By: Brooke Chenoweth
Some of us bring our beloved pets from our home countries when we move, while others adopt. Either way, there are things all pet owners need to know. We grilled a couple of experts for their tips on keeping our furry families as happy and healthy as possible, and also spoke with an expat involved in rescuing animals.
Originally from Edinburgh, DR CLINTON EICHELBERGER has been practicing as a vet here in Hong Kong for five years. He’s also a veterinary advisor for Vetopia – an online resource for pet owners. He answered three commonly asked questions for us.
#1 “Are there any health issues for pets that are specific to HK?”
I don’t think we have anything specifically unique to Hong Kong, but we do have an eclectic mix of quite a few nasty diseases: for example, there are three different strains of tick fever prevalent here, along with heartworm disease and screwworm fly. Day to day we see a lot of skin diseases such as ringworm, ear mites and scabies, possibly exacerbated by Hong Kong’s humid and polluted environment. And we also see more tragic puppy diseases that are spread in pet shops: canine parvovirus and canine distemper – virtually unheard of in other first world countries.
#2 “Is there any advice you’d give to pet owners here, or those looking to get a pet?”
Be careful how you choose your animal. I suspect over the years there has been a lot of inbreeding in the pet population of Hong Kong to meet the demand for various breeds. We are seeing more and more serious diseases in younger animals and often it’s the only explanation I can make. If you already have a pet: do your best to provide them with a balanced, happy and healthy life; they’re a part of your family.
#3 “What’s the best way to introduce a pet to a new baby?”
An important part of this is knowing the temperament of your dog; have they ever nipped at anybody? Do you think they might bite if they were suddenly in pain or very uncomfortable? If so, then don’t let your baby climb or fall on the dog, and don’t let him or her put their face too close to your dog’s face. Let them get used to each other very slowly and always supervise their interactions until you are 100 percent certain you trust your dog.
I have two Boston Terriers, Augustus (male, 10 years) and Ripley (female, 8 years), who moved with me to Hong Kong. My son Atlas is seven months old now and lives in close proximity with the dogs. The first thing we did was bring home a baby blanket for them to sniff and familiarise themselves with. Then, when Atlas first came home, they were allowed to look at him and sniff his bed. I let them gradually get used to his presence. When Atlas was on the floor for tummy time I made them walk around him and the blanket he was on. The only time I let them interact directly was when I was holding the dogs. Overall, it takes time to build your trust and teach your baby to interact gently and respectfully with your dog. This stage may take longer with some dogs and you may never get to this point with others.
Vetopia was launched by Trilby White and her husband Dr David Gething in 2014 to provide high-quality pet supplies online, with products are approved by an in-house veterinary team.
Professional dog trainer JAMES LEUNG specialises in dog training, obedience, behaviour modification and more at Hong Kong Canine. Here he gives three readers his expert advice.
#1 “We’ve just adopted a puppy and it’s like having a new baby in the house! What’s the best way to start training it?”
Begin by establishing a firm set of rules. You will need to be patient, persistent and consistent throughout the training. At this early stage of your dog’s life it has yet to form opinions on anything. The objective is to provide as many positive experiences for her and avoid developing negative associations with people, places, objects and of course other animals. This goes a long way towards preventing unwanted behaviours from developing. With puppies it’s important to always train and socialize them in a safe, positive and secure environment. Keep it fun and light. Make sure to communicate in a clear, simple and effective manner. If your dog is not performing it’s usually because the command lacks clarity or consistency.
#2 “We have an older dog who we rescued from a shelter. She is anxious and needs a lot of attention. Can dogs this age be trained?”
Many rescue dogs have been subjected to unpleasant experiences in their life. Behavioural issues like extreme anxiety and excessive attention seeking are often the result. The treatment plan for these unwanted behaviours mainly depends upon their severity and duration – that is, how long they have been going on. Clearly, knowing a dog’s full history is helpful, though unfortunately this information is often limited.
The good news is what can been learnt can also be unlearnt. Any dog at any age is trainable provided its physical faculties are functioning adequately. Although senior dogs may learn at a slower pace, sometimes they are easier to train than puppies, whose focus and energy tends to be scattered. For unwanted behaviours, before seeking obedience training or behaviour modification, first get your dog checked by the vet. Sometimes it’s not a behavioural or obedience issue that is the root cause but a physical ailment.
#3 “We have a very active dog and sometimes regular walks are just not enough. Can you recommend other ways we can exercise him and burn off some energy?”
Exercising with your dog is a great way to bond with him, but it’s important to know your dog well and understand the amount and type of exercise he needs. Adjust and alter the exercise routine periodically to keep it fresh and stimulating. When time is short, for example, make the exercise more intensive, being mindful of his physical limitations and weather conditions. Activities such as running, searching, fetching, retrieving, chasing, tugging, swimming and playing with other dogs can drain energy quickly.
For dogs that are more cerebral in nature or purpose driven, incorporating mental challenges into the exercise routine can work wonders. What seems like simple mental exercises to us are often very energetically draining for them. Dog sports and activities such as agility, nose work games, frisbee, rally obedience and hoopers are known to burn off a tremendous amount of energy. These activities also provide a blend of physical, mental, emotional and psychological stimulation – all important factors in building confidence, creating a stronger bond and maintaining a healthy, balanced dog.
Finding the ideal combination of exercise comes down to knowing your dog. Mix it up, keep it interesting, reward generously and, most importantly, have fun!
Hong Kong Canine is at Unit 1506 Harbour Industrial Centre, 10 Lee Hing Street, Ap Lei Chau.
After living here for 11 years, pilot TRACEY CIECHANOWICZ has built up a little family of rescued pets and small exotics. When it comes to their health and wellbeing, she looks for help from the team at Tai Wai Small Animal and Exotic Hospital. Here she explains why.
“I’ve been rescuing pets since 2005; I started with two dogs from Hong Kong Dog Rescue – I still have them both. Percy is currently a patient of Dr Peter Morgan at Tai Wai Small Animal and Exotic Hospital.
In 2012, I started rescuing exotic pets; the species that I have include chinchillas, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, a rabbit, hamsters and birds. I’ve had up to 36 animals at one time living with me. I chose Tai Wai because they have the most highly qualified vet surgeons in Hong Kong, and they specialise in all species. The team there is amazing!
Peter is my main vet. He has saved many of my exotics from emergency situations and they’ve all been returned to full health, for which I’m very happy and grateful. He’s an exceptionally talented vet, with excellent problem-solving skills. This is clear from the difficult situation he helped me with recently with my dog Percy.
Percy is an old boy of 15, a Pekingese, and in November he suffered a traumatic neurologic event that caused him to lose sight, hearing and the ability to walk. Percy also appeared to lose hope and the will to stay here. I thought he was almost gone. I took him to Peter and he took the time to assess Percy and he solved all the problems that he could to such a successful outcome. Now Percy has gained the ability to walk after physiotherapy, and while he can’t see, he has learnt to adapt to that situation; it takes time and patience for everyone.
The whole experience was traumatic for me, too; Peter could see this and would take Percy back into the surgery for overnights when he sensed that I needed a break. Now Percy is getting stronger everyday and we are settling into a nice pattern. I couldn’t have done this without this great doctor and the team at Tai Wai.
I recommend anyone in Hong Kong who has a pet they love to go to Tai Wai. I have presented some very difficult cases over the years to this team and 100 percent of the time they have saved the pets and returned them back to me well. The doctors never give up; they search for solutions until they solve the problem, and they provide 24-hour emergency hospital service. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Tai Wai is at 5 Chik Shun Street, Tai Wai, Shatin.
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