Joe Inglis on coping with a rescue pet
Taking on a new pet from an animal rescue centre can be a daunting experience, especially if the animal has health problems. At the surgery in Carterton where I worked for many years, we saw lots of re-homed cats and dogs from the local Blue Cross charity centre, and helping new owners cope with the challenges these new pets presented was a major part of my job.
The most common problems seen in re-homed pets are behavioural ones. Aggressive, disobedient and anti-social animals often end up in rescue centres and present a real challenge for both the staff at the rescue centres, and their new owners. Often these problems stem from the way the animals were treated as young animals - in some cases they have been physically abused by their original owners, but in many instances it’s just a lack of proper knowledge of how to train a pet which leads to the behavioural problems. It’s tragic how many animals end up with serious behavioural problems just through a lack of understanding on the part of their owners.
Thankfully, there are lots of people willing to try and pick up the pieces and help these animals, and in most cases, a good home, with backup from the vet, is all these pets need. The majority of re-homed pets I’ve dealt with have end up settling in to their new homes very well, and generally they overcome their behavioural problems and become happy and well-behaved pets. Of course, that’s not always the case – there are always some animals where their problems are too severe to be easily overcome - but in most cases, with a bit of advice, and perseverance, new owners can turn around the lives of many of these pets.
It’s not just behavioural problems that rescue pets have to deal with though. Many abandoned animals or badly treated pets have physical problems as well. The most common problems include those related to malnourishment, lack of parasite treatment, and un-diagnosed or un-treated health problems such as ear infections, arthritis and heart problems. Every now and then I’ve been faced with really serious cases, where animals have been left without food for weeks, or left to suffer easily treatable diseases for months or even years.
I remember dealing with one particular rescue pet who had some nasty problems to overcome. He was an elderly Basset hound called Fred (of course!), and his new owner brought him straight down to the surgery when he brought him home from the Blue Cross centre. My first impression was that Fred had had a hard life; his skin was a mess of old lesions and infections, his ears had obviously been infected for much of his life, and he was as thin as a rake. When I examined him more closely, I found a few other more serious problems as well – he had signs of fox mange on his flanks, and was scratching furiously whenever he got the chance, and he also had a large, painful swelling on the base of his tail.
The swelling turned out to be an abscess which had been brewing for many months from the look of it, and the relief on Fred’s face (and disgust on his owner’s) when I lanced the swelling was obvious. Thankfully it settled down well with antibiotics, and the fox mange also responded well to treatment as did his ears.
Within just a few months, these simple treatments, along with plenty of TLC from his new owners, transformed Fred into a different dog – so much so that I failed to recognise him when he came in for a check-up later that year! It was just a shame that he’d had to endure years of ill treatment before finding a loving owner to care for him properly.
So, if you are thinking about getting a new pet, remember that there are thousands of wonderful animals like Fred waiting in rescue centres up and down the country just waiting for a kind, responsible new owner – like you!