Published in The Myanmar Times on 15 October, 2012 [Scroll to the end for a list of vets in Yangon]
According to pop psychology, the three most stressful events in life are the death of a loved one, getting divorced and moving house. For pet owners, the idea of leaving behind a furry friend undoubtedly dampens the excitement and trebles the stress of becoming an expat in Yangon.
Fortunately, any healthy dog or cat over eight weeks of age can be exported. Staying together isn’t expensive either: My own cat flew from Bangladesh to Myanmar via Bangkok for just over US$20. Heavier pets will cost more — expect to pay about US$4 for every kilogram, including the cage.
However, one Yangon expat with two Canadian-born cats described the assortment of export and import requirements as “a bit of a nightmare to figure out” and said it’s crucial to leave lots of time to prepare.
The most vital part of the transition is getting an export license: A pet can’t leave home without it. Getting a license isn’t onerous — essentially it’s a health certificate issued in the country of departure. However, requirements differ from place to place, and solely relying on information provided by the airline is inadvisable, as I discovered the hard way.
In Bangkok and Yangon, the procedure involves a quick temperature reading and presenting the pet’s original vaccination records along with the owner’s passport and flight details.
A record of the microchip number is also essential.
In Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport’s animal export section, which is better known as the “free zone”, is shut on weekends and it’s a 15 minute drive from the airport itself. Queues can also be long. Therefore it’s too risky trying to get a license on the day of departure, regardless of whether the animal is in perfect health. As uninitiated pet exporters, we ended up missing a flight because of this omission.
Leaving Yangon for Australia, Singapore or Japan — basically most island nations, as well as many parts of the European Union — requires a different process altogether.
Yangon veterinarian Dr Martin Nyun told The Myanmar Times that owners must send a blood sample to government-registered animal laboratories in the destination country at least three months in advance — it’s wise to check specifics at the embassy.
Dr Nyun cautioned that failing to comply with requirements is likely to result in a pet spending up to seven months in quarantine, which is sad and very costly. He added that in the worst-case scenario, an “unlicensed” pet appearing unwell might be destroyed at the airport.
I assumed the procedure for getting an export certificate in Myanmar was the same as in Thailand. This was a mistake and my cat did not appreciate spending a wet afternoon being dragged around Insein township as a result.
After discovering that four photographs are part of the required documentation, I felt more than faintly ridiculous while trying to keep my cat Butters still in front of a blue backdrop while a bemused photographer took two front-on shots and one of each side.
Some pictures were retained by the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department, and Bangkok Airways said I could keep the rest.
It’s also necessary to collect an export certificate form from a departmental section called the Animal Quarantine Disease Diagnostics Laboratory for a fee of K500, which must be filled out by a vet at the sub-divisional office nearby.
Airlines requirements differ. While Air Asia “doesn’t have room for pets” and smelly, noisy or aggressive animals aren’t welcome on any airline, Dr Nyun advises owners to be cautious about the issue of sedation. [NOTE: I have since learned that animals should never, ever be sedated for air travel, as the effects of the drugs can change due to altitude and result in death].
He said that over-sedated animals have been declared unwell and thus kept under observation in Bangkok’s quarantine area for a few days.
Dr Nyun recommends keeping a pet in its travelling cage for a couple of hours several times in the lead-up to departure. This will lessen the animal’s distress (and noisiness) when the time comes to check-in — Dr Nyun considers this a preferable alternative to sedation.
In Yangon, staff from Bangkok Airways will insist that all pets be sedated, but this is not the case when leaving Bangkok unless the pet weighs more than 5 kilograms. When Yangon airport officials summoned a vet with a human-sized syringe and said my 10-month-old cat weighed 5 kilograms, I heeded some earlier advice from an expat.
“Self-education is important here — you need to be fairly aggressive and stay on top of things,” she said.
I didn’t make any friends by insisting I return to the check-in area to weigh my cat on the scales, but I was relieved to see the dose adjusted: She weighs half the estimate.
Assuming the pet and its owner are free to exit the airport, what next?
Happily, there’s no obstacle to holidaying in Thailand with a dog or cat in tow. Bangkok provides two options: Canadian expat Benoit Trudel said she found a hotel willing to allow her dog to stay with her for an extra fee of $25 a day. Universe Inn allows a cat for 200 baht ($7) extra and Amarin Inn asked for nothing.
Alternatively, check your loved one into a pet hotel for about the same price as a budget guesthouse. During our first layover, Butters stayed at Ozono’s Cat Societie, which is run by a tender-hearted Thai called Dhanesha. I spotted another pet hotel nearby specifically catering to canines.
No equivalent exists in Yangon, but Ms Trudel said it’s easy enough finding a hotel that allows dogs, and the following allow cats (but do check in advance): Motherland Inn II, MGM Hotel, Hotel 63 and Sunflower. A smiling staff member at Sunflower simply asked how many cats I’d like to keep in the room.
Most expats said that while the standard of veterinary care in Yangon is sometimes disappointing, generally if vaccinations are kept up to date pets stay healthy while living here. Needless to say this is important in itself, as well as to ensure that when the time comes to leave Yangon, an export license can be issued.
“Parvo virus and heartworm are extremely prevalent here,” one expat cautioned. “I’ve lost a number of dogs to both: puppies to parvo virus and older dogs to heartworm.”
According to the Golden Guide to Yangon (2012): “Monthly preventative tablets [for parvo virus and heartworm] are usually available in Myanmar. … [I]t is advisable to have a blood test done and make sure [dogs] receive preventative medication at the correct dose each month. This should be continued after you leave.”
As for renting, a real estate agent in Yangon named Moe said, “It’s not a problem for renters to have pets in Yangon. There’s no rule against it.”
Although large dogs might be a bit trickier if looking for an apartment as opposed to a house, five expats interviewed by The Myanmar Times said that having a pet caused no issues whatsoever.
About the same number of pet owners said household staff care for their pets when they go on holiday. “People seem to love pets here,” one expat said.
Virginia from Canada agrees.
“Our landlady sent her daughter into the ceiling to rescue our cat; our gardener keeps an eye out for them while he works, and taxi drivers smile and tickle the kitties, rather than driving off,” she said
“Our staff love [our dog] to the point that they say they will miss him when we leave,” another expat said.
VETS IN YANGON
My favourite is Dr Maw Maw Thein, who does house visits and explains things thoroughly. Her phone number is 0942 1040 872.
Dr Nilar – she and her husband run May Li Kha Vet Clinic on Wireless Lane Three, which is off Kabar Aye Pagoda Road and near Chawdingyone intersection in Parami. The clinic is open from 9am-8pm (with a half day on Saturdays) and Dr Nilar’s phone number is 09421 071 288.
Below is a list of other vets that people living in Yangon provided me with while researching this article. If you can recommend another, please leave a comment or contact me at jess.mudditt[at]gmail.com so I can update the list.
Dr Myint Wynn 095186391 He’s been our vet for 5 years.
May Vet Clinic, Dr Soe Min Lin, Kan Street , Kamaryut township, Hlaing Myint Mo Housing estate. 097313 3112
The vet we used after the stray attack was called Royal Vet on Shwe Gone Dine. It’s an open shopfront with a table in it. Doesn’t really inspire confidence, but the vet was fine and the price was very cheap. I’ve heard stories of vets re-using needles, so that would be one concern. Also, check the dates on vaccines etc. When my Mom visited from Canada, she brought dewormer and de-flea stuff. We de-wormed everyone – including the stray outside!
Myat Oo is the vet at Royal Vet 8am – 11am, 4pm to 8pm Mon to Sat and 4-8pm on Sunday. 287 Shwe Gon Daing Rd, Bahan township – phone 0986 160 037
There are various vets here, the one I’ve been referred to (but haven’t had the need to use) was trained in Australia, speaks good English and does house calls. Dr Kyaw Naing Oo, tel. 098628721 or 095015586 and email is firstname.lastname@example.org
We currently use Dr Martin Nyun – overall have been satisfied with him, but self-education is important here – you need to be fairly aggressive/on top of things with your pets so you can work with the vet to get what you need done. 09507 5737 or 0951640315 (Note Dr Martin is living abroad as of 2015)
Dr Myint Wynn, Paing Phyo Vet Clinic. 006, Building 4, Myaing Hay Wun Housing. 8th, Mayangon, Yangon
Ph: 01 6535 575 ext 230
If your hedgehog gets sick (or some other extremely cute and unusual pet), please try Dr Myint Win. His clinic is in 8 Mile and his services were warmly recommended by my friend Shibani. He’s also deputy director at the Ministry of Livestock and Rural Development.