A letter from Zimbabwe

 

IMG_1419Veterinarian James Thompson recounts his recent African adventure

 

I am not sure what was more distressing on arrival in Zimbabwe – the broken reversing alarm on the luxury bus squawking every 3 seconds the entire way from Victoria Falls to Hwange, or the two hours of Christian soft rock. Still, the prayer for our safe travel as we departed was a nice touch, and must have worked, as we arrived at Hwange National Park safe and well and right on time.

It was great to be back in Zimbabwe – warts and all. The aftermath of the shambolic eviction of commercial farmers in the early 2000s saw the economy go into free fall, bringing empty supermarkets, a fuel drought, and Cuban style rationing. Zimbabwe plunged into nonsensical Alice in Wonderland hyperinflation, resulting in notes as high as 100 Trillion Dollars. Zim unhappily claimed the unwanted title of the fastest deteriorating non war economy in the world. Eventually forced to give up completely, in 2009 the laughing stock Zimbabwean dollar was abolished, replaced by the US dollar. In one stroke, inflation was beaten, and amazingly, things were now actually looking up. The discovery of a massive diamond deposit in the Eastern Highlands, immediately grabbed by the dictatorial Mugabe regime as a personal cash box, together with a stuttering recovery in tourism and massive investment from China, had finally seen Zimbabwe’s economy turn the corner.

Out in the bush, it is another story, far from the worries of politics. Even in Victoria Falls, a cold beer by the palm clad banks of the majestic Zambezi River, with waterbirds circling and diving, and the burble of hippos in the background is enough to relax and reinvigorate a tired traveller. Continue reading A letter from Zimbabwe

The path of a polymath: Lloyd Reeve-Johnson

 

Lloyd Reeve-JohnsonMany Australians have read about veterinarian Lloyd Reeve-Johnson in his capacity as a live export investigator, particularly when his journey to Mauritius to examine flaws in regulation of the trade gained national media coverage.

During the trip he noted pregnant cattle, misleading paperwork, unaccounted calf euthanasia and a general failure to implement OIE recommendations.

However his interest in the live animal trade is a relatively small part of an impressively polymathic career which encompasses areas such as drug development, education and even a novel.

The 43-year-old grew up internationally, spending his childhood in remote rural Zimbabwe and feeling the influence of the generations of farming in his family.

More drawn to animals than crops, he rode horses from the age of three and looked forward to one day owning the family cattle ranch.

“Becoming a veterinarian seemed the logical way to add value to the animal management and breeding aspects of the ranch,” Reeve-Johnson said.

And so after attending the historic Rugby School in Warwickshire, UK, he moved on to a veterinary degree at Edinburgh University.

Reeve-Johnson worked as a country vet in the South of Scotland/North of England for a pleasant couple of years (“in a clinic very akin to that described in the James Herriot novels”), before being hired by a multinational, an experience which brought him to 60 countries over an eight year period.

“I was able to use my foreign languages on a weekly basis, work in some fascinating cultures across emerging Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia at a time of a lot of change and growth,” he said.

Reeve-Johnson assisted in the development of some new treatments such as the macrolide antibiotic Tilmicosin, which is sold in 120 countries.

He was also involved in the development of ionophores, hormones as well as number of companion animal products, including some which were used to assist human drug development.

The experience in the corporate world helped Reeve-Johnson acquire the necessary nous to establish the PetDoctors UK clinic chain in 2002 with two other vets and a banker.

PetDoctors grew from a couple of branches with a dozen staff to 28 multi-vet clinics, a major tertiary referral site and a large diagnostic laboratory (Greendale Diagnostics) within a few years.

Expansion enabled Reeve-Johnson and his team to release some of their own branded products and conduct ethical research in to new treatments.

In 2005 Reeve-Johnson moved to Australian and was appointed Head of Veterinary School at the University of Queensland, spending an “interesting couple of years” of reform.

Continue reading The path of a polymath: Lloyd Reeve-Johnson

Cat-friendly crusader Andrea Harvey

Andrea at the Gap National ParkFeline patients are notoriously challenging: some are difficult to handle, others become so stressed at the vet their blood glucose skyrockets, and the mere scent of a vet is enough to manifest profound physiological changes including pyrexia, tachypnoea and dyspnoea. But according to feline specialist Andrea Harvey, there is much the average vet can do to make cats more comfortable.

Harvey, a UK-qualified feline specialist who relocated to Australia last year, has been working in conjunction with the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) on its ‘Cat Friendly Clinic’ scheme since 2005.

The program is designed to provide veterinary clinics with educational resources to reduce the stress to cats visiting the vet, and acknowledging veterinary clinics that do make measures to make their clinics as least stressful as possible for cats.  

None of this is really rocket science,” Harvey said. “But I think that often as vets we are good at focusing on complex problems and missing the small simple things that make a big difference, and I am absolutely adamant that this forms an essential foundation for feline medicine.”

Harvey graduated from Bristol University in 2000, when feline medicine was in its infancy (the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, now the go-to publication on any feline affliction, was launched in 1999).

I was exceptionally lucky to be mentored and inspired as an undergraduate by feline specialists such as Tim Gruffydd-Jones and Andy Sparkes around that time,” she said. “When I went out into practice I realised how much cats were still being treated like small dogs and second class citizens, and I just wanted to do a better job with them than that.” Continue reading Cat-friendly crusader Andrea Harvey

Early canine cancer succes

IMG_1169A University of Queensland trial of a new injectable treatment for canine cancer has shown early results in slowing down and ultimately reversing the growth of a tumour.

UQ PhD candidate and veterinarian Moira Brennan said the vaccine was in the early stages of testing and had apparently worked for its first patient, a dog with an inoperable terminal mast cell tumour.

The treatment, which stimulates an immune response in the tumour, has been tolerated exceedingly well in the first dog trialled – a rottweiler named Jackson,” Brennan said.

We were pleased that Jackson’s tumour, which had failed to respond to traditional chemotherapy, appears to have disappeared as a result of this experimental treatment.”

The long-term effects of the treatment are unknown, and Brennan is recruiting other dogs with untreatable mast cell tumour or malignant melanoma to join this trial. Continue reading Early canine cancer succes

Acupuncture update: thinking outside the square

Cow_graphic Picture IAMAHave you ever had a case with symptoms that do not seem to make sense, where all the laboratory tests, radiographs and ultrasounds are normal, yet the animal is not well? Then perhaps it is time to expand your ability to diagnose and treat these cases with acupuncture.

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body, which have the ability to alter various body functions to produce homeostasis. Acupuncture points differ from the surrounding skin, having a higher concentration of nerve bundles, blood vessels and lymphatics. Stimulating these points causes the release of many neurotransmitters and hormones, which in turn regulate the blood flow, normalise autonomic function and relieve pain.

Scientific studies have shown an increase in endorphins, an increase in red and white cell counts and an increase in cortisol levels in the blood stream after an acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture also relieves muscle spasms, stimulates nerve regeneration and stimulates the body’s defence mechanisms. Clinical evidence shows that acupuncture affects all major physiological systems of the body. It can be used alone or in conjunction with mainstream medicine and surgery, to achieve better patient outcomes. Continue reading Acupuncture update: thinking outside the square