Darwin Animal Doctors


Category Archive: Monthly reports

  1. Max’s Intoxication

    We met Max when he was brought into the clinic. He was having trouble breathing and his gums were turning blue. When we first examined him he was struggling so much that we were afraid we were going to lose him.

    We spoke with his owners and learned that Max had ingested an organophosphate poison that is common on the island. His owners were desperate to save him so attempted a home treatment they heard about: forcing Max to swallow oil and soap. Unfortunately this treatment is a myth and does not treat the poison. Unknown to the owners, by forcing Max to swallow the oil and soap, he got aspiration pneumonia which is why he was struggling to breathe so much.

    We gave Max the antidote for the poison and treated him with oxygen and antibiotics for his aspiration pneumonia. He responded well to therapy and was up wagging his tail the next day!

    ***If you believe your animal has injested poison, bring them directly to your local veterinarian. Your vet will have an injectable antidote. Home remedies are at times misleading and can cause harm to your animals. Symptoms of intoxication include excessive salivation, difficulty walking, and muscle tremors.***

    This case shows why we show up to the clinic every day: to save sick patients and to provide humane education to the community about when to seek veterinary care so we can keep patients like Max as healthy as possible! Please consider contributing to Darwin Animal Doctors, so we can continue our work.

    Leave a Comment
  2. Importance of Sterilization

    For years, pet owners have questioned whether to spay or neuter their pets. However, history and research show that there are many pros to having your pets spayed or neutered.

    What is Sterilization?

    “Spaying” is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs of female animals. “Neutering” is the surgical removal of male animal’s testicles. Both surgeries occur while the animals are under anesthesia. The veterinarian may keep your pet under observation for a couple hours to several days, depending on the animal’s age, size, health, and reaction to the anesthesia.

    Why should I sterilize my animals?

    Sterilization has many benefits, including improving the health of your animals, reducing undesirable behaviors, and preventing unwanted animals.

    First and foremost, sterilizing your pet will help them live a longer and healthier life. Spaying and neutering reduces, or can even eliminate, a number of health problems that are difficult and/or expensive to treat. By neutering your male animals, you help prevent testicular cancer and prostate problems. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors in your female animals.

    Sterilization can help change unwanted behavior from your animals. For example, some aggression problems in male animals can be avoided by early neutering. Your male dog will be less likely to roam away from your home, preventing potential accidents from cars or fights with other males. Unneutered dogs and cats will be less likely to mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. They may be less likely to mount other dogs, people, and objects.

    By spaying your female animals, they will no longer go into heat. This will help stop a number of undesirable behavior in both males and female animals. In females, it is common for them to urinate more frequently in attempt to attract males. They often will get blood on your furniture, exhibit nervous behavior, and attract unwanted males to your home. Males are capable of doing almost anything to find a mate, including finding creative ways of to escape from the house, or enter the area where the female is in heat.

    It should be noted that neutering your male dogs does not guarantee to resolve all behavioral problems. There is a correlation between testosterone levels and certain undesirable behaviors, such as aggression. However, the surgery only reduces the amount of testosterone in your dog’s system; it does not eliminate the hormone completely. Further, neutering will not reduce or eliminate learned or habitual behaviors. The impact of the sterilization largely depends on your animal’s individual personality, history, and physiology.

    Finally, the impact of sterilizing your pets goes much further than your home. Spaying and neutering your individual pets helps your community by preventing the birth of unwanted animals. Communities and animal shelters spend millions of dollars to control unwanted dogs. Shelters are overburdened with animals, and some shelters euthanize their dogs after a certain time period to allow for more. Stray dogs and cats can cause issues in your neighborhood by getting into trash, spreading diseases, and displaying potentially aggressive behavior.

    The cost of your pet’s sterilization surgery is a lot less than having to care for a litter. Sterilization also costs much less than the cost of potential treatments from health complications in the future!

    Consider this: One pair of un-sterilized cats, together with their offspring, can result in 420,000 kittens in seven years. One pair of un-sterilized dogs, with their offspring, can result in 4,372 puppies in the same time frame.

    When should I spay/neuter my pets?

    For dogs: Typically, owners sterilize their pups between six to nine months. However, puppies as young as eight weeks old can be neutered as long as they are healthy. Dogs can be sterilized as adults as well, although there may be more risk for post-operative complications in older dogs.

    For cats: It is generally considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered. It is advisable to sterilize your cats before they are five months old, but adult cats can also undergo the surgery.

    Consult with your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet. Each animal is different and will require a specific treatment plan.  Your veterinarian will be glad to answer any questions you may have about spay or neuter procedures, as well as help you determine the best age at which you should sterilize your dog.

    We hope this makes your decision whether or not to spay or neuter your pets much easier!

    Help us provide free spay and neuter surgeries around the world by contributing to Darwin Animal Doctors.

    Leave a Comment
  3. Negro’s Nine Lives

    Negro, a young black cat, went missing for 4 days. When he returned home, his owwners were so happy to see him, but immediately worried when noticed that Negro was dragging his front leg. They thought that he might have broken it on his great adventure, so they brought Negro into the clinic for an evaluation.

    Upon examination, we could feel that the bones were not broken but instead Negro’s neurological function to the front leg was severely damaged. This is due to traumatic stretching and tearing of a large bundle of nerves called the brachial plexus that supply the front leg. Luckily, this injury does not require surgery and with rest alone, Negro could regain some, if not all of the function back in his front leg.

    Unfortunately, Negro did not completely avoid surgery. During the exam, we also found a large bulge on his side. The traumatic event that damaged his leg also caused a rip in his body wall so that his intestines were sitting under his skin! Dr. Carmen performed surgery and put the intestines back into his abdomen and sutured the hole closed.

    Negro needed another surgery that night. His jaw was fractured at the very front, called a mandibular symphysis fracture. Dr. Carmen wired the jaw back together to stabilize it for healing.

    The wire will be removed in 6 weeks and then Negro will be ready for adventures again, but from now on he should stay in the house to keep out of trouble! He only has six lives left!

     Consider contributing to Darwin Animal Doctors so we can continue to treat animals such as Negro.

    Read about more stories on our blog!

    Leave a Comment
  4. Copito’s Fishy Diet

    Copito, a little 6-month old black and white kitten, was brought in to the Galapagos clinic for a fractured femur. On physical exam we found that several other bones were not forming correctly. We asked his owners about his diet, and they told us that he was being fed mainly fish and meat at home. Although a diet of meat and fish is what we typically think of as ideal for a cat, it is lacking nutrients and a balanced diet is necessary for a healthy development.

    Copito was suffering from a disease called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This is a disease that cats develop when they are only fed meat or fish without a good calcium source. The resulting nutritional imbalance leads to weak bones which in this case lead to a fracture.

    This case highlights the importance of feeding your pet an appropriate and complete diet and why we advise owners all over the world to feed their pets commercial cat or dog food or consult with a veterinarian about how to balance a home cooked diet. Copito’s owners were not aware of the dangers of only feeding a growing kitten only meat and fish and immediately started little Copito on a diet of cat food.

    Volunteer Natalie with Copito

    Did you enjoy reading about Copito’s Story? Consider contributing to Darwin Animal Doctor’s and check out more of our stories on our blog.  


    Leave a Comment
  5. Chicken is Better Cooked

    Last Saturday, tiny little Damster decided he was in the mood for some chicken. Upon report by his owner, Damster chased three chicklets and swallowed them one by one. Damster was so quick, his owner was unable to interfere. Damster started feeling the consequences right away. He stopped eating, started vomiting, and felt a lot of pain in his abdomen. His owner rushed him into the clinic.

    With a situation such as Damster’s, the vets first had to check if there was an obstruction. No obstruction was found, although he was in pain. Upon arrival at the clinic, he started to have diarrhea. This meant Damster did not need an operation, but rather treatment.

    A therapy was started, consisting of antibiotics, anti-emetics, and painkillers. Damster gave us one more scare with a hypoglycemic attack, however after his behavior improved daily. Damster started eating, moving around, and even crying out for attention!!! That was the sign we were looking for to send Damster home to his family.

    Hopefully in the future, the owners can keep a better eye on Damster and Damster will think twice before eating strange things (especially alive ones!)

    Please consider making a small donation, so we can continue to treat our furry friends like Damster!

    Leave a Comment
  6. Cocoa’s scary news

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    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!

    Leave a Comment
  7. Thank you Stella and Justin

    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!


    1 Comment
  8. Christopher Jr Swallowed a Bone

    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!

    Leave a Comment
  9. Chocolizo’s Amputation

    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

    Leave a Comment
  10. Vicious Dog Attack

    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.

    Leave a Comment