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Pets

Do Hong Kong dogs really need boots, jumpers, strollers? Vets give their opinion on accessories

Three vets answer questions on what is best for Hong Kong’s pampered pet dogs, from what boots are best for certain breeds to the top strollers to buy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 February, 2018, 1:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 8:12pm

Hong Kong’s pampered pooches might look the coolest out there, but how many of those accessories do they really need – and are they doing more harm than good?

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Three vets from local clinic and care provider Pets Central answer questions on those love-them-or-loathe-them items that some owners simply can’t do without.

Boots

Answers from Dr Pauline Taylor

In what situations does a dog genuinely need boots?

Dog boots protect the feet and, in particular, the pads, most importantly by minimising trauma and protecting sensitive soft tissue in the area.

Trauma can be a result of: direct heat, certainly a factor in Hong Kong in summer months; cold and ice, not an issue in Hong Kong but definitely a problem in cold climates when pads can suffer frostbite; and allergens that stick on a dogs foot that may irritate and cause the dog to excessively lick its own feet. The latter, commonly called atopy, is a huge problem in Hong Kong for many breeds of dog.

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They can also protect damaged pads and feet that have things like nail lesions – for example, a laceration or puncture wound – or a torn nail or infected nail bed.

For older dogs, boots can be used when nails get worn short. This happens in many senior pets that drag their feet, in particular the back legs, for reasons including arthritis, weak muscles and normal ageing.

What are the disadvantages of dog boots?

If boots don’t fit well or are badly put on they can irritate the dog’s feet, interfere with normal motion, and stop them from exercising normally. It is also possible they could harbour infectious agents such as fungal infections if not kept clean.

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A dog may also be allergic to the material used to make the boot, or the colouring agent/dye. If a dog chews a boot it could swallow whole or part of the boot, leading to a gastrointestinal upset, or it can even ingest a harmful foreign body.

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Why are they popular in Hong Kong, where most dogs walk on paved streets?

In some cases there are genuine reasons for dogs to wear boots. Paved streets can actually contribute to feet lesions because of rough surfaces, rubbish (such as broken glass), toxins and poisons, and allergens. However, some dogs are dressed in boots simply to please owners, who dress up their pets for fun or may treat them as a replacement for a child.

Are boots better for certain breeds than others?

I don’t think so – it’s more related to the condition of the pads or feet, or their need for protection. In some working dogs, boots may be beneficial – such as dogs working in search and recovery situations, or in fire zones, avalanche sites, chemical spills and war zones, or sled dogs in frozen climates.

What do you need to look out for when buying boots?

Good boots need to fit well and be easy to put on and stay on. They should be pliable and not irritate the dog, be easy to keep clean, and work for the reason they are being used. Sadly, some branded fashion boots I have seen are totally impractical and could even cause pain because of friction caused by rubbing the feet.

Are they really needed for your average Hong Kong dog?

For the average dog, no. I would buy them if my dog needed protection in place of a bandage, or if a senior dog is wearing away its hind leg nails because he drags his back legs. However, I’d be very fussy making sure they were the right boots for my dog and wouldn’t hinder his movement.

Jumpers

Answers from Dr Reanne Kwok

In what situations does a dog genuinely need a jumper?

Dog jumpers are a bit like human jumpers – their main purpose is to provide warmth. There are some dogs that have thin hair coats, whether they are born that way because of their breed or due to hormonal diseases. For companion or working dogs who live in very cold climates, jumpers may be important to prevent hypothermia.

What are the disadvantages of dog jumpers?

Some dogs have sensitive skin and may develop contact allergy if they are allergic to the jumper material. If the jumper does not fit the dog, it may cause discomfort. Meanwhile, wearing jumpers in the summer may cause the dog to overheat and suffer from heatstroke.

Why are they popular in Hong Kong, which has particularly mild winters?

I think the dog-human bond in Hong Kong is so intimate that most owners treat their dogs as their babies, and of course babies need to wear jumpers for decorative purposes. I have no objections to dogs wearing them if it’s seasonally appropriate.

Are they better for certain breeds than others?

They may be better for short-haired dogs such as chihuahuas, pinschers and greyhounds, or for older, weaker dogs or those who have impaired immune systems.

What do you need to look out for when buying one?

A good quality washable wool or cotton-based material is your best bet. You also need to make sure that the jumper fits snugly and is not too tight. Also avoid clothing that has dangling bits, or things such as zips and buttons, in case these are chewed or swallowed.

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Are they really needed for your average Hong Kong dog?

I do think they serve a purpose for short-haired dogs on those rare cold days we sometimes get in winter. My mini poodle loves her snug, warm jumper during the winter – she literally gets so excited she tries to fit her head through the hole and put it on herself!

Strollers

Answers from Dr Mike Muir

In what situations does a dog genuinely need a stroller?

A dog stroller allows a dog that cannot walk, or has limited walking ability, to still be able to go outside. They can also provide a place of shelter from excessive heat or rain if caught outside unexpectedly. Otherwise, there are not many situations where a dog genuinely needs a stroller – with decent planning, even the need for shelter would be unnecessary.

What are the disadvantages of dog strollers?

The whole idea of going out with a dog is to allow them to exercise and socialise, and to stimulate them. Using a stroller deprives them of most of these benefits.

Why do they seem to be so popular in Hong Kong? Is it some curious quirk of owners here?

I think they are popular here because we have a lot of small breed dogs that can fit easily into a stroller, or who have owners who want to get them to places that the dog’s own fitness might not allow them to manage. They are not specific to Hong Kong, but because we have a higher density of small breed dogs they seem more common here.

Are they better for certain breeds or sizes?

Not really, just they are more commonly used for small breed dogs.

What do you need to look out for when buying one?

Like a baby stroller, look for something that is stable and well-constructed, with decent shade areas and no obvious sharp edges. They should also be easy to fold and unfold.

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Are they really needed for your average Hong Kong dog?

No, they are not needed for most dogs. I would not buy one for either of my dogs, unless there was a medical condition that meant they were unable to walk themselves – but even then, I would consider other options first.