Canines, caring and community

Mary Jan and Steve in the ute2Veterinarian Jan Allen has had a varied career, working around Australia and the South Pacific, but it is her work in Indigenous communities which she has found most rewarding.

Allen is currently the One Health Program Manager for Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC). The organisation is a national, non-profit charity founded to improve the health and welfare of companion animals in communities where access to veterinary care may be limited to absent.

Allen grew up in Kempsey with family on a dairy farm before moving to Nelson Bay then to Sydney (Harbord) where she went to high school to ensure she got a good education.

“I was applying for a Commonwealth Scholarship for a Bachelor of Education but Dad said I might as well try to get into veterinary science,” she recalled. “It was a big surprise to me when I got in.”

After graduating in 1976, Allen took a six-week “apprenticeship” at the RSPCA’s Yagoona shelter before taking a mixed practice position in Tasmania.

“They shouted me a flight down for an interview which really impressed me,” she said. “They really needed vets. The caseload was trotters, smallies, greyhounds and wildlife – a bit of everything.” Continue reading Canines, caring and community

Progress with AMRRIC animal management worker program

John Skuja and Emma Kennedy in Townsville with the East Arnhem Shire agreement.

An AMRRIC program to recruit Indigenous animal management workers in several Northern Territory shires has progressed with the appointment of a project manager, whilE East Arnhem Shire has also formally confirmed its involvement in the program.

Veterinarian John Skuja has taken up the position of Project Manager with AMRRIC. Skuja has a background in emergency veterinary hospitals, as well as community development programs overseas with Vets Beyond Borders.

The agreement with East Arnhem Shire was signed by East Arnhem Shire veterinarian and Animal Management Officer Emma Kennedy, along with AMRRIC’s Executive officer Julia Hardaker, and Project Manager John Skuja in Townsville at AMRRIC’s recent annual conference.

AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) is a not-for-profit organisation set up by veterinarians which aims to improve the health and welfare of companion animals and improve the overall health and wellbeing of people in Australia’s Indigenous communities. Continue reading Progress with AMRRIC animal management worker program

Transmissible cancers in dogs and Tasmanian devils

Figure 1.

The Tasmanian devil, the world’s largest marsupial carnivore, is facing possible extinction in the wild due to a transmissible facial cancer known as Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) (Figure 1). DFTD is spread when living cancer cells are spread between animals by biting. In DFTD, the living cancer cell itself is the infectious agent of disease and it remains unclear why these cancer cells are not detected and rejected by the devil’s immune system. The distressing plight of the Tasmanian devil has drawn attention to the existence of transmissible cancers, parasitic cancers spread by the transfer of living cancer cells between hosts. However, it remains a surprisingly little-known fact that the only other transmissible cancer that bears any resemblance to DFTD is a dog cancer that is right under our noses here in Australia.

Canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) is one of the world’s most remarkable cancers. It is a transmissible cancer that affects dogs worldwide. Usually spread during coitus, the disease is most prevalent in areas with large numbers of free-roaming sexually active dogs. The tumour affects both male and female animals, and appears to affect dogs of any breed. CTVT generally manifests itself in the appearance of tumours in and around the genital area, often at the base of the penis in males and in the vulva of females. Starting as small shiny pink/grey lesions, the tumours can progress to become very large and multi-lobulated (Figure 2). The tumour may aggressively invade surrounding tissues and become ulcerated and secondarily infected. However, a combination of surgical debulking and chemotherapy (using vincristine) is often curative.

Figure 2

Genetic studies have provided strong evidence that CTVT is in fact one living cancer cell line that has spread worldwide with dogs. Thus all CTVT tumours are derived from a single original tumour that arose once and has been transmitted through the dog population as a clone. The tumour itself bears closest genetic resemblance to wolves, suggesting that this tumour may have first arisen in a wolf before hitch-hiking its way into dogs through sexual contact. Genetic evidence suggests that the tumour may in fact be quite old, and that the original wolf that gave rise to the tumour may have even lived thousands of years ago. CTVT is by far the oldest known continuously growing cancer in the world. Continue reading Transmissible cancers in dogs and Tasmanian devils

New president and partnership gives AMRRIC a boost

Animal Management in Remote and Rural Indigenous Communities has announced Ted Donelan, a veterinarian from Melbourne who has worked with indigenous communities for more than 15 years, as its new President and Bayer Animal Heath as a partner.

Both are set to give AMRRIC a boost as it strives to improve animal management in Australia’s indigenous communities.

AMRRIC is a national not-for-profit organisation originally set-up by veterinarians to improve the health and welfare of companion animals and improve the overall health and wellbeing of people in Australia’s indigenous communities. Continue reading New president and partnership gives AMRRIC a boost