Darwin Animal Doctors


Surgery Day Number 1.

Thursday marked the first day of spay/neuter surgeries and Dr Jochem’s second day in the Belize Clinic. The morning ran perfectly, with multiple spay and neuter surgeries conducted without issue. That is, of course, apart from a pair of forceps breaking mid surgery and the discovery that we may need some new surgery kits in the clinic…


After a quick break for lunch, we returned to the clinic for the afternoon surgeries. And it was then that the day became very interesting…

The second spay surgery of the afternoon was a very strange case. Diabla, a beautiful Pitbull, had two mysterious masses on the right and left side of her abdominal cavity. With further inspection, the Doctor realised that the pup had an abnormally large spleen which ran almost the whole back half of her abdominal cavity on the left side. But the question still remained, what was the mass on her right side? With further inspection, this was also determined to be spleen. And as the inspection continued, there was more spleen to be found to the back of her abdominal cavity, towards the spine…

To put this in perspective, a spleen in a dog this size is normally around the size of an adult hand. Diabla’s was approximately six times that size.

Not only an extremely rare case, this fact changed the surgery from a regular spay surgery, to a very risky one. As the spleen is such a delicate organ, any tiny scrape puts the dog in a life threatening situation, where she may bleed to death. Coupled with tick fever, which basically every dog on the island has, Diabla’s risk of a bleed out was extremely high.

Dr Jochem had an extremely difficult and dangerous task. Somewhere in that spleen filled abdomen were the ovaries, which needed to be found and removed for this dog to be spayed. The Doctor was not able to insert any surgical tools into the abdominal cavity at the risk of damaging the mass of spleen and having the dog bleed to death. What complicated the surgery even further, was that the owner was not 100% sure if it was Diabla, or his other dog who was not spayed. As tattooing or marking of any kind to indicate that a dog is spayed is not yet standard on the island, it is hard to tell for certain who is and isn’t spayed. As Diabla had no surgical scar, it seemed most likely that she was the dog who was not spayed… but of course, we cannot be certain.


So now, Dr Jochem had to search for a potentially already removed reproductive system, in an abdomen filled with dangerously sensitive spleen… With limited time, due to the dangers of a dog being anesthetised for too long, the pressure was on. The Doctor calmly and carefully conducted the search, with extreme care and precision. At the point when he was about to have to call the end of the surgery, he found what he was looking for. Dr Jochem was able to complete the spay surgery, with absolutely no complications.


Diabla was closed up and given treatment for tick fever, and will now be able to live a happy, healthy life. As for Dr Jochem, there was no time to rest, as he was onto the next surgery.

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