Bushfires are becoming an increasing threat to vulnerable communities across Australia, with veterinarians dealing with increasing challenges from the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Victoria to the current disasters in New South Wales. A sound clinical approach in the triage, medical and surgical care of burns is crucial to avoid common complications, alleviate suffering and improve outcomes.
With bushfire season upon us, The Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne has decided to take a proactive stance towards bushfire preparedness. As the largest companion animal hospital in Australia, employing more than 30 vets and 50 nurses, The Lort will play a key role in any bushfire response and the clinical care of companion animals and wildlife, particularly in Victoria.
The hospital is developing its own Bushfire Response Plan, a 12-month project designed to establish a clear plan with regards to what role the hospital would play, and how this plan would be implemented in the event of another large scale fire.
Of the phases that transpire in disaster management, our strengths are in medicine and surgery, hence our activities would largely play out in the ‘response’ phase. Additionally, being a community-focused not-for-profit organisation, we would aim to assist people-in-need with the care of their bushfire-affected companion animals, as well as injured strays and native animals.
With the support of the Australian Veterinary Association (Victorian Division), the National Australia Bank and Vet Education, the project will deliver training to Lort staff and is extending an open invitation to vets and nurses across government, private and not-for-profit sectors to participate. Training starts with a webinar on 21 November 2013 entitled The Medical & Surgical Management of Burns in Companion Animals.
This webinar, presented by specialist small animal surgeon Arthur House, is being offered to refresh or enhance the clinical knowledge for those vets who may encounter bushfire-affected animals. Moreover, it will serve as a recommended prerequisite for a full-day, hands-on seminar on the Veterinary Care for Bushfire-affected Wildlife presented by wildlife vet Anne Fowler on 24 November 2013 at the NAB auditorium, Docklands, VIC (see this page, registration closes on 18 November).
Much work has been done since Black Saturday but much remains to ensure communities are better prepared for bushfires. Likewise for vets, it is in our fundamental interest not to be caught on the back foot again.
Paul Ramos, B.S. (Zoology), BVSc(Hons), MVSc (Zoo Medicine),
Veterinarian at Lort Smith Animal Hospital