Hiking hazards in Hong Kong

Updated: Jun 28

In our previous article, Exploring Hong Kong with dogs, we highlighted some of the key things to be mindful of when out and about with your pup. Although Hong Kong is a safe metropolis, accidents can still take place and there are a few hazards you need to be aware of when out hiking with your hound, ranging from wildlife, environment to diseases and poisonings! Read on and learn how best to avoid them.

Environment

Red Tide, Hong Kong
Photo credit: Chau Hung

Red Tide

Red Tide has become increasingly more common in Hong Kong, with an average of 14 incidents per year in the last decade.

This natural phenomena takes place when high algal biomass discolours the water via the pigment contained in their cells. This may turn the water into pink, red, brown, or even deep green, and other colours.

Although a beautiful sight, exposure to Red Tide can result in neurological symptoms, including tremors, seizures and paralysis, and requires immediate treatment for full recovery.

If Red Tide is spotted off shore, be sure to avoid neighbouring beaches as ingestion of any type – whether it be of water, a dead fish or even chewing on a washed up branch, that could potentially contain red tide toxins, could be problematic.

Heatstroke


Summer in Hong Kong is typically between May – September, with temperatures commonly exceeding 31. Unsurprisingly, cooling off when you have a fur coat on is no easy task, but dogs get by, via; -Evaporation from their tongues and nasal passages -Vasodilation of their blood vessels, in their ears and face -Sweating in their paws. Heat stroke in dogs can cause serious, unseen problems, such as swelling of the brain, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and abnormal clotting of blood, which can prove fatal, so prevention is always better than cure.

Dogs with thick fur, short noses or suffering from obesity or medical conditions are most predisposed to heatstroke, and owners should take extra precautions during the summer months. Avoid walking your dog during the day in summer, do not leave your dog in a car, and if your dog is required to wear a muzzle, ensure that it does not restrict panting, as this is an important. And ensure that your dog always has access to clean water. If not, you may see the following early signs of heatstroke, which include; heavy panting, rapid breathing, excessive drooling, dry mucous membranes, bright red gums and tongue, skin hot to the touch and a higher than normal heart rate. If excessive exposure to heat continues, the dog’s condition worsens and shock kicks in; mucous membranes turn white or blue, blood pressure drops, pupils dilate, irregular pulse, dog has muscle tremors or becomes lethargic, and may even collapse.

If you think your dog has heatstroke, get them to your nearest vets as soon as possible, and on the way there be sure to have the A/C on or windows down, use cool water (but not ice cold water) to cool your pet’s body temperature down, and allow them to drink as much water as they like.

Poisonings


Since the early 90’s, a bout of fatal dog poisoning cases shook Hong Kong as dogs were found poisoned every month after ingesting poisonous bait on their walks. Previously, this took place in the form of meat laced with poison along Bowen Road and Black’s Link. However, in recent months, these cases have spread, most recently to Cyberport and other populated dog areas, so its best to always remain vigilant if your dog is walking off leash. If you have a dog that can’t resist scavenging, its best to have your dog on leash at all times and wear a muzzle to reduce the risk of ingesting anything, as most of these cases occurred when dogs were not leashed or closely supervised. Dogs that were found to be poisoned displayed the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhoea, trembling, breathing difficulty, convulsions, collapse and in some cases, death. If you dog displays any of these symptoms whilst out on a walk, or shortly after, take your dog to the vet immediately for treatment. It may also be worth keeping washing soda crystals on you, whilst out on your walks, as these help induce vomiting and eliminate the poison. This is not treatment, but an effective way to bide time to get your dog to the vet for a proper assessment. To keep up to date of the latest poisoning sightings, follow @gamma.hkg on Instagram.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread by rat urine, and commonly infects dogs when they have ingested contaminated water whilst playing or drinking from fresh water streams. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, running water is not always clean or safe for dogs to drink, and almost as quickly as symptoms occur (vomiting and diarrhoea), the damage to the liver and kidney are so severe, that it’s usually too late.

There is one vaccination available which is effective against the local strain of lepto. This vaccine, called Leptovax 4, helps dog develop the antibodies required to fight off the infection. And although it doesn’t prevent the dogs from ever contracting the disease, it provides immunized dogs a better chance at fighting the infection than non-immunized dogs. Some common areas around Hong Kong where cases of leptospirosis have been reported are; The Peak, Mid-levels, Pok fu lam and Sai Kung.


Ticks (Tick Fever)

Tick fever is one of the most dangerous diseases in Hong Kong, and is spread by the tick arachnid. The disease itself is a protozoal organism which lives inside the tick, and is injected into your dog’s bloodstream, when it bites onto your dog’s skin to draw blood for feeding, attacking its red blood cells. During the course of the disease, red blood cells are destroyed and expelled in the urine resulting in dark or rusty coloured urine, and infected dogs will appear lethargic or tired, and will be reluctant to go for their regular walks or play.

If you notice one or more of these signs it is best to get to your vet as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of noticing symptoms. Although some cases may be treated, and dogs can recover and go on to lead a normal life, once a dog has contracted Tick Fever, the disease stays for life and can recur anytime, even if the dog were never to be bitten by another tick again, so prevention is key. Ticks live in grassy areas and latch on when dogs brush by, so be sure to keep up to date with your Frontline spray, tick collars – and possibly even preventive medication, especially if you plan on hitting the trails regularly. To read more on Tick Fever prevention, treatment and prognosis, check out Creature Comfort’s in-depth blog here.

Wildlife


Wild Boars


Wild boars are prevalent in Hong Kong and have grown accustom to being fed by locals in certain areas, resulting in their desensitization to people, and increased sightings around urban areas. Although not aggressive unprovoked, boars – particularly those with young, suffer no fools, and accidents are not uncommon. If you come across a boar, it is best to give them a wide berth and keep your dog on leash until sufficient distance has been made between you and the swine. Some common areas you can expect to find them are around Mid-levels, The Peak, Quarry Bay, Cape Collinson area.






Wild Monkeys


Wild monkeys and their hybrids; the Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta), the Long-tailed Macaque (M. fascicularis) thrive around the Kam Shan, Lion Rock, and Shing Mun Country Park areas. Although feeding them now is illegal, that hasn’t stopped some locals, and the monkeys have been known to aggressively rip food and plastic bags out of the hands of country park visitors. If you come across a group of monkeys, it is best to allow them to pass, and to not make excessive eye contact or show your teeth, as these can be signs of aggression to a macaque. These monkeys can have canine teeth as big as 2.5cm, which can cause some serious damage to the poor soul that crosses a macaque. So if you are in monkey territory, its best to keep your wits about you, and your dog on a leash.

Snakes


Hong Kong is home to 14 venomous snakes – eight of which can inflict fatal bites if not treated in time. Although most snakes keep to themselves and only bite when aggravated, snake bites still do occur, and are most common between August – October in Hong Kong. In the event your dog is bitten by a snake, the most important thing to do is to identify the snake if you can – if like most of us, you are no snake expert, try to get a photo of the snake without getting bitten yourself. By being able to identify the snake, this greatly improves your chances of finding the correct antivenom to treat your dog. Next, try to remain calm and keep your dog calm, whilst getting them to one of the following clinics if you can; - VSH Hong Kong, G/F - 2/F, 165-171 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2408 2588 - City U VMC, 339 Lai Chi Kok Rd, Sham Shui Po | (+852) 3650 3000

- East Island Animal Hospital, G/F 256 Shau Kei Wan Rd, Sai Wan Ho | (+852) 2915 7979 These clinics regularly stock antivenom and have emergency facilities to care for dogs who may have been exposed to a neurotoxic venom. Not all veterinary clinics stock antivenom, and if they do its usually in small quantities and might not necessarily cover the snake in question.

If you are unable to get to the vets listed above, get your dog to your closest vet for treatment, immediately.


 

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