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Dagmar's Malawi Blog

Sat 11th Apr 2015

Our International Veterinary Manager, Dr Dagmar Mayer is in Malawi working alongside local vets in and around the area of Blantyre.  This week Dagmar learns a little of the Malawian language and gets used to working in some incredibly rainy conditions... Read her story here

Last weekend the BSPCA organised another successful sterilisation day. 22 animals were neutered, occasionally with the heavy rain coming sideways through the windows (there is no glass, just bars), so we had to decide if we risk getting wet or not being able to see very well: we are working next to the open windows to make the most of the light as there is no electricity in the school we are working in. I sterilised the female dogs and 3 Malawian paravets neutered male dogs.

One of the female dogs suffered from an advanced infection of her uterus (pyometra). So apart from not having to give birth to more puppies, this surgery also saved her life!

On top of sterilising the dogs they are also all treated against worms and mange and we treat other problems we notice while they are under general anaesthetic. Most of the dogs here are suffering from fly-bite dermatitis, infected, open wounds on their ears. Our treatment will at least give them some relief from flies bothering them for the next few weeks. 

One 13 year old female dog was brought to be spayed but she was just too thin and I didn’t want to risk putting her under general anaesthetic. Instead we explained the need to feed a bit more first before we can perform the surgery. It is very hard to explain about dog nutrition when it’s obvious that the owner can hardly afford enough food for himself…I see the necessity of sterilising her as she just had puppies 2 months ago, but I would have hated this lovely old dog to die under anaesthetic. 

The last week I have also started conducting a dog survey so we get a better idea about the dog population in Blantyre. Andy from Mission Rabies has been working out the areas we should cover and in three teams of 2 people each we head out in the mornings at 5am, walking every street of the given area, counting every dog we see. Every sighting we record with the help of a specifically designed Mission rabies smartphone app and Andy can then work with the data back in the UK. 

I’m slowly getting quite a good feel for this vast city and I keep recognising areas, thinking how best we will be able vaccinate the dogs against rabies here during the mass rabies vaccination project in May. 

Malawian people are incredibly friendly, children keep following us and we get asked frequently what we are up to, especially because we literally walk around their back yards, looking for dogs…My Chichewa (the local language) is also getting better: 'Mazuka buanji, katimela wa chiwewe wa galu' means 'good morning, in May we will vaccinate the dogs against rabies’….This might not get me far in everyday life but the people I meet every morning are very happy to hear this and keep thanking us!

On Tuesday Tarryn and me visited the local government laboratory and we watched while Golden’s team conducted the rabies diagnostic testing on the suspected rabid puppies from last week. The two pups which were acting so aggressive, biting the children, both tested positive for the deadly virus.

The mother of the puppies is doing well and the rabies vaccination she received last year seems to have saved her life!

We also checked up on the children of the family who owned the dogs and they are all receiving post exposure vaccinations. They have to go back to the hospital 5 times in total to be safe from this horrible disease.

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