Tbilisi’s Super Vet: Pioneering Animal Care in Georgia

Interview

There are many noticeable things upon arrival in Georgia as a foreigner. Whilst the majority are positive aspects that form a part of Georgia’s unique culture; there are, however, also some negatives. The street animal situation in Tbilisi, whilst improving, can still be rather shocking if you come from western Europe or North America. There are cats and dogs on the streets in abundance, which can be a difficult thing to see. In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to improve this. The Mayhew, a British-based charity organization, carries out annual vet-training in Georgia, with numerous animal shelters around Tbilisi taking part in an immunization program to ensure disease is not spread. They also spade as many dogs and cats as they can to prevent mass-breeding. The latest animal-aid in Tbilisi is much improved vet training. Arthur Lagovski runs his Veterinary Clinic just next to Dry Bridge, and has been given the new nickname of ‘Tbilisi’s Super Vet’. GEORGIA TODAY went to meet Arthur to find out what makes his services different from the many other vets across the city.

Tell us about your training as a vet

I graduated in 2012, and worked in my mother’s veterinary practice, I always had a passion for animals. I studied at Tbilisi State University and took every opportunity I could to work closely with other vets and trained professionals.

What made you want to study veterinary medicine?

Since I can remember, I always loved animals; not just a specific animal, such as dogs, as a lot of Georgians do, but all of them. I also had a great interest in medicine, in particular, surgery, so I decided to combine both my passions.

Why did you beome a vet in Tbilisi, considering that the overall impression of animals, especially at that time, was not great?

I always wanted to change the image of animals in my country, to try and change the mentality of the people. My thought process was always that animals are living and breathing creatures, just like us, with the same organs, so surely, they deserve a chance to be cared for too? You can’t just throw a pill at a situation and expect it to get better: they need proper care, analyses, treatment.

When you were studying, I’m sure you understood that the image of animals in Georgia was not as positive as that in western countries, did that not make you feel worried about specializing in this field?

Sure, it was a worry. Yet, my ideology was never to make money: this was of no interest to me. My passion, my goal, was to change the mentality of the people and improve the situation. I was determined to teach people to love animals, and to take care of them more.

Why do you think the situation with animals in Georgia over the years has not been particularly positive?

Whenever I ask myself this question, I always look back to the situation in the 90s. Frankly, it is incomparable to now. So, however bad the treatment of animals may have been back then, it’s easy to see the vast improvement today. There are also a lot more veterinarians nowadays, all of whom help to increase knowledge of animal care. The new generation is more responsive to the care that animals need and deserve. When I started out, I was determined to make a difference, be it even in a small way, and this is what gave me the incentive to pursue my career.

What would you say about the training situation for vets in Georgia?

At the time of my training, the only study materials for vets was in the Russian language; there was a severe lack of material in Georgian. I am a Russian speaker, so for me it didn’t prove to be too much of a problem, but for others, this is not only far from ideal, it also raises serious questions of ethics. How can students learn how to care for animals properly, to gain the knowledge they need, if the study isn’t in their mother tongue? The situation is slowly changing, yet I myself made sure I took every opportunity to attend any training available abroad. I learnt a lot during my visits to Lithuania, Germany, Ukraine and Estonia.

You have your own veterinary practice in Tbilisi, tell us what makes your clinic different from other such services in Tbilisi

My fellow doctors and I concentrate on particularly difficult surgeries. For example, complex bone fractures and breaks, neurological surgery. I also recently started offering laparoscopic surgery for animals; it works very well and reduces the risk of infection and is the safest method of surgery on animals. We use laparoscopies for diagnostics, hysterectomies, trachioscopies, bronchoscopies – to name just a few.

Is it true you are the only Vet in Goergia to offer laparoscopic surgery?

At the moment, yes, this is true.

This must make you very popular with pet owners?

Yes and no. Many people don’t quite understand the difference between normal surgery and laparoscopies. Once again, it comes down to a lack of knowledge in this field. At my clinic, we try to teach and inform people about the new methods of surgery available. It’s a slow process but we’re starting to see positive results.

Can you give me some other examples of the work you carry out, that perhaps other Vets in Georgia do not?

Many clinics are starting now to cooperate with my practice, so if they have a particularly difficult situation, they can ask for help, advice, or even for help with complex surgeries, such as ophthalmic conditions or complex breaks.

I myself am familiar with your work as my cat broke two bones in her leg. I was impressed with the apparatus you used to fix the problem, tell us more about this method

There are some vets that would deem such cases to be too complicated, yet I see this as a challenge. Surgically, in such situations, I would try to set the bones back in place by using a metal frame which would then be set with clay at either end. This ensures the broken bones, once set back into place, do not move for the remainder of the animal’s recovery.

This is quite innovative in Georgia. I think it would be fair to say that some vets here may find this quite hard to do, so the fact that you can perform such surgery is quite pioneering work, no?

Yes. Previously, nobody performed such surgery as it really is rather complicated. You need a lot of patience and mental strength to see such operations through! This is what spurs me on, what makes me want to initiate new surgery methods here.

What would you say to foreigners, tourists, even Georgians, who may be reading this, about the animal situation in Georgia now

The situation is still not great. We don’t even have a law that works to protect animals. Whilst overall opinion is rising, and animals are being treated better by the public, we need laws to be put into place to further protect the well-being of animals, such as in Western Europe or the US. Yet, this is why I chose such a profession, it’s what I have a passion for and I don’t regret it for a minute.

Thanks, Arthur! We wish you every success in the future.

By Tamzin Whitewood

22 January 2018 18:34
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