New Delhi, India
India is a beautiful country and every time I visit, I am pulled in by the culture, food, and exoticness. Since I am fluent in Hindi and have done an externship (in high school) in India before, I felt it best to do another externship in this country where there was no language barrier and where I had already made connections with veterinarians. This past summer I got the chance to work with the stray dog population of New Delhi. Unfortunately, India is the leading country in number of human deaths by rabies, and aggressive stray animals often cause these. Thus, I was eager to work with a small animal shelter to take a public health initiative for rabies control. I was also eager to gain hands on surgical experience with neuters and spays. It was important for me to find an organization that would cater to both of these things.
I contacted a veterinarian who I have worked with before in India to assist me in finding a clinic that would take me on as a student. I was given several project options and I chose to work with PAWS (pet animal welfare society) in New Delhi, India. This animal shelter brings in stray dogs weekly for sterilization, rabies vaccination, and medical care. Once the animals are restored to proper health they are realized back to the location from where they were picked up. This helps prevent the spread of rabies as well as keeps new stray dog populations from settling in the city.
There would be about 10-15 surgeries each day, most of which were neuters and spays. After watching several surgeries take place, during the second week of the externship I was asked to perform the surgery. I did one neuter under the supervision of the veterinarian, and the rest on my own. It was a great experience because I had to be confident in my abilities since the veterinarian was not always around to ask questions. I also got the chance to see treatments for wound healing, skin infections, and tick fever. No diagnostic testing was ever done for any case (no blood draws, cultures, chem panels, radiographs, no diagnostics what so ever) the only diagnostic tool the veterinarian had was his own experiences. Herbal remedies were a common practice probably due to influences from Indian culture as well as budget constraints. Most open wounds were dusted with local antibiotic powder and smeared with a gooey herbal remedy that would kill the infection and promote healing. I saw little improvements in wound repair that underwent such treatment. Treatments for fungal and bacterial skin infections were more promising. Because no diagnostics were performed to confirm a diagnosis, the veterinarian would label skin lesions as bacterial, fungal, etc. based on appearance and treat accordingly. Several malnourished/anorexic dogs were brought to the shelter and their treatment commonly included fluids, B vitamins, and herbal remedies to promote hunger. Some of these patients took weeks to come back to health while the condition of others barely changed.
I learned a lot from this externship, like how to make do with little funds, how different medical protocols are in different countries/shelter medicine vs. private practice, and how this affects treatment plans. My veterinary knowledge is not yet extensive enough to know how to go about treating a majority of the cases that I saw at this shelter. My goals for the future are to go back to India, with more medical knowledge, and implement more efficient veterinary practice that can yield a better prognosis and be more cost efficient.