Working in different countries or regions as a veterinary surgeon, I consider the exposure to conditions and treatment solutions I have not encountered before, both as a real challenge and as a great benefit. For many years my work for FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations and the involvement with FVE, the Federation of Veterinarians in Europe, has been a constant inspiration for me and it had helped me and my patients in Virginia Water – especially the ones that had non – UK backgrounds – to consider unusual conditions in my list of differential diagnosis or to employ treatment protocols that were unheard of in the UK.
Although there are undoubtedly a lot of similarities between the usual case load in the UK and the patients I have been presented with in Sweden, there were also a few – for me new – conditions and I also noticed a much higher concentration of some very familiar presentations. These were often due to the different environmental circumstances in Sweden.
Similar to my patients in the UK , the size of my patients in Dalarna ranged from 48g (in the case of this Russian Hamster)
to nearly 100kg (which required a small army of technicians to move….).
Compared with the UK, “exotic species” like rabbits or small rodents were rare and I hardly saw any cage birds and absolutely no reptiles or fish (which in Virginia Water frequently included Koi Carps).
Due to far fewer dogs being neutered in Scandinavia, reproduction disorders are more common and I frequently had to operate on dogs with pyometras (severe womb infections) and with breast cancer.
There have been a range of studies highlighting health problems associated with early neutering, but comparing the health of my canine patients both in the UK, on the continent and in Scandinavia, I am remaining convinced that the early neutering – especially of female dogs – is the best solution and I am very content that I have performed this procedure on all of my own dogs before their first season.
With the neutering done so early, it is virtually impossible that a dog will ever develop breast cancer and if the spaying is done before the second season, the risk is still reduced by 90% compared with unneutered dogs.
Working at a large clinic also meant, that we were more frequently asked to help with delivery problems, which sometimes just required medical support, but it sometimes demanded surgical intervention.
The delivery of the eleven (!) puppies of this tough mum went through most of my whole shift one day, but in the end all puppies were delivered alive and without the need for surgery.
Although fleas are not as commonly encountered as in the UK, due to the colder climate and due to the different interior design of Swedish houses (more wooden floors and less carpets), the same can not be said for ticks. Quite often we admitted dogs and especially cats that were going outside, with twenty or more ticks. This was also the reason why I diagnosed here, after over thirty years in clinical practice, my first case of Canine Anaplasmosis, a tick borne bacterial disease, in a dog with a very high fever. Admittedly I would have struggled without the friendly pointer of Tilda, one of my very helpful Swedish colleagues, who was more familiar with this condition.
In a country like Sweden, where great outdoor life is always just around the corner, encounters with the local wild life can be a big issue for dogs and cats.
During the summer the biggest problem without doubt are certainly adder bites, which mainly affect curious or just unfortunate dogs and to a lesser degree cats.
The most common presentation are dogs with a – at times grotesque – swelling of their face
or with a severe swelling of a limb.
Very rarely did we use antivenom in these cases. The standard treatment was fluid support and regular pain relief with Methadon. Only if patients developed cardiac arrhythmias or deteriorated after admission in any other way, was the – fairly expensive – antivenom considered necessary.
Dogs getting into fights with wolves, with bears, with wolverines or with wild boars are not uncommon, but this canine patient was extremely unlucky by being bitten into his hind limb by an angry beaver while trying to run away…..
Cases of Salmonella infections are seen frequently in Sweden. This form of enteritis I diagnosed only occasionally in Surrey, although I checked faecal samples on a regular basis for this serious zoonotic condition. Speaking to my Swedish colleagues about this, we came to the conclusion that the possibly more common hunting and the ingestion of droppings of wild bird must probably play an important role in this.
Beside of this, Swedish cats seem to fight as frequently as their British counterparts, they appear to have the same problems with bladder stones and obesity and Swedish dogs in the same way break their nails and get infected ears, but as in UK, Swedish kittens and puppies never fail to brighten up the beginning or the ends of busy days at the emergency clinic.