Veterinarian Dr Ray Ferguson is a well-known figure in the greyhound industry, with a justified reputation for positive achievements for racing dogs.
Last week his dedication to Veterinary Science was recognised with a Queen’s Birthday honour, the Order of Australia Medal.
Speaking with Molly Haines on RSN’s Off The Leash program, Ray said the award means a lot to him, and also to a particular team he’s very invested in – the Australian Greyhound, Working and Sporting Dog Veterinarians (AGWSDV).
“The group which works under the umbrella of the Australian Veterinary Association has been together for about 35 years. Its objective is to put a lot more science into the sport of greyhound racing and support veterinarians working in the industry.”
Ray’s interest in greyhounds started as a student. “As a student, I worked alongside Dr Harry Cooper, who was very keen on them. That got me going. There were plenty of trainers around my first practices, in Numurkah and Cranbourne, who would always reciprocate when they knew I was interested in their dogs.”
He maintains the application of science to the sport is critical. “One of my motivating factors was that when I first became involved in greyhound racing people would make odd claims about how to treat injuries or what supplements to feed dogs, and I would think that is not logical or factual.
“As a student, I worked alongside Dr Harry Cooper, who was very keen on them (greyhounds). That got me going.”
“Nowadays veterinarians have a much better understanding of canine sports medicine and we have learnt to treat them more like human athletes than horses”.
“The AGWSDV encourages research that puts us in a position where we can say no, that’s not what the facts say, this is the way to go.”
The research comes from an international network of specialists, universities and experienced veterinarians. According to Ray, welfare is the ultimate beneficiary.
“We’ve been able to involve veterinarians from Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and America. Our group has some of the best brains in the world.”
The group has a very active internet forum where in it members can ask questions about difficult cases, discuss radiographs of unusual fractures, discuss abnormal blood test results etc, and then receive advice from those more expert in the field.”
“The outcome of that is that all the veterinarians on that forum will learn, and the greyhound gets the best treatment.”
Ray’s advice to greyhound trainers is plain. “Keep it simple. In spite of advertising, marketing and whispers from one trainer to another, there is no silver bullet”.
“Anybody lucky enough to have a good dog knows you just have to feed it well, manage its injuries, don’t over train it and the dog does the rest”.