Working as an Arctic Vet

It is 7:30 in the morning and following a typical Norwegian breakfast with cooked coffee, caramelised goats cheese and polar bread, I am starting the first day at my newest place of work – the Anicura Small Animal Clinic in Tromsø.

The clinic is located just opposite of the local police station and right next to the fire brigade – so what possibly can go wrong ?…….

The building used to house for several decades a leather factory that was working “with the skins of domestic animals (let’s assume that this was limited to farm animals….), seals and wolffish (!)”. When the leather trade dried up and the property stood vacant, the ground floor was transformed into a spacious small animal clinic.

So high up in the North, with extremely low temperatures and a couple of months without any sun light at all, one might wonder what dogs other than Huskies people might keep here and what the usual work load of the clinic might be.

Of course there are quite a few of these guys around, but as the Husky up here is more a working dog rather than a pet, not a lot of them are coming through the doors of the clinic. This has partially commercial reasons as it might not be economically feasable to take out pet insurance for a place with up to 200 sledge dogs (as above) and partially this is due to the skills of the mushers who are able to treat a lot of conditions themselves.

No so though when it comes to Ceasarian sections where – as in veterinary clinics around the Globe – the delivery of a new litter of puppies is always a happy occasion.

The majority of canine patients at the clinic are actually very similar to that of urban clinics in the UK or in Germany.

Here as well French Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bullterriers are a very common sight in the waiting room and – to my great surprise – a large number of toy breeds like Chihuahuas, Papillons and even the odd Corgie.

As similar as the dog breeds are to those in the UK, are also the conditions we are treating . There is the occasional bit wound to attend to or a more challenging road traffic accident injury. With more dogs being outside in the summer, there are a number of eye injuries but a considerably lower incident of skin conditions as both the extreme climate as well as the Scandinavian interior building designs make the lives of these parasites pretty uncomforatble.

Compared to my recent workload in Sweden there are far less injuries caused by encounters with the local wildlife. I am still waiting for my first moose attack patient here…..

Whatever the problem is, also here in Tromsø I can rely on an extremely well equipped work place with a super friendly and knowledgable team of colleagues.

Lameness and neurological patients like this friendly Bullterrier with a supected unilateral Trigeminus paresis

can benefit not only from a digital radiography system, but also from a CT underneath the same roof.

MRI scans are arranged on an individual patient basis in the evenings at the local human hospital.

Already on my second day at work I was confronted with a 4 months old Shiba Inu with a fractured frontlimb.

With currently no orthopaedic surgeon working this far North, the owners had the option to get the limb splinted (not a good choice with this typ of fracture) or to fly the dog South to Bergen or to Oslo to get it operated. Thankfully a number of excellent specialists had visited the clinic previously, so that a lot of equipment was in fact on sight and after some hunting around for the necessary hardware, I managed to stabilise the fracture with an External Fixator (a good option with a still growing patient).

For dental procedures there is even a dedicated room with two well equipped tables aided by digital dental radiography (better as at most human dentists).

Finally – when being presented with a cat with a hardly visible foreign body in her cornea, Cecilie (“The Oracle” – as she always knows where everything is……..) one of the excellent head nurses suggested that I might like to make use of the surgical microscope for this case !……

This – I openly admit – was an absolute first for me, but good Lord, what a revelation having this piece of kit at my disposal !……

Following 20 minutes to set everything up, it took 2 minutes to remove the offending object and both the cat as well as the vet where much happier….

To sum it up – not the worst place to work at………

But just hang on a moment – I just realise that we have hardly spoken about cat !………

Published by The Blue Vet

I am a veterinary surgeon with a German and Norwegian educational background. I have been the founder and for over 20 years I have been the senior veterinarian at the Virginia Water Veterinary Clinic in Surrey, England. When starting this blog I was also the President of FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations. In the summer of 2019 I left my clinic to work as an international locum and clinical advisor. I am interested in all aspects of clinical companion animal medicine, in endurance sports and in traveling and meeting people with and without their pets and especially in sharing my knowledge with colleagues in other parts of Europe and the World.

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