Next big thing:Tourism for dogs

ANIMALS: Emulating private eye hospitals that draw patients from Europe with their ability to perform operations at half the price and offers a holiday in the bargain, veterinary hopitals plan to provide an array of health services to sick animals.

Veterinary hospitals in Turkey are preparing to treat sick animals brought from abroad. Operations will cost half the price in Europe. Animal owners will be provided a one-week holiday in Turkey during the treatment process

Özgüç Kozan

Intensive care units, special X-ray devices capable of rotating 360 degrees, eye units, obesity control programs, mud baths, autopsies, pedicures, and coiffeurs. Turkey's veterinary hospitals are often on a par with private hospitals for humans in terms of technology, comfort and high standards of care they offer, which is why they are increasingly trying to attract European pets to Turkey for healing and a holiday.

Emulating private eye hospitals that draw patients from Europe with their ability to perform operations at half the price while offering patients the chance to holiday in Turkey, veterinary hospitals plan to provide an array of health services to sick animals, drawing patients from Europe and providing their owners with a pleasant holiday in Turkey.

“A dog hip luxation operation is carried out at a price of between 4,000 and 5,000 euros in Europe, but we perform such an operation for 1,500 euros,” said Burak Tuvay, general manager of Avrupa Animal Hospital in Istanbul.

Tuvay said the hospital has established contact with a number of veterinary and animal hospitals in European countries, particularly in Germany, where they are preparing to launch a big advertising campaign to attract pet owners with sick animals to Turkey. “We have prepared one-week holiday packages for them. During the operation, they can enjoy their time in beautiful corners of Turkey,” said Tuvay.

Service at half the price in Europe

The pet sector in Turkey is growing thanks to an increased interest in recent years in animals and animal care. A wider array of health services for pets is offered, not only by traditional veterinarians, but also at newly opened pet clinics and private veterinary hospitals that feature the latest technology. The number of veterinary clinics has doubled, reaching 370 in Istanbul and 250 in Ankara in the last five years. The countrywide number is predicted to surpass 1,000. The first private veterinary hospital was established in Istanbul in 1999. The total number of such hospitals in Turkey has increased from 10 to 21 within the last two years.

The health services provided at private veterinary hospitals, established with large initial investments and equipped with high-tech devices, is almost equal to the standards of service provided at normal private hospitals. Some animal hospitals even provide treatment for behavioral disorders or obesity, and offer autopsy and coiffeur services.

The current goal for these hospitals is to make Turkey an international destination for the treatment of sick animals at reasonable prices, according to directors of private animal hospitals. “We would like to start a kind of pet health tourism in Turkey,” said Tuvay, adding that the sector is already growing rapidly.

VIP implementation

The rapid growth in the sector has resulted in fierce competition among veterinary hospitals and introduced certain areas of specialization.

Vet Hospital, which operates in Ankara, has turned into a special institution just for cats. Likewise, the Jockey Club of Turkey has fully-equipped hospitals for racehorses. These hospitals, located in Istanbul and İzmir, also offer services to other countries.

Pet Hospital in Ankara provides animal monitoring and discounts for holders of its V.I.P. Card. Using the hospital is sufficient to obtain a V.I.P. card, which enables easier monitoring of any phase of disease. The card also offers special discounts or “pet points” for any kind of services, food and material purchases from the hospital. It is possible to use the collected points as pet money.

Unemployed vets open clinics

Turkey is Europe's top country in terms of the number of veterinary faculties and veterinary graduates, said Professor Dr. Murat Arslan, chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons.

“The graduated vets used to shift to food or pharmaceutical factories when they were unable to find jobs in the area of cattle. As agricultural subsidies increased in Anatolia, they started finding jobs again,” he continued. “However, when subsidies declined, vets were forced to draw loans and fill metropolises with clinics. The excessive number of clinics may result in slumps soon, putting vets on the verge of another crisis.”

Illegal animal trade

A substantial proportion of imported pets are brought into Turkey illegally, said vets. The provincial directorates of agriculture are unable to conduct supervision efficiently due to insufficient staff, said Arslan, adding that 90 percent of animals sold in pet shops are illegal.

In order to prevent illegal entrance and loss of taxes as well as to develop the domestic animal sector, the government should encourage domestic production, said Arslan. “The pet sector is developing. We should make several plans for its future,” said Professor Ali Daşkın of Pet Hospital. “Pet shops have multiplied on the lower floors of shopping centers. We should now establish dog and cat breeding centers to foster economy and produce healthier animals.”

Inform,Saturday,May 24,2008