"...then just cut them off": Veterinarian Project - African Impact Blog

Author: Amalie Hertel

Amalie joined us for 4-weeks on our Veterinary Assistance and Animal Shelter Support volunteer program in Cape Town, South Africa. She chats about her experience volunteering in an animal shelter and the time she spent in South Africa.

Veterinary Care and Animal Shelter Support volunteer

Veterinary Care and Animal Shelter Support volunteer, Amalie, soothes a stray cat post-operation

I have worked at Mdzananda and at Tears where I got to meet many great veterinarians and clinic assistants. They do everything they can to save the animals and treat them with the knowledge, experience and remedies that are available.

I have seen many maltreated and sick animals that suffer because of their owner’s ignorance.  Some people don’t understand the responsibility that follows after adopting or purchasing an animal! A lot of puppies that I attended to are sick because of parvovirus because they haven’t been vaccinated – a practice all pet owners should be doing. In general, there are far too many puppies and kittens homed at welfare clinics which places a lot of pressure on rehoming them. In South African welfare clinics, all animals that are brought in are sterilised before they are rehomed or sent home.

At both Mdzananda and Tears, I was able to be hands-on. I helped out in the hospital with daily treatment. The vets were accommodating and explained anything I needed or wanted to know – treatment or medication. I got to help during surgery with administering anesthetic, I helped insert IVs, catheters and I intubated animals, I’d scrub in surgery to help hold instruments etc.

“If you prefer working with four-legged animals instead of humans, this is the program for you!”

Last but not least I got to neuter a couple of cats!

It was my first experience with sterilising a cat. The first cat I sterilised was tiny so the testis were small and difficult to work with! The very friendly vet, Patti, showed me how to handle the testis and where I should make my first incision. Since I did not have much space to work with (due to the size of the cat), I had to be careful where I cut otherwise I could have damaged the urinary system.

I incised two layers of epidermis before I got in to the testis. Then the process was quite simple – just to pop the testis out of their sack. Afterwards, I had to separate the ductus deferens (sperm ducts) and arterie spermaticus (blood vessel) and then make five knots with these two tubes. “Then just cut them off” the vet said, and the surgery was over. We didn’t even suture the skin as it would grow together naturally.

Veterinary Care and Animal Shelter Support volunteer performing a neutering operation on a stray cat at an animal shelter.

Veterinary Care and Animal Shelter Support volunteer was able to perform her first-ever neutering operation at an animal shelter whilst volunteering in Africa.

This was an once-in-a-lifetime experience! This experience has made me feel very much part of the industry. I’ve felt that the surgeries I’ve performed have made a significant difference in the amount of kittens that will be born and that will re-enter the animal welfare system.

If you are a veterinarian student or would like to be one day, you should absolutely consider applying for this project. It’s an amazing experience where you’ll make memories for life.

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