Invaluable adoption advice from Dr. Allan Nguyen at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital

Dr. Allan Nguyen is one of the caring vets at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital.

In honor of our week devoted to raising awareness about pet adoption—I sat down for a one-on-one with Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital’s Veterinarian, Dr. Allan Nguyen (pronounced “when”) who has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal & Veterinary Sciences and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. He is “dad” to two Himalayan/Persian cats named Carolina and Olly. I can vouch for Dr. Nguyen—he has taken amazing care of my beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Buddy, for the past nine years.

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What should people know before adopting a pet? Always do research beforehand. You might want to adopt a certain breed. There is a society for every full breed and plenty of animals to adopt but don’t just go for a pet because they are cute. You need to know what you are getting into. Pick a breed that suits your lifestyle.

What are frequent issues with certain breeds? Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to heart problems. Big dogs like the Rottweiler or the German Shepherd are prone to hip dysplasia. Dogs with squished faces or “brachycephalic” pooches like English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs have trouble breathing. People are not aware of how high maintenance some dogs are. When you get a dog you are vowing to take care of this animal for the rest of their life, like you would with a child. Far too many people get a dog not knowing what a commitment it is. They dump the animal or have it put to sleep.

If pet owners want to drop off the animal here, we work with them. We never put a healthy animal to sleep. We put flyers up and use social media to attract new owners and work with a good organization, Animal Care and Control Center of NYC, and two wonderful shelters: Animal Haven and Animalkind.

When should a new pet be taken to a vet for a check-up? Before you bring an adopted animal home, have a scheduled vet visit as close to that date as possible. Cats and dogs come in terribly malnourished and often with mange. Also, make sure the dog is neutered.

I didn’t want to neuter my dog Buddy but the vet insisted. It seemed cruel. No, the opposite is true and for many reasons. The biggest is overpopulation. If abandoned dogs are not adopted within seven days they are usually put to sleep and if they’re sick it’s next to impossible to find an adoptive home for them. According to the The Humane Society of the United States at least four million dogs and cats are put down per year. That is about one in every eight seconds. When we have to put a dog down it is so sad. I try not to cry but I break down almost every time.

What are some of the other reasons to neuter? Unneutered animals are at risk for certain types of cancer: in males, prostate and testicular cancer; in females, ovarian and cervical cancers. Also, unneutered dogs are far more likely to get into dogfights. It’s usually an unneutered dog that instigates the fight. They feel threatened by the neutered dog.

What are signs that something dental is wrong with your new adopted pet? If they have pain in their mouth they won’t eat and if their teeth are rotting they can’t chew. Owners can mistake a pet’s mouth pain for merely a lack of appetite. Eating issues are always a red flag.

What are precautions to take before bringing a pet home? You know from your own experience that animals can swallow surprising things. Dog and cat proof your home. When Buddy was a puppy and you gave him an innocent looking toy you had no idea he would swallow part of it and need surgery.

Any last words about pet adoption? Always microchip your pet, crate training works, and pets—especially dogs—love a routine.