Dr Jack volunteers to help free-roaming dogs in Chile.

Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

It was somewhat disorienting arriving in Puerto Natales, Chile after travelling for two days on three buses and two airplanes from my sunny winter home in Mexico.  Of course it was summer here but it took quite a bit of acclimating, several hot showers and hugging the gas heaters to get comfortable.  The landscape was like a strange mixture of BC rugged, quaint Maritime fishing village, and Scottish Highland sheep scrub, but what was most striking were the dogs. They were everywhere!  In all shapes and sizes, on the streets, in the yards, on the rooftops, fences and pick-up trucks.  In packs, with people or alone, they sported dreadlocks, bite wounds, injuries, hit-by-car lameness, venereal tumours, and mange. Dogs were eating garbage, fighting, defecating and procreating in the broad daylight, which seemed to go on forever.  This was the farthest south I’d ever been on the planet and it was weird adjusting to these extra-long days, a huge harvest moon in February, and glaciers surrounded by herds of wild camelids and mini-ostriches.  Also the ozone depletion over this part of the globe could cause severe and rapid sunburn as evidenced by the white cats dodging the dogs, their ears consumed by solar dermatitis or carcinomas.
The Latin American team was fantastic!  I had already met our dynamic project leader, Dr. Elena Garde at our Vets without Borders’ Board of Directors retreat on Galiano Island in November when I volunteered for this interesting and important project.


Dr. Jack & Guillermo, Puerto Natales, Chile. Feb, 2012

Now I was introduced to her partner in work, life and crime – plying me with “pisco sours”, Guillermo Perez, a Chilean-Canadian biologist and dog catcher extraordinaire!  There was also the lovely and capable Dr. Angelica Romero, who was nicknamed “Flaca” because she was thin, but for good reason – she worked long days pounding the pavement, recruiting dogs door-to-door for the project, and as our media and PR spokesperson, taking client education to a new level.  Also on the team were Karla, another Chilean vet, who charmingly procured whatever we needed from bricks to suture material, and Connie, a final-year student who will surely become the canine neuter champion of Chile after this experience.  Dr. Susan Kutz, a parasitologist from Calgary who currently heads up our Nunavut dog project was there to lend a helping hand and a contagious smile.  We were joined by two American volunteers, Karen Green, Senior Director of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs, from Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Mary Ann Hollick, a veterinarian from Alaska, both of whom had experience with Esterisol, the chemical manufactured by Ark Sciences that we were using for sterilization, and loads of enthusiasm and excitement for our project.


Dr. Jack & Dr. Elena, Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

The study involved about 150 free-roaming dogs divided into three groups:  the conventional surgical neuter group, the chemical sterilization group, and the controls. We were interested  in determining the most effective population and disease control techniques for free-roaming dogs throughout Latin America.  The data accumulated was extensive, with questionnaires to be completed by the dog-“owners”,  videotaping the behaviour of the dogs at different times of day, and extensive follow-ups.  Dogs were blood-tested for testosterone levels before and after sterilization, fecal samples were analyzed for hydatid disease and thorough physical examinations, vaccinations, de-worming and microchipping were performed.  The “Esterisol Dogs” were also ear tattooed to facilitate identification, since they still had their testicles, something that appeared to have cultural desirability.  The Municipality was very helpful and cooperative with this important study, making available two community centers, manpower, supplies and media coverage to encourage families to participate.  They also treated us to a couple of memorable excursions on our days off to see the Prehistoric Milodon Cave and Torres del Paine National Park with its breathtaking mountains, glaciers and wildlife. This project is a model for community involvement with animal health issues where wildlife, domestic animal and human interfaces are of critical importance for the study of zoonotic diseases and the concept of  “One Health” throughout Latin America and the rest of the world.

Dr. Angelica at work in the community of Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

In two short weeks we spent many long days in the clinics, doing surgery and injecting dogs, with limited resources, developing some very creative anesthetic and surgical protocols based on what we didn’t have.  It always seemed to flow miraculously well, thanks to the camaraderie of our professional team, the kindness of the people of Puerto Natales, and the delicious seafood, great Chilean wines and of course, the pisco sours!

Local children watching us work, Puerto Natales, Chile - Feb, 2012

The smiles of the children helped too, their faces pressed against the windows, watching us do surgery, or munching on our shared snacks.  The greatest reward  was to witness their authentic love for the animals.  For this wonderful experience I give thanks to all, including the beautiful creatures I met in Patagonia such as the condor, rheas, guanacos, owls, peregrine falcons, caracaras, horse, cattle, sheep and most of all, the dogs.  Gracias a la vida!


– Dr. Jack Gewarter, Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic, Toronto.

This summer, our friends at Darwin Animal Doctors are hosting a large group of vet students from the University of Pennsylvania in the Galapagos to conduct a large spay and neuter and vaccination campaign, and they are looking for two vets to oversee this project. They can provide free housing and free airfare to the two vets.If you are interested or know some vets who have a couple of weeks in June to travel to the Galapagos and help with the campaign, please click here for more information.
Check our their website and blog.

Volunteer needed in the Sahtu District, Northwest Territories, Canada

Veterinarians without Borders is looking for an experienced Small Animal Practitioner who is willing to volunteer for 2 weeks in late February, 2012. Rabies, distemper and parvo virus outbreaks happen far too often in animal populations in many northern districts like Sahtu, and the threat of disease transmission at the domestic animal/wildlife/human interface is a serious concern. Additionally, stray and loose dog populations can increase the risk of dog attacks – which is especially dangerous since rabies vaccination is not routine. Working alongside the Sahtu communities, local partners, and various wildlife specialists, the University of Calgary and VWB-VSF are beginning to develop sustainable animal health programs that address these specific concerns.
If you are interested in volunteering and assisting with health and sterilization clinics, please, download the call for volunteers.


Ontario Veterinary College students draw 600 chickens for Laos!

Adam Little, a third year student at Ontario Veterinary College, Guelph, Ontario dressed up in a chicken costume as he promised to do if his classmates met his challenge to draw 600 chickens for Laos.

For the month of November, Aeroplan asked people to send in drawings of chickens and for each chicken drawing received, Aeroplan will donate $5 to help purchase a chicken for families in Laos. Every year, Aeroplan and one of its Beyond Miles charitable partners sends Aeroplan employees on an engagement trip.  These trips were created to inspire and engage Aeroplan employees by helping them see how and where our charitable partners use donated Aeroplan Miles. Earlier this year, Aeroplan employees Alison, Amanda and Luis joined Aeroplan’s Beyond Miles charitable partner Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB) on a trip to Laos.

Today, Alden Hadwen, Director of Community Engagement with Aeroplan visited OVC in Guelph to pick up the chicken drawings.

There are still 2 days for you to help.  To enter, please send your drawing or photo to: csr.aeroplan (at) aeroplan.com by November 30th.



Apply Now to the 2012 Vets without Borders Summer Internship Program.

Are you a veterinary student or recent graduate from a Canadian Veterinary School? Are you interested in working in animal/public health positions with global dimensions (ie. emerging diseases, poverty-reduction, sustainable livelihoods)?

If so, the Veterinarians without Borders Summer Internship Program could be for you! Download the application form here. This Program is focused on training the next generation of animal health workers so that they will be better prepared to address complex public health issues and work in cross-disciplinary settings.

Check out some of the other blog entries to find out what this summer’s volunteers worked on. Applications should be submitted by October 12, 2011.

Volunteers needed to help with 1st annual WRD Walk ‘n’ Woof!

Interested in contributing to VWB-VSF’s World Rabies Day initiatives?  Volunteers are needed to assist with the first annual World Rabies Day Walk ‘n’ Woof.  This event is for all people and their pets and will take place in Ottawa on Sunday, September 25, 2011.  Assistance with the organization of the event as well as during the event is required.  For more information, please visit the VWB/VSF volunteer opportunities webpage.

On Sunday, September 25th, 2011 in Ottawa VWB-VSF will be hosting the first annual Run-Woof for Rabies!   People and their pets are invited to participate by completing either 2 km or 5km to raise awareness and funds for World Rabies Day.   Veterinary clinics are encouraged to register teams and promote the event to their clients.   Please visit the VWB/VSF website for additional event information and see how you can become involved.


VWB/VSF launches 4th Annual Help Make Rabies History Campaign!

Veterinarians without Borders has launched its 4th Annual Rabies Campaign to increase awareness about the global rabies issue. Although rabies is a preventable disease, it still kills 55,000+ people each year, most of whom are children living in poverty in Africa and Asia.

This September, you can Help Make Rabies History! by organizing a fundraising activity. Our month-long Rabies Campaign is a part of activities taking place around the world in support of World Rabies Day (September 28, 2011)

Fundraising for this campaign will not only support our international rabies prevention programs in Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Laos, Malawi, Northern Canada and Uganda, the top two teams that raises the most can win prizes! Aeroplan has again generously donated prize packages of Aeroplan miles!

Support this cause by either donating directly to VWB/VSF (please note RABIES in the comment box), or by partnering with others to organize an exciting fundraising activity. Check out some fundraising ideas on the VWB/VSF website.


Volunteer in Malawi – 2 new placements for August

We are seeking volunteers for the following positions in Malawi with our partner organization Uniterra (www.uniterra.org). Please click on the title of the position for more information.

Dairy Health & Production Advisor
LOCATION: Mzuzu City, Malawi
DURATION: 9 months
START DATE: August 1, 2011
OBJECTIVE OF PLACEMENT: To increase the knowledge and skills  of  staff  and  farmers in dairy health and production.

Curriculum Development Advisor – Animal Science
LOCATION: Lilongwe City, Malawi
DURATION: 6 months
START DATE: August 31, 2011
1. Establish programs in veterinary training for a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVM) degree program
2. Enhance outreach programs to include dairy cattle and dairy goat production in villages around Bunda College.

Application deadline for all positions: open until filled

*Photo courtesy of Dr. Anne Drew.