Monday, May 30, 2016

Can exams be relaxing?

Drs Brian McErlean, Cathy Warburton and Helen Jones-Fairnie at the Wellness Centre.

Do you enjoy conferences, or do you sometimes find yourself conferenced out? The Australian Veterinary Association annual conference has wound down, and while I enjoyed every minute I found myself a bit tired afterwards.

Then came the profound insight from a colleague: “You paid attention in lectures, didn’t you?”

Ahhh, yes. Though I am glad I did – the program was amazing and I’ll be sharing some highlights over the coming weeks.

Conferences are exhausting for the same reasons they are awesome – they’re highly concentrated, over-stimulating, sensory-overloading events. Every fifty metres I ran into someone I’d not seen for ages and engaged in amazing discussions. And then there were sessions, plenaries and workshops.

For me there were a couple of little havens to recharge. One was the Wellness Centre, where the trusty volunteers who know how important well-being is for our profession provide a space where you can learn more about managing anxiety and depression, undertake a simple health check, look at photos and artworks created by vets and just have a no-stress natter with someone who’s been there, done that or knows someone who has.

exams invigilators AVBC
The friendly invigilators from the Australian Veterinary Boards Council were present to ensure the exams were conducted appropriately and that candidates went into the draw for a nice bottle of wine.
The other is the Australian Veterinary Boards Council examination room. I know. Exams. Aren’t they meant to be super stressful? Sure, if your performance is being assessed. But if it’s about validating questions for those undertaking our national veterinary examination, and its anonymous, AND you can take a cup of tea and lunch in, AND there’s no time limit, AND it’s just a quiet, spacious room where you have your own little desk with free stationary, then it’s actually a picnic. Plus for each of the five papers you do (approximately 20 minutes each), you can earn a continuing professional development point as you’re allowed to check your answers and provide feedback about the questions. This is and has been one of my favourite stands in the exhibition hall. And maybe it’s a good way to desensitise people around exams.

veterinary exams
This is me re-enacting the exam. Note the peace and quiet. NB the answers on the sheet are for a different paper, and I didn't score 100 per cent so zooming in won't help if you're looking for clues!
I think that veterinarians in practice as well as academia should be allowed to submit multiple choice questions as part of continuing professional development. As a student I had no idea how involved MCQ writing can be, but now that I’ve done it I realise how much of an effort it is – and how much research can be involved – in constructing a fair, appropriate MCQ.
It must be time for me to
  • a) make a cup of tea
  • b) walk Phil
  • c) feed the cats
  • d) all of the above
  • e) pyometra

Friday, May 27, 2016

Separation anxiety in dogs

dogs separation anxiety behaviour welfare
Sadie the doodle demonstrates a dog mounted camera.
The AVA Annual Conference is in full swing, and keynote speaker in the behaviour stream, Professor Xavier Manteca has been sharing his knowledge about the behaviour of small and large animals. He provided an interesting update on separation anxiety in dogs. Given this is a massive welfare issue, affecting a huge number of dogs, I thought I’d share some key points I’d learned.

First some background – the figures vary between studies, but separation anxiety and related behaviours may account for 15 per cent of behaviour cases seen in general practice, and 40 per cent of cases seen by behaviour specialists. In a UK study, only 13 per cent of owners of affected dogs sought veterinary advice. Male dogs are more commonly affected, as are some breeds (e.g. cocker spaniels). Separation anxiety can lead to dog to be surrendered or euthanased. Furthermore, unmanaged separation anxiety can cause severe, prolonged distress.

The most common signs are
  • Vocalisations (in one study, over 80 per cent of dogs with separation anxiety vocalise, which can be a nightmare not just for dogs and owners but also neighbours)
  • Inappropriate toileting
  • Increased activity/movement/restlessness
  • Anorexia
  • Excessive salivation

In addition there are other disease associations, e.g. dogs with separation anxiety have increased skin conditions.

As technology becomes less expensive and more user friendly, I find a lot of clients who have concerns about their dog’s behaviour are hooking up webcams and streaming footage to their phone. This is actually VERY helpful, as most dogs are unlikely to exhibit signs of separation anxiety when their owner is present with them in a consult room. And being anxious when left at the vet isn’t diagnostic, because it’s quite common. So that cover home footage is very useful.

So what did I learn?
  1. Not all dogs show signs. In some dogs, anxiety may trigger behavioural inhibition – i.e. they become much less active. These dogs may be just as anxious but they’re unlikely to be presented to a vet. They may suffer more than the dog’s whose suffering is more obvious to us.
  2. Dogs with separation anxiety have a negative cognitive bias. Cognitive bias refers to a change in thinking due to our emotional state. So dogs with a negative cognitive bias are more likely to interpret a neutral cue as negative, whereas those with a positive cognitive bias are more likely to interpret a neutral cue as positive (the glass-half-empty and glass-half-full approaches to life, respectively). Separation anxiety, according to current evidence, is associated with a long-lasting, negative affective or emotional state in affected dogs. This is an issue because we tend to think dogs with separation anxiety are totally fine when their owners are present. But recent studies suggest that their background emotional state may be negative.
  3. Separation anxiety is not just about hyperattachment to the owner or owners. Typically we think the dog with separation anxiety simply cannot bear to be parted from a particular owner. But not all dogs with separation anxiety have hyperattachment, and not all hyperattached dogs develop separation anxiety. Other possible causes include contextual fear (something scary happens to the dog when alone, resulting in a fear of being left alone) or inappropriate attachment (dogs are insecure because the owners tend to avoid them or be ambivalent about them).The latter is likely to occur when owners are not consistent or predictable.
  4. The mainstays of treatment are the same – medication (anxiolytics), environmental enrichment, and behavioural modification. Environmental enrichment is supposed to work by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels, but at the level of behaviour it gives dogs something to spend their time budget on other than being anxious. Interestingly, Dr Manteca does not recommend the usual strategy of owners avoiding giving cues they are about to leave. He suggested the opposite: increasing predictability of the owner’s departure by making it clear the owner will leave. According to Dr Manteca, “Unlike the standard treatment recommended so far by most authors, we recommend increasing the predictability of the owner’s departure. This is because the perception of predictability is one of the main psychological modulators of the stress response: predictable aversive events are less stressful than non-predictable ones, as animals will be able to identify safe periods during which the event will not occur. In contrast, unpredictable aversive events, when animals are unable to identify safe periods, are more likely to elicit a state of chronic anxiety.” If you know something bad is going to happen, but don’t know when, it’s more stressful than knowing when.

He recommends maintaining the cues that signal departure (hanging an umbrella on the back of the door, for example), and adding an additional cue that can be placed by the exit just prior to departure. This can be removed on return. Dogs can first be habituated to separation by “fake” departures, using a different cue (such as taping a white piece of paper to the back of the door) than you will eventually use for the real departures.  Dogs can be left for short periods of increasing length to help desensitise them, over a period of around 6-7 weeks.

Ultimately, consistency in our interactions with dogs is key.

Again as a companion animal vet it makes me very happy to learn about increased research into the mental health of animals.

If you want to read more on the mental wellbeing of animals, check out our interview withDr Katrina Ward.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A spoon playing world record, pets in apartments and animal hoarding

We need to focus on living well with companion animals. This is Chiana enjoying the dog park.

SAT interviewee Deb “Spoons” Perry is an animal lover but also plays stainless steel spoons. Today she will be attempting to smash a world record. She’s been invited to play at the TEDx Sydney Event in the main Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. The current world record for people playing spoons is 1800. That’s 1800 people making music with spoons.

This afternoon, 15 minutes before afternoon tea, Deb will perform to “Lonely Boy” then proceed to teach 2500 (hopefully more) TEDx delegates how to play “Dumb Things” by Paul Kelly.

If you’re at TEDx, make sure you’re in the audience equipped with your spoon. We wish Deb the very best in her world record attempt.

This week is the last week to register your support for the proposed NSW Strata Regulations. Urban cultural geographer Emma Power explains why this is a good idea in this article for The Conversation.

Animal hoarding is a serious animal welfare issue, one for which there is no easy solution. The University of Sydney worked with the RSPCA to identify key characteristics of persons convicted for hoarding relatedoffences.

This week, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald mentions new findings by Drs Rosemary Elliot and John Snowden. This article is particularly insightful as it contains a first person account of animal hoarding from someone who proactively sought help, and who obviously had a great GP. Read more here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Small animal nutrition - what's the big deal?

How much do you know about small animal nutrition?

Do you know enough about companion animal nutrition? Professor David Fraser AM is a giant in the field of nutrition and a world-expert on vitamin D (sometimes we don’t know how important these things are til we have a relative excess or deficiency). Nutrition impacts animal health and welfare, and is always the subject of vigorous, heated debate within and outside our profession. Professor Fraser answered our questions about nutrition.

In what key ways does small animal nutrition differ from human nutrition?

In general human and dog and cat nutrition are rather similar. However, there are differences and in particular there are differences between dog and cat nutrition.

A major difference between nutrition of these animals and the human is in calcium and phosphorus requirements.  All animals (including the human) have the ability to adapt to a shortfall in the calcium content of the food they eat.  Provided that they have adequate vitamin D status the capacity for absorbing calcium from food can be increased so that an absolute percentage of calcium in food is not needed. Flexibility in absorption capacity can compensate for variation in calcium content over quite a wide range.

However, and here is the big difference with humans, the calcium and phosphorus in the food of cats and dogs (and other domestic animals) has to be in the range of 1:1 to 2:1 calcium to phosphorus on a weight basis.  If the ratio is outside that range, particularly during growth, then severe bone undermineralisation and deformity will occur.  In contrast, such a relationship between the need for calcium and phosphorus in human diets does not seem to exist.  The typical western diet is high in phosphorus and low in calcium and no harmful consequences seem to follow. 

If such a diet were fed as the only food to dogs and cats they would develop bone disease, which in the jaws would lead to loss of teeth and gingivitis.  Before commercial pet foods became widely used in the feeding of dogs and cats, these animals were fed essentially on meat alone – high in phosphorus, very low in calcium.  As a results defective bones and teeth were frequently seen in veterinary practice. 

Another thing to note is that the cat most certainly and the dog, probably, are unable to obtain vitamin D from solar UV irradiation of skin.  They therefore need a dietary supply of this substance. The human on the other hand, eats foods that contain trivial amounts of vitamin D and depends almost entirely on exposure of skin to sunlight in order to acquire vitamin D.

The other thing to note is that the dog is a carnivorous omnivore, whereas the cat is an obligate carnivore.  This imposes differences on their nutrient requirements.  The cat has a higher protein requirement than the dog as it needs dietary amino acids to convert to glucose to maintain blood glucose concentration.  The cat also has a whole host of micronutrients that it has to get from food, whereas the dog is able to make a lot of these.  E.g. the cat requires a dietary source of preformed vitamin A, taurine, nicotinic acid, and gamma linolenic acid and arachidonic acid.  The cat also has higher requirements than dogs for sulphur containing amino acids and arginine.  These are all related to changes in metabolic processes associated with being entirely dependent on food from eating other animals.

What are the consequences of feeding a poor diet to dogs and cats?

This depends really on what is a poor diet.  The points in the above answer cover a lot of what could be considered poor diets.  Perhaps the major types of poor diets are those which provide insufficient protein or too much or too little metabolisable energy. 

Too little protein, particularly for cats will result in muscle wasting as non-essential proteins are broken down to supply amino acids for proteins essential for survival. The energy density of food for dogs and cats should ideally range from 4 to 4.5 kcal metabolisable energy (ME) per gram of dry matter.  If the energy concentration is below that range, dogs in particular may not be able to increase their food intake to provide them with enough ME and so they will lose weight. 

A more significant problem is if the energy density is well above 4.5 kcal ME/g, particularly if the food is highly palatable.  Dogs and cats will be inclined to eat more of such food than is needed to meet their energy expenditure and they will gain weight and eventually become obese. I suspect that the increase in prevalence of obesity of dogs and cats is a combination of the excess consumption of very palatable foods and lack of physical exercise.  Commercial foods compete with each other mainly on the basis of palatability.  Hence overeating is likely to result when a dog or cat likes a particular brand of food and it is provided by its owner in ad libitum amounts.

Has the advent of premium pet foods solved nutritional problems in animals? If not, why not?

I suspect that all pet foods on the market are formulated to match the AAFCO feeding standards for each species.  There may be differences in the digestibility of some food components – an increase in the amount of vegetable or cereal matter in a food may decrease the digestibility. 

Premium pet foods probably have higher proportions of the type of foodstuffs that dogs and cats would be eating in the wild.  They almost certainly have very high palatability that would help to confirm that the dog or cat eating them considers they are close to their ideal food. 

However, I think that analysis for all the essential nutrients would show that the premium foods are quite similar to those that are cheaper.

Why do you think it is important for vets to learn more about nutrition?

Nutritional knowledge can be used not just to advise on how to feed a particular species of animal but also it can help in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.  In the early 1980’s a survey was done by, I think the Australian Veterinary Association, of vets who had graduated five years earlier.  They were asked what aspect of their veterinary science course could have been improved, in the light of their experience in veterinary practice. 

A frequent response was that they felt that nutrition was appallingly taught because they found that they frequently needed nutritional knowledge and it wasn’t there.  In actual fact, nutrition had been well taught in the BVSc degree at that time, but it was a second year subject.  By the time students were learning clinical veterinary medicine, their memory of nutrition was fading and by the time they graduated it had virtually disappeared [Ed: That was my experience too].  Nutrition is really a subject that should be taught in an integrated way with clinical veterinary medicine so that its relevance can be more easily understood and thus, more likely to be part of the mental framework of being a veterinarian.

Do you have any advice for vets or future vets about nutrition?

Wow! I wouldn’t presume to provide any advice other than the general point that veterinary medicine is applied comparative biology.  By having a good understanding of the knowledge of how healthy animals function in all aspects of their lives and also the differences between species, the detection and correction of abnormalities in those functions would be more readily done.  Understanding the principles of nutrition and how malnutrition can occur should be part of the mental framework of a vet, regardless of the career path they are following.

Professor Fraser is teaching a short, online course on small animal nutrition through the Centre for Veterinary Education. For more information visit here

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Vetanswers interviews us about blogging

Want to know more about blogging?

Judy from Vetanswers interviewed us about the ins and outs of blogging. Of course the day I write that I post every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday is the day I miss a Saturday post due to unforeseen (aren’t they all?) circumstances.

Checkout the Vetanswers post, one of the “Inside Veterinary Blogs: How You Can Join the Pack” series, here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The science of shelters: interview with Nell Thompson and Cindy Karsten

Cindy, Trish and Nell - helping shelters help everyone.

When I grew up, animal shelters were chaotic, overcrowded, feared destinations from which animals were unlikely to return. That has changed rapidly. Shelters are transforming into adoption centres, pro-actively promoting animal welfare and increasingly analysing data to improve their performance. Two people who have been influential in this field are Nell Thompson and Dr Cindy Karsten.

Nell  was appointed as Coordinator of the national Getting 2 Zero program in July 2012. Nell has worked in the animal welfare, care and veterinary sectors for over 20 years and was the Victorian G2Z representative since the development of the G2Z program. Her background in shelter operations and management and animal health is a great resource for Councils, shelters and all groups and individuals involved in the program. Nell is passionate about improving outcomes for pets who enter the shelter and pound systems and strongly believes that the best results occur when animal welfare and animal management are working together towards the same goals.

Cynthia (Cindy) Karsten, DVM graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in 2010 and went on to complete a shelter medicine internship at Colorado State University.  She finished her Shelter Medicine Residency at UC Davis in 2014 and is now the Outreach Veterinarian with the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.  Her main areas of interest include infectious disease control, population management, intake diversion/pet retention programs and community medicine. She has participated in numerous game-changing shelter consultations at both rural and urban, national and international animal care facilities, where she has identified far-reaching solutions in the face of limited resources.

How did you get together and end up collaborating?

I was looking for a speaker to present on shelter med issues for the 6th National G2Z Summit (a biennial nationalconference on companion animal welfare and management issues) and contacted Dr Kate Hurley of the UC DavisKoret Shelter Medicine program. Kate presented for us in 2011 and suggested Dr Cynthia Karsten would be a good match for our needs and audience. Needless to say Cindy was a huge success and we invited her and Trish McMillan Loehr to visit an Australian shelter with us to do a shelter consultation.

The combination of the shelter med and behaviour perspectives was identified as being extremely valuable and covered the spectrum of shelter issues and challenges very nicely providing holistic solutions and recommendations. This visit was so successful that we decided to offer the Australian shelter, rescue and pound community the opportunity to tap into this expert resource and we have just completed a 3-week road trip covering two states and visiting 7 organisations. The feedback has once again been fantastic and we are looking forward to travelling to other states next year to spread the progressive sheltering word!

Why, in the age of huge awareness about responsible pet ownership, do we still find so many companion animals in shelters?

“Responsible pet ownership” means many different things to different people. I think we need to be clearer on what we (in the sector) need this to mean to people i.e. Desex, Identify, Train and Keep Safe. We also need to empower people to do this by employing supportive, non-judgemental and non-enforcement means.

Basic vet care (i.e. desexing surgeries, vaccination, microchips) is out of the reach of many pet owners. Just as basic health care would be out of their reach if we didn’t have Medicare. Perhaps we should be considering spending the enormous amount of money, spent by not-for-profit and Local Government each year on housing and disposing of stray and unwanted pets, on preventive strategies such as low/no cost desexing, low/no cost pet training classes and a myriad of other supportive measures.

The topic of ‘responsible pet ownership’ has been a very common topic for discussion lately and was actually a special session at the recent 2016 HSUS Animal Care Expo in Las Vegas.  A recent HSUS blog post discusses an important way to consider‘responsible pet ownership’.

How can the numbers of animals in shelters be reduced?

Most pets end up in pounds and shelters as strays and many of these are microchipped but the details are often not up to date making contacting the owner difficult, if not impossible. This is a message we have not successfully integrated into the community. Are we furnishing newly adopted and reclaimed pets with a good ole fashioned collar and tag? The research shows this works best when physically placed onto the pet at the time of release. [Ed. Definitely very helpful - often means that animals are returned to owners within minutes, if not hours, of being lost].

Cats are still the main issue when it comes to overpopulation, we need to ut more resources into low/no cost desexing while also considering changes to management of cats by shelters and pounds in general.

Educating and training veterinarians on paediatric desexing of cats is extremely important as cats can be ready to breed by4 months of age. The data shows that >90%of owned cats are desexed but this is unfortunately taken from the information relating to registered cats. There are many people who still do not register their cats (for a variety of reasons) so this is giving a false impression of the numbers of pet cats that are desexed. It also does not take into account those cats that were desexed after they had an “oops” litter which is happening commonly with cats. Desexing them after they have bred is great but it would be better to have done it before the horse left the stable in the first place. The three main reasons why people do not desex are: lack of knowledge (didn’t realise siblings can breed, didn’t realise cats can breed so young etc.), lack of resources (money, etc.) and access to affordable services. You can live in the suburbs but if you do not have a car or someone to drive you, a cat carrier and the spare money it can all get too hard really quickly.

The other major driver of pets into pounds and shelters is the lack of pet friendly accommodation. The HSUS is taking this on with their new initiative Pets Are Welcome.

Some shelters talk about resurrender of animals following a “honeymoon period”. What is the honeymoon period?

Not sure about this one so can’t comment.  I’ve never really heard shelters talk about this but I do always talk with shelters how the adoption is the start of a relationship with folks in the community and not the end of the relationship with the animal.  Let folks know that the shelter is there to support the new owner and the pet in any way that they can.  However, if it is not working out, no pressure, the animal is also always welcomed back or support them in rehoming the pet on their own.

What can be done to reduce resurrender of animals?

We can try to make the best match that we can at the time of the adoption and then support, support, support! What do we need to do to help keep that pet in the home?

If a pet is resurrendered after a recent adoption, then we need to take the opportunity to learn more about how that pet was in the home so that we can find a new home that is more suitable or help that pet through rehabilitation if required. We can also try to find a more suitable pet for that adopter rather than push them away which will mean pushing them towards a pet shop or online purchase.

This goes for pets being surrendered in the first place as well as strays being reclaimed by their owners. Are they having problems with behaviour? Fencing issues? Affording food and/or medical care?  It will be less expensive for us in the long run if we can meet people where they are at and work with them to keep their own pet.

One criticism of the “adopt-don’t-shop” model is that many suitable pet owners are not deemed suitable as adopters by shelters. Is this a recognised problem?

Looking at the prohibitive messages that many shelters and rescues have on their websites, before the potential adopter has even got in front of the pets in their care I would say yes. Add to this some of the less than flattering descriptions and write ups commonly seen on cage cards and internet profiles it’s not surprising that many people are still sourcing their pets from online sources and pet stores.

Requirements such as home visits, landlord checks, no kids under whatever age, etc., etc. are just putting barriers in the way of potential adopters. Add to that the cost of adopting a pet and it’s enough to tip people over the edge. While it is still possible to obtain a kitten free to good home in the community we cannot afford to be putting excessive adoption fees on our pets (particularly cats). Fee waived does not mean care waived. We can still use our regular adoption processes (as long as they are reasonable!) but ask for a donation at the time of adoption rather than a required fee. It’s not reducing the value of the pet in the adopter’s eyes, there is plenty of research around this that shows these pets are just as valued as thosepurchased elsewhere for higher amounts.

It’s also not impulse buying. Once again research shows that these pets are remaining with their adoptive owners as long as other pets sourced from other providers. One of the activities that we ran during our recent shelter visits was a "“stand up sit down” game using common adoption requirements. In one of the sessions, none of us, including all the staff, would have been allowed to adopt a pet! We could hear the minds blowing that afternoon…

What can be done about it? 

We have to trust, support and enable the community to do the “right” thing. Just hanging onto these pets in our shelters is not the answer. They don’t get “better” being incarcerated. It’s not even the answer in a foster home as we need to make way for the next one needing our help.

We hear about puppy factories and see footage in the news of ghastly, squalid conditions. Surely this can’t be that common in Australia?

It is fairly common in Australia, they are often located in rural areas and out of the way so many people do not realise how many there are. People may also not pick up their new pet from the actual location it was bred in (i.e. purchasing online, pet store or meeting at a pick up location) so they do not realise where the pet originated. Many of these dogs are sold on-line and thus buyers do not have a clear picture of where the dogs are coming from and the lack of welfare afforded to them.

What can be done about puppy factories?

It is certainly an animal welfare issue due to the conditions these animals live in but it is probably not the greatest contributor to our companion animal welfare and management issues. We need to encourage legislation such as Breeder Permit legislation which requires an inspection using best practice (not minimum standard) compulsory standards and the breeder using a traceable permit number when advertising their offspring. This way the consumer can trace the origins of the pet, be confident it was bred and raised in the very best of conditions and the welfare of all animals involved is assured.

What could we do to make the world better for non-human animals?

In terms of our stray and unwanted companion animals we need to look at our data. This sector has not been great at collecting and reviewing relevant data. We need to do this in order to develop and implement strategies to solve the issues facing the sector. Who are the animals coming in to our facilities? Where are they coming from? What are the barriers facing them in regards to leaving these facilities healthy and happy?

A good place to start is ensuring that all pet owners have access to affordable (to them) pet care and food/supplies needed for their pet.  Supporting all pet owners to allow them to care for their pets to the best of their capacity will keep both pets and people happy together.

Any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

Learn more about Shelter Medicine! It’s not just about desexing, vaccinating and euthanizing. It’s the science behind good shelter and pound management, the whole story.

Learn to desex paediatrics and take those skills into your new job. If your bosses are not comfortable doing it ask them if you can offer that service. Learn about companion animal behaviour, and human behaviour!

And remember why you went into this profession in the first place.  When you can be anything, be kind.  

Thank you Nell and Cindy. Its great to see these kind of initiatives empowering shelters. For more info check out the Getting 2 Zero site here. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Documenting the bond between homeless people and their animal companions: interview with photographer Linda Warlond

Photographer Linda Warlond.

Linda Warlond is a former veterinary nurse, award-winning photographer and co-founder and co-director of Pets in the Park. She spoke to SAT about capturing the bond between homeless people and their non-human companions.

How did you become involved in Pets in the Park?

My dearest friend Vicki Cawsey was on a mission to service the homeless community and their animal companions. She went on a search to see if there was any veterinary service for the homeless to help care for their pets. This is when she found Dr Mark Westman who was offering vaccinations for pets of the homeless community in the Parramatta area. My background is veterinary nursing so it was natural that Vicki invited me to join in on her mission to set up a clinic at Darlinghurst. At this time we joined forces along with Dr Mark Westman and Dr Leah Skelsey and established Pets in the Park Darlinghurst.

You are the official photographer for PITP. Why is it important to document this initiative?

I love my role as official photographer for PITP, that is in a volunteer capacity. The images I share with PITP help raise awareness of the services we offer. Photographs highlight the love between the owner and pet and help breakdown judgement on who should and should not have a companion animal in their lives.

Companion animals in many cases are providing a community service and deserve basic health care. The photographs I take show the animals being cared for and the volunteers that help care for them. My photographs also document the commitment of the companion animal owners bringing them to the monthly clinics at PTIP where they are welcomed and acknowledged for taking responsibility in attending the monthly clinics to receive all the basic treatments and health checks needed.

Love is the colour: a beautiful portrait by Linda Worland.

What non-humans do you share your life with?

My family share a home with a 13-year-old Whippet named Chilli, a 3-year-old Papion x Pomeranian named Vincenzo – mostly known as Enzo – and two Koi carp – Hiro and Tako.

How did you meet?

My family and I thought very carefully about what dog would best suit our lifestyle at the time we chose Chilli. I have to say he has been a very special dog and we could not have made a better choice for us. Enzo had been surrendered to a vet clinic with a condition that required around the clock nursing care. He spent the first six months of his life at a veterinary clinic. I took him home for some respite and the rest is history. The koi are so calming to watch and are handfed by my husband every afternoon.

What do you do to spend time together?

I love spending time with Chilli and Enzo in the bush or beach walk with their playmates. However I work many hours a week so it is not unusual for them to join me in the car while I run errands or to keep my office couch warm while I’m editing. We love our afternoon meet and greet at our local oval where all the dogs from our street come together. Snuggle time when watching TV or taking a nap on the garden couch. Enzo likes nothing more than when he hears the word “bedtime!”. He very quickly makes his way to the end of my bed to nest in for the night. Chilli is in his senior years and prefers to have a bed of his own that 
he doesn’t have to jump up to and he can stretch out.

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned about caring for the non-humans in your life?

Love them, feed them and never leave them.

What could we do to make the world better for non-human animals?

Choose carefully when adopting or purchasing a companion animal. Research the breed and their most common conditions. Spend time with them! Include them. Something that stands out for me with the companion animals I see at PITP is how well adjusted and well behaved so many of them are and I put it down to the time spent with their companion and not at home in a yard alone for the best part of any day.

Any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

I recommend if veterinarians have the opportunity to volunteer in a charity program like PITP to do so. They could expect to meet others from all areas of their industry and no doubt continue to both learn and share their knowledge in a rewarding environment.

Tell us about your most recent exhibition, Love is the Colour?

A series of mostly black and white portraits that reveal the love and enrichment pets give their owners who are homeless.

Working on this series and meeting the people behind the exterior has been a pleasure and a privilege and is often very moving. Everyone has a story to tell, but many of these lives are much more extreme in both their simplicity and their complexity. Interacting with these fascinating faces of our city and their animal companions is a project very close to my heart.

My aim was to produce strong and sympathetic images that would help raise awareness of those experiencing homelessness in Sydney and then continue to document the fabulous effort to help ensure this situation is supported.

Thank you Linda. Check out Linda’s work on Instagram, or visit her website here.