Enter the Dragon: What the Chinese New Year Can Tell Us About Our Pets

A bearded dragon

The Chinese New Year starts February 10th, 2024. Twelve animals make up the annual Chinese Zodiac rotation, and this is the Year of the Dragon. I am always interested in anything about animals and was curious about the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. I chatted with my colleague Dr. Michelle Chu to learn more about these Chinese New Year traditions.

Dragons at the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center

Even though the Chinese dragon is a mythical creature, we at AMC do see our share of “dragon” patients. Accompanying this blogpost is one of our bearded dragon patients, aptly named Pineapple. In 2023, bearded dragons were the most common pet seen by AMC’s Avian and Exotic Pet Service, beating out the parakeet, which was the most common pet in 2022.

If you look closely at depictions of Chinese dragons, they are different than typical medieval European dragons. They are shaped more like a snake than the T. rex-shaped European dragon. Snakes are another species cared for by AMC’s Avian and Exotic Pet Service. Did you know some snakes need to be spayed!

Your Pet Should Not Have “Dragon Breath”

I was surprised to learn from Dr. Chu that most Chinese dragons lack the fire-breathing trait exhibited by European dragons. Since February is National Pet Dental Health Month, I want to remind everyone that “dragon breath” is not normal in pets. Bad breath in your dog or cat suggests periodontal disease, making a trip to the veterinarian essential, since dental health has a proven link to your pet’s overall health, as I discussed in a recent blogpost.

The Power of Dragons and Pets

Dr. Chu explained to me the Chinese dragon represents power, like a powerful emperor or a god. This description made me think about the relationships we have with our pets. It seems to me our pets share a kindred spirit with the powerful Chinese dragon since they can exert amazing power over our lives. Think about how many times you wake up with a crick in your neck because your dog was hogging the bed or your dinner got cold because you hated to get up and disturb the cat. Every veterinarian can tell stories about vacations, weddings and other important life events arranged around the health and well-being of the family pets, demonstrating their power over us. If you have children interested in celebrating the Chinese New Year, try these two children’s books about the animals competing in the Great Race for a place in the Chinese Zodiac — The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac and The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac (Traditional Chinese, English, Pinyin).

Bearded Dragons, Chinese Dragons, Chinese New Year, exotic pets, national pet dental health month, pet dental health month, snakes,

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