Cats and dogs adopted from the Michigan Humane Society shelters, or other animal facilities, have spent several days or weeks in an environment equivalent to a human homeless shelter. They are stressed from the excitement of being in unknown surroundings with unfamiliar animals, people, smells, noises and food. In addition to these stressful living conditions, some adopted animals have recently gone through the stress of general anesthesia and surgery. All of these things take a toll on animals' immune systems, and can leave them vulnerable to opportunistic infections like respiratory diseases.

Every animal adopted from a Michigan Humane Society shelter, or any animal facility, should be considered infectious to other pets and should be kept isolated for at least 10 days. Keeping the animals separated for this period also allows for slower introduction and encourages acceptance.

Upper respiratory viruses and bacteria are transmitted by direct nose-to-nose contact and by airborne particles. It is also possible to carry these particles on your hands, so take care to wash your hands between handling your animals.

The symptoms of upper respiratory disease in dogs and cats can include sneezing, coughing, eye or nose discharge, fever, inactivity and/or loss of appetite. Dogs may also experience a gagging-type of cough. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, you should call your veterinarian for an appointment. Upper respiratory diseases can progress to pneumonia if left untreated.


Until your scheduled appointment with a veterinarian, you should provide therapy for your pet. Sitting for 10 to 15 minutes, three to six times daily, in a steamy bathroom may ease his breathing. Dogs may get relief from a sore throat by chewing on ice cubes or ice chips. If your pet is reluctant to eat, encourage him by offering canned food on top of, or instead of, dry food. You may even need to hand feed him - he needs the nutrition and calories from the food to help fight off the possible infection.

It is very important that the person taking the pet to the veterinarian's office knows what symptoms the pet has exhibited, if he is eating and what kind of food, and if he is urinating and defecating appropriately. If any sign of blood has been noticed in the pet's urine or stool, or if the stool is of abnormal consistency, a sample should be taken in at the time of your appointment. Stool samples from cats may have litter on them, but should not be hard and dry.

If you have any questions about your pet's health, don't hesitate to call a veterinarian or a Michigan Humane Society clinic. Feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding your pet's symptoms and treatment, including instructions for properly administering medications. It is our priority that your new family member gets a happy, healthy start in his new home.

2003 Michigan Humane Society


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