How to choose your first dog?
Whilst it is very easy to be emotionally harangued into buying the puppy sold by the street vendor, and similarly impossible to resist the immediate pull the cute spotty fluffy puppy in the local pet shop window has on your children… Try to resist.
In my experience 50% of all newly bought puppies die; they classically show clinical signs of either Distemper or Parvo virus within 72 hours of purchase and, even in the most experienced veterinary hands, these infections are often fatal.
However before we discuss where you should buy your puppy lets rewind and think about whether you should be buying one at all, and what puppy would suit your lifestyle.
It is not possible to export a dog to Australia and New Zealand directly; dogs from China have to holiday through another country for 6 months. Assuming you are heading back to Europe or the US are you happy to incur the cost? Whilst Export to these regions is simpler it is still costly.
Rescuing a dog and then re-homing it on departure, whilst not to be condoned, is defendable; creating demand for a breed and then not taking the dog with you is not recommended.
What dog suits your lifestyle, your home or the local environment and climate? Very hairy Huskies in south China, a boisterous Boxer in a small apartment with the owner working long hours, a howling Beagle in a busy apartment complex. Whilst such errors of judgment are rare amongst ex-pats a knee- jerk purchase might land you with the wrong breed or size of dog.
In the long term what is your budget? Breeds have more problems than mixed dogs. Certain breeds have a lot more problems than other breeds e.g. Hip dysplasia in Golden retrievers, collapsed tracheae in Toy Poodles, allergies in West Highland West terriers.
Thankfully in this day and age the poop scoop is a common item to be found on the person of dog owners walking their dogs twice per day; the average dog should be getting a minimum of two 30 minute walks per day unless you have Paris Hilton’s taste in pet pooches.
Please do review the local regulations on dog ownership, though these are a little less strict in south China than in other provinces; falling foul of these regulations will find you persuading your neighbors not to complain to the authorities, or ducking police inspections.
On the topic of where to purchase unfortunately I have no good advice except through recommendation or adoption. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security if you purchase a puppy through a ‘certified’ breeder… Whilst recent legislation is licensing breeders in China this will take time to improve the breeding quality and conditions of the industry… And rest assured it is an industry.
Rescuing is often the best policy, as the street offspring will likely have a good immunity to the common fatal conditions if they have survived long enough to win a place in your heart… However don’t go approaching any stray dogs unless you have a full Rabies vaccination course, and then be cautious or engage the services of your local veterinary professional.
I re-iterate ‘rescuing’ a puppy from a street vendor is not rescuing; it’s creating more demand for the worst quality breeding.
Regardless of the source after purchasing your new adorable puppy, the puppy goes into quarantine for 7 days and visits a vet within the first 24 hours. Quarantine can be a spare room, toilet or balcony.
Dermatophytosis or Ringworm is a zoonotic fungus; the immune-incompetent are particularly at risk. The first question I ask a parent who has had a puppy for a fortnight with skin lesions is whether their child has any rashes.
During your first health check your vet should be taking a cautious but aggressive approach to your new puppy’s health if examined within 72 hours of purchase. If after this risk period then you can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on the preventative health care routine that should include discussions on vaccinations, intestinal de-worming, heart worm and flea prophylaxis, de-sexing, and good socialization and training…
And of course make sure that you and your family enjoy the fun and companionship your new bundle of joy will bring you and your pack.
For further information concerning any of the issues raised in this article please email firstname.lastname@example.org . Dr Tony Beck co-founded and is senior consultant at Doctors Beck and Stone Pet Health care and can be found at your local hospital.