Dr Sara Elliott is the owner of British Veterinary Hospital, Dubai’s only official such facility, with 36 staff dealing with more than 60 animal-related cases per day at the premises on Al Wasl Road. After spending the majority of her childhood living in Middle East countries, Dr Elliott, 40, completed her veterinary degree at the University of Cambridge, qualifying as its youngest-ever veterinary surgeon. After practising on the Isle of Wight, UK, she returned to her Gulf roots in 2004. The British vet shares her Meadows home with three children aged four, nine and 12, two dogs and five cats. As if not busy enough, Dr Elliott recently expanded her operation by opening a new branch in Al Warsan, at Dubai’s new Bird and Pet Market.
Sometimes I am on overnight duty, when calls can be emergencies such as a cat or dog being involved in a road accident or collapsing due to poisoning. If it is a genuine emergency, I meet the patient at the hospital where we can assess, stabilise and treat the problem.
It is like feeding time at the zoo when my day officially begins with the task of waking up three children, making lunchboxes and organising everyone for school and work. The pets are then fed and the dogs walked. The kitchen is the core of our family and most things happen there. We never have television on in the morning, preferring to use the time to talk to each other.
My eldest gets dropped off at the bus stop and I drive the other two to school. Leaving home at the right time is crucial; as little as two minutes can make the difference between getting there 10 minutes early or 15 minutes late. We prefer to get there early and use the time to catch up on reading with the children before the teacher opens the door.
At the hospital the first job is to examine and revise the day plan for each inpatient. Our early nurses have already walked, changed, medicated, fussed and groomed animals according to their overnight instructions and the staff teams are then ready to start the day. An exciting part of being a veterinary surgeon is never knowing exactly what we will face each day. We may get a frantic owner with a bulldog suffering heatstroke burst through the door or treat a cat with internal bleeding. It is my job to allocate the staff to the right areas and minimise the disruption to our routine.
It’s routine appointments and the admissions for surgeries and procedures. For example, today I saw a cat for its annual vaccination and health check, which, depending upon the pet’s nature, can mean experiencing anything from cuddling a cute kitty to it feeling more like an encounter with an angry tiger.
It’s time for consulting, performing heart ultrasounds or scrubbing in for surgery. This can be the most restful time of the day – locked in our sterile theatre where no phones are allowed. We work through a structured list of neuters, lump removals, biopsies and dental procedures, accompanied only by the comforting beeps of monitoring machines.
Today we had two emergency cases arrive at the same time – one a Rottweiler dog with a possible broken leg after being involved in a collision with a car and a cat struggling to breathe. Both situations were quite critical and had to be carefully handled concurrently by the teams.
Lunch is normally a non-event and ends up being a gobbled sandwich in the staff room. My occasional treat is a shawarma.
No two days are the same and organised chaos often resumes if we have a spate of emergencies or it is just a busy period. However, some days are very routine and in the afternoons I enjoy chatting to clients in reception, helping them choose toys, food and treats and generally discussing their issues and the funny things pets can get up to.
Sometimes, we treat an animal outside the clinic. This happens in the early afternoon when we have a number of vets on duty to minimise the impact on other clients. We recently visited a large home to treat a young lion cub with a skin problem. On this occasion we had to deal with a number of moral and clinical concerns, as we had to educate the owner on how the disease had been caused by the lion not being fed appropriately, causing it to suffer from malnutrition. We also had the responsibility of attempting to educate the owners on how these exotic species are not domesticated and cannot be treated as such, including the inherent dangers of a big cat living in the home and even sleeping in its owner’s bed.
I’m home by this time to have dinner with the children and organise homework before bedtime.
I’m in bed at a sensible hour, ready to begin a new day fresh in the morning. I am currently reading my daughter’s Rick Riordan book, which I had a look at to assess the suitability of the author and then became fascinated by his modern perspective on Greek, Roman and Norse mythology.
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