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Small Animal Practice in Nigeria: The Art of Improvisation

Olatunji Nasir, DMV, MVsc (Surger), MCVSN, Lagos State, Nigeria

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With a range and high level of services, this hospital seeks to provide care that is beyond the scope of typical practices, with a goal of enhancinganimal welfare and professional competency in the region.

Truthmiles Animal Hospital is a small animal veterinary clinic located in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State, in southwestern Nigeria. It was established July 1, 2004, with the vision of becoming the best veterinary care provider in Nigeria, with outstanding application of knowledge, impeccable service delivery, and devotion to patients and clients. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including public holidays, the hospital is co-owned by Olatunji Nasir, DVM, MVsc (Surgery), MCVSN, and Abimbola Oshin, DVM, MS, MBA, MRCVS, DACVS, DECVS, who just bought into the practice. The team consists of 5 full-time veterinarians and 6 technicians.

A Gamut of Services

Our services include: surgery; reproductive and wellness clinics; emergency/critical care; immunologic services provided in concert with Biogal-Galed Labs in Israel; allergy testing in collaboration with Spectrum Labs, Arizona, United States; diagnostic imaging (eg, ultrasonography, radiology); and nutritional, grooming, ambulatory, and laboratory services (eg, dermatology, fecal microscopy, urinalysis, blood cytology, vaginal cytology). Hematology and full blood chemistry, previously outsourced to a diagnostic facility next door, will be provided in-house as of the first quarter of 2016. Boarding facilities are also available. In Nigeria, such ancillary services are vital to the survival of any veterinary hospital. Truthmiles, which offers advanced knowledge and equipment not found in other veterinary clinics in the region, is also a referral center for surgical and complex clinical cases.

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Continuing education is made available for practicing/resident veterinarians through the founding owner, who brings in experts in various fields of veterinary practice from within and outside the country. The facility has recently begun providing a learning ground for veterinary students as well, with more than 50 students enlisted to date. The Truthmiles team members are masters in improvisationdoing what is necessary to promote state-of-the-art practice.

The Nature of Care

Apart from preventive care (eg, vaccinations, deworming, routine examination), our caseload includes babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, which are endemic as a result of inadequate ectoparasite control. Parvoviral enteritis is also common because of lack of vaccination and slack biosecurity measures in the region. Awareness of skin tumors and general dermatologic issues (eg, various forms of dermatitis) is increasing. Gastrointestinal disorders and toxicoses are also seen. Rabies is a major public health concern. Every dog within the Nigerian territory must be vaccinated annually, so related traffic is usually great.

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In Nigeria, high-net-worth individuals and expatriates consider pets part of the family and are willing to go the extra mile in terms of their medical care. Breeders, too, consider broad medical care important; they realize revenue from selling puppies and would do anything to protect their breeding stock.

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Because of cost, the average Nigerian limits pet medical care to routine vaccinations and deworming, which are viewed as necessary because of legal issues that could arise from failing to secure these services. Although Nigerian law protects animal welfare, enforcement is poor. Combined with the social belief that places animals far below humans in status, public opinion regarding the importance of veterinarians is low. Recent activities and increased visibility of professional veterinary associations such as the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) and Small Animal Veterinary Association, Nigeria (SAVAN) are gradually changing this perception.

Nevertheless, all of these factorscombined with the concerns of poverty and lack of adequate institutional supporttranslate to a situation in which the typical small animal veterinarian struggles to deliver expected services to clients who contest the smallest of bills. It is still incomprehensible to most clients why they should pay what is required for veterinary services. This public attitude means that diagnostics are typically declined and pets bear the consequences. In a vicious cycle, veterinarians do not feel the need to acquire complex equipment. There is, however, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel as the emerging middle class begins to have an effect on demands and attitudes.

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Nigerian pet owners more widely embrace neutering in male dogs than in females because of the assumption that males become more docile once castrated. Spaying is mostly used therapeutically for pyometra; the average Nigerian owner wants puppies from his bitch.

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Euthanasia is not readily accepted by clients, who consider it murder. Letting go in terminal cases or when medical bills will be unacceptably high is a concept that we need to discuss at length with our clients.

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