Darwin Animal Doctors


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  1. The Sea Lion

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    In the idyllic Galapagos Islands, the rare and spectacular wildlife live freely in their undisturbed, natural habitat. Or so it used to be.

    Once the Archipelago was discovered, the wildlife became increasingly affected by this human presence. Whilst many organizations work tirelessly to decrease this impact, with increasing numbers of tourists entering the islands, the human-wildlife interaction is inevitable.


    The Galapagos National Park Directorate works constantly to protect the native wildlife, including regular monitoring of all the protected areas. On one of their recent rounds, the one of the park guards had seen a sea lion with a large wound. Andrea, the park vet called Dr. Carmen to help. Arrangements were quickly made to capture the sea lion and bring her to the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic.

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    Dr. Carmen’s examination found a very severe and deep cut towards her tail, where most likely a boat’s engine blade had cut through her skin, fat, muscle layer so deeply as to damage a vertebra. Her back flippers also had wounds. The poor sea lion was in terrible condition; she was skin and bone, weak from her extensive injuries.

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    The only option to save the sea lion was to surgically close the wound. Thankfully, due to the Doctors new surgery set up, it was possible to administer anesthetic and monitor the sea lion’s respiration and heart rate. The mechanism can even mechanically breathe for the sea lion if she were to stop breathing for herself. With Dr. Paul as anesthesiologist, Doctors Babette and Carmen conducted the surgery together to have the sea lion under anesthetics for the shortest time possible.

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    “It was a very deep wound but we managed to close it. We had to remove a lot of damaged tissue and foreign bodies and put a lot of supportive subcutaneous sutures to hold it all together. She was stable during the whole surgery,” Dr. Carmen reported.


    With such serious injuries and weakened state, her survival is unlikely. But the Darwin Animal Doctors team did everything possible to help give her a fighting chance. As our world moves at a faster and faster pace, we all need to slow down and become aware of the danger for animals that might be in our path. With the increase of marine tourism and inter-island transportation the incidence of boats coming in contact with marine animals has become an issue across the planet.

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  2. Update on Bolon

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    Bolon, who had a little reconstruction surgery, has been visiting Dr. Carmen daily for his check-ups and dose of antibiotics. The family reported that Bolon had been recovering well post-surgery, but he wasn’t completely back to normal. Upon returning home, Bolon displayed signs of depression including hiding from others and a lack of appetite. This behavior was the complete opposite of Bolon’s usual demeanor which was an energetic spirit and an affinity for eating.


    The Doctors decided to check him in overnight. Bolon was put on an IV line to ensure that he remained well-hydrated. He was also given acid-reducers to help stop the formation of crystals and anti-nausea medication.

    Bolon became a temporary resident at the clinic until the Doctors were confident he was fully recovered. After two days, the Doctors were happy to report that Bolon was back to normal. He ate his food with excitement and was quite energetic. He was even getting a bit cheeky.

    “Bolon kicked Stinky off her usual spot so he could sit at the window next to me and the computer!” exclaimed Dr. Carmen, with a chuckle.

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    Bolon has happily returned home with his family, but will continue to visit the clinic for daily antibiotics and check-ups over the next few weeks.

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  3. Bolon the Blocked Cat

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    Bolon is a cat well-known at the clinic for his bladder problems. He has a condition known as Crystalluria, where crystals form in his urine. As the crystals group together, they form a plug and prevent Bolon from peeing.

    Bolon had come into the clinic for the treatment of his condition a few times before, however this particular visit required absolute urgency and immediate action. Bolon had a very full and almost exploding bladder (which can actually occur), so the Doctors rushed Bolon into the operating room.

    Bolon was sedated and had a urinary catheter inserted to remove the plug and relieve his bladder – just in time. The Doctors flushed his bladder and fixed the catheter so it would stay in place for the next 24 hours. Bolon was placed on an IV line to ensure he was well-hydrated and to help dilute any of the crystals still remaining. He stayed in the clinic overnight to remain under close observation.

    The next day, Bolon seemed to be feeling better. He spent the day in the clinic and was back to his normal self with his normal bodily functions. The Doctors removed his urinary catheter and IV line and Bolon was ready to go home. The Doctors scheduled him to come back the next day for a follow up.

    Bolon came back into the clinic the following day, but he was not doing very well. His bladder was once again enlarged, which caused him extreme pain. The Doctors realized that Bolon’s condition had reached the point to where the problem was becoming unfixable for the long-term.


    “So I suggested a more radical, but permanent solution,” reported Dr. Carmen, “a feline perineal ureterostomy.”

    To put it simply, the Doctors surgically altered the opening of Bolon’s urethra so that it is large enough to pass the crystals in his urine. The owner agreed to this life-saving surgery, as it was the best available solution to Bolon’s reoccurring problem.*


    “I performed the surgery and it went well,” Dr. Carmen stated, “the next day Bolon went home with an e-collar around his neck. He will return every day for antibiotic injections and check-ups.”


    When Bolon’s family came to pick him up, Dr. Carmen was greeted by a lovely surprise. The young girl in the family had made Dr. Carmen a painting to thank her for saving Bolon’s life.


    *Usually, cats are put on a special diet to help stop this condition from occurring. Unfortunately, this particular type of cat food is not available in the Galapagos

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  4. Update on Rocky

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    Remember Rocky?

    Rocky was the naughty and clever little pup who managed to reopen her wound and reverse the good work of the Doctors, despite wearing her e-collar!

    A few days ago, Rocky returned for her suture removal. Thankfully, we can report that Rocky appreciated the Doctors help this time around and left her wound alone.

    “She is such a lovely dog,” Dr. Carmen replied when asked how Rocky was recovering. “When she sees you, she just snuggles up with you and lays on her back. This made the whole procedure so easy for us!”

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    Rocky had her e-collar removed and was free to go.

    Stay out of trouble, Rocky!



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  5. The Mystery Case of Ralph

    Santa Cruz,Galapagos

    Ralph’s story is one of absolute mystery. The owner of this nine month old pup came into the Galapagos clinic to schedule Ralph for a neutering appointment for the following week. However, Ralph arrived before his scheduled visit to see the Doctors, as he had not eaten all weekend and had severe vomiting and diarrhea. The sickly pup was given fluids, antibiotics and other medications to help reduce the vomiting. That afternoon, the owner returned to the clinic with Ralph, worried that he was not getting any better.

    In addition to his other symptoms, Ralph now had a high fever and had stopped drinking fluids. The Doctors administered intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics, then ran analytics on his blood and tested for tick fever. The Doctors concluded that Ralph was negative for tick fever, however his white blood cell count was low. This indicated that Ralph’s body was fighting off something, but with no clear diagnosis. Dr. Carmen recommended that Ralph spend the night at the clinic to continue receiving IV fluids.

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    Over the next four days, Ralph’s condition did not improve. His symptoms only worsened and he still would not eat or drink. The Doctors tried a variety of medications to help Ralph fight off the sickness including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, acid reducers, and vitamins. He developed ulcers in his mouth, which covered his gums with dead tissue. He began to show signs that his liver was failing in addition to passing the mucosal lining of his gastrointestinal tract. The Doctors were unsure why Ralph’s condition worsened, so they adjusted his medication and sent the bloodwork to the city of Quito to shed more light on the poor pup’s ailment.

    Unfortunately, the bloodwork returned inconclusive. Steadfast to find a cure, the Doctors sought the medical advice of veterinarians and specialists around the world. Two other veterinarians visiting the Islands were also invited to give their prognosis. No one had ever seen a case like Ralph’s before and no one knew what to do.

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    The Doctors did not give up. They continued Ralph’s intensive treatment and continued to monitor his overall status, temperature, and vital signs. All with an extra-large serving of TLC. Ralph’s owner visited him several times a day, much to the pup’s excitement. She brought him all his favorite foods, although he did not eat, and took him out for short walks. This sweet little dog won the hearts of everyone at the clinic. Dr. Carmen spent hours lying with him, cuddling and willing Ralph to stay strong and get better.

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    One day, just over a week after Ralph entered the clinic, the pup ceased all vomiting and began to drink water again. He started to chew on ice cubes and ate some simple and bland food. All of Ralph’s symptoms slowly subsided until he was determined healthy enough to go home.

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    For now, Ralph’s disease remains a mystery. Yet, due to the persistence, hope, and tremendous amounts of love from the Doctors and Ralph’s family, this pup was miraculously pulled back from the brink of death.