Whaleback and Iceline Trail

If you want to avoid the crowds of Banff and Lake Louise while traveling the Canadian Rockies, you might consider joining the smaller crowds in nearby Yoho National Park.

The Whaleback and Iceline Trail is a great two day hike that offers a bit of everything the Rocky Mountains have to offer – high mountains, spectacular waterfalls, glaciers, peaceful lakes surrounded by fir tree forest and from time to time the odd moose crossing your path….

After a night at the rustic Whiskey Jack Hostel ( which had nothing to do with a guy called Jack and Whiskey was also not involved in the history of the place…..), the hiking trail started just next to the majestic Takakkaw Falls which are said to be four times as high as the Niagara Falls (but not that big….) Not bad for a start…….

Trekking North along the Yoho River past the “Laughing” Falls, brought us after 3 1/2 hour – unfortunately mostly in the rain – to the Twin Fall Chalet – an old timber structure with a lot of history which was run for many years as a tea house. Unfortunately Fran Drummond the very charismatic (70+year old !) proprietor who is said to still carry all supplies for her guests to the cabin herself , wasn’t in ( possibly shopping for new hiking boots?!….), so that we had to make do with a cup of tea on the front porch

(photo taken while thinking of all my Estonian friends…..).

That restored us well enough to scale the Whaleback – a partial ridge walk, which at 2200 m above sea level brings you up to the iceline and provides you with stunning views of the forest covered valley and the Yoho River below.

From there we eventually descended again the valley and joined the trail to the Stanley Mitchell Hut – another Canadian Alpine Club hut with matresses under the roof, an old woodburner and a couple of outside toilets – Silke was not really overwhelmed…

At least there was excellent company and she managed to gamble away a considerable share of our travel funds (ok, not really – she won most of the time..).

Next morning we continued our hike along the Iceline Trail, an iconic high route, passing one glacier after the next with even more (unfortunately retreating) glaciers now visible on the other side of the valley.After a short detour to Lake Yoho -extremely beautiful –

We returned to the hut and finished the day in style with an excellent (admittedly Australia) Red….

World class cross country skiing – if you don‘t get eaten by a bear…..

As some of you might know – crosscountry skiing and biathlon are some of my passions.

In North America you will struggle finding better training facilities than the beautifully located Nordic Skiing Centre in Canmore.

The Centre is home to the Canadian crosscountry skiing and the Biathlon teams with outstanding training and competition facilities.

When visiting – as a member of the London Region Nordic Skiing Club (you can imagine that there are not a lot of us around….) – I was given a guided tour of their gym, including the facilities for the top athletes, featuring a custom made treadmill for roller skies.

This beast is the size of a small gym itself and most of the machinery is underneath it in the ground, making it very difficult to fit it through the windows in the first place.

When exercising on the treadmill, athletes need to wear a harness and have to hook themselves up on a rope with a carabiner, to avoid injuries in case that they fall or faint, which happens from time to time if endurance limits are tested.

I was wondering – as the facilities are used by skiers from all over the world – how many world and olympic champions might have hung on this rope and this carabiner over the years…..

This is, providing that they were not attacked by a bear, which currently is a real problem (take a closer look at the small yellow sign..)

The ski tracks are used in the summer also by mountain bikers and runners and it is advisable to have “Bear Spray” ( a very strong pepper spray)

rather than your water bottle with you, when exercising in the forest, hoping that at the end of the session the only bear you have encountered was the one on the outside of your beer can……

A visit at the Canmore Veterinary Hospital

Quite a change of scenery…….

after leaving the urban jungle of downtown Toronto, I woke up to this view:

Checking in at the clubhouse of the Canadian Alpine Club in Canmore in Alberta and changing- very much to my wife’s dismay – from a junior suite to a couple of mattresses in the loft with shared kitchen and bathroom, I had arranged to meet Karen McMillan, a Canadian colleague, at a local veterinary clinic.

A bad (?) habit of me ( but also of a lot of other vets….) is that I love to visit colleagues in completely different parts of the world to compare notes and “to talk shop”.

Karen – who I had never met before – very kindly agreed to open the doors to her place in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and to show me around.

The first thought that I had while standing in front of her clinic was, that this was possible the most picturesque set up of a veterinary clinic I had ever seen…..

Resting in a peaceful valley at the foot of the mountains, built with a solid timber structure it was just beautiful.

This impression was enhanced when I entered the waiting room

featuring a wood burner and genuine blockhouse feel.

With the scales in the center (and not a corner) of the waiting room equiped with a jar of treats, dogs were pulling their owners through the door to be weight and to be greeted by the staff.

Karen who built this place with her colleague Sylvia McAllister some 25 years ago, took herself over an hour to show me every detail of the clinic and I have to say that I loved it !….

The consulting rooms were functional, but had a warm and friendly ambiance.

there was a separate room for rehabilitation consultations (which is one of Karen’s specialities) , a large preparation and in-patient area

day care facilities for dogs and cats and a dedicated operating theatre.

What surprised me was the small stock of anti-parasitics held at the clinic.

“Well” said Karen “we have ticks, but we don’t have any fleas here!'”…..

This very much matched what I had heard from my Scandinavian colleagues as well.

Building design (more tiled and wooden floors) and the colder temperatures make the difference.

Something else that was different, was that Karen rarely saw cats with fighting injuries.

“All the cats live indoors, because if they go outside they get eaten – usually by coyotes!”

OMG…..I suddenly realised how lucky our British feline friends are……

But there were also a lot of similarities with the medication we use, the anesthetic protocols and with our surgical workload.

It was really hard to leave this inspiring place and this friendly team of colleagues and I thought how lucky pet owners in Canmore are, to have veterinarians like Karen and her team.

The other thought was, that I could have done so many things differently and better, if I would have visited this place earlier….

One never seizes to learn…


One aspect that I wanted to explore further on my travels were the potential benefits of cannabinoids, which are products derived from the cannabis plant, for my patients.

Over the last couple of years we have been approached by an increasing number of pet owners, who wanted to use these components on their pets, which were suffering from a range of different conditions ( pre-dominantly arthritis, chronic pain and epilepsy). Although CBD (the non- high or intoxicating effect producing part) containing products are now legally available in the UK and in many other European countries, precious little is known about the efficacy and the best dosing ranges of these components in companion animals.

6 weeks ago I spoke to Enid Stiles (http://www.montrealdogblog.com/contributors/stile-file-dr-enid-stiles/) at the Federation of Veterinarians in Europe (FVE) meeting in Bratislava. Enid is the Vice President of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and she was giving a presentation on the subject. The background was that Canada had legalized cannabis in October 2018 for human use and this had started intens research also in the veterinary field to get cannabinoids licensed for pets as well.

There was imens interest in Enid’s excellent presentation and her talk was certainly one of the highlights of the meeting, despite the fact that she too could not provide us with detailed answers regarding the use of cannabinoids in pets, as the research is still ongoing.

Even more reason for me to investigate this a bit more on my own, when I artived in Toronto.

To start off on this quest, I headed first for one of the now totally legal stores that was selling cannabinoids for human consumption and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised:

The store looked bright and clean and the products were displayed in professional packaging, not dissimilar to handsets in a mobile phone shop.

All products came with detailed information about their purpose and on their THC (the “high inducing ” component) and CBD content. In addition to this it took not more than 2 minutes, until a smartly dressed shop assistant offered further help and advice. The only thing missing was George Clooney walking in, to make it the complete Nespresso experience…..

It showed me two things – once legalized the consumption of cannabinoids becomes mainstream in no time and that there is a lot of money to be made by the companies involved.

Next stop was the trade exhibition at the WSAVA Congress…..

Here too where at least three different stands promoting cannabinoids for the veterinary market, but interestingly not displaying any packaging or any detailed information.

“We are here just to let you guys know that we are around and that we are working on it. Watch this space….” was the standard reply when visiting the stands.

Pharmaceutical companies paying for the probably most expensive exhibition space at any vet congress worldwide, just to say “hello” and without selling anything?….

The last time that – at least to my knowledge- something similar happened, was when Pfizer was about to launch Viagra and we all know what a commercial success that was…..

The next day I attended the only lecture on the subject titled: “Cannabis for pet pain” by the rather colorful S.Cital from – yes, you might have guessed it – California. 

His both enlightening and entertaining talk gave an insight into the complexities of investigating and identifying the individual components of the plant and of separating the useful molecules.

Recent research had indeed confirmed that especially CBDs have an anti-inflammatory effect and that cannabinoids have an effect on the speed of neurotransmission. The best therapeutic effect is achieved with oral formulations ( usually oils) and seemingly with a combination of THCs, CBDs and other analgesics where the concurrent use of cannabinoids often allows a reduction of the dosage of traditional pain killers. However, rather worrying were the findings of a recent Penn study, which showed that 70% of Cannabis products were mislabeled…..

So certainly encouraging but still a lot of work to be done.

Finally, on the last day of the conference I ran into Sarah Silcox, an Ontario based veterinary surgeon who is the President and Director of CAVCM, the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine. This organization is following the ongoing research closely and is collecting a lot of treatment date. They are also offering help and advice (at least to their members) and my gut feeling is, that over the next few years they will become very busy……

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings…..

Toronto turns out to be hard work and little sleep ……

At yesterday’s VIP Summit we supported the signature of a position statement to facilitate the harmonization of the licensing of veterinary medicine.

A lot of especially smaller countries struggle to have accesss to sometimes vital medicines because the national licensing process is taking too long or might be prohibitively expensive so that these drugs never reach needy patients.

By accepting bonified drug trials and licensing in other countries can licensing cost be considerably reduced and these medicines be made available.

Good to see that the EU, partially due to my colleagues at the Federation of Veterinarians in Europe (FVE) are one of the most proactive institutions.

This unfortunately stands in clear contrast to the uncertainty for the availability of especially new veterinary medicines in the UK in case of a No-Deal Brexit scenario……

So time for some fun after the meeting…..

Bringing colleagues together for the benefit of our patients

I was proud to jointly host the first meeting of FIAVAC , the Federation of Spanish and Portuguese Speaking Small Animal Veterinary Associations and FECAVA, the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations at the WSAVA Congress in #Toronto #FECAVA #FIAVAC It was decided to explore opportunities to work together on matters of animal welfare, antimicrobial resistance and canine vector borne diseases.

These are issue of concern not only in Europe but also in Central and South America. Hopefully we will be able to maintain and to extend this dialogue.

Events like these make a nice change from my work in general practice and it is exciting to be able to use my experiences from general practice in Virginia Water into this global meetings for the benefit of colleagues and patients worldwide.

And so the Adventure Begins…..

Begun it has already…..to be precise with a flight to Toronto an Saturday evening to attend the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress 2019 to represent the European Companion Animal Veterinary profession at the Metro Conference Center.

What better way to start my visit with an early morning run along the shoreline of Lake Ontario

It was great to see that there appears to be some sensible breeding of brachycephalic dogs over here when I bumped into this 12 week old puppy (and her owner) featuring a decent nose !…

Love to see more puppies like these!

At the moment I am attending the WSAVA Assembly meeting, a gathering of veterinary leaders from all over the world

and we are looking into ways to improve the quality and the provision of continuing education for veterinary professional s all over the world.

So what’s the point?…..

So what is the idea behind this blog ?……

For the last 20 years I have had the great pleasure of looking after the dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, lizzards, snakes, chickens, koi carps and many more usual and unusual pets of the residents of Virginia Water, one of the most picturesque places in Surrey in England.

I enjoyed working with a wonderful team of colleagues and friends (and with our very special canine companions who often accompanied us to work…) but over the last few years both veterinary medicine and the world around us changed dramatically and opened – at least for me – a lot of new opportunities, so that I felt that the time was right to hand over the responsibility for my patients and for my team to someone else and to pursue a different, possibly more complex way of life of a practicing veterinary surgeon .

At the beginning of June of this year, our small team was joined by Victoria Rudolph (see image at the top), a colleague who had worked for the last 14 years as an assistant in a veterinary hospital in Windsor and as it turned out, had also worked as a locum for me a few years earlier. I quite frankly couldn’t have asked for a better “replacement” ……within just a few weeks she took all my often long established patients to heart and enchanted not only our clients but the whole team (and their pets !….). Seeing that everything was left in kind and caring hands, considerably reduced my bad conscience and reassured me that I had made the right decision……

So what is this decision and what is going to happen from here on a lot of my clients and also my friends and colleagues are wondering…….well, whatever it will be, at least I don’t think that it will be boring…..

As already mentioned, the veterinary world has changed (and still is changing a lot) and all the voluntary work I have done over the last few years as a member of BSAVA, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and especially my various activities as a member of FECAVA have whet my appetite to once again explore the veterinary universe, to visit and to learn from some outstanding colleagues and to work together with new teams both here in the UK and in (hopefully) a lot of other places in the world.

What you can expect from this block (if you are interested to follow me on this journey….) is (probably – we will find out….) a combination of a travel diary with a lot of veterinary stories, with visits to some beautiful and possibly also to some unusual places on this planet, with some unforgettable people and with certainly a fair amount of weird and wonderful unpredictable stories thrown into the mix……

I hope that you will enjoy this blog!……….