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Health Checklist for Dogs in Hong Kong

 Keeping a dog in Hong Kong-

Here are some things you should know!


Dr. Lloyd Kenda of Valley Veterinary Centre has put together a checklist of information for you to help keep your dog happy and healthy while living in Hong Kong. Dr. Kenda is also one of our On-Line Vets at HK Animal Speak and has been caring for animals in Hong Kong for nearly 20 years!


Living with a pet in Hong Kong is just as rewarding as in any other city, however each city does have its own idiosyncrasies in regards to keeping a dog.  This information outlines some of these for you!

Best Wishes,

Dr Lloyd Kenda - principal veterinarian, Valley Veterinary Centre

BSc(Psych) BSc(VetBiol) BVMS(Hons) MRCVS MACVSc(SASurgery)


Rabies Vaccinations & Dog Licensing  – All dogs, five months or older are required by Hong Kong law to be licensed.  A licensed dog requires implantation with an AVIDÒ microchip (which should last a lifetime) and to have a rabies vaccination.  The license is valid for 3 years – at renewal the Rabies vaccination is boostered, and a new coloured collar tag is given to you.

At Valley Veterinary Centre we can provide all these services and apply for the government license on your behalf.

The government does not send you a reminder for license renewal, however Valley Veterinary Centre does!  If you change your contact details/address please advise us.  You are also required by law to notify the government of any changes in  your details – this can be done by completing the section on the reverse of the license and sending to the government directly.

Please note- Although rabies vaccination is only required every three years by HK law, if you plan to take your dog out of HK, then generally other countries require that the rabies vaccine is given more than 30 days &  less than 12 months before export.  **This does vary from country to country.  We can also assist you with any import or export of pets.


Other Vaccinations - We recommend that puppies are vaccinated at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age for Distemper, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza and Hepatitis.  If your dog does need to go into a boarding kennel, then we will recommend an intranasal vaccine against Bordatella bronchiseptica, to help prevent contracting Kennel Cough. 

Unlike many other countries where most of these viral infections are virtually eradicated, unfortunately they are still very prevalent in Hong Kong.  For this reason we strongly recommend that an annual booster is given to your dog every year!  We will send a reminder to you in the post!

Tick Fever:

One of the greatest health hazards in Hong Kong for your dog is a disease called tick fever. 

Hong Kong has an abundance of ticks known as Rhipicephalus sanguineus more commonly referred to as the Brown Dog Tick. Their saliva carries three types of blood parasites namely Babesia canis, Babesia gibsoni both protozoans and Ehrlichia canis, a rickettsia.  These parasites will affect your dog and can be fatal if not treated.

Often the first sign noticed is that your dog feels tired and starts to go off food.  As the disease developes your dog may become progressively weaker, may show blood tinged urine, bleeding from the mucus membranes, and have episodes of fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.  The disease can have a very gradual onset and progression, with your dog just looking “off colour” until the later stages when walking may not be possible!

Treatment of Tick Fever is a combination of supportive measures and medication to kill the blood parasites.

Remember these ticks seem to be everywhere in Hong Kong, some even associated with indoor plants!!  Ticks will be  part of your dog’s life in Hong Kong, so we must learn to live around them.

The obvious way to avoid tick fever is to avoid ticks, failing that, to remove ticks from your dog as soon as possible.  Your dog should be thoroughly inspected for ticks daily and especially after walks.

We recommend the product FrontlineÒ (Fipronil) which is very safe to use and

has a residual action of up to three weeks in killing ticks that may arrive on your dog’s body.  The use of a tick collar may also be helpful in some situations as well.  However vigilance and tick removal is a vital part of prevention.

 N.B. RevolutionÒ (selamectin) is NOT effective against ticks



Intestinal/Stomach worms:

We recommend that your dog is given an allwormer deworming tablet such as Drontal® every three months.  In the warm, humid environment of HK, these parasites are very common.  Fleas are the intermediate host of some intestinal worms- hence can carry the worms from one dog to another.  It is important to have the correct weight of your dog when dosing for intestinal deworms- bring your dog in and we can get an accurate weight on our digital scales and dispense the appropriate dosage.


Heat Exhaustion:

Unfortunately this is very common in Hong Kong.  It happens fast and the onset can be with little warning.  In these cases the dog is usually seizuring & convulsing and may also be vomiting.  These cases do need to be seen urgently, as prompt treatment of heat exhaustion makes the difference between life and death.  Be sensible when taking your dog out for a walk – ensure you have plenty of water for your dog (and yourself), don’t go for long walks in summer time in the middle of the day!

Heartworm Disease:

Heartworm disease (Dirofilariasis) is a relatively common and potentially fatal disease of dogs in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, treatment of heartworm is difficult, dangerous, and expensive. On the other hand, prevention of heartworm is safe, simple and easy. All dogs, including your dog, should always be protected from heartworm by using preventative medication.

A dog is infected with heartworm by being bitten by a mosquito. The mosquito injects microscopic heartworm larvae into the dog’s bloodstream. These larvae slowly grow and move towards the dog’s heart and lungs, where they severely interfere with the flow of blood through the heart. These adult heartworms breed in the dog’s heart, producing new heartworm larvae. The larvae are ingested by mosquitos, who then spread the disease to other dogs.

Initially when the heartworm are growing and spreading around the dog’s body there are no unusual signs. It is generally only after the worms are lodged in the heart and infecting the lungs that dogs show signs. Common signs include coughing, exercise intolerance and weight loss.

Heartworm prevention is much easier and safer than treatment, but a dog must be either less than 5 months old or have a negative heartworm blood test before preventative medicine can be started.  We can do the blood test for your dog and have the result within 10 minutes.  If  your dog is negative , then we recommend the yearly heartworm prevention injection called ProheartÒ  (moxidectin). This injection can be given quickly and easily at the same time as vaccination.  It is important that the injection is given within 12 months, hence we will send you a reminder in 11 months to ensure you can get your dog here to have the booster given on time!

Heartgard® (Ivomectin) which is a monthly prevention medicine has long been used to prevent heartworm. Given as a monthly tablet or beef-flavoured cube, HeartgardÒ is a proven, safe and simple preventative medicine. Possibly the only disadvantage is that heartgard must be given monthly, and if the monthly tablet is forgotten then your dog could become infected with heartworm.

Heartworm is a potentially deadly yet easily preventable disease, although many dog owners are not aware of how serious and common it is in Hong Kong. Please do not let your dog be at risk of heartworm disease.

(Further information can be found at

Taking your dog Into Public Places:

Fixed Penalty Fines- If your dog defecates in a public place- clean it up immediately as there is a $1500 on the spot fine!  Do your part to encourage responsible pet ownership, reduce disease transmission and keep Hong Kong clean - carry some newspaper or plastic bags to pick up after your dog and dispose of the waste properly!


Rules on Leashing & free running of your dog-

Click the AFCD website logo below for current information: Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Any dog weighing more than 20kg is categorized in Hong Kong as a large breed.

 Large dogs

Any dog over 20 kg in weight must be held on a leash not more than 2 metres in length when in a public place.

Large dogs may be tied in public places on a leash not exceeding 1.5 metres in length provided this does not endanger the public, other animals or the welfare of the dog.

Leashing requirements do not apply to large dogs in country parks and when swimming at sea, providing ample opportunity for owners to exercise their large dogs off leash. In addition, the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation can offer exemptions for large dogs that demonstrate in an examination that they can be controlled off leash. 

Currently country parks are excluded from this control- hence dogs are allowed to have off leash running in country parks as long as they are under the control of the handler.

N.B. if your dog does bite someone- a police report is filed and your dog will have to go to jail at the government kennels- this is less than ideal!



Leptospirosis is caused by infection with a bacteria called Leptospira interrogans.    The bacteria is found most commonly in environments where there is stagnant or slow moving warm water, which is very common in Hong Kong during the summer.  It potentially can enter your dog via the mucous membranes (gums, eyes) or any open wounds in the skin.


If your dog contracts Leptospirosis, typically the initial symptoms would be fever, not eating, vomiting, dehydration and no urination.  If your dog was seriously affected with Leptospirosis there would be yellow colouring (Jaundice) of the mucous membranes (gums, eyes) and sometimes the skin. 


The most effective way to avoid your dog contacting Leptospirosis is to ensure that your dog is vaccinated against Leptospirosis. 


Ths is a serious disease that can affect your dog in Hong Kong.


·      Screw Worm Fly   (Chrysomia bezzinia)

In the summer of 2000 “flesh eating worms” were seen in a dog in Hong Kong.  This was the first time these flies were found in Hong Kong, and it is assumed to have come from Indonesia.  It now seems the screw worm fly (SWF) is here to stay. 

Some sort of wound on the skin is usually necessary for SWF strikes. These may occur naturally, be the result of husbandry practices e.g. surgery, or may be from minor skin penetrations such as tick bites. Adult female SWF seek out wounded animals and lay eggs on the periphery. These hatch out and the larvae burrow into body tissue.  Strikes may occur at any site on the body and range from very small to large gaping wounds.

Signs include:

· foul-smelling wound containing SWF larvae (maggots) - some times hundreds of maggots are seen squirming from the wound!

· constant licking of the lesion by the animal

· fever

· lethargy and loss of appetite


The treatment for individual cases of SWF strike in pets is;

1.    anaesthetising to allow the wound to be surgically opened and the maggots removed.

2.    the wound is then meticulously cleaned and usually a drain inserted, then closed.

3.    antibiotics to reduce the likelihood of a secondary bacterial infection.

4.    Insecticidal repellent sprays are used to reduce the chance of reinfestation of maggots.


Most importantly you should prevent your dog from getting Screw Worm Fly infestation – here’s how;


1.    check your dog thoroughly at least daily, for any wounds on the skin.

2.    If your dog does have any skin infection, wounds on the skin or has recently had any surgery, keep 100% indoors, except for shorts walks outside, when active and unlikely to be still enough for a fly to land and bite.

3.    Keep your dog clean.  Any urine or faeces that fouls the environment or is on the coat will attract flies.

If you do suspect a fly strike, then get  your dog to us ASAP.  If it is caught early enough then treatment many only need be medical and not surgical.


The Infamous Bowen Road Dog Poisoner!

Deliberate poisonings of dogs along Bowen Road and Black’s Link have been happening for more than fifteen years!

The baits are usually laid in obvious places along the paths and often near the “doggy latrines”.  They appear as a “stew” of chopped up chicken meat and bones in a pink/purple paste. 

Each bait is a sloppy mixture of about one handful in size.

Laboratory analysis invariably reveals it as an organophosphate poison. Ingestion results in changes throughout the body- a loss of sphincter control leading to diarrhoea and urinary incontinence, blurred vision, slowed heart rate, increased lung secretions, excessive salivation.  It also causes muscle weakness and convulsion, muscle cramps, and an irregular heartbeat.  The brain is also affected, resulting in anxiety, restlessness, lethargy, possible coma, seizures, and depression of breathing and blood flow.  The convulsions are very violent. There is a relatively rapid onset of signs, depending on the size of the dog, the amount of bait ingested and if the dog already had a full stomach or not. 


Unfortunately small dogs often die before they reach a vet, larger dogs are usually very sick by the time they get to a vet!


At the veterinary centre the emergency treatment is symptomatic;

In most cases, if the dog gets to Valley Veterinary Centre alive, it can be saved, but not always.  If the dog survives the first 24 hours after being poisoned, generally the long term prognosis for survival is good, however the poison may have done permanent damage to the nerves and muscles, particularly the heart.  Some of these changes may be irreversible.


What can you as a dog-owner do to prevent your dog from being the next victim?

1.    You can avoid taking your dog to Bowen Road & Black’s Link as these are the two most notorious places that dogs are poisoned on Hong Kong Island.

2.    Always walk your dog on a lead– Never let dogs free run!  Keep the lead short so that you have full control and can stop your dog picking up anything off the ground.

3.    Train your dog to eat only on command – thus never “scavenge” things from the ground.

4.    Muzzling your dog will prevent  scavenging, but can prevent your dog from panting- and hence may over heat.  Muzzles are effective but can create other problems.

5.    If your dog does eat a poison get to us immediately!  Don’t wait for the symptoms to start.  If your dog returns from a walk and then shows any of the symptoms, get to Valley Veterinary Centre immediately!

6.    If your dog starts to show signs of poison ingestion- try to carry, not walk, your dog to the car then to Valley Veterinary Centre.  Walking or running your dog will increase the blood flow and thus the circulation of poison through the body. 

7.    There are NO effective safe home remedies to make your dog vomit and empty the stomach of the poison- so get to us immediately!

8.    Report any sightings or incidents of poisoning to the local police station(Happy Valley 28355200)



I hope that this information is useful to you and your dog.
Enjoy your canine companion in Hong Kong!
If you have any queries please do not hesitate
to contact us on 2575 2389.





Dr Lloyd Kenda for Valley Veterinary Centre


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