Woman in surgical cap and mask crouching on floor playing with brown puppy

Medical, Cleaning & Care

Looking to improve the medical, cleaning, and care processes at your organization? Check out these free resources that provide examples of best practices for medical, cleaning, and care needs in a shelter environment. 


  • Cleaning and Sanitation- When most shelters think of disease prevention we often think of vaccinations and medical care or treatments, and often forget the important role of sanitation. Unlike a more controlled/sterile environment such as a veterinary hospital, animals in shelters have contact with numerous surfaces including floors, walls, outdoor yards, walking paths, communal living spaces, and an array of people (public, staff, and volunteers). In some cases, animals might have already been exposed to various diseases prior to coming into the shelter and will be “shedding” with or without showing any blatant symptoms. So, with diseases everywhere and far too many opportunities for transmission, many might think that disease spread is inevitable. However, there’s hope!


  • Canine Care and Enrichment- Providing enrichment for dogs improves their quality of life and can help mitigate undesirable behaviors that might manifest in a shelter environment. They become happier, healthier, safer to work with and are more adoptable overall. This playbook illustrates the need for a comprehensive dog care and enrichment program within shelter operations and includes tips on how to get started. 
  • Canine Distemper- Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect dogs of all ages, and it is endemic in many parts of the country. Distemper is not a death sentence, however — not for individual dogs, and certainly not for all the dogs in the shelter. This playbook gives an overview of canine distemper, to help you understand the implications of the disease in shelters, and to teach you how to approach prevention, treatment and even transport in the shelter environment.
  • Daily Rounds: Planning a Pathway- We owe the animals in our facilities the best possible care each and every day they are with us, and we also owe it to them to reduce their need to stay with us as much as possible. Daily rounds should be seen as the pathway to these goals by ensuring that we provide not only the medical attention they may need, but also observing and monitoring the animals’ behavior patterns, food and water consumption, and elimination patterns.
  • Disease Control - The Role of Sanitation- When we think about disease prevention, we often think of vaccinations and medical care or treatments, and sometimes forget the important role of sanitation. Unlike in a more controlled and sterile environment such as a veterinary hospital, animals in shelters have contact with numerous surfaces, including floors, walls, outdoor yards, walking paths and communal living spaces, as well as an array of people (the public, staff, volunteers).
  • Expanding Veterinary Capacity in Shelters- Rather than asking veterinary and shelter staff to simply do more, though, a sustainable approach exists. Shelter leadership and medical teams can employ certain strategies to expand their capacity for veterinary care while avoiding burnout and turnover. Medical teams can change the way they work so that more animals can receive quality medical care and more lives can be saved – while also preserving quality of life for veterinary and shelter staff.
  • Heartworm Disease Management- This guide provides an overview of heartworm disease management, from the point of case selection (even as early as when the dog still resides at a sending shelter) all the way through treatment. The purpose is to walk organizations through the process of transporting and treating heartworm-positive dogs safely and efficiently, so that more lives can be saved.
  • Infectious Disease Outbreak Response- Outbreaks of infectious disease in animal shelters can dramatically affect lifesaving. In the short term, both infected and exposed animal lives may be at risk depending on the shelter’s available resources. From a long-term perspective, the presence of infectious disease can impact the shelter’s reputation in the community and with partner organizations, and this can limit adoptions or transfer outcomes. The good news is that there are steps that shelters can take not only to prevent outbreaks but also to respond to them using often-limited resources to save the most lives.
  • Length of Stay Manual- The guiding principle in animal sheltering is providing for the welfare of the animals housed within the shelter. In many organizations, balancing animal welfare science and physical space limitations can present significant lifesaving challenges. As proven lifesaving strategies and shelter medicine continue to evolve, so should shelters’ procedures, programs and protocols in pursuit of providing humane care for the animals. When measuring your shelter’s proficiency in these lifesaving areas, it is critical to analyze the average length of stay (LOS) for animals.
  • Medical Care for Kittens- In many shelters across the country, neonatal and weaning kittens are one of the groups most at risk of losing their lives. Even for organizations with robust kitten programs, sick kittens can pose major challenges. Through effective preventive care, a thorough understanding of common kitten medical conditions, and prompt recognition and treatment of those conditions, shelters and rescue groups can expand their capacity for kittens and increase kitten lifesaving.  
  • Neonatal Kitten Care- The care of neonatal kittens can be a daunting endeavor for many organizations because of the vulnerability of kittens and the time and resources their care requires. Following a carefully planned procedure for kittens can help ease these concerns and make caring for this vulnerable population a little less overwhelming. This playbook helps you create a protocol for programming so that you can swiftly and effectively care for neonatal kittens in your community, and ultimately create more positive outcomes for kittens who formally enter your shelter.
  • Proven Lifesaving Strategies for Big Dogs Training- One of the most challenging populations for shelters across the country is large dogs. Big dogs tend to have a longer length of stay, which results in greater potential to succumb to shelter stress, and stress can lead to undesirable behaviors, which further handicaps the dogs’ chances of a positive outcome. This playbook is designed to give an overview of strategies that have been successfully implemented by agencies all over the country, and to assist you in creating a customized protocol for your organization utilizing their experiences, standard operating procedures and proven lifesaving strategies.
  • Reducing Infectious Disease in Transport Programs Playbook- For many shelters, animal transport is vital to their current lifesaving efforts. While we know that sustained transport should not be the long-term solution, in the short term, it provides a much-needed release valve for overcrowded, high-intake shelters so that they have the time and space to develop longer-term strategies for their communities. Many of these high-intake shelters, though, are in areas where infectious disease is a constant threat and may be endemic in the community or region. This playbook addresses strategies that both sending and receiving shelters can employ to reduce the risk of infectious disease spread during animal relocation.
  • Ringworm Management- While dermatophytosis (commonly known as ringworm) is not fatal under normal circumstances, because of its contagious nature and the prolonged period usually needed for treatment, it remains a reason for euthanasia of many cats and kittens in shelters. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. It is possible to implement a lifesaving program for ringworm management in the shelter setting that successfully saves pets who have ringworm and doesn’t risk spread to the rest of the population. This playbook guides shelter staff through what that programming might look like at their organization. Because cats are most at risk when it comes to this disease, the bulk of the playbook addresses management of feline cases, followed by a brief discussion of managing canine dermatophytosis in the shelter setting. 

You can find additional information on medical, cleaning, and care here