Blog, Japan

Vol. II – Visiting the Vet

June 16, 2014

oadijvet

Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails.
– Max Eastman

No matter where you are, it’s important that you scope out a good vet for your furry friend. When I adopted Rhea, I did a lot of research on what vet to take to her to. So I read a lot of online reviews of veterinarians in the city, and ended up choosing a long running vet with a state of the art facility, and amazing reviews. It also turned out that the vet had been there for forty years, and judging by the staff board, both the father (who I assume started it), and son worked there.

No Appointment Necessary

When you’re ready to take your dog to the vet, all you have to do is make the decision to go. Most clinics are open for a few hours in the morning, close for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and then open again in the evening. A lot of the time, surgery and so forth is done during the afternoon down time. Much like human doctors, appointments aren’t necessary, however, some clinics do prefer that you make one. Of course without an appointment there’s no guarantee on how long you’ll be waiting, but I never had to wait more than half an hour or so.

Your first time at a clinic, you’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your pet, along with your contact information. All of the clinics I’ve been to have made a sort of “health card” for my pets that you bring to check in each time you go.

rheacliniccard1 rheacliniccard2 jjcliniccard

Atmosphere

A page from the information pamphlet of Rhea's vet.

A page from the information pamphlet of Rhea’s vet.

The atmosphere of vets in Canada and Japan aren’t really that different. All of the doctors, technicians, trainers, and reception staff that Rhea and I dealt with were very pleasant. Like Canada, and hopefully anywhere else you’d be, the staff really seemed to care about the animals and their well being. One time we overheard a vet recommend to an elderly lady with a just as elderly dog to not medicate the animal because that would just make the short time they had left miserable for them. I’m sure there are vets who don’t care as much, just as there are everywhere, but none of the doctors I saw gave me that impression. When I had to go alone, they made sure to explain anything I didn’t understand and told me to let them know if there was something I didn’t quite get. It was actually a huge relief because the last thing you want when you have a sick animal is to also fight through a language barrier.

During my time in Japan I went to a total of four vets; two for Rhea, one for Jackson and one for J.J., and I don’t have a single bad experience to speak of. All of the offices were clean and well kept. Rhea’s regular vet was immaculate, and had a gorgeous facility. They also offered inexpensive classes and seminars so you could learn a bit about doggie care, and get some tips in training and socializing your dog. Rhea and I went to a puppy class put on by the vet, which was 500 yen for two classes, and she got a cute certificate when she graduated as well as a bandanna.

vaccinationfolder As expected in Japan, a lot of the things they give you are cute. I also got things throughout the years at our visits like clear files, calendars, and even a little draw string bag. Both Rhea’s vet in Canada and the officer at the airport commented on the cuteness of her folders.

Another thing I really liked was the bandages Rhea’s vet in Japan used to wrap her leg after a blood test. It seems like such a silly little thing, but I just thought it was such a cute idea.

rheavet2


Costs

One thing I’ve had a lot of people ask is about the cost of vets in Japan. In Canada, it gets pretty pricey to take your pet to the doctor – even for a simple checkup. I’ve found that the vets in Japan are very reasonable. While I don’t have the bills for her visits, this is a rough estimate of what it cost me for a dog’s basic needs.

  • Yearly vaccinations (8 types) – 6200 yen
  • Rabies shot (one year) – 3000 yen
  • Heartworm pills (one per month, May – November) – 850 yen
  • Heartworm shot (one year) – 7000 yen
  • Spaying surgery – 60,000 yen
  • Puppy tooth removed – 2500 yen per tooth
  • Check up – 1000 yen
  • Blood test (basic) – 3000 yen

If you do decide to spay or neuter your dog in Japan, the government will give you some money towards it. Just make sure that you schedule your dog’s procedure within a week of getting your coupon from your local ward office. Rhea’s spaying surgery was a bit more expensive because I opted to have them use a laser instead of thread to tie her tubes. Regularly it’s 10,000 yen cheaper. Also note that getting a male dog neutered is less expensive.

For basic things the prices seem all well and good, but what happens if your dog gets sick?

A few months before we returned to Canada, Rhea got very sick. I came home one night to find her trembling and hunched over with her tail between her legs. She was happy to see me when I got in, but something was not right. I soon found two bags of tea leaves ripped open, and saw throw up on my bedroom floor.

Tea is poisonous to dogs because of the caffeine in it, and I was pretty sure my little girl had gotten caffeine poisoning. I had no idea what to do, so I scooped her up and we ran to the nearest vet – one that I had never been to before (our regular vet was too far away to get to in any decent amount of time). They had closed half an hour before I had arrived, but it seemed like there were still people inside. So I called, and explained my situation in awful, panic ridden Japanese. Luckily, they said they could see us.

I took Rhea to that vet five days in a row, and then for a followup about a week later. She had three blood tests, three IVs (she was severely dehydrated and not eating), medicine, a whole bunch of checkups, as well as canned food and medicine to take home. I was willing to pay whatever I had to to make her better, but you can imagine how relieved I was when the entire bill came out to under 20,000 yen (under $200). The first night I was there they told me they’d have to charge me a late fee for coming in after hours, which I was expecting to be somewhere around 10,000 yen. It was 500 yen. 500 yen. Five. Dollars. Needless to say, I was shocked and felt as if I had gotten away with some horrible crime!

Useful Words

It’s not easy taking care of a dog in a foreign country when you don’t know what’s going on! So, here’s a short list of some words that I fought useful knowing.

  • 動物病院 (doubutsu byouin) – animal hospital
  • 獣医 (juui) – veterinarian
  • 入院する (nyuuin suru) – to be hospitalised; when your pet has to stay overnight
  • 診察 (shinsatsu) – medical examination; check-up
  • ワクチン (wakuchin) – vaccine, vaccination
  • 狂犬病 (kyoukenbyou) – rabies
  • ノミ・ダニ (nomi ・ dani) – flea, tick
  • フィラリア (firaria) – heartworm
  • 去勢手術 (kyouseishujutsu) – neuter; neutering surgery
  • 避妊手術 (hininshujutsu) – spay; spaying surgery
  • 手術 (shujutsu) – surgery, operation
  • 予防 (yobou) – prevention, protection against [something]
  • 薬 (kusuri) – medicine

Overall I was really impressed with the quality of service with vets in Japan. They were fair, they didn’t try to medicate necessarily, and it definitely didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Thanks to the care from her doctors Rhea grew up to be a strong little girl!

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