This week I had the pleasure of chatting with local veterinarian Dr Claire Bowland, who appears alongside Dr Chris Brown in popular Channel 10 TV show Bondi Vet (you can see Dr Claire on the next episode, which goes to air this Saturday at 6pm).
Claire’s secret ambition
Dr Claire Bowland graduated from the University of Sydney in 2002 (where she was in the same year as Dr Chris) and has been working as an Emergency Veterinarian for the past 8 years. She’s been an animal lover ever since she can remember, having grown up with pets and around farm animals at her family’s farm.
“From a young age people would always notice my affinity and compassion for animals,” recalls Claire. “People would say to me ‘you should be a vet one day!’ I was even given a book as a five year old called ‘Claire’s Secret Ambition’ about a young girl who did not want to be a ballerina, she wanted to become a vet.”
From sniffly guinea pigs to ailing lionesses
Claire has been working at SASH (Small Animal Specialist Hospital, which is the referral hospital for Bondi Vet) as an Emergency Vet for the past five years.
“It is an amazing job working at SASH and being able to film with Bondi Vet,” she says. “The job is full of adrenalin and energy, so it never gets boring – it’s actually very addictive! The emergency team see the most interesting, critical and unusual cases and SASH never closes.”
Besides being able to help injured animals, Claire loves the variety of her job and the fact that she never knows what to expect when she starts a shift.
“Most commonly we see cats and dogs,” she explains. “But we also treat rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds and plenty of wildlife. I did take a phone call one night about a sick lioness – at first I thought it was a prank call! After chatting to the caller for a while I realized they were not having me on. The caller did in fact have a sick lioness, who was from the circus nearby – OMG! I didn’t know what to think… Would I be eaten? I’d never treated a lion before.”
Thankfully for Claire, the lioness only required medication and had already been seen by the vets at Taronga Zoo earlier that day.
Licks, kisses and wagging tails
According to Claire, the toughest thing about her job is that it can be hard to walk away from the furry patients at the end of her shift. After putting so much time, energy and love in to keeping them alive, it’s only natural that you develop a strong bond with them.
While working as a vet can have its ups and downs, particularly when you have to go home and leave someone’s beloved pet before you know whether they’re going to be OK, thankfully there are many positives.
“The most rewarding part of my job is when I get to reunite a pet with their owner and send them home after a serious illness or emergency,” says Claire. “It’s lovely to see the smile on the owner’s face, and the happy wagging tails of the pets. There are always plenty of licks and kisses.”
Working with Dr Chris
I asked Claire whether she gets to work with Dr Chris much and whether the show has much of an impact on the volume of cases brought in to the clinic.
“Dr Chris visits SASH when he has a particularly serious case that requires the assistance of our specialists, so I do pass him in the hallways occasionally,” Claire explains. “We get an increased number of phone calls and consultations on Saturday nights when Bondi Vet goes to air. Clients come in hoping to be on TV or to meet the Bondi vet team, sometimes there is nothing wrong with their pet!”
Expert tips for summertime pet health
Claire told me that she sees a lot of beach related emergencies which could have been avoided if the owners had been a little more aware of beach and summer time safety for their pets.
Claire’s tips to keep your pets healthy this summer and avoid a trip to the vet are:
- Always provide shade and fresh water. On very hot days add a large ice block to the water bowl and provide rabbits with an ice brick to lie on. Rabbits are very prone to heat stress and can die quickly in hot weather.
- Keep older animals indoors in air conditioning or with a fan. Dogs can be wet down with a cool hose. Walk your dogs in the cooler hours like early morning or after sunset and avoid heavy exercise in the extreme heat. This is particularly important for the Brachycephalic (squashed face) breeds like French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers and Boston Terriers. They are very easily overheated and can develop life threatening breathing difficulties.
- Take notice if your dogs needs a rest. Don’t push them through it.
- Beware of fishing hooks, blue bottles and Puffer fish. Dogs love eating these and Puffer fish toxicity can paralyse your dog’s breathing within 30 minutes. If you suspect your dog has ingested a Puffer fish, drive directly to the closest vet who can induce vomiting, then come over and see the team at SASH as we can ventilate (breathing machine) if severe paralysis develops.
- If your dog eats a fish-hook do not pull on the fishing line. Instead tie the end of the fishing line to your dog’s collar so it is not swallowed completely. The vet can use this line to find the fishing hook later.
- Blue bottles can cause a nasty sting. Wash the area with water and seek vet attention for pain relief and injections. Occasionally a life threatening allergic reaction can develop.
A dog named Kitty and a cat named Bat
Claire has a one year old Sphynx (a hairless cat) named BatCat. She says that he is the best natured cat she’s ever owned and he loves to wear clothes in the winter time. She also has a 10 month old Italian Greyhound named Kitty. The last two dogs her family has owned were ex-racing Greyhounds, which she says make the most lovely family pets.
Aside from her position at SASH, she is currently working on a new show which will focus on the work of volunteer vets around Australia and around the Globe. It’s a bit of a mix of travel, culture, and conservation vet work, and she’s super excited about it.
Claire is also coming on board as a regular contributor to What’s New Bondi, I look forward to sharing her expert animal health tips with you all.
See Claire and the rest of the Bondi Vet team on Channel 10 this Saturday from 6pm. You can follow Claire's adventures around Bondi via her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feed @drclairebowland.
Tracey @ What’s New Bondi xx