Australian Vet Without Borders Visits Cambodia

WARRNAMBOOL Veterinary Clinic’s Dr Charlie Blackwood has added Cambodia to his 35 years of experience as a mixed animal veterinarian.

The Port Fairy-based vet travelled to the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society’s clinic as part of his volunteer work with Vets Beyond Borders.

There, he treated sick and injured animals along with performing routine services, such as desexing and vaccinations.

“Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society’s clinic in Cambodia offered an opportunity to assist a charitable vet organisation in a country where animal welfare improvement is needed,” Dr Blackwood said. 

“Living in a city, even if only for two weeks, also provided the opportunity to assess how people actually live in another country. 

“A small highlight was getting to know some of the city well enough that I could give directions to the motorised rickshaw driver.”

He said volunteering in another country is a good way to rediscover the joy and satisfaction of being a veterinarian and helping animals and people.

“Sometimes, everyday work becomes a bit of a chore and you can lose the fun aspect of it,” he said. 

“Throw in different cultures, often dealing with new situations (and diseases), good food, getting to know the locals and you are on a winner.

“Cambodia is a lovely country with friendly and gentle people. Visiting a wat (temple) and treating dogs and cats living in and around the temples with the Buddhist monks was a new, novel experience.” 

Dr Blackwood said his tasks in Cambodia were not dissimilar to Australia, except without advanced diagnostics or surgery.

“The difference was that people generally paid what they could, and it appeared most local Cambodians obeyed their faith and did so,” he said.

Dr Charlie also shared advice with the local vets on how and where improvements could be made.

“By their own admission, the local vets received very limited training in small animal veterinary medicine and surgery, with most attention on production animals such as poultry and pigs,” he said.

He also spent some time with local vets discussing the basics of many disease processes, such as congestive heart failure or kidney failure. They also looked at how biosecurity and sterility control could be improved within the clinic and discussed improving the use of antibiotics to decrease the development of resistance.

He also shared advice for new Vets Beyond Borders volunteers heading to Cambodia and other developing countries.

“Read up on the diseases that are in the area in which they are volunteering. For example, the various forms of tick-borne disease which one may not encounter in southern Australia,” he said. 

Kyra Gillespie

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