A World Away - Nicaragua
Dr. Barry Nicholls shares his experiences practicing veterinary medicine in a developing country.

[Nicaraugan children wait for pets to be seen by World Vets Team.]

A boy and his dog. Or his cat. A familiar sight in most American neighborhoods. A playful friendship forged with unconditional love and boundless enjoyment. Not so different in Nicaragua than in the U.S.

In September 2011, Animal Medical Center’s Dr. Barry Nicholls partnered with World Vets – International Aid for Animals on a veterinary mission trip in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Although the seven-day excursion was Dr. Nicholls’ first with World Vets, the trip was certainly not his first veterinary volunteer effort.

Dr. Nicholls is an experienced traveling doctor having completed hundreds of hours in the field spaying, neutering, and treating animals in developing countries since 1995. He was one of six doctors on a team of 14, including four licensed veterinary technicians and four veterinary assistants.

[World Vets Team - Nicaragua, September 2011]

The World Vets’ website, www.worldvets.org, states the non-profit, Non-Government Agency (NGO) provides “veterinary aid around the globe in collaboration with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, U.S. and foreign military groups and professionals abroad.” World Vets’ work spans 34 countries, six continents, and addresses not only veterinary issues, but also human health issues impacted by zoonotic diseases (diseases able to be transmitted between animals and humans) in developing countries.

Dr. Nicholls said the zoonotic impact was likely minimal, but the team did treat for ticks, which can infect and carry diseases to humans, and hookworms and roundworms, which infect humans, too.  He mentioned that World Vets’ organizes a trip in collaboration with human medical doctors who work in tandem traveling on the ship Comfort to address health issues pertinent to both.

“Spaying and neutering were our top priority,” said Dr. Nicholls, about his time spent in NIcaragua. “But we also provided basic care: correcting vitamin deficiencies and treating for parasites (intestinal worms and ticks).” He estimates they performed 107 surgeries and more than 200 consult exams, working an average of 11 hours per day.

 Dr. Nicholls continued, “We also treated some skin diseases and a few trauma cases including a rear limb amputation without formal orthopedic instruments.” He said they had to improvise and used his Gerber pocket knife to complete the emergency operation.

World Vets returns twice each year to Nicaragua, making a long-term impact in the communities they visit. Dr. Nicholls feels they “lit a candle,” referencing one of his favorite Chinese proverbs, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Photos by Leah Finstad and Dr. Barry Nicholls
Article by Brooke Nicholls Nelson