The health status of each animal entering the shelter system must be evaluated, documented, and monitored beginning at intake. A key component of this assessment is the physical examination. Conducting this exam at or shortly after intake allows shelter personnel to recognize and address any health problems that are present or that develop during an animal’s time in care. A physical examination can be done by trained persons operating under a veterinarian-designed protocol.
Objectives of the intake examination include:
Establishment of baseline health information
Identification of urgent needs, including infectious disease concerns
Identification of needs that may arise during shelter stay
At a minimum, a physical examination should include:
A basic animal description (e.g., species, breed type, color and distinguishing characteristics, presence of any identification such as a microchip)
Actual or estimated age
Sex and sterilization status
Body weight and body condition assessment
Evaluation for common signs of infectious and non-infectious conditions
Assessment of general attitude, comfort, and mental state
For animals with ongoing medical concerns or those with longer lengths of stay, physical examinations should be repeated on a regular basis – generally once every 6-12 months depending on individual needs and resources.