Issues for expat pet owners discussed

Issues for expat pet owners discussed.

(This article was originally published on

Gill’s Veterinarian Clinic on Jalan Bagan Jermal is a popular vet amongst the Penang expat population. Drs Kuljit and gillsAmreet kindly agreed to share some of their expertise about some of the unique challenges people face living in Malaysia with dogs.

What is the most common ailment you see in expat dogs?

Most expat dogs have had little or no exposure to ticks, and ticks in this part of the world carry a host of bugs…Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Babesia being the big three.  The disease is commonly called ‘tick fever’. All the above three can prove fatal to an animal, and it doesn’t take a heavy tick infestation to acquire the infection. You only need one infected tick to do the deed. This is of major concern to people taking their pets back to Australia and New Zealand, as if their pets test positive for ehrlichia, the pet will not be allowed into either country.

Also, our humidity can prove to be a bit of a problem when it comes to skin ailments. Fungal infections are quite common here.

Leptospira is another infection to look out for especially if coming from Australia, as dogs from Oz are NOT vaccinated for this disease. Avoid rat pee!

What are the three main things owners should be aware of when they bring a pet to Malaysia?

  • Not all types of pet foods are available in Malaysia, especially if your pet is on a specific diet, so if necessary, make arrangements to have the food shipped in.
  • Not all types of veterinary medication are available in Malaysia.
  • They are quarantine requirements and specific export requirements for dogs leaving to Malaysia to other countries

What are the most important vaccinations that a dog should have here?

Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis. If you are taking your dog back to Australia, you may want to avoid the Leptospira vaccine, but you will have to make sure that you are very careful when walking your dog to avoid all puddles/drains/streams etc as this may be a source of infection of Leptospira.

Rabies vaccination is also an important vaccination required if you plan to import your dog to another country. In the case of most of Europe as well as the United states, just the Rabies vaccination is required within the year of travel and not less than 30 days before departure.

In the case of Australia, New Zealand. Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, certain European countries & certain Arab countries – the vaccination needs to be done at least nine months before departure as the rabies blood test needs to be done no less than six months before departure. The rules on the rabies test change from time to time depending on individual countries so individuals need to contact the individual country within the year of travel.

For all European countries, Nipah blood test needs to be done within 10 days before departure. The laboratory is in Ipoh. For Taiwan the Nipah blood test can be done within 45 days before departure.

What symptoms should dog owners look out for before deciding to visit the vet?

  • Innapetance (lack of appetite), vomitting, diarrhoea;
  • Unable to urinate or defecate despite trying;
  • Sudden swelling anywhere – could be an allergy/abscess/injury;
  • Blood in either urine or stool;
  • Seizures, loss of consciousness; or
  • Prolonged fever.

Do you have any recommendations for a balanced diet for dogs? And are there any local foods in your experience that can cause problems? 

You should feed your dog what best suits your lifestyle. If you’re the sort of person who leaves home in the morning, and gets back in the evening, the dry kibble is the best option. It can be left out, and doesn’t go off. Can food if fed shouldn’t be left out too long. In our temperatures, wet food goes off quickly.

There are no specific foods in Malaysia that you wouldn’t avoid in any other country.

Do you ever recommend alternative therapies?

We do use some herbal preparations for both liver and kidney function, however availability of pet specific alternative therapies are limited as there are no recognised alternative therapy practitioners….eg pet acupuncturists, chiropracters.

Many people here are saddened by the condition of strays that they come across.  What should someone do when they find a stray that needs medical attention?

Contact any animal welfare organisation. For example SPCA, SOS Penang, PASS. Please be prepared to make a donation, as all the organisations rely on public donations to help the strays.

Does your practice support any animal welfare groups?  Which ones and how do you help them?

All the vets at Gills Veterinary Clinic volunteer at the SPCA clinic on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. Dr. Kuljit Gill is the veterinary adviser to the organisation and Dr. Gurdev Gill is the vice-chairman.

Most painfully, what should I do if my pet dies?

The SPCA can have your pet cremated. Special services where the ashes are returned to the owner in an urn can be arranged.

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