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What’s up dog?

india Updated: Nov 10, 2008 21:05 IST
Sneha Mahale
Sneha Mahale
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Now, how chweet-‘n’-chewy is that!

Pugs and chihuahuas are the most-wanted pets today. Vets are now playing the triple roles of docs-friends-counsellors. Designer salons and food shops are mushrooming all over the city for the luxury needs of the bow wow and meow crowd.

The pet industry is rocking and how, reports Sneha Mahale who intends to bring home a pug or a Persian cat soon...

The Research and Consultancy Enterprise estimates that there are approximately 2.2 million domestic dogs in the country. Every year this statistic goes up by 26 per cent.

And the revenue earning potential of India’s growing pet industry is pegged at Rs 350 crore a year. Of this amount, Rs 150 crore is attributed to the medical, grooming and immunisation segments.

The market for pet health care in India has increased significantly between 2001 and 2008, at an average annual rate of 9.3 per cent. Earlier a visit to the vet meant a check-up or a shot, today the city’s Dr Dolittles are serving a veritable number of pet services.

Breed factor
Dr Makarand Chavan of Shivaji Park’s Dogs and Cats Clinic, says that with the city becoming more aware of pedigree culture, the role of the vet has evolved from that of a doctor to also that of a counsellor and friend. “I am asked about which type of dogs to opt for,” he says. “ So, I ask for a person’s or a family’s background information and then give them options to choose from.”

However, advice is often ignored and breeds are opted for even if they are unsuitable for the Indian climate. Among dogs, the pug has become an extremely popular choice, courtesy the Vodafone ads.

But it is also the breed that is the least suitable for Mumbai’s weather. A pug’s eyes are very delicate. Exposure to sunlight makes them protrude. Owners are constantly advised to put eye drops but not many have the time or patience.

Chavan advises pedigree pet owners to go in for commercially packaged food — with breed-specific nutritional requirements — and avoid home-cooked food for pets..

Insurance and more
Although 90 per cent of dog diseases are common across all breeds, some are exclusive to imported dogs. Insurance plans in India cover pedigree dogs for sickness, accidental and disease deaths, permanent disability due to illness or accident, as well as a public liability cover. At an additional premium of 0.5 - 1 per cent, one can also get a cover for poisoning and breeding risk.

The value of the dog has to be certified by the local Kennel Club and approved by the vet.

Blue blood
Dr Kiran Patil of Patil Pet Care, affirms that instead of Indian indigenous breeds, 80 per cent of pet owners who come to his centre own pedigree dogs or want to acquire one. Reason: today’s owner looks for breeds and bloodlines. The pug is a popular choice. So is the chihuahua. The price of a pug has doubled in recent times, from Rs 15,000 to about Rs 30,000. The cost of a chihuahua has spiralled from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1.20 lakh.

Fish trade in India is also on the upswing. It’s not the goldfish that’s on the home-aquarium list today. Exotic species such as the Asian Arowana is also much in demand even though it’s priced at Rs 40,000 a fish.

Cats are a classic favourite, especially the fluffy ‘Persian’ variety.

Dr Chousalkar, Andheri, believes that cats are much easier to look after in comparison to dogs.

He adds though that the number of Persian cats in the city has not seen a significant rise. This is mainly due to the fact that the number of pure breed Persian cats are very rare and extremely expensive.

Hamsters, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, reptiles such as the bearded dragon and snakes are also in vogue. While these exotic animals are priced steeply, they are easy to maintain. Still, vets need to keep themselves constantly updated with technology and be prepared to deal with all kinds of furry visitors.

They also have to deal with clients like Rahul Khanna, a businessman, who wanted his Boxer’s broken tooth replaced with a special, made-to-order solid gold one. Khanna says, “Dental charges alone came to Rs 2,000, over and above the cost of the gold but it was worth it.”

Dr Shivani Tandel, a vet based in Breach Candy, believes that nearly 40 per cent of dog owners in the city choose pedigrees merely as status symbol.

“People need to keep their family background in mind before shopping for a dog. This is a serious commitment. Many pets can live for more than 10 years. Some pet lovers aren’t prepared for such a long-term commitment.”

After all, a visit to the vet for surgery (neutering or spaying) can cost anything between Rs 5000 and 10,000. Check-ups can cost Rs 1000 per month, depending on the pet. Plus a vaccination against rabies and dysentery too can go up to Rs 200 per shot.

Alternative therapy
Alternative medicine is feasible. Ashok Hingorani, a homeopath at Cuffe Parade, follows the Bach Flower Remedies, by using flower nectar and other natural extracts.

Swati Hingorani, who has been learning the art from her father says that this cleanses the animals internal system. So they don’t have to take antibiotics.

Pups and kittens, especially, shouldn’t be given antibiotics till they are weaned off their mothers’ milk. The treatment, made famous in the U S by Richard Bach is slowly catching on in the city.