A three-person team from the Winnipeg-based Tuxedo Animal Hospital made the journey to conduct the annual veterinary pet clinic in Rankin Inlet from Sept. 18 to 22.
The health team consisted of veterinarian Dr. Jonas Watson and registered veterinary technicians Jenn Dakin and Erin Dack.
The clinic was organized by Page Burt and John Hickes of Nanuq Lodge.
Animal health-care professionals from the Tuxedo Animal Hospital have been travelling to Rankin to deliver the clinic for the past 18 years.
“It’s a very satisfying feeling to be delivering our services to people and pets in parts of the country where we’re needed the most,” said Watson. “From an animal-welfare perspective, making veterinary medicine accessible to remote communities like Rankin Inlet is very important.”
The health team attended to about 85 animals during the visit, with about half their furry patients being seen for spay-and-neuter surgeries and half for wellness exams and vaccine administration.
Watson said access to regular veterinary visits has probably improved overall animal health and welfare in Rankin Inlet during the past 18 years.
He said there’s still room for improvement with pet spaying and neutering in Rankin, with the visiting team doing about the same number of surgeries each year.
“There are probably populations – and pet owners – we’re never quite getting to that are still contributing to dog overpopulation in the community,” said Watson.
There are many health benefits to an individual animal that has been spayed or neutered, he said.
Spaying a female dog eliminates the risk of deadly uterine infections and greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancers, he said.
In a male dog, neutering helps prevent testicular cancers, prostatic disease and some anal gland problems. It also reduces certain undesirable testosterone-fuelled behaviours.
Cases of distemper and rabies in wildlife have been identified in and around the Rankin area over the years, which means it’s important to vaccinate pets in the Kivalliq.
Watson said the first indications of the virus expressing itself in a beloved family pet may include neurological signs – seizures, dullness and aggression – and other behavioural changes.
He said it’s quite possible for an owner not to notice the symptoms until their animal becomes aggressive.
“The onset can be insidious, but sometimes an owner will know the animal has had an interaction with a wild animal such as a fox.
“If that has happened, you want to make sure your dog is revaccinated to decrease the likelihood of it getting infected. These diseases are entirely preventable through vaccination,” he said.
During a routine exam, an animal health-care professional looks for a lean body condition, clean teeth, a healthy, shiny coat and the absence of any sign of skin, ear or eye infections.
When it comes to ‘treats’ and how many are enough to harm your pet with kindness, going by the recommendations on your dog or cat’s pet-food bag is a useful guideline, said Watson.
“Then it’s about feeding according to body condition, such that you can easily feel their ribs over their chest when you run your hands over their body.
“And, when you look at them from the side, they should have an obvious abdominal tuck inwards.
“We recommend annual examinations because they allow the veterinarian to detect things a pet owner may not be able to appreciate.
Watson said most of the contagious diseases a dog is going to encounter in Rankin Inlet are preventable with vaccinations while some infectious diseases, such as worms, can also be prevented by regular deworming protocols.
“Most problems we see related to infectious diseases are preventable ones.
“When we see a bout of kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) flare up in the south, it usually lasts a couple of months, so, conceivably, something like that could make its way up here, but it’s not that serious.
Overall, the pet population in Rankin is doing pretty well, he said, but an emerging infectious disease they’ve been watching for is canine flu.
“It’s not something we’ve seen very much of down south, but we suspect it’s on its way to us,” said Watson.