Darwin Animal Doctors


Category Archive: Monthly reports

  1. At the APHE Conference

    This month, both our Educational Coordinator, Michelle Green, and our head veterinarian, Dr Jochem Lastdrager, attended the APHE Conference in Seattle. The conference was an amazing opportunity to see the work of various Humane Educators from around the country, and meet some of the most dedicated workers in the Humane Education world.

    With multiple lectures per day, our team we able to gain new ideas, learn from some interesting insights and hear about the difficulties facing Humane Educators in the US. As an organisation who puts education at our forefront, it was great to also be able to present our own work, including our full year curriculum and our Piggy Tales Graphic novel, at our presenter table.

    An incredibly well run and educational event, the APHE conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with a large number of Humane Educators. Thank you to all of those who made this event possible, who shared their knowledge and who made this week fun!

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  2. Vaca and her puppies

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    Dr Carmen was studying in the clinic one Saturday afternoon when a family holding their dog appeared in front of the gate. Vaca had given birth to two puppies around midnight the night before, and had continued to cry out as if she was trying to give birth, but had no more contractions. Concerned for the new mum, the family brought Vaca to the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic.

    Dr Carmen gave Vaca an injection of oxytocin to see if it would be possible for her to give birth herself – but it was no enough. Dr Carmen realized that Vaca needed a C-Section to safely birth the last of the pups. A difficult surgery, all hands were needed, and so all the Doctors were called in from their places of rest and relaxation across the island.

    The team arrived very quickly, and Dr Carmen informed each of them of the plan, and their individual roles. Dr Carmen and Jessica would perform the surgery, removing the uterus from the struggling Vaca and hand it over to Dr Daphne and Alisha, who would then remove the pups. Dr Daphne would check the pups and then hand them across to Elena, Jennifer and Sacha who would team up to care for the little new borns. The plan was set and the surgery room prepared.


    As Dr Carmen began the surgery, she quickly realized that this surgery was going to be even more complicated than expected. The uterus was huge, clearly containing far more puppies than expected. Dr Carmen had to make some quick decisions and change the plan. She and Jessica quickly removed the pups from the uterus and handed them over to the rest of the team to check on and take care of each pup. Dr Daphne and the team were handed pup by pup to care for until they had twelve little new borns in front of them. Miraculously, the team were able to save nine of the beautiful pups.

    An incredible surgery, the team had spent all day in the clinic by the time it was completed. Vaca was tired, but healthy and would soon return home with her clan of little pups.

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  3. An interview with Dr Carmen and Dr Daphne

    DAD: Dr. Carmen, please tell us about your exciting, new adventure. Where are you headed next?

    Dr. Carmen: I will be traveling to Koh Tao, Thailand to work with NoiStar Animal Foundation to help run their animal clinic.

    DAD: What is the overall focus of the upcoming campaign in Thailand?

    Dr. Carmen: In addition to treating animals at the clinic, Darwin Animal Doctors will set up a high-volume TNR (trap-spay-release) program in order to humanely control the overpopulation of feral and free-roaming dogs and cats on the island. As more people populate the island, the population of feral dogs and cats continues to grow out of control. Feral animals impact the local wildlife as they disrupt the breeding grounds for birds and endangered sea turtles. Furthermore, we aim to create awareness about basic animal welfare and care, spread compassion for animals, and build recognition for humane animal control programs in Koh Tao.

    DAD: How long will you be in Koh Tao?

    Dr. Carmen: Darwin Animal Doctors will be on the island from May to July of 2017.

    DAD: Dr. Daphne, first let me start by saying “Welcome to the team”! Please tell the readers a little about your background. What inspired you to join Darwin Animal Doctors?

    Dr. Daphne: I graduated veterinary school in the Netherlands in 2013 and worked in different clinics all over the country. Last year, I helped Darwin Animal Doctors with a spay and neuter campaign in Cañoa, Ecuador. There I learned about the impact stray dogs and cats have on the local wildlife and on the community. I was impressed by the Doctors’ work and was enthusiastic about helping out in more campaigns in the future. I was not very happy with my current job in the Netherlands, so when I heard Carmen was planning to leave Galapagos and head to Thailand, I quickly applied for the job!

    DAD: What has been your experience in the Galapagos so far?

    Dr. Daphne: I have worked in the clinic for three weeks now. Every day is different. We can have two life threatening emergencies at the same time, or we can have mornings when boxes of healthy puppies come in for a de-parasite treatment. I am happy to see that a lot of the clients really love their animals and are very concerned about their well-being. But on the same hand, some of people here are not aware of how to properly take care of their animals. Sometimes they wash their animals with chemicals or feed them food that is not healthy for a dog or a cat. This is not because they want to intentionally harm the animal, rather they do not know that is it wrong. Educating the local community about how to take care of their animals has been a giant task for us.

    DAD: What do you look forward to the most over the next six months?

    Dr. Daphne: I really enjoy working with the volunteers. I can learn something from every single volunteer that comes in the clinic. I hope that I can teach them something, too. I am also looking forward to seeing more of the amazing flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands!

    DAD: Dr. Carmen, after a year in the Galapagos, you have seen and done a lot for animals. We thank you so much! What are your top three favorite memories or moments at the Galapagos clinic?

    Dr. Carmen: It is hard to pick my three favorite memories or moments! We have treated so many patients here and you really build a personal bond with each of them. One I will never forget was Ralph, the pitbull with a mysterious disease. We were able to save his life and now, he is a happy, healthy puppy. I spent many hours cuddling him, trying to get him to eat something and just trying to cheer him up. I am so happy he survived. Furthermore, it is the people of the Galapagos and the volunteers that make this a very special place to work.

    DAD: What in the Galapagos will you miss most?

    Dr. Carmen: I will miss being so connected to nature. There is no other place in the world like Galapagos, where you are surrounded by animals that are not afraid of you. You sit next to a sea lion on a bench waiting for a boat ride. You swim next to marine iguanas and with sea turtles below you. The birds come up to investigate you. You can snorkel with penguins and chill with giant tortoises. It’s like living in a zoo, but better because all the animals are free and live in harmony together. For an animal lover like me, this was like living the dream!

    DAD: How can our readers continue to support the clinic?

    Dr. Carmen: You continue to support us by spreading the word about what Darwin Animal Doctors does in the Galapagos and around the world. The more people who are aware of us and what we stand for, the more support we will receive. You can also donate one-time or become a monthly member of Darwin Animal Doctors so we can continue to carry out our life-saving work at the clinic in Galapagos and any of the upcoming projects we have internationally, such as our work at the animal clinic in Thailand.


    Your monthly contributions allow Darwin Animal Doctors to provide free veterinary care around the world and educate future generations in local schools about animal welfare. Your generous support contributes to a kinder, more compassionate Earth for animals. Click here to become a monthly supporter.

  4. Dr Carmen’s last day in Galapagos…

    It brings a tear to the eyes of many to realise that yesterday was Dr Carmen’s last day in the Galapagos clinic.
    After one year of incredible dedication, hard work, late nights, life saving surgeries, volunteer training, ingenious treatments, emergency call outs, wildlife care and surgeries, sterilization campaigns, community education and more than we could ever fit into one post… this hilarious, fun-loving and truly caring Doctor is going to say goodbye to her post in Galapagos and take a month off before heading to Thailand to commit three more months to the Darwin Animal Doctors cause.
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    Dr Carmen is not only an incredible surgeon, an amazing doctor and a brilliant teacher, but is an inspiration to all animal lovers and carers out there. Dr Carmen will not only put the endless hours of medical care into any patient that may be in need, but she will always take it a step futher by showing her patients the extra love, care and attention that they deserve. It is not uncommon to enter the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic to see Dr Carmen lying on the floor cuddling with a sick dog to give him the extra dose of TLC needed to get better, or to find her on a Saturday evening in the clinic, checking a cat’s wounds as she sits with him, willing him to get better.
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    And she does it all with a big smile and a laugh that fills the room.
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    From all that have had the incredible opportunity to work alongside you, from those who have been inspired by your love and care, and from all those who you have helped and saved; Thank you. For everything you have done for the animals of the Galapagos Islands, and for all the volunteers under your care; Thank you!
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    Have an amazing holiday Dr Carmen, and we will see you in Thailand!
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  5. Pirata, the One-Eyed Dog

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    One Sunday afternoon, our Galapagos chief surgeon, Dr. Carmen, received news of a little female puppy roaming the streets of Bellavista – a town located in the highlands of Santa Cruz. The images attached to the message showed that this puppy had a very bad eye. Dr. Carmen knew that the eye would have to be removed as soon as possible. So, she sent a message back, asking for people to catch the puppy and bring her into the clinic with haste.

    The next day, a woman arrived at the clinic with this same little puppy in her arms. The woman had taken pity on the young dog and decided to take her in, as she was in need of serious veterinary attention. The Doctors inspected her eye and discovered not only was the eye infected, but she was completely blind in that one eye. Unfortunately, her eye could not be removed immediately, as the Doctors hoped, since the young pup had developed severe respiratory problems. She sniffled constantly and had a lot of trouble breathing. The puppy could not undergo surgery with this condition, so the Doctors placed her on antibiotics and painkillers until she was well enough to come back for the procedure in three days’ time.

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    Before leaving the clinic, the new owner of the puppy expressed that she had not thought of name for the little pup yet and asked the team to help her come up with something creative.

    Dr. Carmen absolutely loved the opportunity to name this sweet but feisty little girl.

    “I thought, who has one eye?” Dr. Carmen recalled, “Pirates! So I had the honor to call her Pirata.”

    Three days later, Pirata came back to the clinic for her scheduled surgery. Her respiratory symptoms were gone and Dr. Babette was able to perform the procedure. Everything ran smoothly and Pirata woke up feeling great! It was evident she was happy to be rid of her painful eye. As her excitement rose, the team placed an e-collar on Pirata to ensure the wound was protected from impulsive paws. However, Pirata was perplexed as to why she had a great big plastic cone around her neck!

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    “For hours, Pirata thought she was only able to walk backwards, making everybody laugh in the clinic!” Dr. Carmen exclaimed.

    By the time Pirata left to go home, she had worked out how to walk forwards in her temporary accessory. The team was ecstatic to see the sweet little pup find a new, loving family. Pirata is now one less dog living on the streets.

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  6. 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.

  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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.