34 WELFARE SRI LANKA
BAPTISM OF FIRE LENDING HAND TO SRI LANKAN WELFARE EFFORT AFTER graduating, I wanted to spend a month volunteering in a developing country, so I contacted the overseas organisations listed on the BVA’s website. I decided to go with the Dogstar Foundation after receiving a very enthusiastic reply from Samantha Green, its founder. The Dogstar Foundation is based at the Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) in Samaragiri, Sri Lanka, and provides free veterinary care to dogs and cats primarily in the Kegalle area. This is done via mobile clinics and outreach projects offering free neutering and vaccinations. Dogstar was set up in September 2006, when Sam was volunteering with MEF. She was also teaching English at a local Buddhist temple and noticed some of the dogs in the monks’ care were in need of veterinary treatment. As the monks had no access to veterinary care, Sam arranged for Dr Dangola, a vet based at the nearby University of Peradeniya – who was coming to MEF to treat some of the elephants – to see the dogs at the temple. One dog was treated for mange
PETER HISCOX BSc, BVSc, MRCVS
finds himself thrust into the deep end: a south Asian adventure just after graduation, featuring temples, tuk-tuks and maggot-afflicted canines and open sores, and four puppies were vaccinated against rabies for only £12. This experience gave Sam the idea of setting up a permanent method of working with MEF and the University of Peradeniya. The name Dogstar was chosen as it is the more common name for the star Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, and is the brightest star in the night sky visible from both England and Sri Lanka. The Dogstar Foundation is run by Sam and her husband Mark, who divide their time between Sri Lanka and the UK.
Incredible I flew out to Sri Lanka in July, less than a week after graduating from the University of Liverpool – I wasn’t sure what to expect. During my first weekend, a neutering clinic was due to be held in conjunction with staff and students from the University of
Many owners who came to the clinic were keen to stay with their pets for as long as possible.
The author prepares to conduct his first castration procedure.
Visitors wait in line to be seen. One woman (dressed in pink) brought her cat along in a carrier bag.
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Peradeniya. However, a few days before the clinic was scheduled to take place, we learned the arranged location would no longer be suitable. Luckily, the father of one of the men working at MEF offered to help us arrange the clinic in his village instead. I found myself in the back of a tuktuk (three-wheeled taxi), being driven along a bumpy track to a village that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. We were taken to the grounds of the village’s Buddhist temple, where a school building would serve as the clinic’s venue. The view from the temple grounds was incredible – beautiful paddy fields and palm trees, with a mountainous backdrop. Having received the monk’s approval, we made our way around the village, putting up posters advertising the clinic, and calling in to people’s houses to invite them along personally. We were aided in our task by a rather large team of local young men who helped us educate people about the importance of having their cat or dog neutered. In the days leading up to the clinic, the weather was quite wet, and we were anxious about how the conditions would be on the day, as rain usually reduces the turn-out. However, the morning of the clinic day greeted us with glorious sunshine, and it was actually one of the hottest days during my time there. We arrived early at the school building to set out tables, and cover them in plastic bags and newspaper for operations. We also wrapped bricks in newspaper, for holding anaesthetised animals in place. As people began to arrive with their cats and dogs, the clinic quickly became very busy – it was a bit of a baptism of fire. While some owners were able to handle their animals well, others were clearly frightened of their pets, and had to be discouraged from hitting their animals to control them. The animal handling by some of the staff and students from the university wasn’t as sympathetic as I would have liked, as some of the dogs were pinned to the floor for their pre-med intramuscular injections of chlorpromazine. While a high degree of restraint may sometimes be necessary, Dogstar is working
The Buddhist shrine where the author was first introduced to Michael, the temple’s resident dog.
Left: Michael, the temple’s dog. Right: the veterinary activities attract an entourage at the temple. Inset: Sampath, the tuk-tuk driver, with the author’s preferred mode of transport.
with the university to improve positive handling. There was, however, a slightly more humorous side to some of the animal handling, as, in the absence of purpose-built cat carriers, flour sacks make a popular alternative. One old lady, whose smile revealed the lack of a few teeth, even brought her cat along in a carrier bag. When the cat – scared by the presence of so many dogs – attached itself to her face, she simply peeled the animal off and soothed it in her arms, apparently without a scratch to show for it.
The anaesthesia was certainly more basic than I was used to, as the dogs were induced and maintained on top-ups of thiopental. Sometimes, anaesthesia seemed to go pretty smoothly, but some dogs appeared a bit too close to coming round part way through the operation for my liking. Dogstar was also unable to get hold of injectable analgesics (despite much effort), so analgesia was only provided after recovery, in the form of tramadol tablets. Although the surgical instruments were sterilised before the clinic (thanks to the autoclave
Dogstar had donated to the university), the fast throughput of animals meant instruments had to be cleaned in liquid disinfectant between patients. The owners who brought their animals along to the clinic were clearly fascinated by what went on, with many watching the operations, and some even staying until the end to help clear up. The local monk also avidly watched a number of the procedures, and was keen to pose for a photograph with some of the team members. By the end of the day I was continued on page 36
36 WELFARE SRI LANKA !
BAPTISM OF FIRE LENDING HAND TO SRI LANKAN WELFARE EFFORT – from page 34
completely exhausted, but satisfied that 30 animals had been neutered and 35 had been vaccinated against rabies.
Home visits During the rest of my time in Sri Lanka, I made a number of house visits to neuter dogs owned by people unable to attend the clinics – I stuck to castrating male animals, as under the circumstances I didn’t feel confident performing bitch spays on my own. I taught Sam how to monitor the anaesthetic so I could get on with the operation, which she did brilliantly. Sam was also great at restraining the aggressive dogs we encountered frequently, and her supply of muzzles was invaluable. It was quite different to per-
form operations in people’s living rooms and back yards, although having owners watching while I neutered their pet wasn’t the most relaxing of experiences. One of the more bizarre operating experiences was after we received a call about a cat that had been spayed at the clinic, and now had something hanging out of the wound. On arriving at the house, it was apparent the wound had broken down and the omentum was protruding. I had not previously corrected a surgical hernia, nor anaesthetised a cat using a xylazine and ketamine combination – but there’s a first time for everything. I later regretted performing the operation hunched over a child’s plastic table in the house’s front yard – it took my
The author and his colleagues get to grips with the patients at one of the clinics, with many owners looking on.
back a day or two to recover. We returned a few days later to check on the cat. The owners were unable to locate her when we arrived, but assured us she was now much better.
We also held a number of clinics at Buddhist temples in the surrounding area for people to bring their animals in for vaccines and any necessary treatment. We administered rabies vac-
2 New Techniques
cines to all animals that hadn’t received one in the past year, and we vaccinated as many dogs as we could against parvovirus, distemper, infectious hepatitis and leptospirosis. Many of the dogs we saw also had bad cases of mange – some had almost no hair left, leaving intensely pruritic, leathery skin. We were able to treat these cases cheaply and effectively, either with amitraz baths or with injections of ivermectin (although this would obviously be offlicence in the UK).
Rewarding The most labour-intense and rewarding case I dealt with during my time in Sri Lanka was a
dog we came across by accident. Driving back from the university to the MEF in a tuk-tuk, we stopped to take some pictures of an impressive Buddhist shrine by the side of the road. The monk from the associated temple came out to speak to us and, on learning I was a vet, asked me to look at Michael, the temple’s dog (and the temple orphanage’s resident pet). He had been suffering from a painful ear for a number of weeks. Michael’s ear was too painful to get a good look at, so I arranged to go back later that week when I would be able to anaesthetise him. When I looked into his ear, I found it was full of maggots.
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The spectacular view of the countryside from the temple grounds, where the neutering clinic was held.
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House calls were a little different in Sri Lanka…
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WELFARE SRI LANKA 37
March 1, 2010 I removed as many as I could and cleaned out the ear. We left instructions with the monk to keep Michaelâ€™s ear as clean as possible, and went back to check on him as often as we could. We had to anaesthetise Michael again the following week to remove more maggots, but after that his ear healed well, and it was good to hear he was continuing to enjoy life as the temple/orphanage pet. This initial contact with the temple allowed a relationship to develop with Dogstar and MEF. We held a vaccination and treatment clinic at the temple, and were invited back to participate in a community celebration. MEF volunteers also agreed to repaint the inside of the orphanage, and Mo, who volunteers as an administrator for Dogstar, has agreed to return to the orphanage to teach English. Volunteering in Sri Lanka was a great way to become immersed into the countryâ€™s culture. This wasnâ€™t always easy, as I found a lot of Sri Lankans had a more laidback attitude to life than Iâ€™m used to, so things didnâ€™t always happen as efficiently as I would have liked. However, what struck me most was how grateful and generous people were, even when they clearly had very little. It wasnâ€™t unusual for people to invite us into their homes, after we had seen their pet, for a varying combination of tea, coca drink, cake, fruit and even cream crackers. On a couple of occasions, I finished neutering someoneâ€™s dog to find a curry had been made for me.
the standard surgical protocol to help Dogstar â€™s successful accreditation as a member of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. If you would like to find out more about Dogstar, or make a donation, visit www.dogstar foundation.com To download published Veterinary Times articles, or to discuss the latest news in the profession, visit www.vetsonline.com "
Setting the baaa in watery mouth medication
Opportunity Volunteering with Dogstar was an incredibly worthwhile experience. If I had chosen to go with a more established charity I may have gained more surgical experience, but as Dogstar is a relatively small organisation operating on very limited funds, I really felt I was able to make a difference, whatever I did. This included simple procedures, such as teaching Sam how to monitor anaesthetics, drawing up an anaesthetic monitoring sheet for use at the neutering clinics, and helping formalise
"Did you know that 15% of our lambs die in the first week of life! The cause of death in a quarter of these youngâ€™uns is watery mouth. Thank heavens for SpectamÂŽ Scour Halt. One dose administered soon after birth markedly reduces lamb mortality. Thatâ€™s what scientists from the Moredun Institute said*, and I believe them. Itâ€™s just as effective as ewe colostrum in preventing watery mouth.
SpectamÂŽ Scour Halt contains spectinomycin USP 50mg activity/ml. Legal category POM-V CEVACÂŽ Chlamydophila contains live attenuated 1B strain of Chlamydophila abortus vaccine. Legal category POM-V *J.C. Hodgson, J.-Brebner, I.J. McKendrick (The Veterinary Record â€“ 145, 3, pp 67â€“71, July 1999)
PETER HISCOX gained an intercalated degree in animal behaviour and welfare from the University of Bristol in 2007 and qualified as a vet from the University of Liverpool in July 2009. He now works in small animal practice at Vets4Pets in Harrogate.
VT40.08 master.indd 37
Left: the author worms a puppy, assisted by his tuk-tuk driver and keenly observed by a young monk. Right: some of the Dogstar and university team with a monk from the temple.
Ask your vet for advice on these products. Further information is available from:
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My lambs are worth protecting from watery mouth. Arenâ€™t yours? Many vets and farmers seem to agree - 6 million doses were sold last year. Speak to your vet about it. Ask for it by name. After all, eweâ€™d be tupping stupid not to consider it. P.S. SpectamÂŽ Scour Halt is made by those clever people who produce CEVACÂŽ Chlamydia, the vaccine which helps prevent abortions."
Although not a substitute for good management, the use of prophylactic antimicrobials to reduce lamb mortality from watery mouth is justified.