Dog health program a win-win for remote WA communities and students

September 25, 2015

Murdoch veterinary students assist dog health program

Murdoch veterinary students assist dog health program

Murdoch University’s Professor Ian Robertson, together with Dr Peter Ricci and six final year veterinary students will be heading to the Kimberley on a two week dog health program that will benefit both the students and members of the remote region.

Over the course of the Kimberley expedition the group will be conducting neutering operations on close to 60 animals. The program will target places within the Kimberley region that do not have direct access to veterinary practices including communities as far as 200km south of Broome, up to the remote areas of the Dampier Peninsula.

The volume of surgeries will assist the surgical skills of the students and help control health problems that stem from the overpopulation of animals in the region.

“Most of the places that will be visited throughout the Kimberley region suffer from a dog overpopulation crisis,” said Professor Robertson. “They breed uncontrollably”.

“Where there are no veterinary services there is a strong link between too many dogs, which leads to—particularly in the Indigenous communities where the dogs are free-roaming—health problems caused by zoonotic diseases.”

Zoonotic diseases are those which are transmitted from dogs to humans, most noticeably in children with parasites and skin diseases causing the biggest issues. The group of vet students are excited about the opportunity to curb zoonotic disease transmission and reduce unwanted animal numbers in the Kimberley communities, while gaining valuable practical experience through the challenging surgeries.

“It's an invaluable experience as a veterinary student to get to perform such a large number of sterilisation surgeries in a short, intense amount of time,” said fifth year Aimee Burrows.

“We will also be providing a service in these communities which not only benefits the animals we are seeing, but the people who live there too.”

For fellow students John Neskudla and Emily Swan, they believe the program provides a strong point of contact between the community and the veterinary profession.

“Veterinarians are devoted to the health and wellbeing of animals and having a program like this one, to allow us inroads into the remote communities, will have positive benefits for animal health and welfare and can also have strong implications for human health,” said John.

“I feel there is an obligation to use our degree in some small way to give back to community,” added Emily.

Professor Robertson said that it was both the practical and social elements that the students will benefit from.

“Being able to communicate and explain what they (students) are doing in simple terms is a really valuable skill for them to have, because when they graduate they need to be able to explain complex things simply. Plus they get to travel around and see beautiful parts of the state,” he said.

This is the ninth year Professor Robertson has taken students to remote areas of WA, but this is the first year he has visited the Kimberly region to conduct such work. The program is supported by the WA Department of Health’s Environmental Health Directorate and the Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Centre.

The program begins on 28 September, 2015.

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