Separation is key!

Do you know the different between isolation and quarantine? Does your staff, board members or architects understand what a holding ward is? If the answer is no–you are not alone. These terms are commonly misused by shelter workers, and it is important that we define each as a separate space. This is particularly poignant during renovations or the creation of a new facility. Let’s take a look at what these words mean for your organization:

1) Holding refers to a space for healthy, not yet adoptable animals. You may be familiar with holding spaces in the context of stray or health department holds. Holding is a place where non-infectious animals can wait for the next step in their shelter journey. They may be waiting for a medical check, spay-neuter, or their owner to reclaim them. Holding is further broken down based on species and age. It is important to separate based on these factors in the event of a disease outbreak and to reduce stress. In general every shelter should have four holding spaces: kitten, adult cat, puppy and adult dog.

2) Quarantine is confusing term due to overlap between holding and isolation. Strictly speaking, quarantine is for currently healthy animals which have been exposed to infectious disease. For example quarantine should be used for transfer of dogs from another organization which is experiencing a kennel cough outbreak. These dogs were exposed, may become ill, and shouldn’t be put in the general population (holding) in case they become sick. Quarantine is useful when there is a history or known high risk of disease exposure. Once again, quarantine spaces should be broken up by species and age, but also by origin. If you take in transfers from multiple organizations at the same time, it is ideal to quarantine them in separate spaces.

3) Isolation is where sick animals are held for the duration of their treatment. Another term you may have heard is infirmary or hospital. In general, isolation is for animals with contagious disease (e.g. URI, parvovirus, ringworm). A hospital or treatment area may refer to a space where non-infectious diseases are treated (e.g. injuries, recovering from surgery). Isolation should be broken up by species and disease. The disease categories we tend to use are respiratory (URI), gastrointestinal (GI or diarrhea) and derm (ringworm). At a bare minimum shelters should have one isolation ward per species. However, it is best to keep the diseases separate, as you do not want your URI cats to develop ringworm or panleukopenia, etc. With dogs, kennel cough is further complicated by distemper, necessitating a separate distemper area if your shelter chooses to

Wow, that’s a lot of spaces. You may be thinking that it is impossible to provide enough spaces for all the diseases, species and age groups described above–and you are right! In the real world shelters have limited space and resources. So how do you determine how much of each type of space your shelter needs? Ask yourself the following questions: What species do you keep? How many at a time? What diseases do you see commonly? Which diseases will you treat or not treat? What spaces do you have available?

If your shelter does not treat ringworm, parvo, panleukopenia or distemper, then those diseases can be ignored. Frequently we are left with URI and diarrhea (Giardia, coccidia) for dogs and cats. Having flexible spaces, i.e. small rooms, allows a shelter to shift the purpose of a room. For example, when taking in a transport of puppies, a room can turn from adult dog URI to puppy holding. Of course, it is important to clean and disinfect appropriately, as some diseases can stay in the environment (e.g. parvo, ringworm). In many instances rooms can be combined due to necessity, e.g. ringworm houses cats and kittens. Now that you know the basics, let’s summarize:

  • Holding (healthy animals)
    • Adult cat
    • Kitten
    • Adult dog
    • Puppy
    • Small animals (rabbits, etc.)
  • Quarantine (healthy animals)
    • Variable
    • Can be unoccupied isolation, holding space or foster
  • Isolation (sick animals)
    • Adult cat URI
    • Kitten URI
    • Adult cat diarrhea
    • Kitten diarrhea
    • Feline ringworm (adult and kitten)
    • Adult dog URI
    • Puppy URI
    • Adult dog diarrhea
    • Puppy diarrhea

I hope this overview has been helpful. Look at your particular shelter and make sure that you have basic holding and isolation spaces. Still overwhelmed? Consultation with an expert in shelter medicine may help!

Daily Rounds

Whether you have been working in a shelter for years or today is your first day, you have likely noticed that managing the health and wellbeing of the many animals under our care can be a daunting task. Performing daily rounds is an excellent way to keep your team informed and help ensure that every animal stays as happy and healthy as possible. This efficient method of physically observing every animal on a daily basis will facilitate decision-making, as well as each animal’s path towards adoption.

How are they helpful?

We know that shelters can be stressful environments, which can facilitate susceptibility to disease. To lend to that, animals of all ages and health statuses enter and leave our facilities on a regular basis. Daily rounds are a great way to ensure that animals are remaining healthy or are receiving and responding to treatments in a timely manner. By observing every animal every day, new illness can be detected early and in the case of infectious disease, potentially prevent shelter-wide outbreaks.

yellow lab

How do you do it?

The very nature of animal sheltering requires a team effort and effective communication to ensure the successful adoption of animals entering ours shelters. Daily rounds is an essential method of not only monitoring the health of each animal, but also is an opportunity to discuss that animal’s plan with a variety of team members with a goal of expediting the path towards adoption. Although there is no right or wrong way to perform daily rounds, they are typically held at least once daily, where every animal is observed in its enclosure and a brief history of the animal is reported. The current and future status of that animal is then discussed as a team with any needed actions recorded and initiated.

Who should come?

Because of the various needs of the animals, any staff member involved in decision-making should participate in daily rounds. This may include medical staff, behavior staff, managers, directors, adoption staff, and animal control officers. Although it will typically only take a few minutes to “round” about each animal, for shelters with large populations these minutes can quickly turn into hours. Dividing team members to cover different shelter populations may be the best viable option. Any serious concerns can then be reported to the entire group at a later time.

kittens in cage

Is that all there really is to it?

Yes! It’s daily observation and discussion of each animal that can make all the difference in keeping the animals and shelter at their healthiest. However, you and your team decide to perform daily rounds, consider organizing your team and get started today!

Microchips can save lives

tiny microchip

They may be tiny, but their impact is great.

You probably already know that if a lost pet has a microchip implanted, their chance of being reunited with their owner is greatly increased. But did you know that without a microchip (or any other form of ID) on average, only 2% of cats and 30% of dogs are returned to their owners? Placing a microchip can increase this success rate to 40% for cats and 60% for dogs. It is therefore very worthwhile to be sure all pets entering a shelter are scanned for a microchip and have a chip implanted if one is not found.

Keep that scanner handy

Ideally, every animal entering a shelter should be checked for a microchip with a universal scanner at the time of intake. The process takes less than 30 seconds and the only equipment required is a scanner that has fully charged batteries. The scanner should be held just above the animal’s body while it is moved slowly over the animal, covering the entire body. It is important to scan the whole animal because although most microchips are implanted between the shoulder blades, they can migrate over time. If a microchip is found and has been registered by the owner, the number can be entered into AHHA’s Pet Microchip Lookup tool  in order to identify the owner. This process can also be done in the field by animal control officers, which may prevent a pet from entering a shelter altogether.

Give it a try

If a microchip is not identified at intake, it’s best to go ahead and place one at that time. This procedure is similar to giving an injection for a vaccine and causes minimal discomfort to the animal. If you are concerned that the animal will not remain still for the microchipping process, try distracting them with a treat or attention from another staff member.  Check out the link below to see how microchipping is accomplished quick and easy!

microchip scanner

Although implanting a microchip does not require anesthesia, many animal welfare organizations will wait to place one until the time of spay/neuter. This is particularly helpful if staff availability is limited for intake procedures. Additionally, there are no age restrictions when implanting a microchip. However, it is typical to wait until a kitten or puppy is 8 weeks of age before placing the chip, as this is the most common age these little ones are spayed or neutered.

Make microchipping one of your shelter’s protocols

It’s truly amazing that such a tiny and easy to use piece of technology can have such a large impact. We encourage every animal welfare organization to consider the potential life saving affects of microchips and be sure to scan every animal that enters their facility. Better yet, consider placing microchips in shelter animals to help ensure future owners will be reunited with their pet if ever lost!

Check out this video of how to microchip!

Helpful links:

AHHA’s Pet Microchip Lookup