Darwin Animal Doctors


Archive: Dec 2016

  1. Negra, and her rather strange story

    Negra, a very sweet dog, lived on the streets of the Galapagos Islands, just getting by until she met with a local, caring resident… The resident noticed Negra’s big, swollen belly and believed the pup to be pregnant. Taking pity on her, and realising how difficult it would be for a dog to survive, give birth and raise puppies living on the streets, the resident picked Negra up and took her home.

    One day, after two months of caring for Negra, the pup started acting rather strange, as if she was in quite some pain. The owner believed that she had gone into labour and took the pup to a vet on the Island. The vet confirmed pregnancy and gave Negra an injection to induce her to give birth. The owner went home, ready to take on the responsibility of a litter of puppies.

    Two days later, there were still no puppies…

    The confused owner then decided to come into the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic to see what was going on. The Doctors felt around Negra’s large abdomen, but could not feel any puppies. With no real imagery available on the island, there was no way to properly see what was going on inside of Negra without actually conducting an exploratory surgery. When also considering Negra’s history, the Doctors decided it would be necessary to do a C-section. But what they found was rather interesting… Negra was, in fact, not pregnant at all. She had a normal uterus, but it was her abdomen that was full of fluids, called ‘ascites’.

    The case had now completely changed for the Doctors; instead of trying to work out why she hadn’t yet given birth, the team were faced with the problem of why Negra’s abdomen was full of fluid.

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    The Doctors ran a blood test and determined that Negra tested positive for Ehrlichia (tick fever), a possible cause of the fluid in her abdomen. She also had a very low red blood cell count, so low in fact that the Doctors needed to do a life saving blood transfusion. After receiving the blood donation, Negra was also put on a course of antibiotics for the tick fever. The pup was later sent home with instructions to come back in two days time.

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    During the time that Negra was at home, the fluid in her abdomen had begun to build up again. The pressure build up enough that it began to push open the wound she had from surgery. When Negra returned to the clinic, she had a small part of her intestines edging their way out of her abdominal cavity! The Doctors rushed Negra back into surgery. They flushed her intestines and abdomen several times and closed her up with the strongest suture material that was available. Negra was put on a high dose of antibiotics and sent home again with an e-collar and clear instructions for her to stay inactive and to come back into the clinic for a check up in the coming days.

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    Negra returned in four days time, but her wound had opened again! The owners mentioned that they had not managed to keep her inactive, and that Negra had found a way to scratch at the wound with her hind legs, as she couldn’t lick it due to the e-collar. This time, the wound was not as open as last time, but the Doctors, once again, had to put Negra on the operating table. They reclosed her wound – this time with suture material and staples – and put in a drain. But the Doctors were still not convinced that this tricky ex-street pup would not manage to open the wound a third time. So they fashioned Negra a not-so-attractive wound protection outfit… The Doctors fitted Negra with an inflatable e-collar around her waist and put a net stocking around her whole body, with a gauze pad on the inside, covering the wound, to absorb the fluids coming out of the drain. Negra looked at the Doctors with a look that could only be described as a mixture between extreme embarrassment and guilty acceptance…

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    Despite the pup’s unhappiness with her new look, the outfit worked and Negra’s wound could finally heal. The little pup is now finally living a normal life; she is no longer on the streets, no longer thought to be pregnant while actually full of fluid, and no longer dressed very strangely with a healing wound on her belly! What a turnaround!

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  2. Dental care is important!

    We often forget that dental care is a very important part of pet care and of your pet’s life. Hopefully Falcom’s story might help remind you…

    Falcom, a two year old dog, came into the clinic to have his teeth checked. His owner was worried as Falcom had a “bad smile”. As the Doctors checked, they saw that Falcom had a grey, smelly layer covering almost all of his teeth. Unfortunately for Falcom, this layer is not just an aesthetic issue, but is caused by bacteriosis and can lead to very serious conditions; including abscesses, infections, fractures of the jaw and more. It also leads to quite significant pain, especially during eating, something Falcom would have been experiencing every day.

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    The Doctors set to, cleaning Falcom’s teeth and extracting those that were so infected that they could not be saved. While unfortunate that the pup will lose some teeth in the procedure, this process will not just improve his smile, but also seriously improve Falcom’s day to day life. This pup will no longer experience the same pain when eating, nor will he be constantly bothered by a wobbly tooth.

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    After a long dental session, Falcom was ready to go home, already clearly a happier, less bothered dog. But please remember – dental care is an important part of your dog’s health and  save your pup’s teeth!

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  3. Orio

    Orio came into the Galapagos Clinic with what is called paraphimosis, or a prolapsed penis. What made matters worse for poor Orio, is that he had already been in this condition for an entire day! Paraphimosis is considered an emergency and must be dealt with immediately. Without treatment, the condition will only worsen and become more and more painful for the animal. Thankfully for Orio, the Doctors quickly sedated him and flushed and lubricated the exposed area and were able to fix poor Orio’s uncomfortable situation! When he woke up, Orio was completely back to normal. His owners were very happy to see their pup so happy and well again, and will be returning in a week for his castration appointment!

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  4. Pelican in distress

    Everybody knows you’re not just a vet during the normal 9 to 5 working hours. A vet continues to think like a vet 24/7… even when they are on holidays. For three volunteers from the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic, this well known fact was recently realized during a lunch time visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station…

    The team was visiting the beaches which run through the Research Station, when they came across a pelican in distress… Whilst tourist are not normally able to intervene with local wildlife, the Darwin Animal Doctors have a unique agreement with the National Park that we are able to intervene if an injury or illness is caused directly from human interference. In this case, the pelican was completely entangled in fishing line which was also caught on a series of lava rocks, tying the poor pelican down. The bird was confused, frightened and chaotically flapping about, desperately trying to get himself free of the line, but was only getting himself more tangled and making his situation worse…

    The Doctors realized that it would be quite difficult to free the distressed pelican as the line was tangled in rocks from one end of the beach to the other. So they quickly devised a plan. With the help of a jacket and two strong (and daring) girls, the pelican was immobilized and the third volunteer could then quickly set to untangling him. The pelican, in all his distress, had managed to get the line caught around his webbed feet, in his wings and all round his body. The Doctors worked carefully and strategically and managed to remove all the fishing line. They then inspected the pelican to make sure he sustained no substantial injury from his chaotic flapping about. Luckily they did, as they found a fish hook hanging from his neck! The poor pelican must have grabbed himself a quick and easy lunch, not realizing that his meal was attached to a nasty fish hook… The team then gently removed the hook and gave the bird one final check over, finding no further injuries. As the team were trying to intervene as little as possible, and had no medical supplies with them, they decided the best thing for the pelican was now to set him free. So the team did just that.

    The slightly overwhelmed pelican stumbled away before realizing that he had been granted his freedom. Grateful, he had one last look around before taking flight! The Doctors then cleaned up the rest of the fishing line to make sure no other bird ended up in the same terrible situation… and then headed on back to work…

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  5. Little Nena

    Nena, a very sweet three month old puppy, came into the Galapagos Clinic after not eating for three days. The poor puppy was very weak, with yellow diarrhea, a terrible eye infection and pale, yellowish gums. The Doctors ran a blood test and discovered that her red blood cell count was critically low – at a level considered to be fatal. The team quickly asked the owners to bring their bigger dog to the clinic so that they would be able to do a vital blood transfusion. The owners complied and Nena received a life-saving donation of blood. As her condition was so critical, the Doctors decided to keep Nena in the clinic over the coming days for observation. In addition to the blood transfusion and the standard deparasiting treatment, Nena was also on intravenous fluids and antibiotics, as well as receiving eye drops for her infection.

    Over the next hours, Nena developed bloody diarrhea, filled with worms. As she had already been deparasited, this was somewhat to be expected… But it was what came out the next day that was truly horrifying…

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    On a short walk the next morning, Nena passed what was just a huge ball of dead, intertwined worms! The poor puppy had been full of them, causing her a great deal of pain and doing a lot of damage to the tiny, growing body. It was quite clear why Nena was in such a bad condition when she arrived. Little Nena stayed five days in the clinic, under constant observation. Whilst continuing to receive IV fluids and antibiotics and eye drops twice a day, little Nena also received a lot of one, often under-valued treatment; good old fashioned TLC. Nena was hugged, loved, pet, snuggled and cuddled every day by the Darwin Animal Doctors team, and by the end of her stay, was a happy healthy puppy.

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    Nena had done a full 180 degree turn-around; she had gone from a severe case, to a puppy with a bright future. Thank you to the Darwin Animal Doctors team for such dedicated care to yet another critical patient.

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  6. An Exciting Announcement!

    Travelling Animal Doctors and Darwin Animal Doctors (T/DAD) has recently entered into an exciting relationship with Saga Humane Society located in San Pedro, Belize. Saga was founded in 1999 and operates the only non-profit veterinary clinic on the island of Ambergris Caye. They were founded with the mission to “prevent cruelty and replace it with kindness to all animals”. Saga aims to do so through providing veterinary care to all those who need it, including ongoing spay/neuter and vaccination campaigns.

    Despite the best efforts of the dedicated group, over various periods of time in the organisation’s existence, the clinic has found itself without a qualified veterinarian. During these times, the society has done all they can to fill the void with visiting vets when possible, but it has not been unusual for the island to go long periods without veterinary care available for the many animals of the island. Furthermore, without standardized protocols for treatment and general running of the clinic, it has been difficult for the Saga team to standardize the care provided in the clinic to ensure consistent treatment. The organization has also mentioned that without a solid humane education program they have been unable to reach the local population and educate on important concepts such as the need for sterilization, wellness treatment and general animal care.

    Terry Stone, Board Chair for Darwin and Travelling Animal Doctors stated, “Although often seen as a pristine vacation island, Ambergris Caye is part of a developing nation where veterinary care is not accessible to the general public, and the results of such a situation are clear. Despite the dedication of individuals like members of Saga, the island still has a prevalent feral animal population and needs concentrated efforts to deal with this and other issues.” Over 2100 animals were treated in 2015 and more than 3500 have been treated thus far in 2016; with the obvious stray dog/cat population on the island, the need for veterinary care and humane education is extremely clear. Belize contains seven protected UNESCO sites and 80% of its mainland is covered by rainforest with an abundance of endangered animals. “The three-prong mission of T/DAD is to provide free professional veterinary care, humane education and protect the biodiverse environment in remote and developing countries… therefore, Belize is an ideal location for our organization” continues Terry.

    Over the last two years, Travelling Animal Doctors & Darwin Animal Doctors have been in discussions with Saga Humane Society over their needs on Ambergris Caye and in the wider Belize community. As the end of 2016 comes closer and the Saga team looks towards 2017 as another period without a veterinarian, T/DAD has decided to enter into an agreement with the society in order to support their efforts. “We believe all animals should have access to veterinary care”, says Dr Jochem Lastdrager, President/Founder of Travelling Animal Doctors and the chief veterinarian for Darwin Animal Doctors , “lack of access is a problem we can solve.”

    Beginning in January of 2017, Travelling & Darwin Animal Doctors will step in to support and guide the Saga clinic, initially for a one-year period. T/DAD will ensure that the clinic has a consistent veterinarian presence, up to the standards of both Travelling Animal Doctors & Darwin Animal Doctors, for the entire year. In addition to this, Dr Jochem Lastdrager, will introduce the T/DAD protocols and standards of care to ensure animal treatment and care in the Saga clinic is streamlined and of the highest standard possible for such a remote country. Furthermore, T/DAD will also be sending our Humane Education coordinator to implement the T/DAD Humane Education Program in order to promote and further develop the understanding and views of animal welfare on the island.

    As this relationship between two like-minded, non-profit organizations develops, Travelling and Darwin Animal Doctors will open the clinic doors to volunteers from all over the world. As in other Darwin Animal Doctors clinics, the Belize clinic will be used as a platform to aid in the development of veterinary students in their final years of study by providing “hands on training”, as well as welcoming fully qualified veterinarians from all over the world to volunteer their talents and expertise. In this manner, Darwin Animal Doctors will be able to continue to support the high quality education of current veterinary students and ensure that the clinic is maintained with quality veterinarians to reach T/DAD and Saga’s combined goals.

    The relationship between the two organizations is an exciting one. As T/DAD works alongside Saga, we will be able to ensure that consistent high quality veterinary care is available to all animals on Ambergris Caye. By providing our protocols, standards of best treatment, T/DAD Humane Education program, and consistent volunteers and veterinarians, T/DAD will be able to give Saga the support they require to move forward and achieve their goals for animal welfare on Ambergris Caye and in the wider Belize community.


  7. The KeMaHa Group

    We have shared a few stories lately which demonstrate the changes we have seen regarding the understanding of animal welfare issues since the inception of our education programs. The KeMaHa group, a group of three teenagers, has profoundly impressed the Darwin Animal Doctors team down in the Galapagos Islands, and so, we thought we’d share their story with you…

     Keyla, Mayela, and Haelly formed the “KeMaHa” group, with the focus to better the lives of all animals. They aim to improve the understanding of different aspects of animal treatment in their community, and set make sure to exceptional examples themselves. One of the group’s focuses is to support the Darwin Animal Doctors in raising awareness over the importance of sterilizing your pets, and the girls are well known for starting this conversation with local residents. However, they don’t stop there. If an owner tells the group that they would sterilize their pet but don’t have the time to make it to the clinic, the girls will go to the owner’s house, pick their pet up and bring them to the clinic themselves, just making it in time for their first class at school. At the end of the day, they will come back to the clinic, pick up the animal and bring it home for the owner, sterilized and deparasited.

     Furthermore, the KeMaHa group actively educate the public on the cruelty of cutting ears and tails and push their local community to adopt pets instead of buying from a local (illegal) breeder. The girls also try to teach their community about the importance of exercise for dogs, and set a wonderful example in doing so themselves – taking groups of dogs to the highlands to play and get the exercise they need.

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    KeMaHa also offer a dog walking and dog grooming service in order to raise a little money which they put away to save up for their big dream. Unlike most children of their age, the girls are not saving for a new phone or other popular item… The group hope that one day, no dog or cat on the island will have to live on the streets or without a home, and, therefore, intend to open a shelter/re-homing organisation in order to achieve that aim. For now, the girls still take in the street animals that they can, finding a good adoptive home for each and every one of them.

    To see a change like this in the community warms the hearts of the whole team at Darwin Animal Doctors. To the Kemaha group, true leadership like yours is inspirational and gives us all hope to keep doing what we do. Keep it up KeMaHa!

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