Kowloon Veterinary Hospital (KVH) vets love doing puppy exams; it is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a vet. However, there is nothing enjoyable about a sick puppy and we see sick puppies bought from pet shops all the time.
In our experience pet shop puppies are at the most risk of congenital disease, malnutrition, illness and parasites. Frequently the puppies are removed from their mothers too early and more often than not they come from puppy mills.
It is for this reason that we strongly recommend owners bring their puppy to us for a Pre-sale Puppy Inspection before agreeing to any final payment. A reputable seller should agree to this. The cost of a ‘Pre-sale Puppy Exam’ is a fraction of what it costs to treat a sick puppy. It’s important to note that no matter how thorough we are, sometimes days or weeks after purchase a puppy can still develop a latent disease that we are not able to detect. Unfortunately this is the risk you take when buying from pet shops or back yard breeders.
The puppy trade is a lucrative business; the people who run puppy mills care more for profit than the puppy’s welfare or how it will impact you. Our KVH vets regularly see puppies from pet shops that are seriously ill, despite the owners being told the puppy was wormed, vaccinated and healthy. More often than not they have not been.
Common trade practices by Hong Kong Pet Shops
- Starving puppies. By stunting the growth of the puppies on display the pet shop keeps them small and cute for as long as they can. They do this to increase the time frame they have to sell the puppy. This affects the puppy’s health, development and ability to fight infection.
- Puppies are often weaned too young from their mothers, missing out on the antibodies they need to fight disease and infection. Pet shops will often sell 4-6 week old puppies, 8-12 weeks is the proper age.
- Puppies weaned too soon miss out on socialization with their mother and siblings – creating behavioural disorders and bonding issues.
- Pet shop puppies are rarely wormed, de-flead or given their vaccinations. The vaccination chart they show you maybe forged.
- The ‘vets’ the pet shop recommends for a Pre-purchase check is often employed by the pet store and will not tell you the true condition of the pet.
- Pet shops often tell new owners to keep their puppies in cages, that it’s okay to leave puppies alone all day and to feed them less. None of this is acceptable and no breeder or independent veterinarian would ever recommend this.
- Pet shops will happily sell you a large or active dog for a very small apartment. They do not care about how this will affect you, your home or the pet. They want your money above all else
You could be taking home a sick puppy
Because puppy mill operators often fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
- Blood disorders
- Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
- Respiratory disorders
On top of that, puppies often arrive in pet stores and their new homes with disease or illness. These can include:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Kennel cough
- Intestinal parasites
- Chronic diarrhoea
So where should you get your puppy from?
At KVH, we recommend adopting, not shopping, as there are many great puppies and dogs available for adoption in Hong Kong. We recommend adopting from HKDR, SPCA, LAP, SKSF and countless other charity organisations. Many dogs that need homes are mixed breeds and they can be just as loving as pedigrees, and sometimes less prone to breed specific diseases and conditions. However pure breeds are often available too.
If you choose to buy from a breeder, make sure you see the puppy’s mother and if possible, father. It’s important that you see the cleanliness of the puppy’s living area, that the mother is healthy and not in a dirty cramped cage. Alternatively buying from an international breeder and importing the dog, will give you a properly bred pet. These puppies are often much less prone to illness and inherited diseases.