2015, Africa

AFRICA: Our 2nd week in Tanzania

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!

2015, Africa

AFRICA: First Week Volunteering in Arusha, Tanzania

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