Learning comes in all shapes, sizes and textures at The University of Queensland’s Gatton campus. From fangs to feathers, scales to skin – staff and students at the UQ VETS Small Animal Hospital never know what patient will come through the door next. One thing is consistent – the smiling face of Dr Bob Doneley, who joined the hospital as Head of Service in 2010, before stepping aside to head up the avian and exotics pet service. Dr Doneley, a specialist in avian medicine, spoke to Small Change about his work.
How long have you been a vet?
Thirty-four years. I graduated from UQ in 1982.
What got you started?
Like many vets, I have had a lifelong fascination and enthusiasm for animals. With a father who was a country doctor and a mother (and several sisters and a brother) who were nurses, I sort of naturally fell into veterinary science. I became interested in birds while in my first job, working in Bundaberg, when I was asked to give a talk to a local bird club.
When did you start working at UQ?
2 August 2010. I have been at Gatton the whole time, although from 2003-2008 I ran a weekly exotics clinic out of the St Lucia campus.
What’s been your most interesting case at UQ?
Every day I see something new, something interesting. To pick one out is almost impossible! Placing orthodontic splints on the beaks of macaws, removing a cancerous kidney from a python, working on tiny joeys – how do you pick the most interesting of those?
What been your most challenging case?
Operating on venomous snakes, doing tumour removals, wound repairs, etc.
What’s your most common case?
Health checks on birds and reptiles, dental disease in guinea pigs, skin problems in everything – birds, reptiles and small mammals – and of course, sick animals.
How many native animals do you think you’d see a year?
Two to three a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year.
What’s the main cause of injury for these animals?
Most are orphaned – the parents are dead or missing following road accidents or shooting. We see a lot of HBCs (Hit By Car).
What can people do to help?
Most of the accidents we see are unavoidable – I have hit kangaroos and birds myself. But stop and check. If it's a marsupial, check the pouch for a joey. Take injured animals to the vet immediately.
Any advice for those considering becoming a vet?
It's an incredibly rewarding job, but the hours are long and the stress levels are high. So although it's a great job and a rewarding career, it's not all about cuddling puppies and kittens. There’s also no financial reward for treating injured wildlife, but our staff never hesitate to do their part. But if I had my time again, I would do the same thing over again!