Investigators reviewed medical records of puppies and kittens, ages 6 to 26 weeks, from a metropolitan animal shelter to determine what medical risk factors delayed veterinary approval for adoption from the time of intake. Of the 333 puppy records randomly selected, 41.7% had no abnormalities identified by the shelter veterinarian at the time of admission. Puppies with skin (12%), respiratory (22%), and digestive (38%) diseases found at intake were significantly more likely to be delayed for veterinary approval for adoption. Of the 364 randomly selected kittens, 28% were healthy at admission. The 4 most commonly reported diseases in this species were respiratory (45%), GI (39%), ocular (26%), and skin (11.6%). The presence of respiratory or digestive disease at intake significantly delayed approval for adoption. Stray kittens were more likely to be delayed than owner-relinquished kittens and the odds of delay decreased by 2% for each week increase in the kitten’s age. For puppies and kittens with respiratory and/or ocular disease, treatment with antibiotics within 24 hours of admission significantly decreased the time between admission and approval for adoption. Prompt administration of antibiotics for ocular and respiratory diseases at admission may shorten the length of shelter stay.

Commentary: Minimizing the length of stay of shelter animals is critical to maintaining their physical and mental health in the shelter environment. When length of stay is minimized, more animals can move through the shelter system in a given period, resulting in more lives saved. In addition to identifying several risk factors for delays to adoption, this report demonstrates the effect of prompt-yet-judicious use of antibiotics on lessening some of those delays. These findings highlight the importance of early evaluation for signs of infectious disease as well as the positive influence of veterinary involvement in the creation of shelter animal health care protocols.—Brian A. DiGangi, DVM, MS, Diplomate ABVP (Canine/Feline)

Risk factors for delays between intake and veterinary approval for adoption on medical grounds in shelter puppies and kittens. Litster A, Allen J, Mohamed A, He S. PREV VET MED 101:107-112, 2011.