Foster DpgThere are way too many unwanted dogs. Shelters are overcrowded and the dogs just keep coming. There's also a tremendous shortage of foster homes. I encourage anybody who is willing and able to foster a dog to do so. If you already have a dog there are some steps you need to take to insure the health of your own dog before fostering another.

Are Foster Dogs a Risk to My Dog's Health?

Q. I am interested in fostering for a local rescue group. What risks does having foster dogs present to my own dog’s health?

A. Fostering is one of the most generous things any pet lover can do. Many rescue groups have no shelter facilities and little to no access to boarding, and they rely on their fostering volunteers to make their important work possible. Even municipal and nonprofit shelters often have pets who need a little TLC, including kittens who need to be bottle-raised and old, shy, sick or just plain fragile pets who wouldn’t survive the stress of traditional kenneling.

And foster homes do much, much more than simply house these pets. They are also key to evaluating the animals’ ability to adjust to normal family life, as well as socializing these pets and providing them with basic training, such as house training and leash manners. Foster homes not only save lives, they also make many animals more likely to be re-homed successfully.

Weighing the Risks

Even if your pet enjoys company, there are some risks to bringing another dog into your home. The chances of infectious disease will be minimized if you work with a shelter or rescue group that sticks to effective protocols, making sure incoming pets are given health screenings and have current vaccinations. Keeping your own pet healthy and insisting on fostering only pets with known health status — so you can evaluate and minimize risk — will go a long way to protecting your pet from illness.

The biggest risk to your dog will likely be “kennel cough,” which he could catch from a dog who’s asymptomatic on arrival but who breaks out with the illness later. The best protection ….

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Fostering a dog can be a rich and rewarding experience. To know that you're providing for the needs of a discarded dog, many times through no fault of the dog, and preparing them to have a better chance of being adopted is a wonderful feeling.

Many of these dogs have no health or behavoir issues. Their owners just decided they didn't want or couldn't take care of a dog anymore. Some of them do come with issues, so it's important to discuss and be aware of these before you bring a foster dog home. It's also important to access your ability and willingness to take on a dog who needs help in one or both of those areas.

No matter what your expertise, there's a dog out there who needs your help.


You can find the shelters in your area at:

Posted in: Commentary.
Last Modified: August 24, 2013

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