Rescue Me: What You Need to Know Before Adopting a Pet Abroad

Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica and even many southern US states are all warm destinations to escape the rainy, pre-spring blues. The Comox Valley is no stranger to the wonderful canines that are rescued while their newly acquired owners are on vacation. Those exotic places seem to be bursting with needy pups looking for a special home. Although it’s never a bad thing to rescue any dog, there are a few things that new owners should keep in mind when adopting a pet from an exotic location.

Southern climates can be home to many disease vectors that we just don’t see this far North West. The most common illness is tick-borne diseases such as Erlichia, Anaplasma, Babesia, Mycoplasma, and Lyme disease. These bacterial diseases are carried by the deer tick or brown dog tick. The tick transmits the bacteria through its saliva and after an incubation period (1- 3 weeks) the disease spreads from the bite site to the spleen, liver, and lymph nodes.

Symptoms to watch for are fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, swollen joints, nose bleeds, lethargy, and depression; and in severe cases, you may see vomiting, diarrhea or even seizures.  Often the poor pup has these symptoms at the time they are rescued, and new owners do not know the full extent of the disease until they come back home and have become extremely bonded to that pet.

To make an informed decision you should take your newly rescued pet to a veterinarian before leaving the country. If this is not possible, it is recommended to visit your family veterinarian shortly upon arrival. Early detection and treatment are often effective (such as a broad-spectrum antibiotic) and it is a fairly easy treatment. Another common and potentially deadly disease found in animals from our neighbours in warmer climates are Heartworm DiseaseThis can easily be detected through a blood test and treated quite successfully. However, other diseases which can result from a life of neglect and malnutrition, which is often the case with a rescue, can be much harder to diagnose and can take a significant amount of time to control.

Keep in mind; sick pets will need time to recover and rebuild strength. Owners must be vigilant with regular blood work to detect recurrences, and sometimes taking on a rescued dog or cat involves a life-long commitment for disease monitoring. Sometimes owners don’t get a chance to see their new pet’s true personality until they have fully recovered from their condition. This true personality can sometimes turn out to be a difficult one, which may require extensive training or work with a certified canine behaviourist. For the most part, rescued pets can often make the most loving, happy, loyal members of the family. It can be very gratifying to rescue an animal and give them a loving home to live out their days, but more importantly, the bond you create can be of mutual benefit for many wonderful years.

Submitted by Van Isle Veterinary Hospital