top of page

Health & Wellness

One of the intriguing things about shelter dogs is that we don’t know their histories. Some have received the best of care early in life; others have been horribly neglected and even abused. Dogs may have been exposed to common, easily treatable contagious diseases such as intestinal parasites, fleas, and kennel cough. ODHS treats these conditions while the dogs are in our care. Our volunteers will tell you as much as they know about any existing medical conditions.

Best ways to contact us: 

● Email: 

● Messenger on our Facebook page (Old Dominion Humane Society) 

Medical - (within the first 30 days after adoption you should have your dog seen by a vet) 

● Take medical records to the vet and do a wellcheck and fecal exam (at a minimum). 

● If your puppy is less than 16 weeks, they haven’t gotten their rabies vaccination and will need it. (See vaccine log for date). 

● If your dog is less than 6 months old, they have not been tested for heartworms. This is a blood test performed by a vet and repeated annually. 

● Begin heartworm treatment as soon as 12 weeks of age; 

○ We recommend: Sentinel (acts as monthly dewormer and heartworm prevention). 

● Begin flea/tick prevention (consult box, but typically can start at 12 weeks); 

○ We recommend: Bravecto, Advantix, Seresto, Earth Animal Powder, Wondercide 

Kennel cough, Lyme disease, Coccidia, Giardia , and Heartworms 

● Kennel cough is an airborne virus amongst dogs (very similar to that of a human cold) that lasts about 7-14 days. 

○ It occurs very commonly in rescue dogs all year round. Nearly every dog we get will have had it recently, currently have it, or will be getting it while in our care. The dog may have a hacking, goose sounding cough, runny eyes/nose, congestion. This may cause the dog to sleep more and eat less, much like a human feels when they have a cold. Typically, kennel cough does not require vet attention and can be soothed with the following remedies; 


Consult your veterinarian  to see if these medications may be used and for dosage information.

○ Plain tussin (guaifenesin). This is an expectorant to break up congestion. 

○ Elderberry syrup (sold in most drug stores and Wal-Mart under the brand name “Sambucol”) - this is an immune booster. 

○ Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Cough Syrup - this has honey, vitamin c, and zinc 

Natural and Home Remedies

○ Honey (warmed) - soothing to the throat if sore. 

○ Chicken or beef broth (low sodium) in their kibble. Slightly warmed helps soothe as well. 

○ Steam from showers (put dog in bathroom when anyone takes a shower). 

○ Do not use a cough suppressant of any kind (i.e. dextromethorphan) as this will cause the congestion to remain and could lead to pneumonia. 

○ “Pat” the dog’s sides in a cupping manner to help make the cough productive. 

● Keep up your dog’s hydration and food intake. Puppies and older dogs are more susceptible to kennel cough and will need vet intervention more often sometimes. 

● If your dog starts producing GREEN MUCUS or you are not seeing any improvement after a few days, then it’s time for a vet visit, and possibly antibiotics. 

● If you have other dogs at home, it’s a good idea to watch all dogs for symptoms. Just like a human cold, it’s only a matter of time before it’s passed around to all the dogs. 

Lyme disease is an infection passed to a dog by deer ticks (information available online) 

○ The main symptoms in dogs are achy, stiff joints and trouble walking. 

○ We test all dogs 6 months or older for this disease. If your dog is positive, we will let you know and you will need to get antibiotics from your vet (typically 21-28 days of doxycycline). 

Coccidia is a parasite that attacks your dog’s intestines and the main symptom is diarrhea. 

○ Dogs are infected with this parasite by eating affected soil or consuming affected dog feces (common in puppies and older dogs). This is one reason we recommend a fecal test within 30 days of adoption or sooner if symptoms present themselves. 

○ Coccidia can be fatal if not treated. 

○ Dogs can be infected and not show any signs at all -- FECAL EXAMS ARE VITAL. 

○ Medications will be given by your vet to treat this parasite if it’s found. 

● Giardia is another common parasite found in dogs. The main symptom is diarrhea. 

○ It is typically found on surfaces, soil, or water that are infected with feces. 

○ A fecal exam will also detect this and your vet will treat with medications. 

Heartworms (online resource 

○ Canine heartworm disease develops when a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito (the carrier of the parasite). 

○ Heartworms impact the dog’s heart and lungs and can be fatal if not treated. 

○ Monthly prevention beginning at age 12 weeks is VITAL to protect your dog. 

○ All dogs 6 months and up have been tested for heartworms. 

○ If positive, they likely have been treated by the time of adoption. 

■ Treatment includes; 

● 28 days of doxycycline (antibiotic) 

● Two shots (consecutive days) to kill the heartworms 

● 30 days of low activity (nothing that makes them pant) following the heartworm treatment. 

■ Depending on timing of the adoption, your dog may still be on anti-inflammation medication post treatment. 


Additional Resources 

Top Myths About Pet Food and Nutrition 

● The best foods are those the veterinarian sells, like Royal Canin, Purina Veterinary, and Hill’s Science Diet 

○ Take a look at the ingredients before you buy dog food from your vet. These formulas derive far more protein from grains or grain by-products. They also use poultry by-product that are leftovers, un-fit for human consumption, like feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines; everything BUT clean meat. This cheap, low quality source of protein is far less digestible for your new dog. When looking for the best food, 

meat and a named meat meal, like chicken meal or lamb meal, should be listed before any grains. 

● Dry food cleans your dog’s teeth 

○ Dogs have very pointed teeth; even their molars are sharp edged, not flat. These teeth are designed to bite, tear, and chew raw meat, so when a dog eats kibble, they either swallow it whole or shatter it. Kibble does not scrape down onto the lower parts of the teeth or near the gums, which is where dental problems start. Poor dental health can lead to chronic disease conditions. Healthy teeth start with a natural diet, healthy chews, and regular brushing. 

● Pets need life stage appropriate diets, like puppy, kitten, and senior formulas. 

○ A high-quality, varied diet is the best option for your younger pets. For puppies, this can include dry food, canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated, and raw food. Feeding younger animals 3 times a day is helpful when they are in the biggest growth phase. After three or four months of age, two meals a day is sufficient. 

○ Senior animals tend to slow down as they age, so while their calorie requirements may shrink, their need for the healthiest food you can provide is never greater to keep their immune system strong and their joints in good working order. Continue to feed a high quality, varied diet – just a little less of it. Obesity can contribute to diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract problems. 

● Table scraps and other “people foods” are bad for your dog. 

○ Most holistically trained veterinarians encourage the practice of feeding “people food” to our pets. Healthy leftovers are an excellent supplement to your companion’s regular fare. There are only two rules: a) It must be healthy for them: meat, steamed and finely chopped veggies & fruits, baked 

sweet potato, rice, or oatmeal; no junk food; and b) If you give them some of what you are eating, remember to feed less of their own food so 

that they don’t put on extra pounds. ***It’s important to note that NOT all healthy foods for us are safe for our pets; Here are just some of the human foods that are toxic to dogs: alcohol, avocados, chocolate, coffee, grapes, chewing gum, mushrooms, dough, garlic, onions, potato, raisins, salty food, caffeine, cherries (and more). Have on hand: 100% pure pumpkin (canned) - fiber is great for nervous tummies or constipation. 

● Your dog should only eat food labeled as “complete and balanced” 

○ Variety is the key to a healthy diet for dogs. If you’re feeding at least 50-60% commercially prepared foods that are designed to be “complete”, then you are on your way to providing a majority of the balance of nutrients. Adding canned, raw or cooked meats, people food, fresh vegetables or other non-formulated foods to your companion’s meals will boost the overall nutrition of the diet as long as it is not overdone. Providing a daily multi-vitamin adds extra insurance. One caveat here: meat I higher in phosphorus and lower in calcium, so when adding more than 15-20% extra meat to your companion’s diet on a regular basis, keep the calcium and phosphorus ration balanced over time by including raw bones or adding a calcium supplement. 

● Feeding raw food is dangerous due to the risk of salmonella and E. Coli 

○ Raw food moves through your pet’s system in less than half the time it would through a human’s system, and the acid level of a dog’s stomach is higher killing most bacteria. Even if the food was contaminated, it is likely that the microbes would not enter the animal’s bloodstream. Commercially prepared raw food manufacturers take measures to control against the presence of unwanted organisms such as salmonella and E.coli, so if you’re concerned about contamination, frozen raw diets are a good option. Use the same precautions apply to raw pet food: wash bowls, utensils and your hands after feeding and handling the meat. Keep the meat frozen until two to four days before feeding, and thaw in the refrigerator. Don’t leave the food down for your pet more than 30-40 minutes and throw any leftovers away after this time. 

● High protein diets are hard on your pets kidneys, especially as they age 

○ This myth is a result of poor quality food manufacturers. The truth is that high plant protein diets are hard on your pet’s organs; high animal protein diets aren’t only healthy for your aging pets, but essential. Poor quality, mass produced pet foods are packed with protein from soy and corn. Unfortunately, your dog is unable to properly digest and assimilate these sources of protein. It lets the food manufacturer boost the protein content of the food without actually offering our pets any substantial protein they can use. High plant protein diets put added strain on your pets because their bodies aren’t designed to process those ingredients. As they try to assimilate protein from these sources, their organs need to start working overtime. 

● Changing formulas or brands of pet foods is hard on your dogs or cats digestion 

○ A healthy dog can eat a different food at each meal without issue as long as they are high-quality foods. Holistically minded guardians and veterinarians know that variety is important for several reasons, the most important being to avoid the development of sensitivities to any particular food or protein type. Feeding the same food for several years is a contributing factor to inflammatory bowel disease. A diverse diet will meet the nutritional needs of your companion over time. Remember every meal doesn’t need to be perfectly balanced as long as the diet is balanced over the course of a week. 

○ Remember to include supplements in any diet. Digestive enzymes are hugely important and will help your companion transition from one food type of food to another with ease. They help animals maintain a healthy digestive tract and get the most nutrition from their food. Essential fatty acids, especially from fish oil, provide the omega 3 fatty acids missing from most processed pet foods that nourish the skin, coat, and digestive tract. Probiotics are important for animals on medication or those experiencing digestive upsets. For animals in need of increased support due to chronic digestive issues, Only Natural Pet GI Support provides herbs and nutrients to soothe and heal the lining of the digestive tract. 

● It’s fine for dogs and cats to eat each other’s food 

○ While there are a few canned formulas available that meet the needs of both species, most foods are designed specifically for cats or dogs. Cats require a higher percentage of protein and fat than most dogs and they have specific requirements for additional taurine. Dogs that eat too much cat food are at risk of weight gain and even pancreatitis. 

Cats that eat dog food are at risk of weight gain when the food is high in carbohydrates, as well as more likely to develop deficiencies in important amino acids like taurine. 

bottom of page