Shelter Medicine

Where the magic happens.

Shelter medicine is a specialty field of veterinary medicine dedicated to the care of homeless animals. The Shelter Medicine Department cares for all the animals living under the auspices of the SF SPCA, be that in the shelter, the adoption center, or in a foster home.

Who we are

On the shelter medicine team there are veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, and volunteers. All team members share an interest in or have specialized training in epidemiology, preventative medicine, infectious disease management, facility design/organization and public health.

What we do

On any given day you will find shelter medicine team members doing physical exams, diagnostics, treatments, husbandry, data entry and data analysis or research. On occasion, the team will perform surgery or a sedated procedure.

The shelter medicine team provides health care that makes any given animal adoptable. Equally important, though, is our goal to provide medical care that minimizes the overall length of stay of our entire animal population. For us, success is found in preventing illness, quickly containing an outbreak of infectious disease and having an adopter confidently take over the care of an animal with a manageable condition.

Meet one of our patients

Clara came to us at 3 months old from our partner shelter in Merced. Clara had a head wound that partially exposed her skull from her forehead to her right ear. The wound had been treated but unfortunately was not healing well. The day after she arrived, Clara was spayed and a second attempt was made to close her wound by creatively stretching what little skin she had left. The shelter medicine team then began 3 weeks of pain management, antibiotic therapy and lots and lots of bandage changes.

It was two weeks before we were confident the wound was going to close. That was also when we noticed hair loss on Clara’s face and head that seemed unrelated to her wound. We did a wood’s lamp test and sure enough, Clara was infected with a fungus common in shelters called ringworm. Ringworm treatment involves a course of oral antifungal medication and twice weekly topical application of lime sulfur over the whole body until the fungus can no longer be detected. Clara was housed in an isolation ward with other ringworm infected cats because the fungus is contagious. Clara was treated for 8 weeks and finally, 3 months after she arrived, cleared to get adopted.

The shelter medicine team provides health care that makes any given animal adoptable. Equally important, though, is our goal to provide medical care that minimizes the overall length of stay of our entire animal population. For us, success is found in preventing illness, quickly containing an outbreak of infectious disease and having an adopter confidently take over the care of an animal with a manageable condition.

The SPORE Program

Through the education of staff and volunteers, many ringworm outbreaks can be avoided and all can be controlled without the use of euthanasia.

Ready To Adopt?

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