As I mentioned in my previous post, attending to the Royal Canin 1st International Shelter Convention was an amazing experience.
The purpose of my blog being sharing knowledge, here are 5 great tips I heard during this event. They focus on infectious diseases management and I believe they can help you make a difference for the animals in your care.
#1 In shelters, vaccinate as quickly as possible after intake and despite concurrent health conditions. Sure, it is a totally different approach than in privately-owned pets. However, the infectious disease challenge there is way more important ( but you already know that if you read some of my previous posts !). The longer the animals stay indeed, the higher the risk they would develop something. Something to add to the fact that many animals entering animal shelters have never been properly vaccinated. You are therefore always trying to beat the clock. So vaccinate as fast as possible after intake all your animals. Vaccination is efficient : for instance, most dogs and cats vaccinated against parvo (panleuk in cats) will generally build up a strong immune response in less than three days after vaccination. It's definitely worth it then, when you know how problematic these diseases can be in animal shelters.
#2 In shelters, diagnostic tests are only interesting when their results will alter your course of action. It is always great to know what you are facing, especially when suspecting an infectious cause. But in shelters, you always need to rate the pros and cons. Many shelters have first-line standardized procedures that they defined with the help of their veterinarians for most common syndromes (like GI or respiratory disorders). They will look into diagnostics ONLY if those first-line approaches proved themselves insufficient.
#3 When there is an outbreak in shelters, sample up to 10% of your affected population for diagnostic purpose. Shelter medicine always focus on the shelter population. In a perfect world we would test all affected animals but it does not make sense when budget is limited. Testing up to 10% of your population will give you a good idea of what is happening in your structure. This will help your veterinarian define the right approach to take then.
# 4 When you can, operate at or below animal capacity : the more animals, the more stress. The more risks for infectious diseases. Infectious diseases often strike when shelters operate above capacity of care. Easier said than done, for sure. But as I heard recently in another talk, you are not doing any good by taking a healthy animal in when you already face overcrowding. So try to decrease intakes, delay surrender procedures… That will definitely help those animals already in your care.
#5 Isolation in shelters : ideally you will have 3 of them. One for respiratory diseases, one for gastro-intestinal ones and one for skin problems. Isolation is always a key sector in an animal shelter. And it does make sense to separate isolated animals based on the 3 most common syndromes we see in these structures. So if you have enough space, go for it. Sectorization is one of the best way to prevent infectious diseases spread.
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