Cultural awareness for veterinary clinicians

This guide is designed to help veterinary clinicians to consider cultural differences in clients

Asian Cultures

According to an analysis of 2021 American Community Survey data, there are now 2.4 million Chinese immigrants living in the U.S.; ~42K lives in Minnesota.

A 2022 report by Pethadoop, a platform specializing in China’s pet industry, reported that cats accounted for ~60% of all the pets, or ~58 million animals, compared to ~54 million pet dogs.

There are several well known dog breeds whose origin is traced to China, including the Chinese Crested dog, Chow Chow, Pug, Shar Pei, and the best know of all, the Pekingese.

Dogs have a very long history in China. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), certain breeds of dogs functioned as symbols of royalty. During the Cultural Revolution (1963–1973), a ban on keeping dogs as pets was instituted.  It took until the 21st century for dogs to begin representing markers of wealth for the rising middle and upper middle classes. In increase in cat ownership is also thought to be related to the increase in disposable income by the general Chinese population. In 2021, China’s pet market grew by an incredible 21%, largely driven by young adults.

As of 1995, dogs were banned in cities and suburbs, but were allowed in rural areas. Perhaps the important difference in the 1990s between Chinese and American attitudes toward companion animals—dogs and cats in particular—is affluence. Attitudes toward dogs began to change in the 1990s and in the streets of major cities it was not uncommon to see people walking purebred dogs, clearly indicated their rising socioeconomic status. Currently, there is no longer a ban on dogs in major Chinese cities although in Beijing, Shanghai and some larger cities, there is a one-dog policy and in some, a weight limit. Attempts to ban dogs have been met with great resistance from pet owners. There is some concern that a preference for purebred dogs as status symbols has created an environment for purchasing pets as a fad and could lead to possible neglect or abuse.

According to the Pet Food Institute of Japan, 24.9 % of all Japanese lived with either cats or dogs in 2012; the Institute does not collect numbers on other pets.  Most Japanese people buy their pets; adopting from animal shelters is rare in Japan. These companion animals are often lavished with attention, clothing, and sometimes taken outdoors for walks in baby carriages. They are also memorialized with cremation or burial after death.


  • Michal P. Pregowski (ed.) Hurley, S. (2016). Human–Canine Relationships in China. In: Companion Animals in Everyday Life: Situating Human Animal Engagement within Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan. Ebook.
  • Sendzimir, V. Dog days in China. 1995. The North American Review, 280(6), 4–6.
Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 11:27 AM