If you are fostering a dog who is on medications, please make sure that he/she gets all prescribed doses. Do not end medication early for any reason. If your foster animal has not responded to prescribed medications after five days (or in the time instructed by a veterinarian), please contact the foster coordinator.
HSH provides all medical care for our foster animals at our approved veterinary clinics. Because we are ultimately responsible for your foster dog’s well-being, our staff must authorize any and all treatment for foster dogs at our approved veterinary partners.
If your foster dog needs to go to the veterinarian, please notify the foster coordinator by email or phone. The foster coordinator will schedule the appointment and issue you a medical voucher number, which is required for your veterinary appointment. Each voucher has a unique number, assigned by the staff member who authorizes and schedules your appointment. Please bring this voucher number to your appointment; the vet will not see the foster animal without that number.
Remember, foster parents will be responsible for payment of any medical care if they take their foster animal to a veterinarian without authorization from the foster coordinator or adoptions manager.
Signs of illness and what to do next
Dogs generally do a good job of masking when they don’t feel well, so determining if your foster dog is under the weather will require diligent observation of the dog’s daily activity and appetite levels. It’s a good idea to keep track of these levels in a journal. You’ll also want to record any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of illness.
Eye discharge. It is normal for dogs to have some discharge from their eyes when they wake up and some may have more than others, depending on the breed. But if your foster dog has yellow or green discharge, or swelling around the eyes (making it hard for him to open his eyes), or the third eyelid is showing, you need to contact the foster coordinator.
Coughing and nasal discharge. Coughing can be common if your foster dog is pulling on leash. If the coughing becomes more frequent, however, watch for discharge coming from the nose. If the discharge is clear, the infection is probably viral and medication may not be needed, but check with the foster coordinator to find out if a vet appointment is necessary.
If the discharge becomes colored, the dog may have a bacterial infection. Be sure to monitor the dog’s breathing. If the dog seems to struggle to breathe or starts wheezing, call the foster coordinator immediately. Also, once you notice nasal discharge, monitor the dog’s eating habits more closely to ensure that he or she is still eating.
Loss of appetite. Your foster dog may be stressed after arriving in your home, and stress can cause lack of appetite. But if the dog hasn’t eaten after 24 hours, please notify the foster coordinator. Also, if the dog has been eating well, but then stops eating for 12 to 24 hours, call the foster coordinator to see our vet. Please do not change the dog’s diet without contacting the foster department. An abrupt change in diet can cause diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.
Lethargy. The activity level of your foster dog will vary depending on age and personality. Keeping an activity log and journal will help you notice whether your foster dog is less active than he normally is. If the dog cannot be roused or seems weak and unable to stand, it’s an emergency, so call the foster coordinator.
Dehydration. Dehydration is usually associated with diarrhea, vomiting and/or loss of appetite. To test for dehydration, gently pinch the dog’s skin around the scruff area. If the skin stays taut, the dog is dehydrated. Please call the foster coordinator the next business day to schedule a vet appointment.
Vomiting. Sometimes dogs will eat too quickly and will immediately throw up their food. Occasional vomiting isn’t cause for alarm, but if your foster dog has thrown up two or more times in one day, please notify the foster coordinator. It could be indicative of infection.
Pain or strain while urinating. When a dog first goes into a foster home, he or she may not urinate due to stress. If the dog hasn’t urinated in more than 24 hours, however, please contact the foster coordinator. Also, if you notice the dog straining to urinate with little or no results, or crying out when urinating, please contact the foster coordinator immediately because it may be indicative of an infection or an obstruction.
Diarrhea. It is important to monitor your foster dog’s pooping habits daily. Soft stool is normal for the first two or three days after taking a dog home, most likely caused by stress and a change in food. If your foster dog has liquid stool, however, please contact the FC so that an appointment can be scheduled to ensure that the dog doesn’t need medications. Keep in mind that diarrhea will dehydrate the dog, so be proactive about contacting the FC. If your foster dog has bloody or mucoid diarrhea, please contact the FC immediately and start the emergency contact protocol.
Frequent ear scratching. Your foster dog may have a bacterial or yeast infection (or, in rare cases, ear mites) if she scratches her ears often and/or shakes her head frequently. These conditions can be treated by a veterinarian, so please call the FC to schedule a medical appointment.
Swollen, irritated ears. If your foster dog has irritated, swollen or red or pink ears that smell like yeast, he may have an ear infection called otitis. This type of infection is more common in dogs who have very floppy ears, like basset hounds or Labradors. These dogs may need to have their ears cleaned more often to ensure that the infection does not re-occur.
Hair loss. Please contact the FC if you notice any hair loss on your foster dog. It is normal for dogs to have thin fur around the lips, eyelids and in front of the ears, but clumpy patches of hair loss or thinning hair can indicate ringworm, dermatitis or the early stages of mange. It is important to check your foster dog’s coat every day.
Common ailments in animals from shelters
Shelter dogs may suffer from kennel cough, giardia or intestinal parasites. Symptoms of kennel cough include a dry hacking cough, often with phlegm discharge, discharge from the nose and/or eyes, decrease in appetite, dehydration and slight lethargy. Symptoms of giardia or intestinal parasites include vomiting, diarrhea (often with a pungent odor) and/or dehydration.
If your foster dog is displaying one or more of these signs, please contact the FC. These ailments can worsen if left untreated.
What constitutes a medical emergency in a dog? A good rule of thumb is any situation in which you would call 911 for a person. Here are some specific symptoms that could indicate an emergency:
Not breathing or labored breathing
Symptoms of parvovirus: bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, high fever (above 103.5 degrees)
Signs of extreme dehydration: dry mucous membranes, weakness, vomiting, tenting of the skin (when the skin is pulled up, it stays there)
Abnormal lethargy or unable to stand
Unconsciousness or unable to wake up
Cold to the touch
Any trauma: hit by a car, dropped, stepped on
A large wound or profuse bleeding that doesn’t stop when pressure is applied
Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours
If your foster dog displays any of these symptoms, please call the FC. If the animal is vomiting or has diarrhea, but is still active, eating and drinking, you can probably wait until the next day to get help.