Read more about volunteer vet Harriet’s time with SPANA in Morocco…
I spent ten days at the clinic in Chemaia. Being in a fairly small rural town, it has quite a different feel to the Marrakech clinic, and everyone there told me to be ready for a variety of cases. In one particularly busy Monday at the clinic, I saw all of the following animals (plus a few extra re-visits):
• A horse with a cut on its heel bulb, which required suturing.
• A case of tetanus – we vaccinate horses in the UK against this as horses are particularly susceptible to the toxins the bacteria produce, but in Morocco the animals are not routinely vaccinated. This case wasn’t too severe, but was admitted into the clinic for daily medications, and to rest in a dark, quiet, un-stimulating environment.
• A horse with an eye infection.
• A donkey with mange – although I failed to find the mites causing it on microscopic examination, the vets at Chemaia were confident that this would be the cause. We gave him an injection to kill the mites, smothered a special concoction over his legs, and then adapted a pair of old tights for him to wear to keep the flies away – we all had a good laugh as he happily trotted out of the clinic in his stockings!
• A donkey with a large lump on his throat – turned out to be a deep abscess. He was admitted for monitoring to make sure the lump doesn’t stop him being able to breathe.
• A donkey with severe dental disease.
• A young mule with very strange lumps of either side of his face, likely to be connected to the roots of his teeth.
• A lame horse with a deep infection in the horn of its frog. The vets produced some copper sulphate crystals, a substance I haven’t seen since my A-level chemistry, created a little boot for the hoof, and poured the copper sulphate solution in, which the foot soaked in for half an hour – a unique solution!
• A horse which had food return from the nose when eating – an interesting and slightly baffling case, probably caused by a problem swallowing.
• And finally, a donkey that had become very wobbly on his feet.
That’s what I loved about the Chemaia clinic – there was such variety in the cases that came through the door. The vets out there are barely fazed by anything. I found myself frequently stumped, reaching for my books, and seeing things I’d been taught about but never seen before.
They also have many quite old fashioned but nonetheless effective ways of treating things, based on what they have available in the country. Many of the methods have been lost in England to more modern, but expensive medicine. Chemaia was truly an eye opening experience and I hope I can take this adaptability and ingenuity back to England with me.