Aquarium fish can have cancer, even have a toothache (if they have any teeth). They suffer, like any other creature, only harder to express it. Sick fish are diagnosed, cured and operated on by Dr. Piotr Konarski – a veterinary doctor with a specialization in fish diseases and a real enthusiast.
‘Fish are often sick and for a doctor difficult to treat. Because although they constitute the largest group among vertebrates (about 40 thousand species), at the same time they are the least-known group. And treating them is a real challenge’.
As a six-year-old, he stole his stockings from his mother to make a net with a stick to fish for local fish. Of course,he was careful so as not to damage the fish and would watch them for hours.
He gained a veterinary doctor diploma in 2000 at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences. After studying, he worked first in an animal shelter in Warsaw’s Paluch.
However, he did not treat fish at Paluch. These cases appeared only from time to time in the clinics in which he worked. Doctor Konarski assures us that it does not matter to him whether he treats a dog, a cat, a fish or a hamster, because every patient is welcome in his office, but also admits that it is the treatment of fish that gives him the most satisfaction.
‘Because the fish are the most difficult to diagnose. First of all, they suffer from a whole range of diseases – from viral, bacterial, fungal, all kinds of parasites. Most of these diseases are not contagious for humans, because they are completely different diseases. And someone who only treats dogs, cats, rabbits, horses or cows on a daily basis can not work with fish. You have to be passionate about fish and gain experience working with them before you can have any successes’.
He even finished post-graduate studies and became a specialist in fish diseases. ‘Fish are practically impossible to diagnose on the basis of external symptoms’ he says.
How do you know what the fish are suffering from?
‘It is necessary to take samples from the fish and complete the ichthyopathological examination under a microscope. Otherwise its impossible to know. You also need to study the water in the aquarium’.
Do you get satisfaction from treating fish?
Of course. Especially because it is also difficult.
Can fish feel pain?
Whether the fish is in pain, consciously or not, is currently divided by the scientific community. However many believe the pain can be felt differently, and suffering is certainly not foreign to fish.
Do you use normal tools to operate on a fish?
The apparatus for anesthesia for fish cannot be bought, it simply is not in stores. So I constructed it myself. The tube ended with a metal mouthpiece is placed gently in the fish mouth. The water flows out of the tube with the anesthetic solution added to it, which is still in circulation. In fact, the fish lies on the dry mesh, but the gills are wet all the time. It sounds and looks weird.
When was your first success?
‘I conducted my first fish operation on May 22, 2002. It was a fish with a tumor in the stomach, which had to be removed. The operation went well, the patient survived and lived for many years’.
Are the fish tied to their owners?
‘It’s hard to hug fish like a dog or a cat, but in my opinion, there is a connection. There are fish species that are very accustomed to their owner. They can distinguish the face and like being stroked and they rub against their owner’s hand.
Who comes with a fish to the doctor?
People who love their pets and are willing to expose themselves to costs and mockery, as long as their pets do not suffer. They do not look at how much the fish had previously cost, but they are aware that it is a creature that also suffers and must be helped in some way.
Do you have many clients bringing their fish?
Now, in the Vetka clinic, we treat over a dozen fish patients a month. People understand that fish also get sick. And that I can cure them.
You can visit Doctor Piotr Konarski at the 24/7 Vet Clinic at ul. Modlińska 65 in Warsaw.
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