Cocoa had developed a large, suspicious looking node on one of her back legs. The nodule grew very quickly and felt very strange leading Cocoa’s guardians to decide to bring her into the clinic.
After some clinical evaluation Cocoa seemed to be completely healthy, with the exception of the lump. We often see older dogs with lumps which are benign (lipomas), this one however felt odd and needed further examination. We did a fine needle aspiration and discovered some cells that shoudl not be in a nodule like this. The cells resembled mastocytes, meaning Cocoa’s nodule was in fact a tumor called mastocytoma.
Typically, these nodules need further identification for malignancy and metastasis, something that
is beyond the scope of this clinic. We decided to remove the nodule. The surgery was a success and Cocoa woke up well.
In a case such as this, the post operation period is the most important one; Cocoa needs to be monitored well for symptoms, residual cells (new growth in nodule area), metastasis, and healing of the wound. Cocoa’s first visit back was promising!!! Cocoa seemed to be healing well. Let us hope he will stay healthy in the future.
If you liked Cocoa’s story, check out more on our blog and consider contributing to Darwin Animal Doctors!
I’m sure by now you recognize Stella and Justin’s faces and names from stories and posts. They have been our incredible duo; running the clinic from February 2018 until the end of September 2018. Last week they handed over the clinic to Carmen and Kate, and today they take off on their next adventure. Before they left, they gave us a small interview about their experience with us at Darwin Animal Doctors.
What was your most impactful case?
Once upon a time there was a puppy called Panda. Panda came in on the verge of life, and was hardly doing anything. We started the conservative treatment for one of the infectious diseases that are very common here. But his status got worse; his blood values (hematocrit) were dropping tremendously. We had to do something, something which was – at that point – outside of our comfort zone: a blood transfusion. But it was something that had to be done in order to save this pups life. We started reading and researching, and eventually we had a decent plan upon how to do a transfusion with limited equipment. With high hopes and a lot of nervousness we started; the owners brought in a healthy donor (named Candy), we took the blood and started the procedure. The first couple of minutes were stressful. But.. no adverse reactions. So we kept going and everybody’s heart was filled with joy when we saw he started wagging his tail a bit. Minutes and hours passed, he started moving more and more, even tried to stand up. At a certain point he even tried to jump from the table. After the transfusion was finished, the whole team was given empanadas and juice, what a good way to celebrate! The pup was kept in the clinic for a couple of days more in order to monitor him. But he kept on improving immensely so we decided to send him soon as soon as possible, with a list of medications, on the condition that the owners would bring him back for a check-up a couple of days later. Which they did, and which made us even happier. He literally walked into the clinic as if he owned the place and started wagging his tail to all the volunteers. We will never forget the stress but most important of all, the success, of our first blood transfusion with limited equipment in this clinic. After the first one, of course a bunch of blood transfusions in other dogs followed in order to save more lives.
What do you love about being a vet?
The one thing we love most about being a vet is the feeling you get when you do all your best for a dying animals and you see it improving more and more, finally ready to go home with their family who truly cares for the animal. Whether it’s in the middle of the night, during lunch break, early in the morning, at these moments you really have the feeling you are saving lives and are making a difference. For us, this quote is very important; saving one cat or dog won’t change the world, but surely for that cat or dog, the world will change forever’. Every living being is as important for us. And we try our best to rescue as much animals as possible. The other thing we love about being a vet is the fact that we can combine this job with our other passion; traveling. We want to provide veterinary care where it is most needed.
How have your veterinary skills changed during your time at the clinic?
Our vet skills have definitely changed during our time here. Working at a clinic with relatively limited equipment forces you to think out of the box for diagnosing and treating animals. Moreover we focused even more on the clinical history and clinical exam of the animal than we were used to do. During our time here we did surgery on about 1000 animals (85% being sterilizations and castrations) so our surgical skills have improved immensely, included dealing with sometimes serious complications. Being in charge of a clinic puts you in a position that demands a lot of effort and time but it forces you to work independently and to make important decisions on your own. Moreover, the management position we had was also quite challenging for us. All volunteers rely on you, being the one in charge you are the person responsible for resolving all issues. After a couple of weeks we have gotten used to that and we started to like this aspect of being the lead vet, too. We learned to keep calm and work efficiently during stress situations. Over all, we have become a lot more confident in all aspects of veterinary medicine. Not forgetting to mention that all communication with owners was in Spanish!
What was your best part of your experience in the Galapagos, outside of the clinic?
There are a lot of small things that have made us smile during or stay at the Galapagos Islands; the sounds of the little gecko’s on the window next to our bed, the blue foots you see flying by while walking on the pier, the sound a pup sea lion calling for his mother, swimming next to turtles, penguins, sharks, sea lions and many more animals. The Galapagos nature is unreal; the landscape changes drastically from one spot to another, as does the weather. It’s the charm of these islands. The cruise we got offered by Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic, through Darwin Animal Doctors, was the cherry on the cake. During that 8-day cruise we finally got know and see the 97% other part of the Islands for what we have been working so hard to protect and preserve. The environment, nature, wildlife is incredible and beyond expectations unlike anywhere in the world. We really hope this place can be preserved in the future as it is now. Not only the nature is important, there is also a local population; of which some people don’t even know. Although there are a lot of problems, we have seen that there are a lot of people fighting for a good cause and really taking good care of the environment, the animals, and their pets. It was a pleasure to work together with local authorities and people to preserve and protect.
Where are you going next?
A couple of months ago, two newborn kittens were brought into the clinic. We have been taking care of them since June and haven’t been able to find good responsible owners for them, so we decided to take the difficult road to try and take them to Belgium. Therefore, a lot of paperwork has to be done on the mainland, including a 3-month quarantine for rabies. During this time we will be helping out on a shelter/farm with lots of rescued dogs. Moreover, we have been asked to help set-up and manage a new project in Salinas, which would focus on spaying and neutering stray dogs. We are more than happy to cooperate and help these organizations.
Will you come back to work with DAD?
We definitely want to and are planning to come back in the future to work with Darwin Animal Doctors. This organization, the animals and these islands will always have a special place in our hearts.
To Stella and Justin: On behalf of everyone at Darwin Animal Doctors, we thank you for sharing the past 8 months with us. Your individual spirits, hard work, and love of animals has left a beautiful mark on the clinic. We hope to see you back in the near future. Good luck on what comes your way next!
Christopher, Jr. was two months old when he was rushed into the clinic. He was having a lot of trouble breathing and was turning blue. His owners suspected that Christopher Jr. had swallowed a bone that was now stuck.
Quickly, the team tried to explore Christopher Jr.’s mouth cavity but we couldn’t locate anything. We intubated Christopher Jr. so he could breath. After further investigation, the team concluded that a large piece of cartilage, bone, or even possibly a seed, had already passed through Christopher Jr.’s throat, and was most likely in his intestines.
We kept Christopher Jr. Overnight in hope that the obstructing piece would pass with the help of medication or that he would throw it up. During the night check, we found the piece that had been bothering little Christopher; It was a piece of bone 1×4 cm, for a puppy of only 1.5 kg!
The piece that Christopher Jr. threw up
Christopher Jr. stayed with us an additional night to make sure he was indeed out of trouble. Soon enough, he turned into a lively, barking, fluffy ball of happiness.
Please be careful what you feed your dogs; please don’t give them large pieces of food and certainly not big bones!
Chocolizo was brought into the clinic three days after he had been hit by a car. The accident caused multiple fractures in his right hind leg, and cuts to his left hind leg. The left leg had been stitched up, but it was clear it wasn’t done by a veterinarian. First things first, we needed to re-do the stitches and get rid of the excessive fluid.
See how loose those stiches are?
After Chocolizo’s stiches were taken care of, we moved to the other leg. We realized Chocolizo’s fractures were very serious, and not simple to fix. After significant discussion, we decided it was necessary to amputate his hind limb.
If you look closely, you can see the bone
The amputation went very smoothly, and Chocolizo was relieved of his pain. The same day of his operation, Chocolizo attempted to walk. Within a couple days, Chocolizo was running around on his three legs and wagging his tail, as if nothing had happened.
He made the whole team fall in love with him, as he was so joyful despite his situation. He made it his mission to steal the food of all the other hospitalized patients. His favorite food was canned cat food, boiled eggs and tuna. He even got Nathalie, our vegan veterinary technician, to boil and peal eggs for him.
Nathalie’s sacrifice for Chocolizo
Not only did Chocolizo warm his way into our hearts, he also quickly became friends with Guardian. Coincidentally, Guardian was another dog who had been in a car accident resulting in amputation the same week.
Help our team continue to be there to help animals in need, just like little Oreo. Donate today.
Nina was rushed into the clinic after being attacked by some furious and vicious dogs. She was in shock. She had multiple wounds and was continuously dripping blood.
Our first necessary step was to alleviate Nina’s pain. We gave her some pain meds and let her calm down. Once Nina relaxed a little, we start examining her. During exploration, we noticed that she had multiple deep wounds and that the skin was teared loose from the deeper layers.
We had to do multiple layers of stitches in some wounds but also leave some wounds partially open to provide natural drainage.
It’s amazing to see how quickly a dog can recover. After the operation, Nina was wagging her tail and her sweet personality came out.
Attacks like this are happen regularly, especially here on the island. It is very important that we exercise responsible ownership, such as control of pet, walking on a leash, etc. and we continue to educate others about the same.
Our work at the clinic can be hard and demanding, and we get some tough cases. However, there are days like today that make us remember why we do the work we do.
Today we had visits from three dogs we had previously treated, and they were all doing AMAZING!
Panda, if you remember, was brought into the clinic after not eating and being lethargic. She tested positive for IMHA and received treatment with a blood transfusion. If you need a refresher of Panda’s tough story, you can find it here:
Today, Panda looked much better. She had developed some minor skin problems, but he was playing like never before. It was hard to remember the close to death pup that had once met.
Panda during transfusion
Panda (held on the far right) during revisit
Prim was brought to us after getting a bad blood infection from a tick. He was lethargic, had stopped eating, had pale mucosae, and was breathing very fast. A month after therapy, Prim was jumping around the outside clinic. All he needed was a regular deparasitation, but Prim was tired of medication. Nonetheless, we were thrilled to see Prim running and jumping around, with some nice and pink mucosae.
A very lethargic Prim
Prim, so full of life!
Eskay was a puppy who suffered intestinal problems. He stayed with us at this clinic for after while we found enlarged lymph nodes in his abdomen. Not only had Eskay improved magnificently since the operation, he had grown a lot!!
Panda came in as a lethargic puppy who hadn’t eaten for a couple of days and was getting worse by the minute. She didn’t have other symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea, so we decided to have a look at her blood under the microscope.
We found her blood to be almost watery, a bright color compared to the normal dark-red color it should be. We examined a drop of blood under the microscope and discovered the signs of IMHA (immune mediated hemolytic anemia), a condition where the immune system attacks red blood cells. We suspected a viral or blood-parasite cause.
Drawing blood for Panda’s Transfusion
We called the owners and encouraged them to find a healthy dog where we could draw blood from in order to start a blood transfusion. Luckily in less than 2 hours a healthy adult dog arrived at the clinic so we could start the procedure.
Lauren and Reagan Monitoring Blood Transfusion
After the transfusion, Panda quickly started to improve. The day after the procedure, Panda looked more pink and alive. After a couple days at the clinic, Panda returned to being a happy, energetic puppy, in need of a lot of attention. Luckily for Panda, the clinic is filled with people who love to snuggle!
Post-Transfusion Snuggles with Stella
On the day she left she got a trim and a shower. The owners were so happy; they brought us presents: a bag full of lemons and empanadas!
Panda went home on medication and we will be checking up on her regularly but our hearts are already filled with love when you see these little souls getting their life back.
June 12, 2018: Just a normal day like always – at least, that’s what we thought at that time. A kitten as small as a mole was brought in. Eyes closed, feeling cold, barely moving. About an hour later, another kitten, same condition, was brought in by another family. Apparently, a teacher at school found kittens and distributed them between the children, leaving the mother alone without her babies and the kittens without the milk, warmth and love of their mother. We took them in and started the day- and night routine; feeding every 2 to 3 hours, massaging and rubbing their belly, keeping them warm, giving them all of our love. It is difficult to keep kittens alive at this age, as they really need their mother’s milk to protect them from viruses and parasites.
Days passed by, and there they were, still alive and drinking little by little. The whole team had sleepless nights, and days taking care of the kittens. The kittens would sleep at our apartment and we would take them to the clinic for a couple of hours during the day.
For a couple of weeks, the old owners of the cats came to visit them. And then suddenly, from one day to another they stopped coming. They were too busy and didn’t have time. We tried very hard to look for good owners who wanted to adopt them. Noah, the Siamese one, was easy. Everyone wants the white one, because she is ‘so pretty’. But Nena? Noah and Nena had grown up together, slept together, ate together, and played together. We would never separate them, not in a hundred years. So we narrowed the people we addressed for adoption to just a few we trust. Fatima already has a house full of animals (2 cats, 12 dogs, 2 pigs, chickens, …), and Sarah has her 16 cats. Rene and Mayra, have already adopted a lot of abandoned animals that were brought into the clinic, and couldn’t take any more. Neither could animal lover Carlos, as the circumstances didn’t allow him to adopt the 2 kittens.
So here we are after 12 weeks. Stella and Justin can’t just leave them behind here, not knowing where they would be going. So they made a decision: Noah and Nena are moving to Belgium with them!! It’s a loooong way to go. As the rabies vaccine can’t be administered here on the Island, we have to take them to the mainland. 30 days later, a blood test for the rabies antibody titers needs to be send to an official laboratory. Afterwards they (and thus Stella and Justin) need to stay in Ecuador for an additional 3 months, for their quarantine. They have a long and pricey journey ahead of them. Stella and Justin cancelled our next volunteer project in Ecuador, but it’s all worth it if they manage to take these cuties to Belgium.
Please help us get these kittens to Belguim by donating:
As of two days ago, Chaparito was just another street dog. His guardians found him when he needed them most, and saw Chaparito’s fun spirt beneath his matted fur. They noticed he was lethargic and brought him straight to our clinic.
After running some tests, we found Chaparito had a fast heartbeat and pale gums. Our suspicions were confirmed after running some blood work: Chaparito had severe anemia. We attempted to treat him with a conventional method, but Chaparito got worse within minutes.
We contacted our friend Fatima, an incredibly generous person who cares for 14 dogs. Fatima brought in Eva, a healthy big dog, right away for a blood transfusion. Eva came over to the operation table to meet Chaparito.
Eva meeting Chaparito before transfusion. Eva’s excited to help out!
We saw the improvement in Chaparito after a couple of hours after the transfusion. We were able to give Chaparito’s a chance to start healing, but his body needs to do the rest of the work. With his new guardians, we are confident this will be possible!
Big thanks to Chaparito’s guardians, Fatima, Eva, and the whole team at the clinic!!
Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands, Galapagos
This year, we have had the great honor of working alongside the Agencia de Regulacion y Control de la Bioseguridad para Galapagos (ABG) to run sterilization campaigns in the three major inhabited islands of the Galapagos; Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela. Together, DAD and ABG provide sterilization services in areas where there is no or little veterinary care available for the number of animal residents. Such campaigns help ensure that each animal in Galapagos has access to veterinary care, and allow for the further humane control of the population of introduced species. Together, these goals help protect the unique and magical ecosystem of the Galapagos.
Over this year, the team have run these campaigns monthly and we have been reporting to you throughout the year how these campaigns have been going. As a few campaigns have gone by, we though it was about time that you heard just how well these campaign have been going…
From June 18th to 20th, the team ran a campaign in Isabela island with a total of 37 animals being sterilized. Furthermore, the team were able to provide additional medical services to animals with other medical complaints. The Doctors were able to diagnose and begin treatment for a dog with multiple swellings covering his body and were able to remove a large tumor from the ear of a cat. Further, the team performed a pinnectomy – the removal of some of the outer ear flap – on a dog in need of help. All-round, the campaign was a great success and the team were able to help animals who would otherwise have nowhere to turn to.
“These campaigns need to continue on the islands, especially Isabela were veterinary care is not accessible.” – Dr. Justin
On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of July, the team visited San Cristobal to conduct another spay and netuer campaign. This campaign was the most successful to date, with the team performing 91 sterilization surgeries and two additional surgeries for animals in need. Furthermore, the team also conducted general consultations for animals with other varying medical complaints. The DAD/ABG team were extremely satisfied with the result and were amazed at what they could achieve together.
“Everyday we were able to do more and more animals. This campaign was really the example of why these campaigns need to continue. A big thank you to the team, ABG and to all the owners that made the decision to sterilize their animals.” – Dr. Stella
From the 16th to 18th of July, it was Santa Cruz Island’s turn for a campaign. During this campaign, a total of 22 animals were spayed and neutered, reaching more animals and giving the volunteer team more experience and practice in surgical preparation and aftercare.
With both July campaigns together, a total of 113 animals were spayed and neutered, additional to those sterilized in the clinic during this time.
On the 1st and 2nd of August, the team ran another sterilization campaign on Isabela. In just two days, the team performed 32 sterilization surgeries. The team did an amazing job, working long hours, to conduct such a number of surgeries in such a short time. On top of these surgeries, the team assisted a variety of other animals where were in desperate need of medical care. Their incredible stories will be shared shortly.
“The campaign showed us again that Isabela needs a vet – not only to perform elective surgeries to reduce the amount of free roaming dogs and cats, but also to help the sick animals in need.” – Drs. Stella and Justin.
Since the beginning of this year, these DAD/ABG campaigns have led to the sterilization of 400 cats and dogs – on top of those sterilized in our clinic daily. With five more planned campaigns for this year, we expect to sterilize a large number of additional cats and dogs – reducing their impact on the local ecosystem. These campaigns are extremely important for the protection of the Galapagos, but also allow us to take a big step forward in our goal to ensure that all animals have access to veterinary care.
Congratulations to the amazing clinic team and to the dedicated members of the ABG who have ensured such success in these campaigns so far this year. We look forward to reporting their continued success throughout the rest of this year.
Help us continue to run these campaigns year round! Donate today.