Pet owners who can't speak Japanese often have a stressful time finding animal care at short notice

Vets help out foreigners with ill pets

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

Foreigners with low Japanese-language ability who live in Tokyo and have pets often worry about finding proper care for their animals and medical professionals who can communicate the necessary diagnostic and treatment information.

Tracey Perkins, an Australian who lives in Minato Ward with two dogs and two cats, panicked when her cat was attacked by a dog next door and suffered a broken leg.

Perkins needed to take the cat to a veterinary hospital in a hurry but was not sure she could explain the situation in Japanese. However, she was lucky enough to find an animal hospital that offers consultations in English — Daktari Animal Hospital Angell Memorial International in Tokyo’s upscale Shirokanedai district.

“When something goes wrong, and you can’t communicate and you can’t explain (in your mother tongue), it makes things more stressful,” she said. “So at least finding someone who could talk to me in English was very important.”

Her cat underwent an operation and spent 10 days at Daktari.

A handful of animal hospitals in Tokyo offer information in English and other foreign languages on veterinary care for dogs, cats and other small pets, but it’s rare to find one that can offer such service around the clock.

Daktari, as well as West Cross Veterinary Hospital in Meguro Ward, are two of the few animal hospitals where the vets can explain about emergency care in English. Daktari also offers consultations in French, Korean and Spanish.

“It’s not so much a problem (if owners are only) taking their pets to a hospital for checkups and vaccinations. It’s a problem when they are ill or the pet owners want to consult a hospital for a second opinion,” said Gen Kato, CEO and director of Daktari.

“Just think about it. If you (are Japanese and) go to a foreign country and your child gets ill, you would want to consult a doctor in Japanese. It’s the same with foreigners living here with pets. There’s no doubt that they would want to consult a doctor in their mother tongue,” he said.

Kato, 80, teaches part time at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University.

Daktari served the local foreign community for two decades in Hiroo before moving to Shirokanedai, where it reopened at its new premises last August.

The animal hospital now has more space and equipment, and also refers its clients to a specialized veterinarian when needed. Daktari has other group hospitals nationwide, but the Shirokanedai clinic is the only one that offers regular consultations in English and other foreign languages.

Noting that one-third of his clients are foreigners, Kato said that although not all of his clients are native English speakers, most are expats who can get by in English, which is why most consultations are in that language.

The hospital has 14 veterinarians and 39 veterinary technicians and groomers on its staff.

After her cat’s leg was broken, Perkins ended up picking two animal hospitals — Small Animal Clinic in Roppongi and Daktari — as home doctors for her pets as they both had staff who spoke good English.

“My pets are a part of my family, so I wanted to make sure that they have good care — just like you can get good care from a doctor,” she said.

  • Ron NJ

    They’d do better by actually having emergency veterinary services available. Not a single clinic in my entire prefecture offers such a service. Pet sick between 8pm and 9am? Tough luck.

  • sonny317

    Our cat Ta Toe is a part of our family also.Noisy as all get out but very affectionate. We would want to have the best care if she had something wrong and being able to communicate in english would make it much much easier as we live in Thailand.