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Hurricane animal evacuees may have medical concerns

The devastation of a hurricane—like Hurricane Harvey—impacts people and pets. Displaced and shelter pets available for adoption may have unique health conditions.

Hurricane animal evacuees may have medical concerns

Q:I’m thinking of adopting a homeless dog evacuated from Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Aside from the usual concerns about adopting an unknown dog, like temperament and general health, are there any special medical conditions I should look for?

A:Fortunately, fewer animals were orphaned during the recent hurricanes, because legislation passed after Hurricane Katrina empowered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rescue pets along with their human family members. Still, many dogs, cats and other animals became homeless in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Generally, the shelters and rescue organizations seeking homes for these pets quarantine them long enough to confirm that they are free of contagious illnesses. Most also evaluate them for common diseases and parasites.

Make sure the dog you are adopting tests negative for heartworm. In the hurricane-impacted area of Texas, 80 percent of dogs not taking a heartworm preventive have heartworms. If the dog you’re adopting is infected, ask the shelter or rescue if they will help pay for treatment.

When Hurricane Harvey hit, Houston was in the midst of an outbreak of canine influenza H3N2. If your new dog is coughing or otherwise sick and you have other dogs, wait until the new dog is healthy before introducing him to your family pack.

In addition, the area had more parvovirus outbreaks than usual. Parvovirus causes diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite and energy, so be sure your new dog is free of these problems before taking him home.

Flooding increases the risk of leptospirosis, a bacterial illness that causes kidney and liver damage. Dogs that were stranded in the water also may have pneumonia.

So, it’s important to have your regular veterinarian examine your new dog before he joins your family.

Editor’s Note: Knowing important dog vaccines and their schedules can help you keep your pet protected from deadly diseases.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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