Last Saturday, members of the Global Vets 2016 team ventured to Toronto to attend the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association Conference to check out exciting new research and technology in the industry. There, they met various companies, including AMD and Purina, that were eager to join our mission in enhancing global animal health and welfare! Pictured below are some of our Global Vets 2016 team members with AMD representatives, who generously donated various veterinary medical supplies for shelters and clinics that our teams are visiting.
Time to get excited, Global Vets 2016 will be hosting a round table discussion on Jan 20 at 7pm for prospective veterinary applicants! Questions about…everything? Sleepless nights over the “right” experience?Stressing about interviews? Well this is the night for you!
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a student veterinarian at OVC? Interested in veterinary medicine? Then Discover Vet School is right for you! All proceeds go towards funding the Global Vets initiative, from much needed medical supplies, to shelter donations, and much much more!
Early Christmas gift? Birthday present? Whatever it takes, come be part of this wonderful learning experience!
We are forever grateful for the mentorship and fundraising support we have received through friends, families, the OVC community, and all our wonderful sponsors! Global Vets would not be possible without your ongoing support. Please visit our fundraising page for events that were hosted, as well as our blog post summarizing the year.
The Global Vets 2016 cohort has recently been selected and will be taking over as we continue to mentor them along the way. It has been an amazing year and we loved sharing our journey with everyone!
… And we’re back! Our final project continues as we spend our second week at Elephant Nature Park, working with the Elephants. This placement is one that our group has looked forward to since first planning our Global Vets trip last year. Elephant Nature Park is founded by an incredibly sweet and courageous Thai lady named Lek. Lek created ENP with the vision of rescuing elephants from abusive situations so that they can live out a peaceful life. Elephants have traditionally been widely used in Southeast Asia for many purposes such as logging, circus entertainment, street begging, trekking, and for religious ceremonies. However, in order for elephants to be used for such purposes they are first subjected to immeasurable cruelty and torture. Juvenile elephants are taken from their mothers in the wild, which often results in the killing of adult herd members as they try to protect the young . The young elephant is then forced into a restrictive enclosure and chained to undergo a process called “pajaaan” or “breaking of the spirit”, whereby it is continuously beaten and starved for 7 days, until it becomes submissive to humans. This ritual is extremely cruel and often elephants suffer permanent vision loss or other disabilities . Elephants are then sold for use to industries such as logging where they are worked, without rest or proper nutrition, until their eventual death. Elephant Nature Park aims to educate visitors of Thailand about the cruelty behind elephant usage and to encourage avoiding activities such as riding or circus entertainment. Instead, please consider visiting or volunteering at rescue facilities such as ENP where elephants are able to live free from abuse. Many programs are now available whereby visitors can interact with and pamper rescued elephants. If you would like to learn more, please visit http://www.saveelephant.org.
During our week at ENP Elephants, we were very thankful to be able to work with the veterinary team. Each day, we would begin by doing our morning round of treatments. Many of the elephants with injuries here are due to abscesses and land mine accidents. Land mine injuries are quite common in Thailand Elephants – whether due to remnants from war or from intentional placement by humans. Other common illnesses are eye and ear infections. Since elephant skin is about 4cm thick, treating these injuries often becomes a long process, sometimes requiring years to fully heal, even with twice daily cleaning. In order to clean the wound, the affected area is scrubbed with Clorhexidine (an antiseptic solution) and then rinsed with water and iodine. To protect the wound from debris, the area is then sealed with an aerosol antiseptic spray. As these elephants are free to roam the park throughout the day, it’s vital to try and keep the affected area as clean as possible.
Along with daily treatments, we also assisted with other interesting tasks that we had not anticipated.
1. One elephant presented with signs of “bloat”. These signs include constipation, lack of appetite, painful abdomen and restless behaviour. In order to relieve the animal and encourage intestinal movement the veterinary team administered pain medication and an enema with warm water. As one can imagine, giving an elephant an enema is not an easy feat! To our relief, the following day the elephant was back to its normal self eating and drinking again!
2. Another interesting thing we got to witness was a male elephant named Hope undergoing musth. Musth is a periodic condition characterized by an increase in both testosterone and pressure in the temporal gland, thereby resulting in intense pain within the elephants head, something similar to a bad headache. Both the pressure within the skull and increased testosterone levels can lead to aggressive behaviour. Each time a male elephant goes through this period in its life it can be equated to a human going through puberty. Musth is a time in which elephants are likely to breed and fight with other males. Therefore, an elephant in this state is dangerous to both humans and other elephants. At this time it is important for Hope to be isolated to a separate area in order to keep himself, his handler, and other elephants safe.
3. During our week with the elephants we also had the opportunity to meet and observe the Positive Reinforcement Trainers, Chrissy and Jodi. They work daily with the elephants to teach them how to present themselves for medical care and cooperate during these treatments. This initial training is important for elephant handling and for routine check up and treaments. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding a desired behaviour with a tasty treat to encourage future performance. Traditionally, elephant training has revolved around using force and deprivation in a process known as “crush” to control their behaviour. ENP is breaking new ground by using positive reinforcement instead of the traditional methods to ensure the animals are treated in a humane and ethical manner.
4. We spent one afternoon measuring the circumference of several elephants. This measurement is taken just behind their front legs, around the trunk of their body in order to estimate body weight. This enables the vets to calculate proper medication dosages and also helps to monitor weight fluctuations.
5. Recently ENP rescued approximately 20 new elephants. These elephants arrived with records of their microchip numbers. One of our tasks was to scan each elephant to ensure the number the scanner was reading matched our records. Surprisingly, an elephant microchip is approximately the same size as microchips found in dogs and cats!
We had an amazing week working with this incredible species and learning from their medical team! We would like to thank Dr. Jib, Dr. Tom, Big, Chrissy, and Jodi for teaching us not only about elephant medicine, but also how to speak Thai!
We cannot believe that this week concludes our time as Global Vet’ers. We have learnt so much and will carry these memories and experiences with us forever. We have met so many incredible people and have been shown such generous hospitality during our time in Thailand. Thank you everyone, from the bottom of our hearts!
Cheers & as our Thai friends would say, set lao! 😉
Well, we made it! We have arrived at our first destination and survived – even flourished – our first week in this beautiful country. I met up with Sarah at the Miami airport on our layover to Belize city, where we joined our last group mate Diana, who had been doing some personal travelling in South America for the better part of two months before our Global Vets adventure really got underway. I will admit, we did the girly shriek-and-hug when we first saw each other and then scrambled to take a plane into Dangriga. Our flight was leaving in ten minutes! It turned out to be an itty-bitty, 10-seater propeller plane that I was ecstatic to be in, but not as excited as Sarah who got to pilot the plane! Kidding, but she did sit in the copilot seat. Here’s some photo evidence :
The scenery is gorgeous in Belize. Picture Jurassic World but without the dinosaurs and more Tarzan-esque vines hanging from palm trees. We plastered ourselves to the window for the fifteen-minute flight and exchanged open-mouthed grins at the start of our adventure. My favourite part of flying is landing without crashing, and this was successful as we touched down in Dangriga. Two of our companions from that flight were heading to Hopkins as well, so we graciously took them up on their offer and squeezed into the back seat of their truck. We were quickly introduced to the friendly and community-minded atmosphere that the little villages around the coast take so seriously and have continued to be overwhelmed with kindness during our stay in Belize. It doesn’t feel like a village so much as a very large family. Hopkins is home to only about 2000 occupants, mostly native Belizeans and some of what the locals call “Ex-Pat[riot]s”, those who moved from other countries to settle down in Belize.
The community is also extremely animal-oriented, you can often see dogs happily padding behind their owners and playing with children. Many restaurants and local businesses contribute a portion of their profits to the Hopkins Belize Humane Society (HBHS) and our acomodations have so far been provided by the Caribbean Shores resort. It is gorgeous. I may repeat this statement a lot in these blogs – get used to it. Thank you so much Cindy and Joe for housing us! Here is a picture of where we are staying:
We feel so lucky to be volunteering with this wonderful organization! HBHS operates solely on donations and there are always needy animals with treatments and medication expenses so every donation is used as effectively as possible! HBHS offers free dog food to the community to come and pick up as well as running clinic days and spay-and-neuter clinics when there are veterinarians around to volunteer their time.
In fact, we had just plopped our bags off in our rooms on the first day when Kelli – a volunteer who is a large part of the behind the scenes magic at HBHS – came looking for us. There was a puppy at the clinic who had recently been sick and was suspected of being infected with canine parvovirus. This virus causes diarrhea, vomiting and extreme dehydration often in young, unvaccinated puppies and it can be very difficult to treat, even fatal. We performed a full physical exam of the little Pomeranian fluff ball and checked the fridges for snap tests to test for parvo. Apparently three puppies in the area had been positive for it recently and this pup wasn’t fully vaccinated yet. The clinic tests had all run out, but luckily, we had brought some snap tests with us that had been donated by Idexx (thank you Idexx!) so we crossed our fingers and waited the eight minutes for the results to come up. In the meantime, I was suddenly slammed with the realization that we weren’t going to simply be students our whole lives, and that in a few short years, we would have a ‘Dr.’ in front of our names and be practicing real medicine! Being responsible for the care of animals in Belize drove that fact home. Finally the test was finished. Phew, it was negative! The puppy’s symptoms even seemed to be resolving on their own, so we sent the owner home with instructions to watch her carefully and give her lots and lots of water and to let us know if anything changes. A happy ending! Here is is with our very first patient (from left to right: Diana, me, and Sarah):
We were given a tour of the clinic and area by Kelli afterwards. Currently at the shelter are two wonderful dogs named Caye-Caye (pronounced KiKi) and Sweet Pea. HBHS prefers to foster and adopt out stray dogs rather than house them when possible, but made special exceptions for these two. Sweet Pea showed up at the clinic first, afflicted with Transmissible Venereal Tumors (TVT). This is a disease that is not prevalent in North America, so we were interested to see a case in person. TVT is the only known form of cancer that can be spread between animals infectiously, and is transmitted when the dogs mate. In most cases it aggressively invades local tissue around the reproductive organs, leading to discomfort and disruption of normal tissue and organ function. Sweet Pea had tumors invading her rectum and mammary glands and underwent surgery to remove them when she came to the clinic. She is now cancer free, however, her rectum lost more tissue than could recover to it’s original state and so she can’t quite control her bowel movements. She loves being in an outdoor run that we cleaned three times a day while we were in Hopkins, and leads a happy life stealing blankets and playing with Caye-Caye. She is a tiny ball of energy and excitement, you would never have known she had been a cancer patient! Caye-Caye, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to be petted and loved, rolling over to show you her belly whenever she can get your attention. She’s come a long way from being the shy, scrawny dog that some sailors found on a tiny 20 by 20 foot island. We think she had been surviving on land crabs and sleeping in the only shelter on the island: an outhouse. Islands in this area are called cayes, hence, the name Caye-Caye. In a matter of weeks she has fattened up, been house trained, leash trained and come to enjoy the company of people – she wants nothing more than to please you. We really loved working with these lovely dogs and hope they find a furever home soon! Here is a photo of us in front of the clinic (from left to right: Sarah, me, Diana):
For the rest of the evening, we relaxed at a local burger place that was throwing a joint Fourth of July and Canada Day party and pigged out on creative burgers and festive beverages. Seriously, where have you ever seen a burger with a homemade donut or grilled cheese bun!? We needed to replenish our energy supplies for our trip through the mountains in the morning to get to San Ignacio where Dr Braun – a vet native to Kansas and volunteering on her family vacation – would be running a spay-and-neuter clinic at the Cayo Animal Welfare Society (CAWS).
We picked Joseph up with the clinic truck bright and early, but Belize is two hours behind Canada so it felt like a luxurious sleep-in. Joseph is the assistant director at HBHS and is also the only registered technician at the clinic. He really runs the show and knows everyone in Hopkins. He is native to Hopkins and I had a sneaking suspicion that he was homesick while on the road with us girls. We are pretty quirky but he quickly fell in with our silly banter and would tease us (especially me) for having zero sense of direction. Much of the countryside is mountains and orange tree orchards, and occasionally on the Hummingbird highway there are one way bridges over small rivers that made us squirm. It’s a bit blurry, but here is a snapshot of some of the countryside we drove through to get to San Ignacio:
And Sarah driving the truck
When we arrived three hours later, we were greeted by Marcus and his three dogs at the Parrot’s Nest resort. It’s a cute little resort in Bullet Tree village just outside of San Ignacio. SO GORGEOUS! See what I mean about Jurassic World?
We had the rest of the day to relax before starting the clinic the next day so we grabbed some tubes and Marcus gave us directions through Bullet Tree to a spot we could put our tubes in. We didn’t need the directions though! The dogs led us the whole way! Marcus had said “Yeah, I had to take them about a hundred times before they knew the way. It was real tough” with a wink. The dogs swam or floated in the water with us and sometimes scrambled up onto the tubes. Diana, who hasn’t learned to swim yet, was understandably apprehensive about going over the rapids (they were pretty mild) but later said it was one of the highlights of her whole trip so far!
Marcus and his family also house and rehabilitate parrots and other needy animals at their resort. While we were there they had a baby bunny, a guinea pig and a turtle. Unintentionally there was also a tarantula that lives in the shower stall and I met him when he jumped out of the shower curtain. One is never ready for a hand-sized tarantula to be bathroom buddies with but I can’t say I hated the experience. Me plus Bunny:
Thank you so much for your hospitality Marcus, we all loved staying with you and getting to meet such an outgoing and warm person.
On our second day in Belize we packed up and drove down to CAWS to begin our volunteering with Dr. Jessica Braun’s clinic. We had a full day of surgery planned, in which we assisted with desexing six dogs and six cats. We weighed and premedicated the patients for surgery, then gave them different drugs to induce a state of unconsciousness and intubated the patients. Intubating means to insert a flexible plastic tube into the patient’s trachea in order to protect their airways and supply inhalant anaesthetic and oxygen. We then shaved and scrubbed their surgical sites with iodine and alcohol and I even got to assist with closing one of the neuters while Sarah and Diana worked on wound repair! It was a very cool and informative day. Even more importantly, these animals have been spared from possible future medical complications that can arise from simply having reproductive organs and from having puppies and kittens that may not be able to find homes and care. It was humbling to be able to be a part of this work. Thank you Dr Braun for all that you do and being such a great mentor to us for the day! Also a big shout out to Amanda (aka Mandy) who started CAWS out of her own house and provided such a delicious lunch (and also delicious avocados from her own tree). You are doing amazing work! Here is the whole crew at the end of the day (from left to right: me, Dr Braun’s husband and assistant Kurt, Diana, Dr Braun, Joseph, Sarah and Mandy):
The ride home went without a hitch, Diana discovered excitedly that you can get 10 bananas for a Belizean dollar, and we began rounding up dogs for the next spay and neuter clinic in Hopkins the next day. Stay tuned for our next set of adventures in Belize with Dr Marie Simard and the veterinary students from Faculte de Medicine Veterinaire vet school in Quebec!
-Britt Vivian, Sarah Hall, and Diana Shum (Team VHS)
Totsiens Suid-afrika! That’s ‘good-bye South Africa in Afrikaans. As I write this we are on our way back to Dr. Burger’s home from our last appointment as Global Vets volunteers. We just finished up with the elephant cow that we have been working on for the past 2 weeks. We are happy to report that she is doing better! Although she still has a difficult road to recovery ahead of her. Speaking of roads, we are currently enjoying our last scenic sun-set drive. We normally start our day driving as the sun rises and end it driving as the sun sets. South Africa is full of beautiful mountain views everywhere you look. We are really going to miss this!
To conclude the fantastic trend we’ve experienced, we had yet another amazing week, although this one is shorter because we are ending on Friday. We started the week treating and moving 9 buffalo, which took up almost all of Monday. After darting the buffalo, Vivek and I were responsible for all injections, including reversal of the animals when all work was complete. To move the buffalo, each one had to be placed on a mat that would the be raised onto a pick up truck that has a crane attached to it. Vivek and I would have to ride in the back of the pick up with the animal (something we have done a lot of this week!) to ensure the respiration rate never dropped below 12 breaths per minute. Aside from a minor disagreement between 2 of the relocated bulls, everything went smoothly and we were done all 9 animals just before sunset. Normally we would end the day at or before sunset, but concern for the elephant cow with Herpes virus was growing, and an emergency visit was required. It was dark by the time we reached her, and Dr. Burger was concerned about working on her so late, especially because it takes time for the sedatives to take effect for us to be able to do anything. After hearing Dr. Burger’s concerns, Vivek came up with the brilliant idea to use local sedation on the elephant’s hind limbs, the area of most concern for Dr. Burger. The local sedation worked perfectly, and we were done the treatment within 30 minutes, allowing us time to get home for dinner, and the cow time to relax for the evening.
On Tuesday we had to go to an appointment in the Eastern Cape province, which was about a 5 hr drive from where we were in the Western Cape. The clients there also needed some animals treated and moved, similar to our appointment on Monday, but different animals. Waiting for us upon our arrival was a few pick up trucks to help with the work and a helicopter. Since we would be working over a couple hundred hectares, and on a mountain range, Dr. Burger had the exciting task of darting the animals from a helicopter, at which point the helicopter would hover over the sedated animal and we would rush over in a pick-up truck. Vivek and I were responsible for the ground work, which involved treatments, helping to move the animals, and reversal. By the end of the day, we had worked on 2 Lechwe and 2 Kudus. We had also planned to work on some Elands but nobody was able to spot them from the helicopter. We spent the night at the farm on Tuesday night and continued our work with the same clients on another part of their property on Wednesday. Since the other spot was a bit further to get to, the helicopter pilot helped us save some time by doing a couple trips to fly us all over (an exciting first helicopter ride for both myself and Vivek!). We spent most of Wednesday taking care of the ground work while Dr. Burger spent his time in the air finding and darting the animals that needed to be treated. After working on 10 Wildebeest we ended the day with 1 pregnant Blesbok and then drove back to the Western Cape in the dark.
Dr. Burger had scheduled another appointment for some helicopter work on Thursday, but there were some problems with the pilot so we had to reschedule our plans for the day. Dr. Burger took us out in the afternoon to see his taxidermy facility. While there, I helped Dr. Burger perform a post-mortem on a dead bontebok and we found some interesting lung lesions. The bontebok are an endangered species, so it’s important for the farmer to identify any problems quickly. Dr. Burger is suspecting lung worm in that animal, but we took some biopsies and lymph nodes so we are still waiting to hear about those!
Friday was our last day working with Dr. Burger. We started the day doing the helicopter work we had planned for Thursday with some Bontebok. Once again Vivek and I were responsible for the ground work while Dr. Burger darted from the helicopter. We also had to transport the animals, which meant that Vivek, Suzahn (Dr. Burger’s assistant) and I had to stay with the animals in the back of a truck, keeping hem upright and checking their breathing, keeping our butorphanol prepared should one of them stop breathing. Since the Bontebok are a protected species and are on the CITES list (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) we were accompanied by government officials who were responsible for ensuring that we followed regulations and for collecting the blood and hair samples that we took. They placed the samples in sealed forensic bags for transport to their laboratory to ensure that there would be no tampering with the samples. They also checked the placement of the microchip with their scanner after we microchipped the animals. We’re lucky Dr. Burger has entrusted us with so much responsibility in such a short amount of time!
After completing the work at the first farm, the helicopter pilot offered to take Vivek and myself back to Mossel Bay area, where Suzahn and Dr. Burger would drive to meet us. We enjoyed the stunning views on another helicopter ride, this one being about half an hour. Approaching the ocean on a helicopter was pretty spectacular! We then went to visit the elephant, as I mentioned earlier. We noticed she was having some tetanic seizures, and after some investigative detective work to where she grazes, Dr. Burger noticed a plant called Cynanchum ellipticum in the area. That plant is very poisonous, and carries a serious neurotoxin sowe immediately alerted the staff and told them to keep her away from those plants. It was a good thing we found it early enough! That concluded our work with Dr. Burger. We have had an amazing time here in South Africa, and have learned a ton about wildlife, veterinary medicine, field work, and so much more! Dr. Burger has been an amazing teacher and we hope to return to work with him again some day soon!
For our second project, our team chose to volunteer at Animal AWARE in Sumpango, Guatemala. This shelter was recommended to us by one of the 2013 Global Vets teams. We spent two weeks with the director, Xenii, and her team, and we are so thankful to have had the opportunity to play a role in the shelter’s efforts at population control, animal health and welfare, adoptions, as well as providing locally owned pets with veterinary care. Our days started around 8am in the clinic, where animals requiring medications or special attention are kept. We helped clean all the crates/cages, walked the dogs and then administered medications, changed bandages and attended any other medical needs of the animals. Afterwards, we would walk the other dogs, who are kept in large covered pens outside, and help clean their enclosures. The shelter has about 350 dogs and each one gets walked every day – it’s quite impressive. We were fortunate enough to have had the mentorship of Dr. Bolling, a vet from Germany who was lending her expertise to the shelter for six weeks. Each day brought new surprises – we will share with you a few of our most memorable experiences. Balzac the cardiac cat: One morning we were called to the cat enclosure by one of the attentive staff members who noticed that one of the cats was breathing at an alarming rate and with great effort. Dr. Bolling suspected heart failure and after a quick work up indicated that the cat needed furosemide. This diuretic would act to eliminate the fluid that was accumulating in Balzac’s lungs due to the lack of forward flow of blood. Balzac’s panting episode/cardiac crisis subsided quickly after administration of the medication. He will need to be given furosemide each day for the rest of his life to keep his blood pressure down to try to avoid another episode. We have followed up with Dr. Bolling, who says that Balzac is back to his normal chilled-out self. Joanna the anemic dog: On one of the first days at the shelter, we noticed that one of the dogs was so lethargic that she did not want to go on her daily walk with the rest of her pen-mates. Dr. Bolling and Xenii sent blood to a lab for testing, which came back indicating severe anemia. Dr. Bolling set out a plan that was feasible given the resources available, which was to transfuse blood from one of the young, healthy dogs at the shelter in order to increase Joanna’s red blood cell count. Before administering the blood to Joanna, we had to ensure that the blood types were compatible by applying drops of blood from both dogs to a glass slide and watch for agglutination. We lucked out when the blood from a lively husky did not agglutinate with Joanna’s , which meant that her life could be saved. A few hours after completing the slow and steady process of the blood transfusion, Joanna began to perk up, gain colour in her mucous membranes, and even ate a bit of food. Although the outcome of this transfusion was positive, we were unsure as to the underlining cause of Joanna’s anemia; therefore close monitoring and potentially further testing will be needed to ensure her continued recovery. Chimaltenango spay/neuter clinic: AWARE organizes spay/neuter clinics each month with local veterinarians. These clinics help raise owner awareness on the importance of sterilization and provide a means of population control of local street dogs. We were happy to be able to participate in this clinic and were impressed with the level of involvement of the community towards such a great cause. In closing, our two weeks at AWARE really highlighted the fact that spaying/neutering dogs and cats is of the upmost importance. There are so many dogs and cats in the world that need homes so please consider adoption when thinking about getting a pet! If anyone is interested in adopting an animal from Guatemala, AWARE animal shelter frequently adopts their dogs/cats all over the world! Their website can be found here: animalaware.org/adopt Thanks for reading! -Team SHEA
Our third project takes place at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As the name suggests, ENP is home to over 60 rescued elephants from across Thailand. However, since the Bangkok Flood of 2011, it has also opened a separate clinic for rescued dogs. Initially, the ENP staff traveled to Bangkok with the mission to rescue elephants from the flood. However, they quickly realized that many dogs were also left homeless when their owners evacuated the area. As such, the ENP dogs division was formed and they were able to rescue 155 dogs. Through their dedication and hard work, ENP staff were able to return almost all the dogs to their respectful owners. Since then, ENP Dogs has grown to become home to over 450 dogs.
This week we worked alongside 6 other volunteers at the dog and cat shelter. Adam and Sabrina, the volunteer coordinators, guided us through our daily activities including cleaning kennels, bathing, feeding and walking dogs. After completion of the morning duties, we had the opportunity to work with Dr. Toy and her veterinary assistants, Ben and Arm. We assisted in daily treatments such as wound cleaning, eye checkups and administering fluids to older patients with kidney failure. In particular, one of our most important tasks was to nebulize dogs that had been recently diagnosed with lung infections. A nebulizer is an instrument that vapourizes liquid antibiotic so it can be inhaled into the lungs of the patient. During the treatment, the animal is placed in an enclosed space with the nebulizer and breathe in the vapourized antibiotic air for a set time of 20 minutes. We are currently awaiting transtracheal wash results to determine the root cause of the infections.
During our first days at the clinic, a few patients were suspected to have ringworm since there were already two confirmed cases. After performing a culture on the skin lesions from the suspected dogs, we were relieved to find that they were negative for ringworm. Contrary to its name, ringworm does not involve worms at all, but is in fact a fungal skin infection that is highly contagious to both humans and animals. As such, the two confirmed cases are currently in isolation and receiving treatment, and a sanitation protocol is in place to help contain the infection. We are hopeful that this will help prevent the spread of ringworm to other dogs at the facility.
Another interesting case we saw this week was a young puppy that had bilateral fore and hindlimb muscle paralysis. When he first arrived, the history given by his owner did not indicate possible spinal trauma. Moreover, the symptoms exhibited by the patient reassembled a recent case at the clinic of neospora. This parasite is found within the muscle of cows and dogs often contract it by consuming contaminated uncooked beef products. The parasite then travels in the body of the host (dog) and encysts in the muscle, thereby causing paralysis. Our patient was treated symptomatically with a course of clindamycin antibiotic and twice daily physiotherapy. He also required us to manually express his bladder, as he could not urinate on his own. When we took the dog out for its daily therapy, he initially required 100% support but quickly progressed to only needing a sling for support when walking. By the end of the week, the patient was able to walk without support and relieve himself! It was very rewarding to see the vast improvement and he was able to return home to his owners after just a week at the clinic.
Throughout the week, Dr. Toy also performed sterilizations on local dogs. ENP encourages population and disease control in the community by offering free surgeries to locals who bring in their pets. After observing and assisting in a few surgeries earlier in the week, Dr. Toy graciously offered us the opportunity to perform a canine castration under her guidance. Our patient’s name was Latte and we are pleased to say that the surgery went smoothly and he had a successful recovery.
Lastly, ENP Dogs has a great adoption program in place. If you are interested in adopting any of their dogs, please visit their website (www.saveelephant.org) for more information and pictures of the adorable pups in need of a forever home. The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful in organizing overseas adoptions.
We would like to thank Dr. Toy, Adam, Sabrina, Ben and Arm for hosting us this week at ENP Dogs. We had a blast working with the staff and volunteers, and will miss all the adorable dogs here!
Another week is over and we are (once again) in awe about how fortunate we have been with our Global Vets experience. As we mentioned in our previous blog, we arrived on Monday of this week and began working with African wildlife immediately. After arriving at Dr. Burger’s house on Monday we did fecal floats with the elephant and sable feces that we collected. We confirmed the gastrointestinal parasite diagnosis in the sable when we found Trichuris and Haemonchus eggs in the slides we made. The elephant feces were unremarkable (as Dr. Burger suspected) so we would have to make sure to get as many blood and tissues samples as we could the following day.
The next morning we went straight to visit the elephant so that we would still have time to go treat a buffalo suffering from lumpy jaw. It took about half an hour to properly sedate the elephant cow so that she was comfortable and calm in a standing sedation. Her young calf playfully approached us because we had brought in some oral treatments for the cow that he was eager to try out. Dr. Burger took some biopsies from her feet and examined the rest of her body, finding similar skin lesions on the back of both her ears. The keepers began to worry that she was too sedate because she was resting her tusks on the enclosure bars, which could cause them to break, so we reversed the sedation and monitored her for a while before leaving. We then went to the veterinarian’s house to wait for the winds where the buffalo with lumpy jaw was to calm down. We killed time there by learning how to aim and fire his dart gun. At around 3 pm Dr. Burger told us we wouldn’t be able to visit the buffalo because of the strong winds. Some things that limit how much we get to do each day include the weather (it is winter here right now) and the distance between each case (we usually drive over an hour to get to each location), although the winter is the busiest season for wildlife vets here.
On Wednesday we spent the day darting and treating buffalo on a farm about 2 hours away from the house. The experience was amazing because we got to administer different treatments on the buffalo, learn how to accurately measure their horns, and perform rectal palpations to pregnancy check the females. The appointment took a long time and we were exhausted by the end of it!
The weather on Thursday was bad again, so Dr. Burger planned some touristy activities for us to enjoy including visiting meerkats in their natural habitat during sunrise and a behind-the-scenes tour of a wildlife ranch.
On Friday we went to a beautiful game farm to treat and move some of the farmer’s young impala and Nyala antelope. We began with the impala and got two done before they got too nervous for us to get close enough to dart them. The Nyala bull was a more difficult experience because he got very spooked after getting darted and went towards a bushy hill. He only made it part way down before 6 of us grabbed him, blindfolded him, and carried him up the hill to the pick-up truck. We were able to quickly move him after that and then reverse the sedation. Darting and treating one animal takes a long time, and it becomes crucial immediately after darting to closely monitor respiration rate. It took hours before we were done 3 animals, had tried and missed a few more, and gave up deciding to come back next week to finish the job. As dusk approached, we went to visit the elephant and provide an oral immune stimulant for her because Dr. Burger is now suspecting elephant herpesvirus. Her lesions seem to be spreading – there are a few around her flank region that weren’t there before.
On Saturday Dr. Burger offered to take us to his farm for the weekend… I feel I should elaborate on that a bit.. When people say ‘farm’ or ‘ranch’ around here, they are generally referring to a large plot of land, usually a few hundred hectares big, that is spread over a few mountain ranges, where they keep their private giraffe, zebra, antelope, ostrich, etc. Dr. Burger’s farm was no different. Before going there, we decided to detour a bit to visit a private wildlife reserve (that is about the size of Singapore) to treat a new addition to the reserve – a caracal suffering from a facial abscess. Our work with the caracal went smoothly and within an hour or so we were done and enjoying coffee with some of the reserve employees that live there. One of Dr. Burger’s friends, and the chief game ranger at the reserve agreed to take us out on a game drive. We drove into the reserve for a while before parking to try to track some elephants on foot. Along the way, we found the tracks of many other animals that live at the reserve.. There is a certain thrill, almost an uneasy-yet-excited feeling, that rushes through your body as you follow the the tracks of a male lion in his natural habitat, or put both feet in the same spot as an elephant that you know is not too far ahead of you. It wasn’t long before the fresh elephant tracks led us to a breeding herd that lives on the reserve. We watched them from the bushes for a while, staying downwind and silent as we followed them, to ensure our presence remained undetected. Soon after, we spotted 3 white rhinos off to the side of the elephants, so we stayed with them until they decided to take a nap, their large bodies quickly becoming completely hidden in the thick brush. The cold air and rain that had suddenly taken over the otherwise cool-yet-comfortable weather sent us back to the car faster than the thought of the white lions stalking us ever would have, and we continued our wildlife hunt en route back to the exit, spotting cheetah, zebras, a brown hyena, and other animals along the way.
On Sunday, we got to continue our game drive on Dr. Burgers farm. First we went for a walk, coming across a fresh impala kill surrounded by leopard feces and tracks. Even though it was a cold winter day, we were able to find tons of antelope, zebra, giraffes, and a few ostriches on the farm. What an amazing end to an incredible week!
Waking up in that environment was surreal. Our work this week with Dr. Burger has completely changed both our perspectives on wildlife veterinary work and given us a very personal, in-depth understanding of wildlife in South Africa. Dr. Burger is an intelligent and well-respected man that had been answering all our questions and is constantly starting meaningful discussions with us. We couldn’t have asked for a better teacher for our wildlife veterinary experience. We are really looking forward to what the next week has to bring, but are regretting that this will be the last week of our Global Vets trip!
After finishing our two weeks at Elephant Nature Park, Michelle, Jenna and I headed off for 3 weeks of independent travel in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. After adventuring and relaxing, we headed back to Laos ready to get back to work! We flew into Vientiane, Laos and were picked up by a taxi to travel the two hours to the Laos Wildlife Rescue Centre.
The Laos Wildlife Rescue Centre (LWRC) is in the process of taking over the Laos Zoo. A very wealthy Thai-Chinese family owns the Laos Zoo and over the last few years has been enlisting outside aid in an attempt to improve the welfare of the animals and the enclosures they are living in. They are fortunate to have now enlisted the help of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand in assisting the new Laos Wildlife Rescue Centre. LWRC’s managers Michelle and Sebastian are starting from scratch, and tackling one project at a time. It’s refreshing to hear their realistic view that it will take not days, weeks or months to achieve the goals they have set for themselves and the animals that will be under their care, but years. They hope to eventually transition the entire zoo over to a wildlife rescue and only have guided visitor tours as opposed to being a full-fledged zoo. It will most definitely be a long road ahead of them, but they are tackling each day with a positive mindset, hard work, and perseverence. Sometimes with the difference in culture (things often run at a different speed than we are used to in Western Countries) and the language barrier, perseverence is very important. They have a great team and I am sure that they will succeed!
As volunteers at LWRC we did a lot of daily animal enrichment, feedings, carpentry, and enclosure cleaning. It freed up the management staff to allow them to spend more time organizing some of the bigger projects starting soon, such as building a few entirely new “Primate Forest” enclosures, improving the elephant enclosure, and finding spaces for the new animals that people drop off every few days. Many of the locals in Laos bring animals to LWRC after finding them in abused situations, or rescuing them from the different trades. While there, a python was brought in and it was our job to create a suitable temporary habitat for it, as they were hopeful that it would be able to be released into the wild later.
Another one of our daily duties was to feed 4 baby Asiatic Black Bears. They ranged in age from 3-5 months and were brought in by tourists who found them for sale at the market on the Vietnam-Laos border. LWRC would prefer not to support the purchase of any animals at markets such as this as it does support the trade, however of course they took them in to provide care. At this age they are fed a meal of powdered milk, bananas and cucumbers 4 times a day. We would start our day at 7:30 am feeding the bears breakfast before we ate our own breakfast, and end at 7:30 pm feeding them dinner. Just like all animals, Mobi, Slow, Forest and Alex all had different personalities but were united in their love of meal-time- when they saw us coming with the food they all got very vocal and excited! It took some practice, but by the end of the week we had perfected feeding them without spills, escape attempts, or tussles over the last banana piece. Their enclosure and feeding requiring some interaction with humans is not ideal, but it’s a necessity as they work to create improved enclosures, especially with the small size of the cubs! Of course, they also often get enrichment in the form of fruit popsicle treats. We fill empty yogurt cups with cut up fruit, add water and freeze it to create a popsicle treat that the cubs love! Unfortunately while we were there, their GI systems weren’t happy with one of the fruits in the popsicle and they all got diarrhea. LWRC vet Dr. Sophie changed their feeding schedules to smaller more frequent meals: every 3 hours starting at 7am and going until 1am, and the addition of antibiotics and activated charcoal tablets mixed in with honey. A few days later we were happy to see solid bowel movements yet again, and of course were excited to go back to regular sleeping schedules ourselves!
Another daily activity we participated in was grass collection to supplement the deers’ diet. As pictured below, we followed behind some of the very lovely and helpful local ladies as they cut grass and we piled it into bags to cart it to hand out to the different deer enclosures.
Enrichment was also a huge part of what we did while volunteering at LWRC. As primates require lots of enrichment, we made different things each day. Some days it was a water bottle with holes cut in it filled with fruit and grass, other days it was PCV pipes with sticks and grass in it blocking the way to the fruit so the macaques would have to work to get the fruit out. We also made them fruit popsicles like we did for the bears, and wrapped fruit in leaves with vines so they would have to unwrap them. Another enrichment they enjoy is just piling long grass in their enclosure and dispersing seeds throughout it so they have to pick through the grass to find the seeds. We created a new enrichment prototype with the help of our volunteer coordinator, Andy. Sawing logs into puzzle pieces, fitting them together on a rod and then smearing jam inbetween the pieces so the macaques have to move the puzzle pieces around to get at the jam.
We also did enrichment with some of the adult Asiatic Black Bears. Filling tires with fruit and grass and hanging them up around their enclosure was a common one, as was hiding mangos in their enclosure and leaving them fruit juice scent trails to the mangos. Below there is also a few pictures of some of the carpentry work we did to make wooden houses to place inside enclosures for protection from the elements.
What was arguably our favourite time of the day was before or after lunch. We discovered that the zoo’s otter LOVED to play with streams of water from the hose. So we made it a daily habit to stop by for 20 minutes during our lunch break and spray the hose around the enclosure for the otter to play with. Consequently, we also named him Poseidon. 🙂
We were lucky enough to be able to observe or assist with some medical procedures while there as well. I was able to assist with anesthesia during a complicated canine spay, as well as recovery of a few other procedures, including a dart-tranquilized macaque in order to transport him to a different enclosure and for medical treatment. We saw two major procedures while there: one was a dental on Ursula, a 25 year old Malayan Sun Bear, and the second was both a hernia repair and a dental on a macaque. Ursula had a history of dental issues and had had all of her teeth except her 4 canine pulled previously. They found that she had an abscess running from one of her top canines all the way through a sinus and it drained medial to her eye. The vets Zoe and Sophie drained and cleaned the abscess but were unable to successfully pull that tooth out. They cleaned the remaining teeth, and are hoping to successfully pull the abscessed tooth out in a few weeks with the delivery of some more advanced dental equipment. Ursala is now on a diet of mashed food and soft fruit.
The macaque was darted and rushed from his enclosure to the clinic, where they placed an IV catheter and got started prepping him. He had an hernia, which upon opening they discovered that his bladder had moved and adhered to his testicle over time. They carefully separated the two, removing the attached testicle, and performing a vasectomy to his remaining testicle. Over time, they hope to sterilize all the male macaques at the zoo, but it is important to perform a vasectomy rather than remove the testicles in order to keep the primates producing testosterone so that dynamics within the family groups do not change dramatically.
Overall, it was a fulfilling and tiring week. While we may not have been personally performing life-saving procedures, it was nice to be able to help out both an organization full of hard-working staff that appreciate the assitance, as well as helping to improve any enclosures we could and making sure as many animals were provided with enrichment as possible. We learnt a lot about handling wildlife species, animal husbandry, and some normal behaviors for different species. I think I speak for all 3 of us when I say I hope I get the opportunity to return to the Laos Wildlife Rescue Center in a few years (maybe as a working wildlife veteriarian- you never know!) to see the fruits of all their hard work and see that their goals have become a reality to provide all the zoo species wonderful lives with enriched enclosures and proper nutrition. If anyone wants to make a difference, LWRC is a wonderful place to volunteer your time or resources! Take a peek at their facebook page for more updates on what’s going on at LWRC: https://www.facebook.com/LaosWildlifeRescue?fref=ts
Our second project for Global Vets was at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand located in Phetchaburi. This organization works with several different types of wild species, both native and foreign to Thailand. Most of the animals here have been rescued or surrendered to the facility. Thailand has a large pet industry, with a high demand for exotic or wild species. Often local individuals will buy wild animals when they are young because they are appealing due to their cute and cuddly nature. However they quickly discover that these animals are not meant to be pets as they are too aggressive or too difficult to care for as they grow older. As such they are often not provided with proper accommodations or food and their growth is stunted. In addition to this, Wildlife Friends also rescues elephants from various situations such as logging, trekking, street begging, and land mine accidents. If animals have had minimal human contact, are healthy and self sufficient, they are suitable candidates to be released back into the wild. Those who have been hand reared by humans, are unhealthy, or are not able to care for themselves, are unlikely to be released and are able to live out the most natural life possible at the sanctuary. Even if they have to live their lives at the facility, it is better than the conditions they were rescued from. It is fortunate they they are provided excellent medical care and nutrition at the facility.
During our stay at Wildlife Friends Foundation we were privileged to be able to witness how the sanctuary is run, as well as how to care for these rescued animals. For this post we decided to take a different approach by describing a day in the life of a wildlife veterinarian.
Our day began at 7am with cleaning and feeding all the animals that were receiving daily treatment in the clinic. These included long tail macaques, slow loris, iguanas, tortoises, owlets, as well as two stray dogs that were brought into the clinic after they were hit by cars. Following this we would head to the pond to fish for the 5 otters that live in the sanctuary. We would then take the fish and put them in the pond in the otters enclosure. This allowed the otters to learn how to hunt for themselves as these natural skills were not developed during their former lives as pets.
Next came our morning rounds. We all piled into the clinic truck and headed out to the elephants and sun bears. Many elephants received eye drops while others had abscesses (pockets of pus) that required daily cleaning. Elephant skin is approximately 4 cm thick therefore when infection develops drainage is very poor. As a result, an abscess often forms. Next stop was the sun bears. One bear in particular, named Nuru, had an ongoing skin condition. Tests were being run at a laboratory facility to determine the cause. However, in the meantime Nuru was on a daily regimen of fish oil and antihistamines in order relieve some of the itching. In order to give a sun bear medication we would grind up the pills into a powder and mix it with honey. We would then spread the honey onto a piece of bread to make a honey sandwich. Nuru loved her honey sandwiches, thus making our job very easy! Both Nuru and the elephant treatments usually took up our whole morning, so at this time we would break for lunch. Following lunch is when our routine would differ from day to day, depending on what cases arose. For example, one day a local brought his dog to the clinic as it had been hit by a car. One of the dog`s forelimbs required amputation, and so we were able to assist in that surgery. Another day a macaque who had an unknown history presented with a broken leg. We speculate that she either fell from a tree or was hit by a car. Her leg required us to apply a full cast in order for her bones to realign and heal. An iguana was brought into the facility as a rescue that was previously a family pet. Since the clinic already had one iguana in a small enclosure, we made a much bigger enclosure and allowed both iguanas to live there together. Whenever we had a small break throughout the day, we would do physiotherapy on the two dogs that had been hit by cars mentioned earlier. Both dogs suffered spinal cord injuries which left their hind limbs paralyzed. One had a personalized wheelchair that she liked to run around in. The other required some support in order to be able to walk. By the end of the week this dog was able to walk on her own with very little assistance. We were incredibly happy to see this much progress in one week.
These are only a few examples of events that came up while we were volunteering at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. Before heading home for the evening we would repeat our morning treatments as well as feed dinner to all the clinic animals.
We would like to thank Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand for hosting us and allowing us to experience wildlife medicine for the first time. Thank you to Dr. Zoe, Dr. Pang, and Tao for letting us be their shadows for the week! If you would like to learn more, volunteer, or make a donation to this organization please visit their website: http://www.wfft.org
Immediately after finishing up our week with the dogs and cats at Elephant Nature Park, we moved onto our next volunteering adventure at the Koh Samui Cat and Dog rescue.
Located on the beautiful island of Koh Samui in the south of Thailand, the centre has been rescuing dogs and cats for 16 years. The foundation mainly focuses on “soi” or street dogs who can be found living in small packs all over the island. Before the founder, Brigitte Gomm started the centre there was no veterinarian on the island, and medical treatment was impossible. Many of these animals were left to suffer and die, and some were even poisoned by resorts trying to keep them away from tourists.
The main goal of this foundation is to vaccinate animals against rabies, treat them for mange and worms, treat their wounds when accidents occur, provide sterilization via spaying/ neutering to promote a stable population, and to educate the people of Koh Samui about the treatment of animals.
Currently the shelter houses upwards of 450 dogs, with 60 in clinic receiving daily bandage changes or medications. The clinic also serves the people of Koh Samui who can bring their pets in for vaccinations or sterilization at a reduced price or for free!
Dr. Sith has been working at the shelter for 10 years, and we were privileged enough to be able to shadow him for the week along with a visiting veterinarian from the Netherlands.
With so many animals at the shelter and only two veterinarians there was a lot of work to be done! Due to the tropical climate of Koh Samui, even the smallest of wounds can become problematic as flies can deposit their eggs in the wounds leading to maggots causing severe damage. Because of this, animals that are wounded require vigilant wound care daily, including intensive cleaning and bandaging.
Another large problem facing the dogs are ticks, the dogs are given preventatives once a month and the ground is chemically treated to kill the nymphs. Even with all of these precautions taken, the dogs still have a large tick burden requiring daily tick picking to help avoid blood borne diseases that may be spread by ticks. It is especially important to control ticks in young puppies and injured dogs as they are more susceptible to disease.
Many of the dogs at the shelter come from the streets, however some are abandoned by their owners and left to live in the compounds at the shelter. The rescue runs an adoption program to try to find good homes for the dogs, especially the puppies, so they don’t have to spend their entire lives in a dog run. While Dr. Sith dedicates most of his days to performing sterilization procedures to help combat the problem of overpopulation, there are still many dogs at the shelter looking for homes, and more arriving every day.
Our week at Koh Samui Cat and Dog Rescue was an amazing experience that has completely changed our perspective on veterinary medicine. We commend Dr. Sith and the staff at the rescue for the tireless work that they do, and we are incredibly grateful for the privilege of being part of the team for a week.
Week two of our Global Vets trip has just come to an end and we have been loving every minute of it! If you are following our blog, you know that we started the week with a half day. You would also know that we have been observing and participating in quite a few spays and neuters. We are very keen on learning the procedures and improving our knowledge of the reproductive tract anatomy because we are required to do them in third year at OVC. After taking the morning to ourselves on Monday, we were offered the opportunity for one of us to perform a spay on a dog from start to finish. Up first was myself, Noreen. The idea of performing a full invasive surgery was nerve wracking but I knew I would be okay because I had both Dr. Chuma and Dr. Ndanu by my side. In addition, Vivek would be my assistant during the prodedure, as I would be his when he performs surgeries. Once again, the spay was performed in the client’s front yard, and thankfully everything went smoothly and the spay was a success!
We continued the theme of surgeries on Tuesday, starting with some canine castrations. Dr. Ndanu guided us through the procedure one more time to start the morning, and then allowed us to perform them on our own. This time Vivek started, and we alternated through a total of 5 dogs. All the neuters went smoothly, and we took a short break for lunch before moving on to a spay in the afternoon. The spay in the afternoon was performed by Vivek with myself assisting. Once again everything went well!
On Wednesday we visited Merlino Animal Clinic again. We assisted and observed during some routine appointments (including a ridiculously adorable Rottweiler puppy check-up!) and also discussed an interesting in-clinic case. A dog had presented with anorexia, was emaciated and lethargic, and had inflamed jaw muscles. His inflamed masseter muscles were inhibiting his ability to chew and he had actually bit off a piece of his tongue just before his owner brought him in. The vets had recently come to a diagnosis of polymyositis and began treating him for that the day before. He was already showing improvement although he did have a breathing problem in the early afternoon, at which point we had to keep him by the oxygen tank until he improved (which he did). Just before starting our afternoon surgeries, our friends at Mbwa wa Africa rushed in a dog that had ate poisoned meat. They said they had found him with 5 other poisoned dogs that were dead, but they still had hope for this one. The vets quickly began treatment but within minutes his condition deteriorated severely and he was humanely euthanized. Unfortunately some people here choose to deal with the street dog population problem by leaving poisoned meat out in the street.
Thursday was intended to be another day of surgeries, some routine bovine cases and poultry vaccinations, but first we were called to an emergency case of a dog with paraphimosis. Just before arriving we got a call asking us to rush to a bovine dystocia case but we decided to finish with the dog first and then head over to the cow. Upon arriving, we learned that the dog had actually been suffering from this condition for about a month! I began with the castration while Vivek sutured the opening of the prepuce to make it smaller. While performing the castration, I found a large mass that also needed to be removed, so the appointment ended up taking about 10 minutes longer than expected. As we were finishing up, Dr. Chuma got a call saying that the calf came out so we no longer needed to attend the bovine dystocia case. Instead we went to the pig farm where we had castrated piglets last week to provide some newborn piglets with iron injections. We learned that the piglets have no other source for iron and therefore must get it through an injection when they are young or they will suffer from iron-deficiency anemia and likely die. After the piglets we planned on doing some spays but Dr. Chuma received another call for a bovine dystocia case so went straight to that. He began a C-section although he had been told the calf was already dead. As we pulled out the calf we realized she was still alive so Vivek tied off the umbilical cord while Dr. Ndanu and I removed the placental lining. Vivek and I then took turns suturing the uterus and the skin. By the time we were done with the cow and calf it was too late to start the spay, so we called it a day and planned to do the spays the next day.
On Friday morning I performed a spay, and in the afternoon Vivek performed one. Both bitches were pregnant so the surgeries took longer and involved more complications than normal. With Dr. Chuma’s helpful advice, we each completed our spays successfully.
Saturday was our last day in Arusha. We started the day with a few more castrations and then met with Filbert to go for a long hike to visit a waterfall in the Arusha area. We then had a farewell dinner with the BHO staff, during which they gave us gifts, certificates, and thanked us for coming. We are really going to miss everyone in Arusha but are looking forward to our South Africa adventure!
On Sunday we had a day long layover in Dar, so we spent the day at the beach and went back to the airport on Monday morning. In total, our transportation time to George from Dar took about 7 hours. We arrived at about two today and immediately met with Dr. Willem Burger and his assistant, Susan. To our surprise they were ready to start working on some animals immediately, so we went straight to a sable antelope farm to immobilize (with a dart gun) and treat a sable that likely had a parasite infecting the gastrointestinal tract. Although we hadn’t yet confirmed the diagnosis, Dr. Burger treated the animal so that he wouldn’t need to immobilize the animal again if his differential was correct. We collected some feces in order to later confirm the diagnosis. After the sables we visited a safari-type place for tourists that had a sick elephant cow. She had been suffering from bloat a little while ago and had multiple lesions on her feet. Dr. Burger looked her and her young calf over and decided we would come back the next morning to treat her. By this time it was 5pm so we headed to Dr. Burger’s home where we will be staying for the next 2 weeks. To our surprise, we found out that he also keeps some of his patients at the house to better monitor them. There are currently 4 sables here that are recovering from tick paralysis (he has a large fences off plot of land for them) and an owl that got hit by a car this morning. More to come about our work here next week!
This week we volunteered at the dog and cat shelter at Elephant Nature Park. ENP is not only a sanctuary for rescued elephants, it also has many other animals including water buffalo, cows, ponies, goats, birds, monkeys, cats and over 400 dogs. During our time at the centre we were able to be involved with the veterinary care of all of these animals, including vaccinating 70 water buffalo against foot and mouth disease.
In 2011, there was massive flooding in Bangkok. Many people were evacuated, but they were unable to take their pets with them. As a result, thousands of dogs were left stranded. Lek, a lover of all animals, had to do something to save these poor dogs. Her and her team rescued over 2000 dogs. They did their best to find the dogs’ original owners or adopt them to new homes. Lek and her team at ENP brought 155 dogs home and over the past 4 years the number of rescued dogs has reached 450 dogs as people have brought strays or abandoned dogs to be cared for. Lek’s husband, Darrick, started the shelter and it is has been gaining popularity ever since.
The dog shelter also has a cat and dog clinic where we spent most of our week working. The clinic provides free veterinary care for animals in the nearby village including spays/neuters and vaccinations.
Our days volunteering were spent helping the vet do daily treatments for all 40 dogs and cats in the clinic. Many of the animals had bite wounds which we cleaned and gave an antibiotic injection to prevent infection.
We also helped with the incoming cases such as a seizuring dog, a dog with respiratory problems and even a duck with a luxated patella! When we weren’t helping the vets, we spent a lot of time de-ticking dogs. Tick borne diseases are a huge problem at the shelter, especially during the summer. Many of the dogs are subclinically infected with ehrlichia and anaplasma and the clinically ill ones are treated with doxycycline for 28 days.
We saw a lot of interesting cases during our week at the dog shelter, but our most memorable case was a 6 week old puppy named Scully. Scully came in on our first day with hind end paralysis. Her owner said a book was accidentally dropped on her. She had complete hind end paralysis with no reflexes, no deep pain and dribbling urine. We did an X-ray and found a fracture on her L4 vertebrae but no signs of compression to the spinal cord. We kept Scully overnight and when she wasn’t improving, one of the staff members Adam, took her home. He would express her bladder and bathe her constantly. She was put on prednisone to decrease inflammation and further damage to the spinal cord as well as tramadol for pain management. The staff at ENP have been in contact with a vet from the US and they would like to fly her to have surgery. Since she does not have all her vaccinations yet, they don’t know if it’s possible. At this point, Scully will be kept comfortable and if she does have permanent hind end paralysis, she will live her life in the Steele run. The Steele run is home to a few paralyzed dogs who are very well taken care of. They have constant supervision, physiotherapy every day and they get taken on walks in their little wheel chairs. We hope for the best for our little friend Scully and we know that the staff at ENP will do everything they can for her.
After 3 weeks of independent travel through South East Asia, our team was excited to begin our first week of volunteering at Elephant Nature Park.
Elephant Nature Park, sometimes called Elephant Heaven, is located in Chiang Mai Province in northern Thailand. ENP is a sanctuary for 44 elephants mainly rescued from the logging and tourism industries. Many of them came from extremely abusive situations or suffer from chronic injuries. In Thailand, all elephants are “broken” using a traditional method called Pajaan. During the Pajaan a young elephant is placed inside a small cage and deprived of food and water while being regularly beaten until it submits to human instruction. Traditional elephant training relies entirely on the elephants fearing their handlers too much to disobey them. Elephant Nature Park uses only positive reinforcement training (using food as a reward) with their elephants. They hope to educate the public so that there is more awareness of the abuse elephants undergo in the elephant tourism industry in Thailand and other countries in Asia. ENP also has an Elephant Ambassador Program where people can volunteer to speak out against elephant tourism in their own communities.
During our time volunteering at ENP we had the great opportunity to shadow the elephant veterinarians here. Many of the rescued elephants have chronic injuries that need to be treated daily. Some of the elephants we helped with had landmine injuries, dislocated hips, broken backs and abscesses galore. After the first morning we were able to clean their wounds, flush them and spray with protectant. By far our favourite elephant is Khun Dej. He is a fiesty little 2 year old rescued from a national park where he was found with his foot caught in a snare trap. He has been living at ENP and he is treated twice a day by the veterinarians here. His bandage is changed twice a day and then covered with a leather waterproof boot so he can go play in the mud and wander through the park with the other elephants. His two friends Saree and Dani wait around patiently every day for his treatment to be finished. It is heartwarming to see them all amble away together afterwards. Every elephant that comes to the park is allowed to integrate into the family group of its choice. Many of the baby elephants have nannies who look after them like their own children.
Friday was by far our most exciting day at the park. 5 new elephants were rescued and arrived within a few hours of each other! The first elephant to arrive was 70 year old Noi Nah who was from a tourist trekking camp. Lek Chailert (the founder of the park), a documentary film crew, 2 vets and several volunteers accompanied Noi Nah on her 22 hour journey to ENP. When she finally arrived and disembarked from the truck she looked extremely emaciated. The volunteers who had made the journey to bring Noi Nah here told us that at the camp she came from she was constantly chained, and that the other 40 elephants there looked as she did. The owner of the camp contacted Lek because she is too old to work. We learned that Noi Nah’s trainer or “mahout” didn’t feed her or give her water for 7 days if she misbehaved. We also found out that she was still being used to carry tourists on trekking trips up until 2 days before she arrived at ENP. Given her poor body condition, is it hard to imagine her having to travel long distances every day carrying tourists. The other 4 new elephants are two pairs of young elephants and their mothers confiscated from a circus. They physically appear to be in better shape, but the one mother was separated from her calf when it was young and she doesn’t recognize it now.
Currently the elephants are resting comfortably and eating well in their own enclosure in the large animal clinic at the park. Each elephant has been assigned its own personal mahout, who will work to develop a relationship with their assigned elephant. New mahouts are slowly developing a relationship with these new additions to the park. In a few days the park veterinarians will begin testing the elephants for parasites and diseases such as tuberculosis, as well a continuing to monitor their progress. Noi Nah is undergoing an intense nutrition program where she is fed vitamins 7 times a day and given access to grasses all day to help her gain back condition. Noi Nah should hopefully be at an ideal weight in 7 months.
Volunteering with the elephant veterinarians this week has been an amazing experience. Next week we will remain at ENP, volunteering at the cat and dog shelter here. We are excited to see what other adventures and learning opportunities come our way.
We began our Global Vets adventure the day after arriving in Koh Samui. The shelter we worked at is called Koh Samui Dog and Cat Rescue which houses approximately 300 dogs and 100 cats. The centre runs mostly off of donations and provides services to local pet owners at discounted rates to encourage sterilization and preventive medicine as the island has a large stray population. The centre also takes in stray and injured animals as well as adopt out healthy ones. Our stay lasted 10 days and we were faced with many different tasks such as bandage changes, wound cleaning, amputations, spay and neuters, vaccinations, bathing and removing ticks.
One interesting case was a stray male orange tabby cat who was found by a local Samaritan with a string wrapped around its hind leg. The string had cut off circulation to the distal portion of the leg and there was indication of a struggle as the paw was broken in several spots exposing the underlying bone. The appropriate course of action to save this little cat was to amputate the injured limb. Dr. Sith conducted the surgery and because the cat was intact he also performed a castration at the time of surgery. Below is a picture of the injured leg (WARNING: Graphic image). This little guy did extremely well and was eating, drinking and hopping around on his 3 legs the next day!
Another memorable case at the shelter was a young female mixed breed dog. As with many cases at the shelter the history of the injury was unknown. This dog was in poor condition when we arrived on our first day; she had open wounds surrounding her elbow and stifle joints on two of her limbs and both were infested with maggots. We began by cleaning and debriding the wounds, removing the maggots, providing pain medication, antibiotics and IV fluids. It quickly became a daily routine to change her bandages and clean the wounds, but as each day passed her condition worsened and the wounds spread. We became quite attached to her and gave her the name Foxy as we spent many hours a day working with her. Despite our best efforts her injuries were too severe and she was too weak to battle the infection. We will always have fond memories of her as she was one of our sweetest patients.
Our last story is about a male dog who had a chronic bite wound when we arrived. The wound was on top of his head and was fairly deep. Granulation tissue (a step in the healing process) had started to form but unfortunately the wound had become home to maggots. Each day we cleaned the wound and removed the maggots and as the week progressed, he improved dramatically. By the end of our stay the wound had not completely healed, however it had improved significantly and no maggots were to be found. We hope he continues to have a speedy recovery!
We would like to thank Samui Dog and Cat rescue and Dr. Sith for hosting us. It was an excellent first project to begin our Global Vets journey. We learned so much, made many new friends and will take away some great memories!
Our first week with the Better Harvest Organization (BHO) is just coming to an end and we are already so grateful for the experiences we have had and the people we have met.
On Saturday June 20th we returned from our climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. We are proud to report that we reached it’s highest peak, Uhuru peak, a whopping 5895m above sea level, 5 days after starting our climb.
We were thrilled when we arrived at the Greenland Lodge in Arusha, the lodge we will be staying at throughout our time with BHO. It is spacious, very clean, has great service, and we were able to get some much needed rest before beginning our first day with BHO on Sunday. BHO had answered a call for volunteers from Mbwa wa Africa (Dogs of Africa) who were organizing a Rabies Vaccination campaign in a local village. Politics seem to be heavily influential here and unfortunately the village leaders did not tell the town people about the various free vaccination clinics that were being set up in the area. After a slow morning, we were able to get the word out at the local church and more people came in the afternoon. In total, we vaccinated 128 dogs! The last time Mbwa wa Africa ran a vaccination clinic they had about 450 dogs so our day was slower than usual, but we were still happy to be part of the solution. Rabies is a serious problem here in Tanzania, so clinics like the one we participated in are extremely necessary.
On Monday we had an orientation-type day with the always helpful director of BHO, Filbert Chundu. He showed us around Arusha town and helped us figure out how to use the local buses (Dala Dalas), as we will be taking them everyday to get to clinics.
Tuesday was our first day with Dr. Chuma and Dr. Ndanu, the veterinarians that we will be spending most of our days with. We started our day by castrating a few piglets and then moved on to the various cases that the veterinarians had been asked to attend. We provided calcium to a cow that had just calved and had a history of hypocalcemia. Her udder was bigger than any we had seen before, and we were told she was producing about 20L of milk a day! For reference, the average cow here produces only 7L per day. After lunch we did a couple autopsies on some chickens from a flock that was experiencing losses. The veterinarians walked us through how to do autopsies, the different common diseases, and what signs to look for when suspecting any of them. Some characteristic muscle lesions led us to our diagnosis of Gumboro disease, which is a highly contagious viral disease. We then visited a calf with an extremely swollen left forelimb and a slightly swollen right forelimb. We flushed the wound and provided the calf with antibiotics.
On Wednesday we visited a small animal clinic in Arusha called Merlino Animal Clinic. The veterinarians there, both from Belgium, were very welcoming and allowed us to observe all their cases and ask any questions. We had an unfortunate introduction to Aflatoxin, a toxin that can be found in maize flour that has gotten mouldy. The veterinarians were trying hard to save a young dog that was suffering from intoxication by providing a vitamin k infusion and later with glucose to give him energy. Despite our help, he took a turn for the worst early in the afternoon and died only minutes later. Unfortunately sometimes mouldy maize flour is a common ingredient in meals fed to dogs. We observed spay procedures twice and were in the middle of an amputation when we were called out by Dr. Chuma and Dr. Ndanu to go check on a cow in dystocia. The cow had been in labor since 5pm the day before (it was about 4pm when we got there) and unfortunately the calf was not alive. Dr. Chuma opted to do a c-section on the cow and allowed us to help when possible, although the task was large and skill and speed were obviously required. We both took a turn at suturing the skin and got to feel how seriously tough a cow’s skin is to get through, especially with a needle that is not very sharp! Luckily, the cow was calm throughout the entire procedure and she was recovering well by the next day.
Thursday involved a few bovine cases including a case of poxvirus and checking on the calf with the swollen limbs. Dr. Chuma then walked us through how to perform a spay; both of us did part of the spay and closing, although we did have a bit of a scare when we couldn’t find the source of a bleed! The environment for the spay was the most interesting part. We have gotten pretty accustomed to surgeries occurring in clinics, so when we realized we would be performing the operation in the client’s garden, we were a little surprised. The clients provided us with a table to work on and advised us not to set up under the avocado tree… They then gathered around us with chairs and refreshments as we worked and helped when they could. A very different experience for sure, but sometimes it can be especially difficult in developing countries to have perfect aseptic conditions.
Friday involved some more bovine cases, starting with the calf with the joint problem (who has now been named Rosie). We cleaned the severely affected joint again. Unfortunately, our advice to set up a place with bedding for Rosie to rest and recover was not heeded, so we took it upon ourselves to set up a stall for her. Rosie quickly took to her new home well and was lying down comfortably when we left. It was really rewarding to see her like that and we are hoping that she will be walking on all 4 limbs again very soon!
On Saturday we assisted the owner/veterinarian from Merlino animal clinic at a spay and neuter clinic set up by Meru Animal Welfare Organization (MAWO) in a small village near Kilimanjaro airport. She was the only veterinarian performing spays, and after about 6 hours, she had performed 9 spays and 5 neuters (including repair of a vagina mass filled with granulation tissue and maggots). We enjoyed a break in our successful week that night by going to a steak bar with some local friends we have made in Arusha!
Sunday morning involved a very early start to the day. We had agreed to meet with Dr. Ndanu and Filbert at 6am to head out to a Maasai village called Engaruka to vaccinate their livestock against blackleg and anthrax. We arrived at the village around 10am and were greeted very warmly by the Maasai people and their chief. They were ready and waiting for us to begin the vaccinations, so Dr. Ndanu gave us a quick lesson in preparing and using the ‘automatic syringe gun’ device. The syringe was very efficient and before long we had vaccinated 240 animals including sheep, goat, and cattle. We enjoyed chatting with the Maasai people (with Dr. Ndanu as our translator) and playing with the children while taking turns with the auto syringe. When it came time for us to leave, the chief asked us to join him for pictures and a chat. There are few things in this world that will make you feel as special and fulfilled as having the chief of a large Maasai community welcome you with open arms into his village and thank you wholeheartedly for providing a much needed service for his community. The chief then invited us to a celebration that all the villages in the surrounding land were having that day, which included 3 weddings and the circumcision of a group of boys in the community, a type of initiation and right of passage that is part of their culture. We watched as the Maasai cooked their food and danced in celebration, all the while sitting with the chief as we enjoyed refreshments and chatted.
For Monday June 29 we were offered the day off as we have been working non-stop since last Sunday. We were reluctant to accept, but the idea of sleeping in a bit is too good. So we agreed to take the morning off, but will continue our work with Dr. Chuma and Dr. Ndanu in the afternoon.
Itaendelea (Swahili for ‘to be continued’), Noreen and Vivek Global Vets 2015, Team Africa
Hola from Lanquin, Guatemala! We are en route to our second Global Vets project in Sumpango after leaving Hopkins, Belize two days ago. Our first project at the Hopkins Belize Humane Society was a surreal learning opportunity. Within an hour of arriving in Hopkins, we were greeted by Kelli, one of the fantastic volunteers at HBHS, and immediately got to work on our first patient, Marley. This dog had the misfortune of being hit by a car earlier that morning and was picked up by Kelli so that he could get medical attention. With the guidance of Dr. Mia Canton, we assessed Marley and made up a treatment plan for him, which included placing a drain in a three inch pocket wound located on his inner thigh. Below is an image of the drain; it is somewhat graphic so please look away if you are squeamish!
Marley stayed at the clinic for six days until he was able to go home to his loving family. As most dogs here are off leash, it is a relatively common occurrence for them to be hit by cars. Our team was very grateful to be able to help Marley towards a speedy recovery from his accident.
During our 15 days of volunteer work at HBHS, we were fortunate enough to assist in a variety of efforts carried out by the humane society. Our first weekend we participated in a clinic with Dr. Orlando Baptist where 20 animals were spayed and neutered in an effort towards population control. HBHS also offers clinics every Wednesday afternoon providing the community with the opportunity to bring animals in for donation-based veterinary care. These clinics are run by Joseph, the humane society’s veterinary technician who has been working with the organization for years. These clinics really opened our eyes to the prevailing veterinary medical issues in Belize, amongst which the most common things we encountered were mange, ringworm, tick fever (Ehrlichia canis infection), and flea infestations.
Another part of our roles was to carry the HBHS phone and respond to calls that came in. We would travel to house calls on our trusty bicycles and it wasn’t uncommon to be asked whether we had been for a dip in the ocean, when in reality, we were covered in our own perspiration from the hot Belizean sun!
One of such calls was for a pitbull named Mojito, affectionately nicknamed “Mama Sita” by her owner. She presented with generalized edema and hindlimb lameness. On abdominal palpation, we noticed her spleen was enlarged. We did a snap test which came back negative for heartworm, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and Lyme disease, so we had to look to other diagnostics to help us solve her case. Her concerned owner agreed to do blood work, which was sent via an airplane to Belize City for a complete blood count and biochemistry. The results we received the following day indicated that she had a very low red blood cell count (anemia), few platelets (thrombocytopenia), and low protein (hypoproteinemia). Dr. Canton discussed the results with us and informed us that these signs were an uncommon presentation of tick fever. She then prescribed Mojito with doxycycline to treat the infection. Below is a picture of us with a happy Mama Sita.
Throughout our stay, we had the pleasure of taking care of Sweet Pea, a dog who had been rescued by HBHS. When Sweet Pea was found, she was completely emaciated and covered in transmissible venereal tumors (TVT). TVT is a type of cancer that has the ability to spread between animals via direct contact. Fortunately, it is treatable with the chemotherapeutic agent vincristine. After several rounds of chemotherapy, Sweetpea is now cancer-free and is currently up for adoption. She is quite the character, and was an absolute pleasure to have around during our long busy days at the clinic!
Our time with HBHS was absolutely incredible and we can’t thank our mentors enough for their unwavering guidance and support. We learned so much during our stay and were so happy to be able to give back to the wonderful community of Hopkins. Stay tuned for updates from our second project, Animal AWARE, in Sumpango, Guatemala!
We began our journey a week and a half ago flying from Toronto to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We took a few days to adjust to the time change and experience some Thai culture before we were picked up to head to Elephant Nature Park. They picked us up in an air conditioned van (I was very excited), and we traveled an hour and a half from the city to get to ENP. We knew we had arrived when we could see elephants wandering freely across the fields, their mahouts keeping a close eye.
The first day we had an orientation. We learnt about how many of the elephants came to the park after experiencing terrible abuse in the logging and tourism industry. Lek, the founder of this park, often finds these abused elephants and purchases them or convinces their owners to allow them to live out their lives in this wonderful park. They strongly believe in people working to keep the elephants happy rather than the elephants working for people, so the elephants here have a pretty great life.
On day two, we met Dr. P, Dr. Jip, and Dr. Tom and started following them around to learn how they treat different elephant wounds. Unfortunately after only an hour, I slipped and twisted my ankle, resulting in a half day at the hospital getting X-rays taken. I left a few hours later with a splint and crutches. ENP was amazing with helping us out with our hospital visit.
Day three we really got into treatments with the elephants. We start off the day cutting up dozens of watermelons that we feed them continuously as a treat during treatments. Having watched the treatments once, the vets let us try. We started off with my favourite elephant, Khun Dej. Khun Dej is only 4 years old and was rescued after having his front foot caught in a snare. For the rest of the week we did daily treatments of his foot, and then he gets a bandage put on before he gets to run wild across the grounds with his adopted family.
We also treated Sri Prae, an older elephant that has land mine wounds on her foot. We feed her watermelon for 20 minutes while she stands in a medicated foot bath. She tolerates it very well as long as you keep the watermelon coming!
Next we hop onto a golf cart (super helpful for my ankle on crutches), and head across the grounds to treat more foot wounds and abscesses. Each elephant gets a basket of fruit as a treat during their treatments. Then we repeat the treatments in the evening, as well as handing out banana balls filled with vitamins to some of the older elephants. We always make sure to bring extras to spoil some of the elephants that don’t need the vitamins!
We also assisted in treatments on a pig with a laceration in her vulva, a goat with a fungal infection, and a horse with an abscess in his hoof.
During the evenings at ENP, we had the opportunity to meet other volunteers from around the world and enjoy the beautiful scenery. As well, they had a few evening ceremonies where they taught us about the culture, and attempted to teach us some of the very difficult Thai language.
Next week we’re off to help with over 400 dogs at the Elephant Nature Park Dog Rescue.
The Global Vets Team has completed another successful fundraising year through memorable events such as the Dinner Gala, Silent Auction and Discover Vet School. We are forever grateful to our mentors, our friends and family, the OVC community, and especially to all our wonderful sponsors! Your ongoing support is truly appreciated as it enables us to realize our goal of veterinary aid abroad.
Throughout the year, our team was able to build a core foundation made up of leadership and effective collaboration skills that will be useful during our time at OVC and as future clinicians. However, our journey is nowhere near complete as our seven teams are preparing to depart to our respective countries. We have worked really hard to get here and cannot wait to uncover the roles that second year veterinary students have to play in the world of international veterinary medicine.
Our two Central and South America teams will be visiting Hopkins Belize Humane Society, Animal A.W.A.R.E in Sumpango Guatemala, Protección Animal Ecuador (PAE) in Ambato and La Senda Verde in Bolivia. Our four Southeast Asia teams will be heading to Koh Samui Dog & Cat Rescue, Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand in Bangkok, and the Lao Zoo. Team Africa will be visiting Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPA) in Tanzania and Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic and The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa.
This summer we want to think on our feet, learn to problem solve and efficiently use the resources that we have. Global Vets provides us with the opportunity to work on our clinical skills while developing the necessary confidence required to effectively work within the practical world of veterinary medicine. We look forward to treating animals and solving cases that we wouldn’t see in North America and we hope to learn proper protocols from our mentors with regards to daily cases. Our team aspires to communicate with individuals of different beliefs, cultures and languages, and to work synergistically in order to achieve goals that benefit all members. We hope to be more aware of welfare issues, and to learn to promote proper animal care that is realistic and personalized. Our team is comprised of open-minded individuals who appreciate that every experience, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, offers valuable learning.
A big thank you to those who helped or attended our Around the World Dinner Gala! It was a wonderful night of fine dining courtesy of the university’s Hospitality Services, followed by speeches, presentations, and raffles. We could not have done it without all our hardworking GV members, alumni, faculty, sponsors, and lovely friends and family.
This summer, Team Thailand 1 (Adam Kleinberg, Michael Kwan & Phil Levis) was lucky enough to spend 2 incredible weeks at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There, they tackled the immense challenge of rehabilitating and providing much needed treatment for animals that find refuge at the sanctuary.
The team has made a donation to Save Elephant Foundation, a Thai non–profit organization dedicated to providing care and assistance to Thailand’s captive elephant population through local community outreach, rescue and rehabilitation programs, and educational ecotourism operations. Specifically, the funds will go to elephant care, so that those who work at the park are able to feed the elephant herds a healthy diet, provide them with the best veterinary care, and construct chain-free enclosures so they can have a future of roaming 24 hours per day.
“We hope that our donation will go a long way to care for the delicate animals that find refuge at the park, and encourage people back home in Canada to educate themselves about the dire situation and elephants’ need for our help in Thailand. Our goal is to help raise awareness about the current situation and motivate others to travel to the Elephant Nature Park in the future so they too can make a difference.”
Feels great to have two feet back on home and native land. Bring on the cool green grass, Swiss Chalet quarter chicken dinners and of course, Timmies coffee!
After leaving Canada on May 26, our Global Vets journey has come to an end. It’s time to gear up for school, and prepare to grind said gears for year #3 at the Ontario Veterinary College. Three countries in 3 months; Belize, Guatemala and finally Ecuador, I can’t wait to share some experiences from the last leg of our journey.
We quickly got to work with Dr. Diego Barrera, spending the days at the municipality shelter, where we would work till about 4pm, then hop in the bed of a truck and head to the local clinic, PAE (Protección Animal Ecuador), till about 7pm.
The municipality clinic services consists largely of sterilization, where 15-20 animals are spayed and neutered every day. The clinic also welcomes members of the public to bring their pet in for other medical issues, where the veterinarians will treat the animal, providing they agree to sterilize the animal after treatment in order to control the animal population.
Animals are presented with various ailments, falling on a large spectrum anywhere between mildly injured and severely diseased. From kennel cough – a respiratory infection caused by bacteria, to traumatic injuries and mass removals, the Ambato municipality clinic treats many cases each day, each dog or cat requiring different medications and treatments. Here’s a few examples of cases Laura and I saw at the municipality shelter:
After the first week in Ambato, word spread through the communities about a few Puma attacks on livestock animals in a nearby village. The town brought in the wildlife organization to trap and release the cat to prevent more animals from being attacked and to provide peace of mind and safety to the members of the village. We were called in to treat the livestock attacked by the Puma, we didn’t really know what to expect…. FYI here’s a puma:
WARNING. I know I’ve had a few “Graphic image warnings” in these blogs, but this one is the most graphic of them all. Below are the actual pictures of the animals we were called to treat after being attacked by the puma. Cruise right on by this next paragraph if you don’t wish to see them.
We drove up to a house on top of the mountains above the clouds. After locating the donkey in the forest we noticed green material flowing from the side of her face. No, this was not necrotic gangrenous tissue like I had thought, rather it was chewed grass that had leaked out of the hole in the donkeys face that had been slashed away by the puma. The cat had also taken a large chunk out of the donkeys back leg – I was blown away to see the donkey walking effortlessly.
I was also amazed at how this animal still had a large appetite! These are truly hearty animals and prove the theory of survival of the fittest. For years these animals have been forced to withstand many of natures challenges, including harsh climate, predation and food shortage. The weak ones die and the strong survive.
The next day after work we traveled to another village, not too far from where the donkey was attacked, this time to treat a calf that had been attacked overnight. Again, I was surprised at our clinical findings: No fever and eating fine, literally no significant findings besides the gaping wounds caused by the giant cat. The wildlife folks told us that they think the mother cat is trying to teach the baby how to hunt, explaining why the victims were injured as opposed to killed and eaten – we later found several cattle carcasses throughout our walk through the mountains.
This was not a safe place to be.
This last story was my most memorable case of the entire time working in Central and South America, and came from the final day of our 3-month Global Vets trip.
It had been an uneventful day of surgeries up until this point. I heard a voice ask if someone could come and take a look at one of the dogs on the surgery table. It was scheduled to be a routine spay, but when I rushed over and looked at the animal being operated on, it’s mucous membrane colour was far from routine. Very pale, almost white. The dog was in shock, meaning it was not pumping blood to all of its tissues properly. I listened for the heartbeat, it was there, but barely. Pulse was very weak and the dogs blood pressure was extremely low.
She was not breathing.
The surgery had just finished, and we began ventilations, holding the mouth shut to make a seal, and breathing through her nostrils to fill her lungs, immediately transitioning into emergency CPR measures. I had my stethoscope on the heart and could hear it continue to slow down. Emergency drugs were administered to increase heart rate and beat quality and the heartbeat raced upwards for a short period of time then began to fall again until I could no longer hear it. Manual ventilations continued and I listened to the lungs inflate through the stethoscope I had placed over her chest.
More compressions, more ventilations. The heart and lungs were not functioning, so we were manually operating the organs. Breathing into the lungs of the dog, and compressing the heart to generate pressure allowing blood to pump from the heart to the body. We removed the dog from the surgery table and took her to the recovery area, where a warm blanket and a heat lamp were stationed. She felt cold and surely her temperature had dropped to very dangerous hypothermic ranges.
We were losing her.
I put a catheter into her arm, ran intravenous fluids to increase her blood pressure and respiratory stimulants were given, all while chest compressions and ventilations were being continued. Dr. Diego then placed a needle between the upper lip and nose of the dog, an acupuncture technique very commonly used in emergency CPR. This is an act of desperation, an attempt to cause a release of adrenaline in the animal in order to shock the body and stimulate the nervous system to trigger heart contraction and lung ventilation. Didn’t work. Try again. Try again. Continue compressions and ventilations.
Suddenly a little gasp. Not even close to an adequate breath, but it was a sign of hope. I could feel a great heartbeat and it was not slowing down. We rubbed and rubbed in order to quickly generate as much heat as possible, she was 4 degrees too cold, in extreme risk of death. the body cannot function at temperatures even a few degrees below normal.
The little gasps stopped, then continued, my steth still locked in place, listening as the gasps grew in size, feeling her shivering as she inhaled.
We need to warm this dog up, now. She’s not out of the woods yet, her breathing can stop again at any minute.
I checked her temperature and she was climbing, 0.3 degrees Celsius every few minutes. She was getting warmer. Heart beating rapidly, little gasps turning into bigger breaths. It was working.
Every minute her breathing improved, all on her own, we could now stop breathing into her nose for her.
She was back to life after dying 3 times throughout the 35 minutes of CPR. She didn’t give up, and neither did we. It was an incredible day.
your dedication to the animals and the sacrifices you make for them are inspiring. Thank you for allowing us into your clinic and especially into your home. I can’t say enough about the experience you provided us with. See you next year for the spay and neuter clinic!
I would like to sincerely thank all of our sponsors, Global Vets would not exist without donations and sponsorships. It is with your help that we are able to travel outside of the country and experience the way veterinary medicine is practiced around the world. Each one of our 16 students this year have all come home with different experiences that will help shape them as they develop into young veterinarians, thanks for your support.
And finally, to the millions of readers of this blog, I hope you were able to somewhat vicariously experience what it was like to work in animal shelters in Central and South America. It was an experience we will never forget. Thanks very much for reading.