The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 4, August 2000

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Raising Sled Dogs
The Good, the Bad and the ‘Eskimo’ Dog
The Russian Connection
Honoured Symbol Under Fire
Iqaluit Team Owner Speaks Out
The Homecoming
Niels Pedersen, D.V.M:
Challenging Folk Remedies
Janice Howls:
Maintaining the ISD Roots
Book Review: 
Portrait of Antarctica
First Hand Account:
Exploration of Antarctica
Dog Ownership in Modern Society
Baking: Carnivore Brownies
Behaviour Notebook:
 Silent and Induced Heat
ISDI Summit Postponed
Memorable Inuit Dog Encounters

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  Veterinary Service in Greenland: 
Challenging Folk Remedies

Niels Wøeldiche Pedersen, D.V.M. , Kongens Lyngby, Denmark

There are good dog owners and there are bad dog owners. That's well known. And most times you can tell immediately when you take a closer look at their dogs. Or at least I thought I could. 

Take a look at these dogs. They belonged to a very clever dog sledge driver in my district. You can see they are well fed. They look happy. They are well trained and carefully looked after.

                                                                           Pedersen photo

And then take a look at these dogs. They are left to themselves most of the time and anyone can see the owners doesn't spend too much time grooming them.

                                                                                  Pedersen photo

But some times even a good dog owner's use of traditional medicine is not in harmony with our understanding of humane treatment of animals.

Here is what happened one day. 

Shortly after my arrival to Greenland the owner of the first dogs brought a dog into my clinic. The poor thing was bleeding all over the place and my first assumption was, that it had been hit by a car. That was not so. He brought the dog to me because it had diarrhea, and the blood was coming from the dogs tail - or what was left of it.

That was when I learned that bleeding was a widespread method of treatment among the Greenlandic sledge dog owners. I treated the dog my way and took the time to explain to the owner that bleeding was not exactly the treatment of choice in a case of diarrhea. On the contrary losing blood when you are already dehydrated will only make the situation worse.

He understood that and promised never to cut the tail of a sick dog again.  Unfortunately I didn't mention injured dogs, because some weeks later he brought in another dog tied on the sledge. And this dog was bleeding not only from the several wounds all over the body. It was also bleeding from a halved tail and from both ears! This dog had been hit by a car and was in a serious condition with two broken legs and several skin wounds. And the owner had done all he could to give this dog the best first aid he knew about. Bleed it. So on the spot he cut off not only the half of the tail but also both ears in order help his dog. This dog did not survive.

Another treatment they didn't teach us at the University of Copenhagen was the incision for shoulder emphysema. When sledge dogs work very hard and when the harness doesn't fit perfectly, you often see air building up under the skin in the neck and shoulder area. This air comes from small injuries to the trachea and will disappear by itself. I treat these dogs with a painkiller and a few days of rest.

But that is not the traditional treatment in Greenland. I saw many cases where the dog owners had treated these dogs themselves. They took a sharp knife and made an incision on the back of the dog between the shoulder blades. This incision was left open a short while when the dog was massaged to let the air out.  And then, in order to prevent new air to run in - as it was expressed - the incision was sealed again. It was done by pouring hot melted seal fat into the wound! I spent hours persuading dog owners to use my treatment instead but I wasn't always successful.

It is hard to change traditions.

"DyrlÊge-ved højlys nat" by Niels Wøeldiche Pedersen, written in Danish, contains loads of beautiful photographs and is about veterinary work, sledge dogs, society, travel, general life etc. in Greenland.  It is available by contacting Arnold Busck by e-mail; or writing to 24, Fiolstraede, DK-1171, Copenhagen, Denmark; or by phone +45 33 73 35 45 or fax +45 33 73 35 87. The price is 298 dkr. Those of you connected to the www can go to <> for a currency converter.

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