Medical Volunteer Expectations

Thank you for your interest in joining the APA! Parvo Dog Team! You all, as volunteers, make the biggest difference in these young puppies’ lives - you give them a second chance to fight for a healthy, happy life! 

Getting Started

You must be at least 18 years old to volunteer in the ICU. In order to join the group, you must have completed the following:
  1. Fill out the APA! volunteer application found online at and attend an APA! orientation. 
  2. Email the Parvo Team Manager then answer the questions in the welcome email. The Team Manager can be reached at 
  3. Join the parvo team google group to receive team emails. You will get anywhere from 2-10 emails per day. Please check them daily as they may have important reminders or notifications.
You are also required to undergo specific Parvo Team training following a curriculum with trained members. You will become an official volunteer once you are ready to treat alone (in about 3 weeks), which depends on how fast you learn and how confident you feel and which strictly depends on how often you volunteer.

For the first six months of volunteering, you must commit to two shifts per week with one weekday morning OR one weekend shift per week. Weekend shifts include Friday PM, Saturday AM, Saturday PM and Sun AM. This is a huge commitment you're making to the puppies, the volunteer team, and APA! staff. You should closely evaluate your other commitments for the next 6 months (school work load, work schedule, medical issues, family commitments, etc) before deciding to join this team. Treatments and patients require your full attention. A twice per week commitment is a necessary minimum during this time to continually practice your medical skills so our puppies will be getting the proper medical attention they need.

Volunteer Expectations

As individuals responsible for critically ill patients, you are expected to take this position as seriously as you would your job. Thank you for understanding how important this position is!
  • Be Reliable - Show up on time to the shifts you have committed to, and complete all treatments while at your shift.
  • Be Cleanly - Abide by all procedures for preventing spread of diseases, including washing hands, spraying down with disinfectant, changing procedures, etc.
  • Be Mindful of Cross-Contamination - Wash hands before entering or after treating any Parvo dog, and clean any bowls or toys you remove from any Parvo cage.
  • Be Mindful of Sterile-Technique - Needles, catheters, fluid lines and medication vials should always be capped. Anything going into the dog must be sterile, including the syringes or IV line attached to a catheter.
  • Be Safe - Keep yourself safe (do not treat aggressive puppies that are trying to bite alone; notify the doctor), and watch out for safety hazards in the ICU, such as keeping all wires off the floor, in case of washer/water leaks.
  • Be Kind - Treat all puppies with love, compassion, and respect. 
  • Be Observant - Always assess general health of sick puppies, and know when a doctor needs to be called immediately. Treat puppies in order of critical
  • Be Efficient - treatments must be done in a timely manner, and you must always be aware of the time. You may have many hours to spend in the ICU, but the puppies should be getting their treatment as close to the time they were scheduled and your co-volunteer likely does not have extra time. Shifts should always last under 4 hours (if we are at capacity), and in most cases should be done under 2 hours. Consult the Triage Mode page for details on when the ICU is overcrowded.
  • Be Confident - once you have completed training and have thoroughly studied the relevant pages on this wiki site, be proud and confident about the knowledge you know have, and apply your confidence while you're treating patients on your own.
  • Get a Grip - Be able to hold or constrain puppies as needed for treatments.
  • Know Your Medication Routes - Know how to properly give PO, SQ, and IV medications.
  • Understand Pumps - Know how to work and read an IV pump. This requires basic arithmetic!
  • Learn the Lingo - Know the meanings of medical terms and abbreviations.
  • Be Detail Oriented - paying close attention to detail is essential for disease control and the health of the puppies. For example, blown veins initially appear as a small amount of swelling above the catheter site. If left unnoticed, swelling increases, abscesses occur, the patient becomes very painful, and chances of survival decrease. Pay close attention to your patients.
  • Know Your Medications - Be able to identify all commonly used medications, requirements for each med (give slowly, dilute in fluids, refrigerate, etc) and know the strict routes each medication can be given. Giving medications via the wrong route may cause seizures, or even death. Storing medications improperly can be costly (this can be a $100 mistake), especially for a non-profit organization.
  • Be Responsible - Always double check yourself before you give medications. Try not to come into a shift exhausted or hungry.
  • Be Honest - We all make the occasional mistake. Notify a doctor if you gave a wrong medication/route/ time, etc. However, still be aware that giving a medication via the wrong route is often deadly.
  • Be Able to Read a Medical Chart - Note everything on each patient’s medical chart. This includes watching whether a puppy eats or drinks, especially if there is more than one puppy in a room.
  • Keep an Open Line of Communication 
  • Cell Phones - Bring your cell phone into the ICU with you. You will find yourself having questions from time to time while here. We have plastic baggies by the sink in the changing area if you wish to put your phone inside that.
  • Email - Check your email at least once a day - watch for important reminders, and updates in the ICU.
  • Availability - Send in availability/sign up for shifts weekly.
  • Think Critically - Treating sick puppies is not a mindless activity. In the Parvo ICU, you must always be thinking about the purpose of everything you're doing, the effects of your actions and the needs of the dog. 

Special Circumstances Tasks

  • Discharge - For morning shift, you must know how to bathe a post-parvo puppy properly, as well as the rest of the discharge procedures.
  • Test - Know how to perform and read a parvo test.
  • Intake - Know how to intake a puppy into the ICU.
  • Vaccinate - Know how to draw up, and give vaccines (DHLPP and Bordetella), including location to give vaccine. 

Optional Tasks

Simply ask a doctor, technician, or trained volunteer if you would like to learn how to do the following:
  • Microchipping - Learn how to microchip a puppy; useful when discharging in the med clinic. 
  • Advance Vaccinations - Learn about vaccinations, how often they are given to become fully effective, what diseases they prevent, etc for determining when a dog is due for shots. 
  • IV Catheters - Learn how to place a catheter, and/or draw blood!
  • Parvo Transport - Pick up a parvo-positive puppy from Local Shelter when a plea is sent out, before their deadline. 
  • Prescriptions - Once you’re comfortable with what each medication doses, you may be able to help tech prescribes post-parvo medications (i.e. Doxycycline for mild URI, Metronidazole for weak appetite/possible stomach ache). 
  • Know Your Vet - Get to know the doctors when they’re in the ICU! Ask lots of questions etc. They’re really cool and friendly. 

Documenting Hours and Letters of Recommendation

Please track your hours using Volunteer Squared. Information is found under Documenting Volunteer Hours. This will be checked for accuracy by the team manager monthly.

Once the volunteer has fulfilled the 6 month (or 100 hours), twice per week commitment, hours can be used for a resume, a signature will be given and/or a letter of recommendation may be written at your request. To get a letter of recommendation from a doctor, you must work with them for a certain number of hours (determined by the doctor), and may have to shadow them in the medical clinic for additional hours. To get a letter of recommendation from the team manager, you must have worked with them for several parvo shifts, developed a relationship and be in good standing. Special circumstances may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.