As we have adjusted to life in lockdown, there is one constant comfort that many are relying on, the unconditional love and companionship of pets, at a time when most of us are spending more time than ever at home, in ‘their domain’!
But, having a pet brings with it a commitment, and animal healthcare is at the forefront of this. Our unpredictable weather always brings additional concerns, but keeping pets safe and healthy is a year-round responsibility that doesn’t stop at lockdown.
Fortunately, front line support is available, with teams of professionals on hand to provide health advice and guidance, as well as the prescription and supply of animal medicines, to maintain the well-being of our pet companions during these challenging times.
One of East Anglia’s front-line heroes, leading the challenge to both educate pet owners on animal health issues, and keeping our pets healthy, is Dawn Prime, an award winning, registered animal medicines advisor (RAMA), based on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.
Just prior to lockdown, Dawn had been elected as the companion animal RAMA representative to the Council of the national regulatory body, the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority (AMTRA). This followed a postal and online ballot of some 7,000 fellow AMTRA registered animal medicines advisors across the country.
AMTRA is appointed by government to keep a record of all of those professionals legally entitled to supply certain veterinary medicines under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations, and ensure they comply with its Code of Practice.
“It was a great honour to be elected on to the AMTRA Council,” says Dawn. “As well as supporting and representing my fellow professionals, the key for me is to let the pet owning public know what a valuable resource they have, to help keep their pets healthy.”
An integral part of the care team at Wherry Veterinary Group in Bungay, Dawn says her role has never been more important during the current crisis.
“Even in normal circumstances, my day to day role is extremely varied,” says Dawn. “As a RAMA, I see myself very much as the first point of contact, and a key part of my role is to help educate owners on animal health issues.
“Pets are like family members, and pet owners want to use health products they trust, from people they trust,” she adds.
Working from a veterinary practice, unlike many of her RAMA peers in the companion animal sector operating out of major pet retail outlets, brings different opportunities for Dawn, particularly in current circumstances.
“I work hard alongside the vets to provide a joined-up approach for the health and welfare of the animals. Many health issues can be managed by a RAMA, without necessarily the need to see the vet,” explains Dawn.
“Being a RAMA is not about selling products, it is very much about advice. We can offer a wide range of choice in preventative medicines, whilst also giving advice and guidance on their safe and effective use,” she says.
In a ‘typical’ day, Dawn would be assisting in the spay cat/dog ward, at admittance of operations and in the consult setting with the veterinary surgeon, helping to handle the animals and administer medication.
She also performs the occasional in-house lab work such as running blood and urine tests, as well as working at the dispensary and reception area. As a RAMA, Dawn is legally registered to prescribe and supply animal medicines including wormers, tick and flea treatments.
“We are obviously facing unique and challenging working practices, imposed upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dawn, “As RAMAs, we have to adapt to cover these unprecedented circumstances.”
Dawn explains, “I am still legally responsible for any preventative animal health medication that I prescribe, whilst proactively ensuring that owners are using the product in a safe and correct manner.”
While the practice is seeing emergencies only at the current time, with all non-routine work on stop, Wherry Veterinary Group has split into two teams, working alternate shift patterns to maintain essential cover.
“As a workforce through these tough times, we maintain a good line of communication within our practice, more so than ever before. We are doing many more ‘non-contact’ consultations, using telephone and embracing technology with video calling,” she adds.
“Both of these temporary measures are working well, ensuring that a high standard of guidance is still being communicated to the client.”
Having been brought up in a farming environment, Dawn’s passion for animal welfare started at a young age, as she spent time on farm with her father, a head herdsman. In fact, Dawn is actually also qualified to prescribe and supply certain medicines for farm animals.
AMTRA qualified RAMAs are also active within the equine and farm-animal sectors, following specific and on-going training to provide healthcare to different animal species.
A multiple national award winner for her work in animal medicines advice and customer care, Dawn sees her role on the national council of AMTRA as not only representing her colleagues, but also in raising awareness amongst animal owners.
“RAMA’s are an important link between owner and their pet. The animal health industry is always changing, and as a RAMA it is best practice to keep my knowledge up to date through my continuing professional development (CPD), so I can continue to give my clients the best information and advice,” concludes Dawn.
At this time of much uncertainty, we can be assured our pets are in safe hands.