Working with Strays in Phuket, Thailand

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On my go abroad experience I spent 2 weeks in Phuket, Thailand, to spey and neuter stray animals and help out in the fantastic hospital they run at the Soi Dog Foundation. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the stray population for years to come whilst at the same time gaining invaluable surgical experience under careful supervision and support.

After organising the trip I was initially most worried about the team-working aspect of the project. Although I joined the project with 4 of my classmates I had no idea what their level of experience was. Would my peers be judgemental if I couldn’t do something surgically that they could? What if, because they were better than me, they took all of the opportunities to do surgery and I didn’t? Would any personal issues that arose ruin the entire experience for me?

These fears however were completely unfounded. The group gelled fantastically, everyone was really supportive and helpful, and on top of that I feel I have genuinely made new friends. All of this was made possible partly by everyone’s fantastic attitude towards the project, but also thanks to our project co-ordinator’s guidance, fair teaching, and leadership; Dr Matt Buchanan-Pascall.

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The local food market in Naiyang!

We stayed in a lovely off the beaten track town called Naiyang where we all felt right at home. Our first evening consisted of practicing our suturing (on chicken legs from the supermarket) – the bread and butter of surgery. Needless to say we were all a little out of practice but by the end of the night all of our specimens were looking very neat!

We took things slowly at first, one feline procedure happening at any one time with Matt always scrubbed in should help be needed. It goes without saying that initially our speys were taking in excess of 2 hours; over double what you would expect in private practice in the UK; but day by day our technique and confidence improved. Towards the end of our project we moved onto dog castrations.

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Our transport to Soi Dog!

We learnt that due to the endemic nature of erlichiosis in Thailand that all of our patients had to be treated as increased risk of haemorrhage, which led us to develop advanced haemostatic awareness and technique.

We had fantastic help from Soi Dog as well and I really can’t thank them enough for the opportunity they provided us and the amazing work they continue to do in Phuket! Every day we had the assistance of a Thai or Burmese nurse and we were fast friends by the end. Working with the locals gave us a chance to learn their language and see what different techniques could be employed for procedures.

Overall my experience in Thailand was invaluable and my deepest thanks go to the Soi Dog Foundation, Vet Projects International, and the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for making it possible.

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One of the resident cats in the chill out room!

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