Urban Jungle

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 November, 2008, 12:00am

One of the things professionals of all types have to do on a regular basis is keep up with the latest news in their industry. We do this by attending workshops, international seminars and conferences and by joining further education courses. But for me, there is nothing more convenient than picking up a journal to read over a cup of coffee.

I had a rare day off on Sunday and, with latte in hand, found a scenic spot overlooking Victoria Harbour. I didn't bring a newspaper because I was in such a good mood, I didn't want to read any more bad news. So I had an issue of a veterinary journal to read, not light reading for such a relaxing day but I was much less likely to read about the state of the economy in such a publication.

How wrong I was. In the table of contents I noted a feature article on the recession and its effect on veterinarians. I quickly checked to see where the journal was published and found it was American. I breathed a sigh and read on, hoping the article would not apply to vets in Asia.

According to the article, a survey of pet owners in the US found 30 per cent were less likely to take their animals to a vet for routine preventive treatment because of the recession.

The idea that avoiding such routine preventative maintenance would save anyone any money is ridiculous. An annual veterinary check-up and vaccinations, regular intestinal worming and external parasite control, though simple, can save you the expense and anguish of your pet becoming sick. Any illness resulting from a lack of diligence with routine maintenance and monitoring will cost you many times the cost of the maintenance - on top of the unnecessary suffering of your pet.

Fortunately, I can report that in Hong Kong, the effects of the economic slowdown haven't greatly affected people's attitudes to pets. I find my clients are still on time with their check-ups and, in times of crisis, still willing to spend what is needed to treat their pets.

I think the good habits of local pet owners, despite the economic crisis, reflect the tenacity of Hongkongers and indicate the success of efforts over the past 10 years to educate pet owners on pet care, and the wider population as to the value of animals. I think Hongkongers can give themselves a pat on the back for lessons well learned.

I can still remember the Hong Kong of yesteryear, when animal issues and rights were a joke and the idea of going to the vet, buying good pet food, and of flea prevention and the like was seen as a rich person's luxury instead of a basic prerequisite of responsible pet ownership.

Here are some simple monitoring tips to save on vet bills and, more importantly, to ensure your pet stays in good health.

By detecting a problem early rather than letting it fester, you can prevent the problem before it even starts.

Routinely check your pet's skin carefully, looking for ulcers, redness, scabs, lumps and other abnormalities.

Check its eyes for any discharge or discomfort.

Check its ears for any odour, discharge or redness.

Check its teeth and gums for any periodontal disease. The bacteria involved in these conditions can cause kidney, heart and liver problems.

Check the colour of the gums. They should be pink, not unlike our own gums. Pale or bluish gums, especially if the animal is at rest, could indicate a problem with the heart or blood.

Brush the teeth regularly and have your vet check them at the annual check-up.

You can also tailor the many preventive measures available to your pet's specific needs. Here are some more tips on how to do this:

If your dog never goes to board at a kennel, the vaccine for kennel cough is not necessary.

If you have a toy breed that rarely goes outside, you can probably do without chemical tick prevention, but do be aware that it only takes one tick to cause a fatal illness, so it is imperative to avoid grass and soil where ticks live and to routinely check your dog for ticks after a walk.

If you have a cat that lives only indoors and never comes into contact with other cats, you don't need the feline leukaemia vaccine.

Brushing your dog regularly will save you a bundle in grooming fees. And get your vet to teach you how to clip your pet's nails so you can do it yourself.

One thing you should never scrimp on is your dog's diet. That expensive gourmet dog food from a fancy pet shop doesn't necessarily mean quality, while that cheap supermarket dog food doesn't necessarily mean it is junk food. Ask your vet for advice on what is suitable for your dog's needs.