Owners of a 9-year-old golden retriever take their pet from Qingdao, Shandong province, to Beijing to seek treatment at the hospital.[Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]
Help for the aged
With the country's economic growth, pets have become an important part of people's lives, and owners such as He Na have forged strong emotional bonds with their pets.
He Na visited China Agricultural University Veterinary Teaching Hospital with her father, seeking help for their 15-year-old schnauzer, Defu, who was in a stroller covered with a green vest and quilt. Defu became paralyzed in December, and the family has driven hundreds of kilometers between their Beijing home and the hospital since then so he can receive acupuncture treatment.
They said Defu was like a member of the family, and they would pay for his treatment no matter how much it cost.
Defu has age spots showing through his sparse fur, a spinal, cataracts and is deaf.
"Animals face health problems as they age, the same as humans," He Jingrong, the retired vet, said.
With vaccination for epidemic diseases, timely treatment and good food, dogs can commonly live to the age of 13 to 17, instead of 3 or 4 as they did in the past. However, smaller dogs start to get old at the age of 5 and big ones at 7.
Nearly 90 percent of the patients in the hospital's traditional Chinese veterinary medicine department have lumbar vertebra problems, and most of are quite old, Pang said.
He Jingrong recorded statistics for her patients from 2012 to 2014 that show she treated 145 spinal cases over the three years; 71 percent of the patients were over 7 years old, and more than half were age 20 or older.
Pang said he believes traditional Chinese veterinary medicine has a "bright future" as pets enter old age, because it can provide pain relief treatments with little or no side effects and lower risk than pharmaceutical drug therapies.
Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine is also usually much cheaper than Western-style treatment.
It costs He Na about 300 yuan ($44.70) for each acupuncture treatment for Defu. She previously spent over 30,000 yuan on the dog's surgery for a benign tumor.
Last year, the value of China's pet care market reached about 171 billion yuan, up 27 percent year-on-year, according to Goumin, an online network for pet owners. It is expected to hit 200 billion yuan next year.
On average, owners spent more than 5,000 yuan on their dogs or cats last year, an increase of 15 percent year-on-year.
In recent years, traditional Chinese veterinary medicine has grown in popularity, and owners now seek treatment to cure many other ailments, such as digestive problems and tumors, when Western medicine or surgery has failed.
As traditional Chinese veterinary medicine can currently only be found in first-tier cites such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Pang has treated many pets from as far afield as Urumqi, in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Because pets are not allowed on trains, one dog owner drove for more than 11 hours from Qingdao, Shandong province, to Beijing to seek treatment for her 9-year-old golden retriever.
"It would be lovely if traditional Chinese veterinary medicine could be available locally," said the owner, who wanted to use herbal medicines to nurse her dog, who had just had stomach surgery. "Then we wouldn't have to waste time on the road."
Wang, who stayed at a hotel near the hospital for about half a month as Anbei was treated, said she has full confidence in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine because it successfully treated the other dogs in Anbei's ward.
"I knew my dog would survive as soon as we got here," she said.