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Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog

This month’s topic is pet adoption and Dr Riggs talks about his experience with dog adoptions from a veterinary perspective.


Rescuing or adopting has become the “new” way to acquire a new pet these days.  People have seen or heard too much of the horrors of puppy mills and pet stores, and many have decided not to go this route. I could not be happier!

In 27 years of practice I can’t tell you how many sick and genetically defective animals I have seen from pet stores and poor breeders.  Ohio has dubiously become a national supplier of puppy mill puppies in recent years, most commonly coming from Amish farms in the north central part of our state. Yes… the Amish.

It is not uncommon for me to not recognize the breed of the pet simply because of over breeding and poor genetic selection of parents; many of these animals have little resemblance to the breed they are supposed to be.  It is sad. Sad for the animal.  Sad for the family. The family who comes in to my hospital excited about their new pet, only to be told they have a seriously sick or congenital defective animal.  So….do not buy animals from a pet store. Don’t even go in because you will be hooked.

Ossa 11My wife and I have two rescue dogs.  Ossa is a release dog from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI),  a wonderful organization which I am honored to be associated with. CCI has very stringent requirements for their companion service dogs and Ossa was just a little shy.  She is a golden retriever. 

This is a good place to stress that no matter what breed you are looking for; there is a breed rescue group. So you can’t let the excuse of looking for a purebred dog exclude you from rescuing a dog. 

My other dog is Maggie, our pride and joy.  I remember the day we got her at a local shelter. We went there to pick up a dog we had seen the day before, and we did. We were almost out the door when my wife spotted this adorable and pathetic mutt of a puppy, sitting at the door of her cage.  I didn’t have a chance.  We left with two new additions to our family.  That was 17 years ago and Maggie the wonder dog is still with us and doing just fine.  

MaggieThis brings up a good point.  Mix breed dogs are often healthier and live longer than purebred dogs.  This often surprises people.  Mix breed dogs have what is called hybrid vigor, which means they get best traits of both, or many breeds, of their parents.  Purebred dogs have a decreased gene pool, due to breeding with the same breed over and over.  Recessive genes are hidden genes, which can be expressed when breeding for a desired trait and resulting in unwanted genetic disorders.  There are good breeders who try very hard to breed these defects out, but it is difficult.

So what is the first thing you do when you get your new rescue pet?  No you do not go to the pet store and buy all the things you don’t need or get the “food du jour” from the teenager working that day! 

You take it to your vet to get a good exam and professional recommendations of what you need.

HanThis first veterinary exam should be from head to toe, looking at the eyes, ears, teeth, skin, palpating the abdomen and listening to the heart. You should also have a fecal check even if this was just done.

You need to realize the doctor might find some problems, ranging from minor to life threatening.  You need to be informed of any possible problems. If problems are detected, you need to determine if you can deal with them.  That is a personal decision. My hospital manager just adopted a 1 year old, deaf and partially blind dog.  Many people would not be able to handle that, but Han (the white dog on the right) has found a great and loving home.

I often say that dogs and cats have other senses that we do not have.  I think they know when they are given a second chance.  Rescue dogs just seem happier to me.  You will be happy too, if you give an animal a second (or third or fourth) chance at a happy life.


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

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