Burnaby Now June 2014 article
With increased travelling, pet lovers are adopting pets from places far away from home. California, Texas, and Mexico seem to be common places pets get adopted from these days. Then of course, there are the pets moving in with their families to beautiful BC from the east. So what does this mean for all the existing and new pet parents? It means a lot. Adopting a pet is a major life decision – you are bringing a new member in to your family, after all.
Pets that may come in from southern USA or Mexico are exposed to potential infections that are unheard of in BC – these include deep fungal infections (which can stay dormant in a pet’s body for years) and heartworm (a parasitic infection of the lungs). Pets previously exposed to harsh weather and a high UV-light index can also be prone to skin problems we are not used to seeing in our pets in BC. Other more uncommon infections may be imported with adopted pets from Asia, South America, or Europe. While few of these diseases have potential to spread to other pets, the pet most at risk would be the one carrying the dormant infection.
Adopted pets have usually had some form of care lacking in their history (as well as an incomplete medical history record). Thus, a non-infectious underlying medical condition can also be a concern in newly adopted adult or geriatric pets. Adult cats that have lived outdoors previously in endemic regions for life-threatening viral illness (feline AIDS and feline leukemia) are best confirmed to be negative for such illness before or soon after adoption.
What can pet parents do? Be thorough. It is important to do your research prior to adopting a pet from a different geographical region, even within Canada. Enquire if the pet has been receiving long-term preventive care based on the surroundings. An example would be ongoing heartworm preventives for a pet living in Ontario or California. Ask if the cat being adopted has been an outdoor pet previously, which would indicate a need for AIDS (different from HIV in people) and leukemia testing, if it hasn’t already been performed. Ask for a copy of previous medical history, if available. Ask if there is a specific medical reason for the pet being on its current diet.
Once you have brought the new family member to your house, prioritize a complete veterinary evaluation with your veterinarian. Let your veterinarian know where the pet has come from. This would help potentially detect underlying medical concerns, as well as give your veterinarian a chance to ensure that the diet and preventive care are in line with the individual pet’s needs. For example, pets adopted from Alberta may not be current on flea prevention, which would be absolutely necessary round the year for a dog or cat with an outdoor lifestyle in the Lower Mainland. While I recommend all pets to have veterinary health insurance, I strongly advice health insurance for newly adopted adult pets, as a veterinary examination at adoption does not preclude the chance of medical bills in the near future.
For pets that are moving with their families, again taking the pet to a veterinarian soon after moving would help ensure that you are following a veterinary health program suitable for the new region you have moved into. Because of all the pets moving in and out of lower mainland with their families or through adoption, it is even more important than before to keep them up to date with vaccination, flea, tick, and deworming programs.
By – Dr. Bajwa,
Veterinarian at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.