CHAPTER 6: MEDICAL HEALTH & PHYSICAL
WELL-BEING

General 

 

  • Proper medical management and health care for rescue animals must be recognized as an absolute necessity and includes attention to the overall well-being of all animals. 

  • A rescue medical program must include veterinary supervision and the participation of trained caregivers to provide evaluation, preventive care and treatment. 

  • Appropriate medical treatment must be provided in a timely fashion. 

  • Ongoing training and education must be provided to those who carry out protocols. 

  • Individual animal welfare must be maintained within the balance of decisions and practices that support the overall population. 

 

Veterinary Relationship and Recordkeeping 

 

  • Medications and treatments must only be administered with the advice of a veterinarian or in accordance with written protocols provided by a veterinarian, and all drugs must be stored and dispensed in accordance with federal and provincial legislation. 

  • Documentation must be made of all medical care provided to each animal and must follow the animal at all steps between rescue and ownership. 

 

Considerations at Intake 

 

  • Each animal’s individual health status must be evaluated and monitored, beginning at intake and regularly thereafter. 

  • A medical history, if available, must be obtained from the owner at the time of surrender. 

  • Any available information must be solicited when stray animals are impounded. 

  • Intake evaluations must be documented in the medical record. 

  • At intake, every attempt must be made to locate an animal’s owner, including careful screening for identification and scanning multiple times for a microchip using a universal scanner. 

  • Beginning at intake, animals must be separated by species, age, and their physical and behavioural health status. 

  • Since young animals are more susceptible to disease, they must be provided with greater protection from possible exposure. 

  • Healthy animals must not be housed or handled with animals that have signs of illness. 

 

Vaccinations 

 

  • Vaccines are considered to be vital lifesaving tools and must be used as part of a preventive health care program. 

  • Vaccine strategies and protocols must be specifically tailored by a veterinarian for the rescue because of the higher likelihood of exposure to infectious disease, the likelihood that many animals entering the rescue are not immune, and the potentially life-threatening consequences of infection. 

  • Protocols for managing adverse reactions must be provided by a veterinarian and required treatments must be accessible. 

 

Emergency Medical Plan

  • An emergency medical plan must be in place. 
    The emergency medical plan ensures that animals can receive proper veterinary medical care and pain management promptly or be humanely euthanized by qualified personnel as permitted by law. 

 

Pain Management 

 

  • Pain must be recognized and treated immediately to alleviate suffering. 

  • It must be assumed that if a procedure is painful in human beings, then it is also painful in animals. 

  • Adequate pain relief must be ensured. When adequate pain relief can not be achieved, immediate transfer to a facility that can meet the animal’s needs, or humane euthanasia, must be provided without further delay 

  • Animals must be reassessed periodically to provide ongoing pain relief as needed. 

 

UNACCEPTABLE 

 

  • Treatment for pain is not provided. 

  • Euthanasia is not provided if appropriate pain control cannot be provided in a timely manner. 

 

Parasite Control 

 

  • Deworming strategies and protocols must be specifically tailored by a veterinarian for the rescue because of the higher likelihood that many animals entering the rescue are carrying parasites. All animals must be treated for parasites prior to leaving the rescue. 

  • Dogs entering the rescue from outside of Saskatchewan must have a heartworm test performed. 

  • Parasite treatment protocols should include external parasites. 

 

Monitoring and Daily Checks 

 

  • The health and well-being of every animal must be observed at least once every 24 hours. 

  • Any animal that is observed to be experiencing pain, suffering, distress, rapidly deteriorating health, life-threatening problems, or suspected zoonotic medical conditions must be assessed by a veterinarian and be managed appropriately in a timely manner. 

  • Animals must be provided with appropriate grooming and/or opportunities to exhibit species-specific behaviours necessary for them to maintain normal healthy skin and hair coat. 

 

Nutrition 

 

  • Fresh, clean water must be accessible to animals to meet their physiological needs, unless there is a medical reason for water and/or food to be withheld for a prescribed period of time. 

  • Food that is consistent with the nutritional needs and health status of the individual animal must be provided. It must be provided in a manner that is appropriate for the animals’ life stage (i.e., at least once per day for adults, smaller frequent meals for young animals). 

  • Food must be fresh, palatable, free from contamination, and of sufficient nutritional value. 

  • Uneaten food must be discarded after 24 hours. 

  • Food that has been offered to an animal and remains uneaten must not be offered to another animal. 

  • Food intake must be monitored daily. 

  • Animals displaying inappetence, extreme weight loss or gain must be evaluated by a veterinarian and treated as necessary. 

  • Food and water must be provided in appropriate dishes that are safe, sufficient in number, and of adequate size. 

  • Animals that guard food must be housed or fed separately. 

  • If automatic devices or drinking bottles are used, they must be disinfected regularly, and must be checked frequently to ensure they are in working order. 

  • A schedule of regular sanitation must be followed for all food and water containers. 

  • Food preparation and storage areas must be easily sanitized and maintained in clean condition. 

 

Population Well-Being 

 

  • Trained caregivers must regularly monitor the status of individual animals and the population as a whole. 

  • Animal health plans must be reviewed regularly in conjunction with a veterinarian and plans revised if necessary in response to changes observed in animal health, illness, or deaths. 

 

Response to Disease and Illness 

 

  • Response to disease and illness must be considered an integral part of the rescue health program. 

  • When isolation is impossible or inadequate to control transmission of the particular pathogen, the rescue must weigh consequences of exposure of the general population against euthanasia. 

  • When a specific pathogen has not been identified, a risk assessment must be performed. 

  • Animals with a suspected infectious disease must be isolated until diagnosis or subsequent treatment determines them to be a low risk to the general population. 

  • During an outbreak, physical separation must be established between exposed, at-risk, and unexposed animals or groups of animals. 

  • Rescue must make sure that all federal, provincial, and local laws are followed concerning reportable diseases. 

  • Depopulation must be viewed as a last resort after all other options are fully examined, and includes considering disease transmission, morbidity, mortality, and public health. 

 

UNACCEPTABLE

 

  • Animals with severe infectious disease must not be allowed to remain in the general population. 

  • Animals not being treated for illnesses or injuries.

 

Medical Treatment 

 

  • The legal status of an animal must never prevent treatment to relieve suffering (which may include euthanasia if suffering cannot be alleviated). 

  • Rescue must have specific protocols to provide immediate care when legal status is an issue. 

  • Medical decisions must balance both the best interest of the individual animal requiring treatment and the rescue population as a whole. Those providing treatment must have the necessary training, skills, and resources to ensure treatment is administered correctly, safely, and in a timely manner. 

Resources


“Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters” The Association of Shelter Veterinarians 2010.

https://www.sheltervet.org/assets/docs/shelter-standards-oct2011-wforward.pdf


Volin, Abby. “Rescue Group Best Practices Guide.” Animal Sheltering. Humane Society of the United States.

animalsheltering.org/sites/default/files/content/rescue-best-practice-guide.pdf

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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