April 18, 2018

Rescue Dogs: What to Know Before You Adopt

Rescue Dogs: How to Help ThemAdopting rescue dogs from a shelter can be a rewarding experience that provides a disadvantaged canine a much-needed home and you a companion that is faithful and loyal. But because they come from circumstances that have left them with physical or behavioral issues, they will need help in order for them to live happy, healthy lives.

Employees and volunteers at rescue organizations and shelters try their best to work with incoming dogs to gauge any issues that they might have, but with overcrowding and limited funding there frequently isn’t sufficient opportunity for the evaluation of incoming pets. It often falls on the individuals who adopt the dog to give them the help they need.

Listed below are some of the primary issues that can be encountered, along with pointers on what can be done to help your rescue dog adjust to their new life. Learn the 10 problems they may face, how to address them, and the many places to adopt!

Physical Problems in Rescue Dogs and How to Address Them

It’s not uncommon for rescue dogs to have health issues when they come to a rescue shelter. Many of these issues are usual, and rescue shelters typically try to address them before placing a rescue dog up for adoption. Still, it’s a good idea to take your new companion for a complete check-up as a precautionary measure.

The following are some of the more common rescue dog health problems that you might encounter.

Parasites to Look Out for in Rescue Dogs

Fleas and ticks: Fleas and ticks can be an issue for rescue dogs, particularly if they have been living outside for a long period of time. Fleas can cause a variety of issues including flea bite dermatitis – an allergic reaction to flea bites that can result in a rash, itching and hair loss.

Ticks can also cause numerous health issues, the most noted being Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be fatal if not properly treated.

To avoid the problems involved with these parasites it’s best to start your dog on a good flea and tick preventative.

Internal parasites: Many dogs come into a shelter or rescue organization with internal parasites including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. All of these parasites are intestinal in nature and contracted through contact with infected feces, infected soil, and mother’s milk.

Symptoms include a distended stomach, malnutrition, anemia, and lethargy. Though rescue organizations and shelters typically test incoming rescue dogs for parasites, it’s still a good idea to take them for an exam where a veterinarian can test them for parasites and provide the appropriate medications if needed.

Heartworm disease: Heartworms are internal parasites that attack the heart and its vessels. Dogs contract heartworms when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. It is potentially fatal, and the treatment itself can be risky. Because heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, dogs that spend a good deal of time outdoors are more likely to get it if they’re not protected.

Many rescue dogs are brought into shelters after having been found wandering the streets. When adopting a shelter dog, it’s important to ask the shelter where the dog came from, and then have the dog tested by a veterinarian if the shelter hasn’t already done so. After determining that your dog is heartworm negative, your veterinarian can prescribe a monthly medication for prevention.

Other Health Concerns for Rescue Dogs

Diarrhea: Many shelter dogs experience diarrhea for a brief time. Rescue dogs have often experienced extreme periods of stress up to and including the time that they spent in the shelter or rescue facility. Changes in diet can also contribute to bouts of diarrhea, and this may continue to be an issue once you have brought your new friend home.

Check with the shelter about the type of food they have been feeding. If you intend to offer a different food, do so gradually. Start by mixing a small amount of new food in with the food that your dog is currently eating, then slowly increase the amount over several days to allow your dog’s stomach to adjust with a minimal amount of upset.

If food doesn’t seem to be an issue, diarrhea could simply be brought on by stress. Even in their new home with loving owners, rescue dogs are likely to be nervous and stressed in the beginning, which can result in an upset stomach. Be patient and try not to scold. Take your furry companion out frequently, make sure they get a good amount of exercise to release nervous energy and make sure that fresh water is always available to prevent dehydration.

If diarrhea doesn’t seem to clear up, or if your dog is showing other signs of illness, be sure to take them to your veterinarian.

You can also find an explanatory guide on how to care for your dog’s diarrhea here.

Malnutrition: Often, rescue dogs come from dire circumstances that may have prevented them from receiving regular meals. Malnourishment can cause numerous health issues, and it isn’t an issue that can be repaired overnight.

If you feel that your rescue dog is malnourished, have them checked over by a veterinarian to make sure there is no permanent damage. If your dog is especially thin, it’s best to feed them small amounts several times a day rather than one or two larger meals. This will help them to retain more nutrition and will prevent damage that could be caused if your dog eats a large meal too fast.

Rescue Dogs: How to Help Them

Behavioral Issues in Rescue Dogs and How to Address Them

Behavioral issues in rescue dogs are much harder to diagnose and address than the physical ailments they might experience. Often, rescue dogs come to the shelter with problems that can’t be traced to a particular trigger or situation.

While shelter personnel do their best to work with the dog to alleviate these issues, it is often a long-term project that requires a lot of love, patience, and attention. The following are some of the more common rescue dog behavioral problems, with pointers on how to handle them.

Fear and Anxiety in Rescue Dogs: How to Calm Then Down

Many rescue dogs experience high levels of fear and anxiety when they first come home from the shelter.

They’ve gone from the circumstances that brought them to the shelter or rescue facility, to shelter life, then into a home with individuals they don’t know and surroundings they’re unfamiliar with. Many rescue dog anxiety issues stem from uncertainty. It’s important to be extremely patient and gentle during this transition.

Remember that your dog doesn’t know you yet, and has been through a troubling time. Watch for signs of anxiety such as cowering and hiding. Though it may be your first inclination to want to love and cuddle your new friend, give her some space and allow her to approach you in her own time.

Place food and water in a quiet place. If your dog seems anxious, speak in a soft, reassuring voice and minimize sudden movements. Make sure to take her for long walks and encourage a lot of play time to burn off nervous energy and strengthen your bond with your dog. More often than not, anxiety will diminish over time, once your dog has adjusted to her new surroundings.

Aggression in Rescue Dogs Needs to Be Treated Right Away

Rescue dogs can exhibit aggression in a variety of ways. It may be directed towards your other pets, food, toys, hats, uniforms – the list could just keep going. Shelter personnel do their best to evaluate dogs for aggression issues before placing them for adoption, but they only have so much time with each individual dog, and aggressive signs might be missed.

Aggression can be very dangerous. If you feel that you’re not properly equipped to handle a dog with aggression issues, contact a professional who specializes in rescue dog behavior training. Even if the aggression being presented is relatively mild, training is a good idea when dealing with a rescue dog.

Consider enrolling your dog in a basic obedience class that you can attend with her. This will strengthen your bond with your dog, and give you the tools needed to address any issues that arise down the road. Most obedience classes consist of small groups of owners and their dogs.

If your dog has aggression issues toward other animals, be sure and let the trainer know before attending a class. It may be necessary to arrange for one on one lessons to prevent any injuries from occurring due to dog fights.

House Training Rescue Dogs is Possible

It is not uncommon for rescue dogs to initially have problems with inappropriate elimination in your home. With a little patience and understanding, this problem can often be corrected, especially if you understand why your dog is exhibiting this behavior.

There are several reasons why a dog will eliminate in the house. With puppies and even some adult dogs, it’s just a matter of teaching them where it is appropriate to relieve themselves. With a little diligence, these guys can be house trained in a relatively short time span.

There may also be behavioral issues behind inappropriate elimination. Submissive urination occurs when a dog is feeling excited or fearful. Care has to be taken not to scold these dogs for their accidents, because it can make the situation worse. Instead, pay attention to what is causing your dog’s submissive urination and address the issue in a calm and gentle manner.

Separation anxiety can also be the reason behind inappropriate elimination. Many rescue dogs feel particularly anxious when they are left alone, resulting in accidents in the house. If possible, take your new friend on a long walk before leaving, and include some playtime to burn off excess energy. This will give your dog the opportunity to relieve themselves, and the exercise will help calm them down and tire them out so they are more likely to relax after going back inside.

If you can’t determine any particular reason why your dog is relieving herself in your home, take her to your veterinarian for a check-up to make sure there are no health issues that are causing the behavior.

Destructive Behavior in Rescue Dogs Has a Solution 

Destructive behaviors such as chewing, shredding, and digging are all generally related to either separation anxiety or excessive amounts of energy. Dogs often resort to destructive behaviors because they are anxious about something or they’re bored.

This behavior is their way of alerting you to the fact that something is bothering them. Reprimanding dogs who exhibit this behavior is not a solution and can actually make it worse. Instead, make sure that your dog has plenty of exercise and provide her with toys that will engage her mind.

Socializing Rescue Dogs Can Be Tough

Some rescue dogs have a difficult time socializing with people or other animals. This is often due to how they were treated before they were taken in by the shelter. They may have been mistreated, or if they were strays, they may have had issues with other animals and dominance over food and shelter.

Socializing issues could also be the result of a lack of exposure to other people or animals by their original owners.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s important to socialize your friend to ensure that they get along with new people and are able to adapt to new situations. Some dogs do well with exposure therapy, while others respond more positively to a gradual approach that gives them a chance to slowly acclimate to new people and situations.

From Big Dog Rescue to Small Dog Rescue: A List of Rescue Dog Organizations Around the U.S.!

Rocket Dog Rescue

Bernese Mountain Dog Rescue

Oregan Dog Rescue

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Detroit Dog Rescue

Luvable Dog Rescue

Big Fluffy Dog Rescue

National Mill Dog Rescue

And More Rescue Dogs!

  • Big Dog Ranch Rescue
  • Lucky Dog Rescue
  • Second Chance Dog Rescue

The list goes on and on for organizations that care for unwanted/disregard dogs. Look up in your area on the closest rescue organization and/or shelter.

Adopt a Dog: A Rescue Dog!

Rescue dogs are a great source of joy that can touch your life in a loving, positive way. They may require a little help along the way, but in the end, you’ll have a loyal companion who is a happy, well-adjusted member of the family.

About the Author:

Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the blog Daily Dog Stuff. She is a reserved and passionate pet parent who loves to spend time with her Sibe, who keeps her active and social. Read more of her guides and tips by visiting the blog or following their page @dailydogstuff.

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