As many of you may know, I have recently made the big move from the UK to the Middle East, where I am now practicing as a small animal vet in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates. It is a move that has been many months in the making, with a lot of paperwork and organisation involved before being able to finally get on the plane and head over to a new life here in the sun and heat. In terms of Vet School Success, I intend to continue my work on the subject of vet school applications and careers from over here, such is the wonder of the world wide web 🙂
I thought it might be of some interest to you to offer an insight into the work of vets over here, compared to the UK where most of you will be seeing practice, either as a point of interest alone or because you might one day see yourself packing your bags to work and travel in far flung lands. Either way, I hope you find the following interesting. If you want to read more about this new Middle Eastern adventure ‘Dune Under’ then feel free to head on over to my personal blog (The Nerdy Vet), where you can get the whole exciting story as it unfolds, chapter by chapter.
So, what are the main differences between doing the work of a small animal vet in the UK and here in Dubai? Well, there are a number of differences, spread across a number of specific catagories. These are:
In order to work as a vet here I have had to provide a lot of paperwork, from notarised, legalised and equivalised copies of my GCSE, A-level and degree certificates, to signed and similarly legalised accounts of my employment for the past five years. In order to work as a vet here you have to show evidence of a minimum of 5 years of work experience, so it is not currently an option for someone fresh out of university.
Believe it or not but I have to sit an exam in order to be fully registered here. I was due to sit it a couple of days after arriving but ended up missing that one and so am yet to do it. All it means, however, is that I am currently not able to be in the clinic as the sole vet, so its not really something that is impeding my ability to work effectively anyway. The exam itself is a range of short and long answer questions, primarily on UAE guidelines and laws relating to veterinary, and a lot on notifiable diseases, many of which I hadn’t read about since vet school itself.
They’re very cautious about who is let in to work in Dubai, and pretty much the first thing I had to do on landing was head to a clinic for a full health screen, involving a blood test and chest X-ray, looking for TB. Needless to say I passed, otherwise i’d have been put straight back a plane for London!
It is hot – very hot – outside and thankfully we have the luxury, or rather necessity, of air-conditioning, without which it would soon become uncomfortable to work properly. At the time of writing, the average daily temperature is about 30 Celcius, although it is just heading into Spring now, with Summer being the time when the temperature really ramps up. I have been informed by numerous people here that the Summer here is a whole other ball game, with temperatures of 50 Celcius the norm, and humidity approaching 90% plus! Basically, too hot and humid to spend any real time outside, which just seems nuts coming from the UK. We shall see and I will report back on how I am faring. Unless I melt, which by the sounds of it is a distinct possibility!
Not a huge difference in terms of the species I get to see, with most of the clinic’s work being with dogs and cats. However, many of the animals, and especially the cats, have a little more attitude. The cats I have met so far have generally been psychotic and ready and willing to bite and scratch at the slightest chance given. The career-long run of avoiding cat bites that I have been so careful and keen to avoid may, I fear, come to an end at the teeth of a Dubai cat. Antibiotics and swear box at the ready!
Not a comment on the social scene but rather the relative difficulty there is in getting many of the medications that I had taken for granted back home in the UK. Instead of being able to just put in one order with a single supplier, and get stock the next day, here the clinic has a Herculean task of dealing with multiple suppliers, with orders often having to be placed and paid for months in advance. Certain medications, such as opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, are simply illegal and so completely unavailable, which has demanded a bit of a rethink on analgesia and seizure management.
One good thing, however, is that without any form of Cascade system in place, we are very free to use whichever drugs we feel would be best for our patients, regardless of whether they are specifically licensed for use in animals or not. That certainly makes treatment options a lot more interesting, and there are some medications which are used here that I personally have no experience of prescribing, meaning that I have some serious learning to do.
Basically, we vaccinate against everything, including rabies, every year. Animals also have to be microchipped and have a new Municipality tag, which is basically a Government registration, each year. This is supposed to be worn on the collar and is issued at the same time as rabies vaccination is boosted.
Given the climate, we see a fair amount of infectious and parasitic disease, with blood infections such as ehrlichiosis and haemobartonella encountered far more than I ever would have seen in an entire career in the UK. Tick borne diseases are common, whereas fleas are fairly rare – quite the opposite to the UK. In terms of skin problems, we see a lot of ringworm and ear mites, and I have already seen a really severe case of psoroptic mange in a bunny, that resulted in it having to be euthanased.
There is very little in the way of options to refer complicated cases here, with the closest decent orthopod down in Abu Dhabi. This means that a lot more of the caseload we see remains in house for us to do the best we can for our patients. As such, there is all likelihood of seeing some very interesting cases, many of which would probably have been referred out the door back home.
The lifestyle, especially in the winter months when it is nice and pleasantly warm outside, is great, with opportunities to really indulge in the kind of leisure activities that you would normally have to wait until the summer for, or freeze, back home in the UK. These include kitesurfing, which I was doing only yesterday, and skydiving, which I was doing last weekend. We also get some amazing sporting and music events coming to the area too, with big name acts to see and tickets that don’t sell out in five seconds flat.
So, that is just a bit of a potted account of the main differences that I have found as a new small animal vet here in Dubai. If you have any specific questions about any of it then feel free to send them over, or ask away on the Facebook page.
Until next time