A Quick Q&A with Director of Shelter Medicine, Belinda Evans, DVM.

Q: What are the most typical medical issues you deal with at the shelter?

A: The most common medical problems we see are infectious diseases that are common when you have a large number of animals living close together, such as kennel cough in dogs and upper respiratory infections (sneezing and eye discharge) in cats. We also see medical issues associated with a chronic lack of proper care such as dental disease, skin infections, and extremely matted fur.

Q: How has shelter medicine changed in the last 20 years?

A: We’re seeing a lot more older animals coming to the shelter, either as strays or because their guardians can no longer keep them. So we are dealing with a lot more “senior” animal diseases like chronic kidney disease, serious dental problems, and arthritis/ joint issues.

Over the last 20 years we’ve also seen shelter medicine become a veterinary specialty in its own right. While we encounter some of the same medical problems treated by veterinarians in private practice, shelter medicine has many unique medical challenges. Research is being done in the shelter medicine field at multiple universities to determine the best ways to house, treat, and enrich animals in a shelter setting.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you face practicing veterinary medicine in a shelter environment?

A: Infectious disease control is always a challenge when you are housing many animals under one roof. The closer animals are to each other, the more likely they are to pass on an infection – similar to children in a school.
Another big challenge is trying to decrease stress for the animals in the shelter, since increased stress is directly related to increased medical problems. For example, cats who’re stressed are much more likely to develop urination problems.

At Marin Humane we’re always progressing, keeping up with the latest research, and looking for ways to decrease stress and keep our animals healthy during their time at the shelter.

Q: What do you love most about working at the shelter?

A: The most satisfying part of the job is seeing animals who come in with medical or other issues go out the door with a new family to love them. We become very attached to the animals in our care and it’s wonderful to have adopters willing to offer them a home. It makes the hard work so worth it!

Q: Any advice to pet guardians?

A: Microchip and put ID tags on your pets so they will make their way back home if lost. This is especially important in disasters like the recent fires and evacuations!