Being at the shelter right before you’re about to make a life changing decision on which furry pup to bring home can be overwhelming. If it's your first time adopting, you may find it difficult to know all the necessary questions to ask. To make sure your new family member will fit in with your home and lifestyle well, consider asking these often forgotten questions before you walk out the door with your new friend.
What are all the known medical issues with the dog?
When I adopted Leena I only focused on her most obvious physical impairment - being down a front leg. It didn’t occur to me to ask questions beyond that. The shelter even informed me on her digestive issues and I still didn’t really pry deeper. I just accepted that I would need to feed Leena certain foods and over the counter medications that would help her...well, poop. It didn’t seem like a big ask or something I couldn’t manage.
Within the first day of having her I noticed she was leaving what appeared to be “wet” marks everywhere she would sit; on the couch, on my lap, everywhere. The odor was also quite noticeable; I assumed that would fade over the course of a handful of baths, but it didn’t. Day 7 of us being together, the ER vet at OSU explained it was a much more serious problem she had, one that couldn’t be taken care of with some Miralax with each meal. As I write this blog 15 months into our time together, I’m still cleaning her bottom and applying gooey topical medication to treat her condition the best we can.
My point? Ask more questions so you know what you’re getting yourself into, and determine whether or not you’re up for the task.
What was the dog’s life like before arriving at the shelter?
I imagine there are plenty of times where the shelter isn’t able to answer this question. With Leena, since she was born into a breeder we were able to collect a few basic bits of information such as her breed and age.
What I failed to ask was questions around the breeder and the conditions of the environment. They told me she was born with half of her front arm and the breeder chose to surgically remove the rest so that it wasn’t throwing off her balance or messing up her shoulders when she tried to walk. Sounded reasonable, and I accepted it as such. Now that I’ve done a fair amount of research on prosthetics for dogs, I’ve learned that you can’t put a prosthetic on a dog without a knob and that surgery to remove it is far more expensive than a prosthetic. All this makes me wonder, why was her knob actually removed? And how could any person breed a dog who has both external and internal, hereditary medical issues?
My friends often ask why Leena seems so depressed all the time. I tell them she’s just a “chill dog” but really I wonder if she was abused or neglected early on and scarred now. The thought of it breaks my heart.
Does the dog have any food allergies?
This seems like a simple question yet it never crossed my mind to ask. We’ve been on countless food trials to determine which type of food she’s not allergic to. We almost tried alligator as it came strongly recommended by another goldendoodle mom, but $89 for a 13.5 lb bag wasn’t something I could stomach.
Thankfully a few months in we found Zignature Whitefish and for the most part, her body seems to be able to absorb it well enough. We still have to keep her on a low dosage of daily steroids to prevent her paws from forming painful, bloody abscesses (she still gets them from time to time) but she doesn’t get sick otherwise from the food.
Food trials with dogs are no joke. They can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks, the variety of foods the vet prescribes can be costly, and your insatiable dog (Leena, anyway!) can’t have any other food or treats during the trial period. It’s a lot to manage.
I wouldn’t trade Leena for the world! But, it would have been helpful if I had asked these few questions at the onset so that I would have been more prepared when I brought her home with me. Hopefully our story can help you with which questions to ask as you go through your adoption process!