Now that you have decided to get a dog after serious consideration, the next step will be to choose the right one.
While most people tend to head straight for a pet shop, there are many advantages to adopting a dog. First, you are giving a precious home to a stray or abandoned dog. Second, you will help to reduce the number of unwanted pets in the city. Thirdly, you will be rewarded with undying, unconditional love from a happy, well-adjusted dog. Nothing beats knowing that you have helped save a life.
If you would rather have a puppy so that you can bring it up yourself, please visit sgpuppies.com and be informed of the misery of dogs in puppy mills, then choose where you get your puppy from wisely so that you do not unknowingly support puppy mills.
Do bear in mind that as the pet trade becomes increasingly commercialised, there are more unhealthy puppies being sold than healthy ones. Many pedigree dogs are inbred and, as a result, may develop chronic health, skin and behavioural problems as they get older.
How do you avoid falling victim to these bad practices (if you choose not to adopt)?
First, choose a reputable breeder or pet shop. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) has started a grading scheme for pet shops. It would be a good idea to check here to find out which are the most reputable shops. A good pet shop keeps the animals in clean surroundings, avoids too much handling by prospective buyers, and provides adequate veterinary care to the animals. A good pet shop will also give you a seven-day guarantee for the puppies. More often than not, puppies that seem well at the pet shop can fall seriously ill within the first few days after they are brought home. This can be attributed mostly to diseases that were incubating inside the puppy prior to purchase.
Here is a checklist of other things to look out for:
- Always look for an active puppy. Do not choose the one that looks tired and is not responsive to human handling. They could be harbouring life-threatening diseases.
- Check the eyes and nose for discharge. There should never be greenish mucoid discharge, as they can be indications of life-threatening illnesses. Always check with the staff whether the puppy is being treated by a veterinarian and ask for the causes of the discharge.
- Check the poo. This can be difficult but if possible, look out for diarrhea, bloody poo and even white strands in the poo. The white strands are usually indicative of intestinal worms. This problem can be easily solved with dewormers. Diarrhea can also be caused by flagylettes and needs to be treated. Also, check to make sure that there is no undigested food in the poo. This is a bad sign as it means the puppy does not have a good digestive system, and this could lead to other diseases.
- Check that the puppy is not coughing. Kennel cough is common in pet farms. This can usually be treated with antibiotics. However, untreated kennel cough can lead to death.
- Check the puppy's fur. Make sure it is healthy and shiny. Keep a look out for fleas or ticks. This problem can be easily treated with anti-flea products. Pimples or thickened skin patches with hair loss could be signs of other severe skin diseases. Skin mites – mainly mange and demodex – can cause severe itch and hair loss, with the latter involving lengthy treatment, sometimes lasting a few years.
- Check the puppy's body condition. The puppy's ribs should not be seen from afar as protrusive ribs could be an indication of inadequate diet or hereditary/life-threatening diseases.
- Check the puppy's vaccination schedule. Puppies can be vaccinated as early as six weeks. According to the AVA website, pet shops can only sell puppies after they have had two vaccinations, after which there must be a waiting period of two weeks before they can be sold. In Singapore, the most common viruses that pups are vaccinated against are distemper, parvovirus and canine infectious hepatitis. Generally, a puppy that is vaccinated earlier than eight weeks will need two boosters i.e. three vaccinations, preferably four weeks apart. Vaccination is a good safeguard against viruses, but there could sometimes be vaccination failures.