It is amazing how quickly veterinary ophthalmology is advancing, and that many procedures performed for humans are now also available for our animal companions!
Our first corneal transplant was successfully performed at Happy Pets Veterinary Centre with the help of Dr. Rui Oliveira! Our patient had previously suffered a severe eye injury 6 months ago, leaving him with a fragile eye that was prone to re-injury. Luckily donor cornea was available to repair his eye, which not only restored vision but also eliminated pain and discomfort.
It is amazing how quickly veterinary ophthalmology is advancing, and that many procedures performed for humans are now also available for our animal companions!
From SCMP AboutPets 7/7/2013 Felix Paige
Many illnesses or diseases that are common in pets can be difficult for owners to detect, especially early in the illness, when symptoms are not always obvious. Cystitis in cats (feline cystitis), an inflammation of the bladder, is one such ailment and, according to veterinarian Dr Gillian Hung, it is extremely common in Hong Kong.
Symptoms of cystitis include dribbling urine, straining to urinate, urinating in unusual places and licking the urinary opening. All of these can be overlooked, as most cat owners do not watch their pet constantly, and the cat urinating in unusual places may be misunderstood as making a rebellious move. Another symptom that can easily go unnoticed is bloody urine.
Further into cystitis, the symptoms may become severe and more pronounced, but by the time they manifest it has already become an emergency. ''In severe cases where the urethra becomes blocked, cats will develop a painful abdomen, lethargy and vomiting, and these cases are emergencies as they can quickly become life-threatening,'' Hung says.
The main causes of cystitis in cats include infections, bladder stones, urinary tract cancer and trauma (such as being hit by a car). ''The majority of cases will not have an identified cause despite extensive testing,'' Hung says. ''A lot of feline cystitis cases are termed 'idiopathic', which means that extensive testing has ruled out known causes of cystitis and so the actual cause of cystitis is not determined. It is thought that feline idiopathic cystitis may be similar to interstitial cystitis in women.''
In mild cases, problems can resolve themselves after a few days; although most cats would benefit from anti-inflammatory medication. Hung says, ''Chronic infections, however, if left untreated, can lead to ascending infection to the kidneys and kidneys failure. Bladder stones have the potential to obstruct the urethra, and are fatal if left untreated. Chronic severe cystitis can also leave the bladder wall and muscle scarred, leading to urinary incontinence.''
Hung believes that cystitis is so common because of the indoor lifestyle of most Hong Kong cats. ''Indoor cats are at higher risk of developing cystitis, possibly due to a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Inactive cats are less likely to get up to the water bowl and may hold their urine for longer periods of time. Also, a lack of environmental enrichment can increase stress levels, which can exacerbate of precipitate cystitis.''
Diet can play a role. Canned food increases water intake, helping to dilute the urine and reducing the risk of cystitis. If cats have bladder stones or crystals in their urine, a prescription diet may be needed in order to control urine pH and reduce crystal formation, Hung says. While obese cats need to lose weight, veterinary diets specifically for weight management will help.
''Cystitis in cats can be frustrating to manage. If is often multi-factorial and recurrent, so treatment can be challenging,'' Hung says.
The good news is that there are some preventative measures that can be taken, including increasing the cat's water intake by adding more canned food, installing a water fountain for the cat, preventing obesity, increasing environmental enrichment and social stimulation, and ensuring the litter tray is clean to encourage regular urination. Introduce new diets or litter gradually to allow the cats to acclimatise and to reduce stress. Feline pheromone sprays or diffusers can help lower stress levels. Finally, don't wait to take your cat to the vet if you suspect it has cystitis - It's better to be safe than sorry.
When your pet reaches the age of 7 or above (large breed dogs 5 or above), there is an increased chance of various diseases. Early detection and the right nutrition is important in helping to keep your pets healthy and happy.
Basic health screening tests are helpful in diagnosing diseases, and until end of June 2013, Happy Pets Vet Centre will be offering 10% off on in-house blood profiles and urinalysis, along with 50% off on Hill's Prescription Diet or Science Diet* after having health screening tests.
To take advantage of this special offer, call us at 2895 6811 to make an appointment.
*Hill's Canine/Feline g/d, h/d, j/d, k/d, l/d, y/d dry food, Hill's Science Diet canine/Feline Mature Adult or Senior dry food.
From SCMP Post AboutPets. Jade Lee-Duffy
Cristy Lee has a hard time convincing her friends about the endearing qualites of her hedgehog, Siu-Dak, which means "Pokey'' in Chinese. Every time she introduces her nine-month old spiny mammal to them, he curls up into a ball.
'When I first got Siu-Dak, he wasn't that scared,'' Lee says. ''But since he's gotten older, he's become more scared of sounds, and if a stranger goes near him, he'll curl up into a ball, so he's very challenging to play with [when friends are around]. But whenever he does get scared, Siu-Dak only stays in a ball for a minute or two, and then becomes normal.''
Lee adopted her hedgehog in September last year, after one of her friends showed her a picture. ''Hedgehogs are so different from cats and dogs,'' says the pet owner, who also owns a hamster, a dog, two cats, a tortoise and fish. ''They are about the size of your hand and have very soft fur, like cats and dogs. I let it walk around [outside its cage], and up my arms and around my neck.''
Veterinarian Gillian Hung, at Happy Pets Veterinary Centre in Tai Hang, started seeing hedghogs in 2010. As these small mammals breed quickly, Hung has noticed more people keeping them as pets.
''They have a gestation period of about a month-and-a-half, not as quick as hamsters, but still fast,'' Hung says. ''So that's why, apart from being cute, it's easy to breed them. The government doesn't give out licences to sell them in pet shops, but you can adopt them from people.''
Another reason why these creatures breed so quickly is their owners think they have two same-sex hedgehogs when they actually have a male and a female together in the same cage.
The veterinarian says: ''When hedgehogs are young, they are about half the size of your hand, so it's difficult to sex them, just like hamsters.'' A male hedgehog's penis sheath is high on its underside, which often is confused as the belly button. Female hedgehogs have their vulva in front of the anus and tail.
According to Hung, the most common domesticated hedgehog in Hong Kong is the African Pygmy. With an average lifespan of three to five years, hedgehogs are physically more similar to guinea pigs, but have a personality more like a hamster, the vet says.
''They get scared of a lot of things,'' she says. ''And when they are timid, they curl up in a ball. But if you have them when they are young and handle them a lot, they will become more sociable. If they aren't handled enough, they can bite and are more difficult to examine.'' Hung usually needs to administer an anaesthetic gas for timid hedgehogs before she checks them properly.
The veterinarian says hedgehogs are generally quiet and easy to keep. However, these nocturnal animals can be noisy at night from scurrying around their cages or running on their exercise wheels.
In setting up housing arrangements, Hung recommends using modified storage boxes with smooth sides. She doesn't advise using wire cages since the space between the wires can trap a hedgehog's legs. For bedding, it's best to use non-scented and non-oiled wood shavings.
Don't use cedar wood shavings as hedgehogs are allergic to this wood type, nor your everday towels, which can end up being an unhealthy chewing snack.
Other comforts of home should include a hiding spot, possibly made out of a cardboard box that has been flipped upside down; a food and water bowl; and some toys.
How often you should clean your hedgehog's cage depends on each individual pet; some hedgehogs are cleaner than others.
However, if you want to clean the cage less often, Hung say some hedgehogs can be trained to use a litter box. But don't get too hopeful, not every hedgehog can learn this skill. At the other end of the hygiene spectrum, carefree hedgehogs ''will pee and poo at the same time, all around the wheel,'' Hung says. ''They can't seem to help themselves.''
In order to learn whether you have a trainable litterbox hedgehog, place some of your pet's droppings in an old tissue box filled with cat litter. Then, wait and see if your little critter gets the hint to relieve itself in the box.
For hedgehogs that are on the dirty side, Hung suggests bathing them every two to three weeks. However, owners can clean their feet every day. Simply place your pet in a tub with shallow water, and use normal pet shampoo over their spines. then brush your hedgehog's spines and coat with a toothbrush and use water to rinse.
''Initially they can be a bit nervous when they take a bath, but they get used to it,'' Hung says. ''I don't think it stresses them out too much. Just keep the water nice and warm.''
Hung advises a daily menu of low-fat cat food, mealworms and crickets. When it's snack time, owners can give their little spiny ball a small slice of an apple, a sliver of strawberry, berries and melon. While fruits are nutritious, they are also high in sugar, so treats should be limited.
Three common problems among hedgehogs are obesity, skin problems (allergies from wood shavings) and mites. As hedgehogs are prone to packing on extra weight, an exercise wheel is a must-have apparatus.
''If they are too fat, their armpits can turn yellow,'' Hung says.
If some of these mammals get mites, they will lose their quills and get an itchy skin, which becomes raw from scratching.
And remember to take out and handle your pet hedgehog from its housing environment every day, Hung says, or it will turn timid.
From SCMP Post aboutPets 1/7/2012 Pete Spurrier
Reptiles and amphibians have a certain popularity in Hong Kong, but many suffer from inadequate care, according to Karthi Krishnasamy, who handles plenty of these animals at Happy Pets Veterinary Centre in Tai Hang.
''Reptiles are cool. I am a Malaysian and used to live on the fringe of the forest. We grew up seeing snakes and monitor lizares as our normal fauna. And we had so many snakes as pets, often rescued snakes.''
At work in Hong Kong, the veterinarian sees ball pythons, bearded dragons, chameleons and different species of turtles - most commonly red-eared sliders, a type of terrapin - and other species such as red-footed tortoises, sulcata and leopard tortoises.
''I think pet reptiles suffer more than any other pets. They are hardy animals and survive despite the poor care that many owners give them. If a dog or a cat is kept badly, everyone is quick to notice, but a pet reptile's suffering just goes unseen,'' Krishnasamy says.
''For example, we've seen a red-eared slider that was kept on land for 12 years and only offered water during feeding.
''She was severely stunted and deformed. The owner, although genuinely attached to the terrapin, was completely unaware of his pet's husbandry needs. He was shocked to be told that this is an aquatic animal.
''Responsible pet owners should research their pets' needs and responsible pet shops should provide free and accurate information with every purchase .''
There is an organisation which iams to help: The Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation was founded in 2007 and works to prevent cruelty to reptiles and amphibians through educating the public. The society says that animal abuse is often realted to cats and dogs only, but tortoise and terrapin abuse is quite common - not through direct harm but by abandonment.
Red-eared sliders are now widespread in Hong Kong park ponds, for instance, as a result of irresponsible dumping of pets, but they are not native to Hong Kong and often struggle to survive.
Buying an exotic pet should not be an impulse purchase. This is often the case with turtle and tortoises, Krishnasamy says.
''When they are esold in the pet shop, they are small and really cute. The impression is that they can live their entire lives in the same type of containers they are bought in. That is obviously not acceptable - owners must be aware that these animals will grow and will need to express their natural behaviour and have quality of life.
''The cute two-inch red-eared slider will grow to the size of a dinner plate. Obviously, to accomodate this and to satisfy welfare aspects, larger space, deeper water and an enriched environment are required.''
People will often buy a few of the animals due to their cuteness, but they may fight as the grow and each one will have to be kept separately. ''Think carefully about the space that is required and the size of Hong kong apartments,'' Krishnasamy says.
Owners are not always prepared for the special living conditions required by reptiles and amphibians.
''We spend a lot of time educating owners on proper care,'' Krishnasamy says. ''Most are totally unaware of the individual species' husbandry needs. Unfortunately, we only see these animals when they are unwell. i wish there could be a bigger education campaign to teach people proper reptile care, and mechanisms to protect against impulsive purchase of reptiles.
''Improving the welfare of all animals is a topic dear to me, and seeing how much suffering of pet reptiles goes unnoticed, I wanted to work more with them, learning and improving their lives as I go. Many reptile health problems could be easily avoided if the owners were better informed.''
From SCMP Post aboutPets 22/4/2012 Jade Lee-Duffy
Turtles can be fascinating for people looking for a pet other than a cute cuddly cat or canine.
While owning a cold-blooded creature may not require as much hands-on time as a furry animal, turtles require owners to pay careful attention to their living conditions and diet.
Veterinarian Gillian Hung, at Happy Pets Veterinary Centre in Tai Hang, identifies some common problems to ensure your turtle lives a long and healthy life.
In Hong Kong, the most common turtles are red-eared sliders and Chinese striped-neck turtles. These breeds are semi-aquatic and can vary in size. Some hatchlings are only four to five centimetres long, but as they get older they can grow larger than the size of your hand.
''In the right conditions and given the correct diet, they can easily live to 30 years old,'' Hung says. ''They aren't difficult to keep if you get the initial set-up right. But if you don't get the right equipment like a UV [ultraviolet] light you can get problems. Some people just put their turtle by the window, but you can't get UV light through glass.''
In setting up the tank, water quality is important. ''How often you chagne the water depends on how big the tank is and how many turtles there are,'' Hung says. ''In general, change the water every two to three days.''
Regulate the water temperature from 25 to 35 degress Celsius. If it's not warm enough, install a heater or place a heat lamp next to the UV light.
Hung recommends semi-aquatic turtles should have living quarters comprising 30 per cent land and 70 per cent water, with a basking area and a covered space.
If you want to keep you tank cleaner for longer, Hung suggests owners feed their turtle outside in a separate tub of water.
''If you put the food directly in the water, it can spoil the water,'' she says. ''Then, usually within 20 minutes, your turtle will poo.''
If turtles are fed outside their tank they can be put back about 30 mintues after feeding time.
With an abundant range of commercial diets onthe markte, Hung says: ''It's not difficult to source a diet, but they should get some variety.''
Owners can throw in some cooked chicken or shrimp, but as a turtle gets older, it becomes less carnivorous and more vegetarian, so more vegetables are recommended.
Food, amounting to the size of the head and neck, should be given daily to hatchlings until they are about a year old. After that, they should be fed every other day.
One of the main health problems is a deficiency in calcium and vitamins D and A.
''Even if you are giving your turtle a good commercial diet, owners can buy supplements in pet shops. It's a powder and you can sprinkle it on the food once a week,'' she says. However, if turtles are kept outside and receive sunlight, then only give calcium supplements.
For signs of a sick turtle, it will most likely stop eating and infections on the shell are ''quite common''. From lack of vitamine A, turtles can develop swollen eyelids.
''This shows an problem with husbandry. Turtles are quite hardy, so they can usually make it throught,'' Hung says. ''But if husbandry has been wrong for a long time, improvement may take a while.''
If you notice bubbles coming out of your pet's nose, or it is swimming lopsided a respiratory disease may be the cause. Hung warns: "If you notice that, you need to take your turtle [to a vet], there could be a problem with the lungs.''
Box turtles, known for their large domed shell, are also popular pets in Hong Kong. While this species is actually a tortoise that mostly lives on land, the depth of the water in the tank shouldn't be deeper than their head, as they cannot swim. When it's feeding time, Hung says the box turtle is similar to the red-eared slider. A commercial diet is sufficient, or a diet should be made up of 50 per cent high protein food, such as crickets and earthworms, along with 50 per cent vegetables, including peas and any leafy greens, from spinach to lettuce.
If you are undecided about what kind of turtle to care for, the vet advises semi-aquatic ones are easier to keep.
''Box turtles can be a bit more picky. You don't have to worry about semi-aquatic environments as much, whilc a box turtle's living conditions need to be just right - their humidity and optimal temperature,'' she says.
All box turtle species are slightly different, so owners need to do their research to find out what their preferred temperature is.
''People think turtles are very easy to keep, but they don't find out about their habitat. They don't get sick that often, but if they do it's mostly related to poor husbandry.''
From SCMP Post aboutPets 17/2/2013 Felix Paige
Potential owners looking for a pet that is cute, fluffy, and friendly, and which does not require a large space or regular walks, might well consider a rabbit. "Rabbits are popular; not only are they cute and affectionate, they are also clean and quiet,'' says veterinarian Dr Gillian Hung. The breeds of choice include the dwarf, angora and lop, largely due to their smaller size and docile nature.
"My key advice for people considering getting a rabbit is they need to understand that it is a long-term commitment, as rabbits live for around seven to 10 years,'' Hung Says. ''Rabbits also need daily care, so potential owners must have time to dedicate to their pets, enough space for housing, and finances for daily necessities and veterinary care.''
Another consideration is whether there are other pets in the home. ''Potential owners need to assess if the rabbit will get along with other pets,'' Hung says. ''Rabbits can be very timid, and are unlikely to be happy [if they are] being chased around by a barking dog.''
Rabbits need a cage large enough for a sleeping area, and for activity. It is important to ensure good ventilation and that the space does not get too warm. ''Rabbits do not cope well with temperatures over 28 degrees Celsius,'' Hung says. If the rabbit is allowed free range, make sure to rabbit-proof the space, which includes leaving no electric cords to chew and no toxic plants. For bedding, use wood or paper shreds, and provide a litter tray, water bottle and food bowl - all of which have to be changed and /or washed daily.
Rabbits should be fed a diet of 80 per cent Timothy Hay to which they should have access at all times. Additionally they should be provided with one small bowl of fresh, dark leafy greens each day.
"Commericial pellets can be given, but no more than a teaspoon per day as they tend to be high in calories and easily lead to obesity,'' Hung says.
Fruit treats can be given in small doses. ''High fat and sugary treats should be avoided, as well as toxic foods such as chocolate, garlic and onions,'' Hung says. It should be noted that coprophagia (eating dung) is a normal behaviour in rabbits, and the droppings, as any gardener will tell you, are high in nutrients.
Rabbits can become bored, so provide the animal with something to play with, such as a sturdy plastic toy, cardboard tubes or boxes. ''Also give them space to roam around and exercise,'' Hung says. She suggests bonding with the rabbit by brushing its fur, something that long-haried breeds require daily. Additionally, ensure the rabbit has enough hay to chew on. Rabbits often have dental problems, however. ''They have teeth that continually grow, and a high-fibre diet - for example, hay - is essential to help keep the teeth short,'' Hung says. ''Overgrown teeth can lead to abscesses, fragile jawbones and tear-duct infections.'' Other health problems include upper-respiratory infections, the symptoms of which inclue sneezing, nasal and eye discharge.
Treatment can be frustrating because symptoms can recur, Hung says. Other problems can be a result of poor hygiene and husbandry, which can lead to skin irritations, such as urine scald and hock sores. Neutering rabbits reduces the risk of reproductive cancers and infections.
''Rabbits are fun pets to have, but they are not low maintenance,'' Hung says. ''If there is any sign of disease, rabbits should be taken to the vet as soon as possible, because ill rabbits can deteriorate very quickly.''
Potential owners can pick up a rabbit from one of the several pet-adoption centres in Hong Kong, Hung says. ''[It is] always a better option [than] buying them in a pet store,'' she says.
The most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea in pets is gastrointestinal disease, and these can range from minor to very serious problems.
Food intolerance is common in pets, and you may notice vomiting or diarrhea if they have been fed too many treats, or a new diet. In most cases the symptoms are mild, and resolve quickly with dietary modification and medication. A prescription diet is helpful for pets recovering from gastrointestinal upsets, because they are easily digestible, preventing further irritation to sensitive stomach and intestines. These diets should be fed in small frequent meals until symptoms resolve, then owners can gradually change pets back onto their regular diet.
However, some pets have especially sensitive stomachs, even when all
treats have been cut out of their diet. Dogs and cats can suffer from food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease, in which case prescription diets may need to be fed
In serious cases, ingestion of poisons, cancers, intestinal blockage from eating objects such as bones or plastic toys, diseases of other organs such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas can also lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Therefore if your
pet suffers from vomiting or diarrhea, you should contact your vet for early
diagnosis and treatment. Puppies, kittens, and old pets in particular are prone to serious illnesses and you should seek immediate veterinary attention for your pet .
For more information on gastrointestinal diseases, contact us at 2895 6811.
From now until March 31st 2013, get 20% off when you buy Hill’s prescription diet i/d for gastrointestinal disorders.
From SCMP Post About Pets 16/12/2012 Felix Paige
Cataracts are a health issue that can affect any animal, including cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, reptiles and fish.
"The lens is normally clear, allowing light to pass through to focus on the retina. If the protein within the lens becomes denatured, the lens will become cloudy and
affect vision," says veterinarian Dr Gillian Hung.
In addition to the impact on vision, cataracts can lead to severe inflammation of the eye and high eye pressure, or glaucoma, which is a painful condition that occurs as the cataract matures and lens protein leaks out into the eye.
"Glaucoma in people is painful, and has been described as a non-stop throbbing headache. Animals may only show subtle signs, such as sleeping more and being less active, but most likely suffer similar pain as people. Treatment is important to
improve the pet's quality of life" Hung says.
While detecting cataracts in the later stages is easy, as the eye will be cloudy, the earlier stages can vary.
"As the cataract matures, the eye may become inflamed and owners may notice a red eye, watery eye discharge, squinting, pain and pawing at the eye," Hung says.
There are a variety of causes, including aging; inherited cataracts in miniature dog breeds such as poodles and schnauzers; diabetes; congenital and retinal degeneration; eye trauma; radiotherapy for cancer treatment, if the eye is exposed to the radiation beam; and electric shock from chewing electric wires.
"If owners notice any eye problems, they should visit a vet as soon as possible as the condition can deteriorate very quickly," Hung says.
Some preventive measures can be taken. This includes ensuring pets are fed a well-balanced diet and are not overweight. "Fat pets are at increased risk of developing diabetes," Hung says.
Also, make sure that vaccinations for preventable diseases, such as heartworm, are up to date. Illnesses can lead to chronic eye inflammation, which can then cause cataracts.
Pets' cataracts can be removed by the same surgical procedure that is performed on people. Hung says the success rate of this procedure is much higher if it is performed early, and she advises owners not to wait until their pets' cataracts have matured. It is "important that your pet is healthy before cataract surgery," Hung says. "A blood and urine test may be done to assess [the pet's] health, and to check for diabetes. An electroretinogram and ultrasound of the eye is also required before surgery.
"Your pet must pass these tests in order to qualify for cataract surgery, and to ensure the best chance of success."
Hung says advancements in surgical techniques have significantly increased the success of these procedures.
"Pets no longer need to suffer from blindness due to cataracts, and the ability to treat them has helped improve the quality of life for many," she says.
Owners should take younger pets for an eye check up once a year, and to have older animals inspected very six months, Hung says.
Christmas is almost here and it’s time to prepare for the colder weather.
Most dogs don’t need to wear doggie clothes or coats, but smaller breed dogs with short sparse hair coats do feel the cold. If you decide to put clothes on your pet, make sure your pet feels comfortable, that it’s not too tight, and ideally not worn for more than half the day.
Prepare a cozy dog or cat bed in a warm dry place, away from any draft. Make sure to check it daily as wet bedding not only feels uncomfortable, but can also lead to skin infections.
Older pets and puppies may be sensitive to colder conditions and diseases such as arthritis, heart and respiratory problems may be aggravated in the winter.
Speak to us if you notice any health problems in your pet.
Finally, if you have feral or free running cats in your area that have access to your vehicle when it is parked, you may want to thump on the hood prior to starting your car, as cats will climb under the hoods of cars and onto the engine or surrounding area to get warm.