By Dr. Anthony David Beck
This document is essential reading for anyone who is thinking of getting a new puppy in China, and will focus entirely on the first 6 months of your pet's life.
Buying a new puppy in China can be a perilous and sometimes heart-breaking journey.
There are 5 essential stages to buying a new puppy, including making the right choice and deciding where to purchase, the health check and preventative health care followed by taking the puppy home.
1) Make the right choice
When considering what puppy to buy think about you, your lifestyle, your family and your future. Ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly.
Am I going to take the puppy back to my home country?
Do I have time to walk a dog at least twice per day for at least half an hour for a small dog and up to an hour for an active dog?
Does my apartment or house suit a small dog or big dog?
Which breed will suit my family best?
Is buying a puppy right now the best time?
Should I buy a breed or rescue a puppy or adult?
Go and visit your local vets and discuss these questions. Buying on impulse often leads to the wrong choice that can be distressing for the dog, you and your family alike.
2) Where to purchase?
A new pet owner's best option is to go on the recommendation of pet shops or breeders. Avoid the dog markets. The American Kennel Club is advising China's National General Kennel Club who has a list of recommended breeders in China.
If the puppy has any signs of illness what so ever, do not buy it. Do not be persuaded that you are going to save the puppy because another puppy will replace it that may be equally ill. It should have no signs of coughing or sneezing, no eye or nose discharge and there should be no signs of hair loss or redness of the skin. It should be bright, alert and playful. It is important to realize that if the puppy has already contracted a transmissible disease, it may not appear right away. Sometimes the disease may be fulminating and it may surface later. Distemper and Parvovirus commonly appear 72 hours after an apparently perfectly healthy puppy is brought home. It is likely that the puppy you buy will be two weeks younger than you are told as some unscrupulous breeders regularly wean their puppies too early. If your puppy is 8 weeks or older it should have had at least one vaccination and if the puppy does not come with a "burgundy immunity certificate" do not buy it. Do not buy from a pet shop where the staff vaccinate the puppies or give treatment.
3) Health check
Immediately on purchase take your puppy to a vet for a health check regardless of the source, history or apparent health of your puppy. The vet will assess the age, check the health of the puppy, confirm vaccination status and provide invaluable preventative health care.
4) Essential preventative health care
There are 4 important points to be discussed:
a) Conformation and congenital (birth) abnormalities
Puppies can have congenital problems that it is advisable to recognize early. It is possible that these congenital abnormalities are life threatening though this is rare.
There is a lot of confusion concerning vaccination in China. Here the most important salient points are listed. There are two types of vaccination:
b1) The multi vaccine which vaccinates against 5 infections, the most important being Distemper, causing respiratory and nervous signs, and Parvo virus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting. Both of these infections are fatal.
b2) Rabies that can infect humans.
The multi-vaccine is given between 2 and 4 months of life and the Rabies at 5 or 6 months. The mother's maternal antibodies interfere with the generation of immunity in young puppies. This is why the puppy vaccination course consists of repeat vaccinations. Any vaccination given under 8 wks of age does not provide any long-term immunity as the mother's maternal antibodies prevent the vaccination from contributing to long-term protection. A vaccination given at 6 weeks of age is given to boost immediate immunity, but does not contribute to long-term protection. The inter-vaccination interval is 3 weeks and ideally starts at 8 weeks. In the West vets often give vaccinations at 8 and 12 weeks, but in China the risk of these infections is far greater so the vets are inclined to give the vaccines at a 3 weeks interval. Hence, vaccinations are given at 8 and 11 weeks or 9 and 12 weeks. Vets in China are also inclined to give a 3rd vaccination at 14 or 15 weeks. This is advisable. There are risks with over-vaccination but the risks of infection associated with poor immunity are far greater than the risk associated with over vaccination. The Rabies vaccination is given at 5 or 6 months. Ensure that the vet provides a burgundy "immunity certificate" and uses international brand vaccines.
c) Parasite control
Your puppy has to be treated with a good quality wormer as they will have a worm burden from their mother and the breeders or pet shops rarely treat this properly. It is advisable to treat the puppy a second time 2-3 weeks later. Upon veterinary advice it is also advisable to treat for fleas and ticks. Please discuss the long-term prevention with your vet. Heartworm treatment is not essential in Beijing.
Ringworm needs a special mention as this fungus can infect humans and is very common in China. Your vet should be using a ultra-violet lamp to check the skin of your puppy. Certain types of ringworm glow fluorescent green under this lamp.
Immuno-competent adults should be at low risk however children and the immuno-compromised should take reasonable hygienic measures. If you or any of your family members find itchy skin lesions please contact your doctor.
5) Taking the puppy home
Bringing a new puppy or kitten into the home is a very exciting event for everyone. In the excitement of the moment, one may forget to take into consideration a few things.
Quarantine for 7 days
If you have other dogs this is essential regardless of source. Infections can develop over the first week and it is advisable to limit inter-pet infection.
However even if you don't have other dogs it is still advisable to limit family or other species interaction with your new dog for one week.
Your puppy is NOT to go to public areas until 7days after the second primary course vaccination at 11 or 12 weeks.
Before this time your puppy can socialize with vaccinated dogs at their house, and your garden should also be fine.
It is up to you as the owner to risk assess the viral challenge. It is understandable to want your puppy to be out and about as early as possible but this needs to be balanced with the risks of life-threatening infections.
If there are a lot of stray dogs in your area it may be advisable to wait until after the 3rd primary course vaccination. Please discuss with your vet.
A puppy needs a warm, safe and secure environment during the months after introduction to the household. Give special attention to terraces and any place the puppy may get stuck or fall off.
When first obtaining your new puppy or kitten, it would be helpful to find out from the previous owner the feeding schedule and diet. The reason for this is that a change in diet and water can cause some intestinal upset; though usually transient it may cause concern. Ideally it is best to keep the same diet for the first few days and then to change the food gradually.
Changing the diet should be done over a period of a week. Initially, feed the previous diet, and introduce about 25% the new food. Then after a couple of days, increase the proportion of the new food to 50%. Again after a few days, increase the level of the new food to 75% of the diet. Thus by the end of a week or more your new puppy is totally on the new food. This should avoid loose stool.
In addition to new food, some owners think milk would be good for their new puppy. This is inadvisable; the digestive system of “adult” mammals is not designed for milk.
Young puppies have a very small stomach, but need a lot of nourishment. Feedings should be frequent but not too much as to cause regurgitation, bloat or colic. Depending on how much your puppy wants to eat the following regime should be followed:
2-3 months: 4 meals per day
4 months: 3 meals per day
5 months: 2 meals per day
A puppy's surface area to volume ratio is high hence they lose heat quickly. It is best for your puppy to have a first bath at the end of quarantine.
However please note that only hair dry your puppy once the majority of the water has been dried off using a towel.
Use a good quality vet recommended shampoo.
You have to teach your puppy where to urinate and defecate. Here are a few tips:
Take the dog out frequently. Immediately after awakening (even from a nap), playing, or within 15-30 minutes of eating.
Puppies should not be allowed to play and socialize first. They should be allowed to do this after they go to the toilet.
Do not punish the dog if he or she goes to the toilet in undesirable areas, instead startle the dog only if caught actually in the act. Once their attention is shifted from the act, you take the dog out to the correct urination area.
Praise the dog when they pee in the appropriate places. You are not rewarding the act because the elimination is self-rewarding. You reward the place.
Your puppy is an adolescent and it needs socializing. Once your puppy has good vaccination status you have 2 months in which to fully socialize your rapidly becoming adult dog. Before this time it is fine to socialize your puppy with dogs that are vaccinated.
This socialization should be a priority and is especially important in the larger dogs or if you have children. Take your dog to scary places so that they are used to them when they are older; imagine that you had never seen a horse and saw a horse for the first time. Imagine what your dog is thinking; they may either be terrified or aggressive.
Dog training is also advisable, including knowing how to re-enforce the pack hierarchy; ultimately you and your family are your dog's pack. Who is the boss? If your dog believes that they are, then they may bite you or behave any way they want. Please see www.vetinChina.com for more dog training information.
Collar tag and microchip
All dogs should wear a collar with a name and phone number on it so you can be contacted if your pet is found. Micro chipping is a safe and permanent way of identifying your pet. The microchip is painlessly injected under the skin and can be read by a special scanner. Your pet's details are kept on a computer.
This is usually performed after 6 months of age.