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So you’re thinking of getting a dog? Sassy Mama’s vet-in-the know talks pet ownership in Hong Kong

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExperts

The addition of a pet to the family is the beginning of a great adventure. Studies show that the simple act of petting a dog leads to lower blood pressure, less stress, and a longer life. Sure, you might need to hide your favorite loafers for a while, but for families with children, your days of picking up Cheerios from the floor are over, as Fido will now happily take care of that domestic task!

The question many people ask me is, “Where should I go if I want a new puppy?”  The answer isn’t always obvious. The most important thing to remember is that adopting (or buying) a pet should be a forever bond, so make sure the dog fits into your family and your lifestyle. Some breeds, like terriers and retrievers, need loads of exercise, while older dogs may not be used to children or other pets. If relocation is in your future, consider that most airlines refuse to carry brachycephalic breeds (dogs and cats with smushed-in noses) due to the risk of breathing problems during flight. So even if you fall desperately in love with the first puppy you see think long and hard about the ways – good and bad – your life will change with them in it.

Pet Adoption

Adopting a dog from a rescue or shelter is a win-win situation for everyone. Pet owners can feel that they’ve saved a life, helped control the stray population, and usually, found a one-of-a-kind companion. In Hong Kong, pet turnover is significant; people give up their pets when they relocate, find that they didn’t have enough space, or realise that having a pet in the city was just too hard. Hong Kong has its fair share of stray mixed breed dogs to home, and these pups can make terrific pets! Purebred dogs – especially small ones – are swept up and adopted quickly from shelters, so you may have to patrol for a while to find a specific breed.  Find out more about adoption from the SPCA, Hong Kong Dog Rescue and Hong Kong Paws Foundation.


If your heart is set on a specific breed and you can’t come across one in a shelter, your best bet is to find a reputable breeder. It is so important to do your homework before selecting a breeder. Responsible breeders are ones who are passionate about their breed and want to improve breed standards by breeding only dogs without inherited problems like heart defects or orthopedic disease. Irresponsible breeders continue to breed dogs that have the potential to pass along traits like hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and many other issues, simply because breeding pets is an income-driven business. For others, dog breeding is a hobby (in the USA we call these “back-yard breeders”) and health or breed standards may or may not be met. Where possible, get referrals and talk to breeders, preferably before going to see the pups. Above all else, go with your gut feeling.

Pet Shops

At the risk of becoming unpopular with some readers, pet shops are my least favorite place to get a puppy! Don’t get me wrong; if you’ve already obtained a pet from a shop, I’m sure he’s wonderful! But for those of you looking to add a pet in the future, here’s what you should know: a recent survey by the SPCA found that a large percentage of puppies from pet shops became sick within a week of purchase. An unhealthy puppy could mean expensive veterinary care early on, future procedures as your puppy grows, and even a decreased life expectancy. On the ethical side of things, pets in shops may come from so-called puppy mills, where terrible living conditions and poor health are rampant. Ask for legitimate background information if you decide to go the pet shop route. And window-shoppers beware… the puppies in shops are adorable!

Once you finalise your new addition, be sure to find one of Hong Kong’s many terrific general practice veterinarians to make sure Fido stays in good health for as many years as possible.

Top image sourced from Shutterstock



bio picSassy Mama Alane Cahalane is an American veterinary specialist who lives and works in Hong Kong. As Hong Kong’s first and only specialist in companion animal surgery, she treats dogs and cats with cancer, orthopedic and neurologic disease, and other diseases that require advanced surgery. She lectures to veterinarians both locally and regionally, and is committed to educating the public on pet health issues.  Alane is also a mum to two terrific kids and a terrier named Patrick.  

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