless there is a known recent exposure.

A Woods lamp is often used that involves an ultraviolet light with a specific wavelength of light that causes some strains to become fluorescent. A bright apple green fluorescent coat the hair shafts indicating an infection and warrants fungal culture and isolation. Suspicious lesions should always be cultured. You should see your veterinarian right away. An effective treatment is a lime sulfur dip that can be applied to pets. It most likely will require you to continue treatment with a sponge dip your pet on the face, nose and ears.


Currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against ringworm. If you are going to adopt a pet from a shelter, make sure you take steps to ensure that treatment is done right away. The risk of infection depends on the pet’s individual immune status, grooming habits, cleanliness and exposure rate. Work with your veterinarian to develop a clear protocol for handling ringworm.

2. Whipworms

As the word implies, a whipworm has a whip-like form and live in the large intestines of dogs that can irritate the lining of the colon. They feed on the material secreted by the tissues and often cause a leakage of blood from their feeding and tunneling activity. Whipworms are common in canines and rare in cats without risk to humans. Infection occurs through ingestion of whipworm eggs from soil and the cycle of infection begins. Symptoms include:

• Weight loss
• Dehydration
• Bloody diarrhea
• Anemia
• Death in severe cases

If you suspect your dog may be infected, please see your veterinarian right away for treatment. Keep your backyard area clean to reduce the risk of contamination of soil. Feed your dog a balanced diet to help prevent and resist parasitic infections. A probiotic supplement and a digestive enzyme will also help keep your pet’s GI tract healthy.

3. Mange

When it comes to mange, holistic care is a good idea but you much give it time. Both you and your pet will benefit to become symptom-free for the rest of his or her life without chemicals. Keeping your pet’s immune system is important as it can become weakened from stress, poor diet, over vaccinating and/or poor genes. If the dog is shy, do not press too hard for affection, as that can be stressful. Mange can be managed in a low-stress, cook and comfortable environment.

4. Heartworm

Unfortunately, the prevalence of heartworm is on the move and spreading. Despite the preventative medication available, it is increasing. Heartworm-positive dogs are being transported across the country every day. Add the manipulation of the natural environment to the mix produces subtle changes by taking areas that have been naturally inhospitable to mosquitos are now a breeding ground for them. The heartworm antigen test is the most accurate to determine the best course of treatment. Putting a dog on preventative is the best way to prevent the dog from picking up additional worms.

5. Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

A healthy immune system can help animals resist URI viruses, especially if there are good sanitation practices at the shelter and infectious disease control preventative measures are in place. It can be stressful for an animal to be in a shelter, depending on the physical layout, staffing and resources. If you are bringing an animal home, think about the following to de-stress your new pet:

• If you have other animals at home, make use of any barriers and kennels to help them feel safe and secure
• Do not overcrowd them
• If there is a dog(s) at home, consider covering their kennel or cage so the dogs will not be visible when you bring them home
• Minimize moving cats from cage to cage
• Provide a hiding place for them
• If possible, bring a towel or something that smells like him
• Clean their litter box frequently
• Give them a predictable schedule for feedings


Ask lots of questions and know what you are getting into when you adopt a pet from your local animal shelter. Providing a loving, stress-free home will do wonders for your new pet. A rescued pet has plenty to overcome; possible injuries, separation or loss of their owner, confusion and fear.

Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM

Image: Courtesy of David Locke via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Sherry is a Nutritionist, Writer, National Speaker, Ghostwriter of books for Natural Medicine Doctors and an Author of 2 healthy cookbooks. She is a Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in Pilates, Yoga, Body Pump, STEP and Aerobics with over 20 years experience. She served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK and hosted her own weekly “Healthy Living” segments for PBS. Sherry is passionate about helping animals and worked with “Helping All Animals” in Palm Springs, CA. in their rescue efforts, and is a member of the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. Her experience working as a Veterinarian’s Assistant for many years’ aids in her passion for helping animals lead healthy and happy lives. For more information on Sherry, visit www.sgtotalhealth.com or write to Sherry at sgfit12@aol.com - call 517.899.1451