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Making a Difference with World Vets

Dogs waiting outside for services.

World Vets vision “to create a world where all animals have access to skilled veterinary care” has made it a foundation of vet care in Granada, Nicaragua, with many vets who live in Central America training at its clinic.

Each year, World Vets opens its Latin America Training Center to international students for their International Veterinary Training Program. During program sessions, students receive clinical as well as field training in many of the aspects of veterinary care.

In 2017, Joanna Ford, Northwest native and aspiring vet student, joined World Vets.

We sat down with Joanna earlier this year to chat about her experiences.

Seattle Pup Magazine: How did you find out about this opportunity? Had you done this before?

Joanna Ford with World Vets working  vet procedure

Joanna: About a year before I attended the World Vet training, I was vacationing in Puerto Vallarta when I learned about an organization called Peace Animals. This non-profit organization, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, funds 3-4 day spay and neuter field clinics for cats and dogs owned by residents in Puerto Vallarta. I had the opportunity to volunteer for two days with one of their clinics, in which I monitored animals post-surgery. Duties included keeping the animals warm and checking vital signs (heart and respiration rates) while they recovered from their procedures I had no idea what I was doing but learned quickly; it was exciting and a great way to get international experience.

When I returned home, I began researching other opportunities to volunteer with animals abroad. I found World Vets listed on the Washington State University Veterinary School’s website. I applied as a pre-veterinary student volunteer and joined the training program in Granada, Nicaragua in June 2017.

Can you tell us a bit about the training?

Students came from all over. We had a large group of second-year veterinary students from Tuskegee University in Alabama, two students from Washington State University, as well as students from other places. We were there for ten days. The training center is a full-service facility that trains vet students from Central America. It opens for 12 weeks each year in the summer to train students from elsewhere. There were three levels of volunteers: pre-vet, veterinary technician, and veterinary students. I applied as pre-vet student and worked on the induction team.

All our instructors were CVTs (Certified Veterinary Technicians) and DVM’s (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine). The Clinic was non-stop. Once an animal had completed surgery we placed another animal on the surgery table. It was stressful and hot – no AC!! It was challenging, but we were making a difference. The fees for training are allocated towards funding the center throughout the year.

A few of the vet students mentioned that back home they would be lucky to perform 1-2 spay or neuter surgeries in four years of vet school. With World Vets, they performed eight surgeries each. Over the 10-day training, nearly 100 surgeries were performed!

dogs waiting in kennels

What were some of the procedures you learned?

In Nicaragua, the conventions and the laws are different than in the United States, so we could participate in perhaps more procedures than we would have without prior education. That said, all procedures were heavily monitored by qualified staff and the utmost care was taken to ensure the safety and health of all animals. Techniques learned and practiced included exams, intramuscular injections, catheter and endotracheal placement, bladder expression, subcutaneous fluid injections, and administration of pre-anesthetic medications.

Other than spay and neuter surgeries did you witness other major procedures or encounter diseases?

Our main procedures were spay and neuter. Related to that we were taught to recognize and were on the lookout for a canine transmittable venereal disease called TVT. It is a condition that produces lesions on the genitals. Neutering or spaying alongside a follow up visit two weeks later for additional monitoring and medication administration usually takes care of the problem. We also checked and removed ticks and provided preventative flea and tick medications for the patients.

Can you tell us about the people and their pets?

In Nicaragua, money is scarce and people love their animals but many don’t have the resources to pay for veterinary care. During our outreach field clinic, many locals showed up with their animals - using any form of harness/ leash they could find. Belts, ropes, you name it! Kittens arrived in the arms of children or in baskets. We had some leashes and collars we could donate, which were happily received. One man was so grateful, he brought the team a bag of mangos from his backyard. He stayed for the duration of the clinic and helped us wrangle the rowdier dogs, several of which were not used to being handled. I still can’t believe I was there. It was a great experience and I learned so much.

Photos reprinted with permission from Joanna Ford


We would like to thank Joanna for sharing her story with us. Do you have a story you would like to share? We are all ears! Contact Us.


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