When providing care to animals at a sanctuary, regular health examinations are one of the most critical things you should provide for every resident. Although it can be daunting if your sanctuary has a large number of animals to care for, it is unacceptable to offer lifelong care to individual animals without having the capacity to give each resident their own scheduled health examinations (typically every 6-8 weeks for most species, if not more regularly, and once a month for chickens), even if they appear healthy. There are a variety of benefits of a short, documented examination beyond evaluating a resident who visibly seems to be doing poorly!
Get To Know Individuals
Providing individual health examinations helps you get to know each resident as an individual who has their own preferences, needs, and dislikes. By looking them over and gently handling them, you or your caregivers will have an opportunity to better understand and advocate for the individual lives in your care, rather than focusing solely on your resident population as a whole. This is especially important during intake examinations.
Learn What Healthy Looks Like
When you give regular health examinations to individual residents, it can help you rapidly discern how a healthy versus unhealthy member of each species generally looks, feels, and acts. This can help you identify and prioritize care if residents give subtle signs that something may be amiss. Some individuals in your care will likely have ongoing health challenges (or may just be a little different than other members of their species!); giving them a regular checkup will help you know what’s normal for them, or if they’re having an illness flare up or additional concern that must be addressed.
Many farmed animal species are adept at hiding discomfort, pain, and illness, especially farmed species of birds. While this is a valuable species skill for protecting themselves from predation, it makes for more challenging ongoing healthcare for your residents! By providing regular health examinations to residents who seem healthy on first glance, you can discover issues that they may have been suffering with for a long while, or provide proactive care for minor health issues before they become much more serious.
Address Sanctuary Concerns
Providing health examinations to whole flocks or herds can help you see wider patterns in your populations; for instance, if a number of residents in the same living space develop a deficiency, there may be a systemic nutritional issue with supplementation you’re providing or an environmental issue causing deficiencies. If a number of residents get injured in specific ways over a period of time, there might be a problem with habitat design or pasture that must be addressed to protect your residents’ health.
Ease In Emergencies
There may be a time when you need to move or evacuate one or more residents quickly and efficiently. By regularly looking over and handling residents respectfully, it can help individuals become less stressed out or reactive to human handling. This can be critical in times when you need their immediate cooperation!
Species-Specific Health Examination Guides
The Open Sanctuary Project has resources to help you get acquainted with health examinations for a number of farmed animal species.
- How To Conduct A Chicken Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Duck Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Goose Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Cow Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Pig Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Goat Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Sheep Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Horse Health Examination
- How To Conduct A Llama Health Examination
- How To Conduct An Alpaca Health Examination