When man’s best friend gets sick, veterinarians like Dr. Note are the ones who are there to get them back on their paws again.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Dr. Surasit Detchom, but you can call me “Dr. Note.” I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Faculty of Veterinary Science from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand in 2004. In 2008 I received my Certificate for Post Graduate Foundation In Veterinary Science, Cardiorespiratory at Sydney University in Australia. Now I work as an animal companion business consultant at White Ocean Vet Clinic in District 7.

What was your motivation for wanting to be a vet? Have you always had a love for animals?

When I was young my dog got into an accident and I brought him to a pet clinic but it was closed. I called and hit the door a hundred times but he finally died in my arms. It was a terrible time for me and I was lost in life’s bad moments for almost a year. One day my parents said I should remember the good times and use them as an inspiration to reach my dream and dedicate myself to the things I loved, that’s why I decided to be a vet.

Why did you decide to practice here in Vietnam instead of your native Thailand?

I’m always open to learning new things and challenges along with sharing my experiences with others. I had been told that a veterinarian career is not well regarded as compared to human medical doctors, therefore I would like to use my 15 years of experiences in Thailand to apply and encourage Vietnamese veterinarians to hone their skills and to also increase the quality of pet care to an international standard here.

How do you stay up-to-date in the field of veterinary medicine?

I frequently attend seminars in Thailand (every 2-3 months) and also read the veterinary scientific papers that are published weekly and monthly. These help keep me up to date and aware of the latest international standard knowledge in the veterinary field.

What is the most challenging part of being a vet in Vietnam?

Most pet owners are still not knowledgeable in the proper ways of owning and caring for pets. They are not concerned with diseases and zoonosis. Vets have to work hard in their job in terms of both curing the pet and giving advice to owners. Irresponsible pet-owners are also another challenge because there are no regulations for owning a pet and preventing their pets from diseases.

What is the best part of your job?

First of all, I would like to tell you that I’m proud to be a vet and so proud to answer when asked what’s my job? Honestly, it’s quite emotional when I see owners’ expression of worry about their pets’ health and the clinic happy because their pet is better—that’s the best part of my job.

How are the pet industry and culture in Thailand different from Vietnam?

In Thailand, dogs are the most popular pets, followed by cats and smaller pets, such as hamsters, rabbits, fish and reptiles are also common. The Thai pet- product industry, which has a value of 2 billion baht, has the potential to grow by up to 10 percent while the overall economy looks to be slowing down. With rapid urbanization, the growth of e-commerce, increase in awareness of animal welfare, increase in pet-product information availability, the pet industry itself continue to grow as the younger generation continues to be pet owners who take care of their pets, whether that is purchasing food, sanitation, health and well-being, doctor visits, vaccinations, grooming, exercising, socializing; spending approximately 10 percent of their income on their animals.. These are supported by factors like 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic/hospital, easy availability of pet food, toys, grooming items and clothing for pets. Thailand’s pet segment occupies a remarkable position in the Asian Pet industry.

Recently, the Thai pet welfare societies, such as the A CALL for Animal Rights Thailand, The Voice Foundation, Soi Dog Foundation, Lanta Animal Welfare, have been spreading awareness by posting videos and images of stray cats and dogs through the social media, encouraging pet adoption.

We cannot ignore that dog meat is a status symbol in Vietnam and still remain on menus throughout the country, especially in the Northern area. However, things have changed since the arrival of foreign investment, so too has foreign culture come together as well. There are various groups that have been established to help rescue abandoned cats and dogs. One of the most well-known, Animal Rescue and Care (ARC), has earned tens of thousands of likes on social media and has rescued hundreds to thousands of animals.

Hopefully, with the use of social media to spread awareneness throughout Vietnam, these terrible images of the dog meat trade will garner more disapproval and pet ownership will continue to rise, and dogs and their feline friends will be treated better and more humanely.

Some believe annual vaccinations are too often and some are anti- vaxxers. What side do you fall on this topic?

Regarding the issue of annual vaccinations as too often, according to the US and Europe protocol,
it’s standard and recommended to vaccinate every three years. However, in Asian countries, we are still in an endemic area with many diseases so I strongly recommend annual vaccinations until there is scientific research that supports a change from annual vaccinations to every 3 years. I fully disagree that vaccinations are completely unnecessary because vaccination is definitely better than non- vaccination. For example, rabies
is one type of the core vaccine that must be immunized against, otherwise, if your pet gets infected with rabies that means they usually must be euthanized and there is no treatment or cure for rabies once symptoms appear.

Diet is another highly debated topic: raw, vegan, kibbles, mixed, etc. What’s your recommendation, and does it depend on the breed?

It’s quite a controversy, and in my opinion, there’s little scientific evidence for a raw diet or a vegan diet, and there are two majors problems with them: Food contamination from salmonella and campylobacter (a strain of bacteria), and nutritional imbalance. As a vet, I recommend diets that are scientifically proven.

What are some of the unusual animals you’ve treated?

Hedgehog, bearded dragon, guinea pig and a hawk.

What is the most common problem you’ve treated?

It’s skin problems in dogs, often caused by ticks and fleas. It’s quite a major problem for dog-owners here.
I recommend owners to use ticks and fleas prevention products. As well as treating your dog, it is important to
also treat the surrounding environment because 90 percent of the tick and flea population live off your dog, treating the areas where your dog spends most of its time is important, for example, their bedding, vacuuming the house if the dog is allowed indoors.

What would you do if there were obvious signs that an animal you are treating has been abused?

If the pet came with signs of abuse, I would treat the pet according to the symptoms as usual and I will try hard to communicate with the owner of
their wrong actions towards their pets and I will closely follow up with these cases to see if the owner improves their behavior towards their pets.
There was a case where I had seen an improvement from the owner and I gave them a membership discount as a good gesture. I did not support the owner’s mistreatment of the dog but wanted to encourage them to be a better owner by rewarding them.

Do you have any pets?

Yes! I have two male, white Pomeranians.

What are some of the differences in how Vietnamese and foreigners care for their pets?

Of course, there are both similarities and differences. Currently, many Vietnamese pet-owners are taking
care of their pets in the same way and standard as foreign pet-owners in terms of diet and health concerns. However, in rural areas, dog-owners still view them as security animals, with no regards to their well-being—unbalanced diet, no vaccinations and no disease prevention concerns.

Another obvious difference between the two cultures when it comes to pet ownership is that expat owners are highly aware of population control
and have their pets neutered, which both promote good health to the pet and also reduces the dog and cat overpopulation problem that leads
to abandonment and an increase of strays on streets. For some Vietnamese people, they still believe that neutering their pet is considered animal abuse and sinful.

Image by Vy Lam