Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Om Mani Padme Hum...

These last few days at the clinic have been loaded with emotions; both from my side and from the side of the worried owners coming with their sick pets...
There was a time, some 12 years ago, when we first started with PAWS to do something for Animal Welfare, when I felt that Mauritians do not care for their pets...As the years pass by, I guess we all have witnessed a change in the mentality towards pets and us Vets we are the privileged few to see that first hand. At my clinic, I see more and more people coming with a really caring and compassionate attitude towards their pets. People who cry when their pets are terminal, people who fight and stay awake whole nights to keep a fading puppy alive; people who travel kms to have their pets treated...

Someone phoned and rushed in with a land tortoise yesterday (Malagasy Radiated Tortoise)apparently not eating for a couple of days. When they took the reptile out of the box, my heart skipped a beat...the head and legs were limply dangling out of the carapace.Anyone who has ever owned a tortoise would know that usually these critters keep the head and legs tightly retracted under the carapace when placed in and "unfriendly" environment...and I thought aloud: "Did you bring me a dead tortoise?". Then upon closer manipulation, he blinked when I touched his eyelids! That was one lethargic and blemish reptile!A brief "interrogation" of the owners revealed acute onset of anorexia and weakness 2 days ago.
So, when you are DHAC (Don't Have A Clue) about something and you do not have a scientific explanation for something...it always pays to switch to logical thinking! Reptiles do not control their body temperature and depend on ambient temperature to warm up. Cold body = slow metabolism...so I opted for a warm bath whilst keeping his head above water level and passing a gastric tube down his stomach to sample some contents.
Flushed out some dark coloured vegetable matter and by now Mr Tortoise was becoming more active and helped a bit by vomiting a whole bunch of more green undigested leaves. Owners could not identify that with anything they had given to eat!Another case of poisoning with toxic house plants maybe; but what was interesting to me was the behaviour of the whole family during all this.Panicked and distressed at start: the guy kept saying "save him Dr Sam..." they shifted to sheer joy and relief when he vomited, stroking his shell and encouraging him and they were full of hope when they left with that tortoise in their box. Animal was still in bad shape with a poor prognosis but they were so happy to see him move after the death scare that it did not matter.
Some might say: What so special about a reptile? An animal that does not even socialise with Man...What binds this family to that slow and "non-interactive" animal? But yet they behaved as if it was their kid!

Small black pup...rescued from death by one friend of mine...but in a bad state. Animal was found weak on a poultry farm; 3 of its siblings had been eaten by mastiff guard dogs on that site and mother was shot by deer hunters.Puppy was brought with severe Parvo diarrhoea, abdominal cramps etc. Everyday that guy would come for a 1 hr IV drip session and tell me how he spent the night watching over this poor soul, syringe-feeding him and warming him up; how he had to cancel a business meeting because there was nobody to rehydrate him for 3 hrs. This person already owns a dog, has a full daily busy schedule and yet he chooses to put this little dog first...

Sick kitty brought from the other side of the island; owner driving all the way in the afternoon traffic; Lady picking up and dog from the roadside, with broken limbs and smashed hips and bursting into tears when I had to euthanise the animal to alleviate its suffering; Another owner gently talking to her cat as she comes round after anaesthesia for surgery; Kids taking turns to read stories to a dog in terminal stage of Distemper...the list is long...and it shows only one thing - There is something inside all of us called "Compassion". We all are born with our dose of it but some choose to repress it and act indifferent, some "prioritise" other feelings at the expense of compassion but some of us do let it out...

Om Mani Padme Hum...The Tibetan Mantra of compassion.For while now, this mantra has been very present in my life...I have a tattoo of it on my right wrist; someone recently gave me a CD with these incantations (Thank you Dr A!!)and I keep reading about it. Not that I am a big religious person or anything but, as someone rightly put it recently: "it's better to be spiritual than religious these days"...So yes,there is nothing more human to be compassionate!

Not the fake caring attitude because you expect to get something in return but true UNCONDITIONAL compassion for a suffering soul
...be it human or animal!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barking at the wrong tree...

Last week, someone from Radio 1 phoned me to have my opinion on the Stray Dog Overpopulation problem in Mauritius. This was to be a broadcast on the alarmist picture the Mauritian SPCA had described in the press lately. Supposedly because the Ministry of Tourism is no longer funding them, we would soon be swamped by an army of rabid stray dogs! I don't know how people still buy that sort of crap...over and over again! It's been how many years now that the "Stray Dog Population Control" has been conferred onto the MSPCA? Some of you reading this weren't even born since this campaign started...1972!Thirty nine years later we are still facing the same problem, hearing the same lame lies and yet year after year tax-payers money is being spent in this and now still more is needed.

During these 3 decades, thousands of animals have been caught and brutally terminated; several Acts have been voted at Parliament; dozens of vehicles and equipment have been bought and yet...stray dogs are still a problem. Mauritius is a tiny island and does not share any terrestrial borders with any country...how on Earth are we still waging a war against stray dogs

Visibly, people somewhere, somehow messed up in their tasks...and in all this we have ourselves to blame...because each time the MSPCA comes up with an excuse the authorities just "abide" and cash out more money and everybody approves by remaining silent and applauding. Well, I am not participating in this!

According to law, any dog found unaccompanied on the streets is a stray; and this encompasses the real homeless strays and your pet doggie. Throughout all these years mostly owned dogs have been picked up...not because they were really strays and a danger to public but more because they were a juicy source of easy money with the fines the owner had to pay etc. The real strays were left on the roads to breed without control.

Catch and Kill...is that all we can expect from a "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals"? Quite paradoxical hey! And yet, that is the sad reality. See http://www.radiomoris.com/forum/discussions-generales/3370-mauritius-society-prevention-cruelty-animals-mspca.html
Catch in a brutal way and kill in an even more atrocious way...that was the sad reality only a decade ago; when some found it totally acceptable electrocute dogs and proudly heap them in mound to make a poster out of it. It took me personally, 3 years of fighting and a lot of pressure from PAWS to make this barbaric act stop. But dogs continue to be caught and killed, now by lethal injection apparently...and God knows who handles this syringe and how it is being done.

All this in the name of what? For a more postcard, tourist-attracting Mauritius? For more money? Just for the sake of being cruel and dumb? Nobody even bothers to ask...all that matters is the IMMEDIATE removal of "eyesores" as I read in the newspapers lately.

How does a dog end up being tagged as "stray"...or why would a dog be unaccompanied on the streets? 1-Owner's yard not fenced, 2-Animal is ill-treated or not fed by owners, 3-Animal is not spayed/neutered by owner, 4-Owner releases the pet dog on the streets in the evening for him to go poop outside, 5-Owner dumped the animal because it was a burden for him. Did you notice the recurrent word in all these reasons? Yes?...and yet the animals are the ones to pay the price with their lives...they are the ones that need to be killed. Owner just goes and gets another puppy and the cycle starts all over again. This is not news anymore...what I am writing now, we have been saying that for years and years now to all the Decision-Makers; we have been stressing on the fact that the real, long-term solution lies in educating and responsibilising owners and spay/neuter campaigns. But hey, who cares about long term? What we need is these mongrels out of sight and we want it NOW!So go ahead with the massacre...but nobody realises that physically removing 10 animals is creating a void to be filled by 10 more...that's a dumb law of population dynamics.

The journalist must have sensed the smirk on my face when I said "ok for the interview" and since he wanted to play the game of the MSPCA...he never called me back! Loool! Dr Sam and his bloody loud mouth!

Plain bland TRUTH...Naaaaaaahhhh! We need crispy, shocking LIES!

Until, the press and the Government realise that they are barking at the wrong tree...we will still be here another 39 years complaining about lack of funds to catch and kill dogs in this country.

Prevention of Cruelty much?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Joys of Birthing...

Last Saturday has been yet another day to remember for 2011...

Yeps it was the 12th of March and independence day for Mauritius; Yeps it was the birthday party of my daughter Kalinka at the ice cream parlour "Milky Lane" but it was also "marked" by a lady called "Princess".

Soooo...am lying extenuated on the couch at around 19:00 and I get one of those panic phone calls from a lady whose dog was having problems giving birth. She(the dog!!) had been in labour since the morning but nothing "popped" out yet.

15 mins drive to the clinic and the peeps were already there waiting for me with their doggie - severely distressed;visibly weak and in pain. She had given birth 3 times before without any problems but this time she had a big humongous baby stuck in birth canal. Emergency shot of Pain killers; intravenous drip of dextrose 5% and she was on surgery table in no time. I managed to dislodge the stuck baby and because of the weak state she was, I decided to go "get" the remaining babies by a ceasarean section surgery.

Owner came with her daughter and son-in-law and here we are, all 4 of us in the surgery room; me busy with my instruments and the other 3 looking intently at the scalpel in my hand...
Stressful moment it is...for me the surgeon and for the owners watching me taking uterus out and incising to get first baby out. OMG! Questions firing non-stop... "What is this? The intestines? (the uterus)" Why is this greenish?(placenta); Ah! Baby is inside a sac huh?; Is he alive?" Nothing better to put more pressure on you whilst you focus on being swift and quick;while you avoid being "showered" with amniotic fluid as you break open the sac;as you clamp the umbilicus with one hand and cut the cord with the other!!
What is interesting though is that, as soon as baby is out,...owners' attention immediately shift onto the latter. Suddenly, nobody cares about the mom who is lying there with her abdomen wide open and uterus exposed! Loool! Everybody is mesmerised by the cute wet ball of fur taking his first breath on that towel!

Two babies out; and I start to suture back uterus while the ladies are actively rubbing the pups back to life.I could "palpate" the stress as they both were criticising each other's way of "rubbing"! Lool!: "Mum! You are rubbing to hard!"..."Careful You! Your long nails are going to hurt them!"..."Turn them around! you are in my way!" looool! Then...the release operated - Babies started vocalising and whining and, as if, THIS was the real signal that they are ok, everybody was now relaxed. Mr son-in-law, who, until now was anxiously sitting on a chair biting the little nails that were left on his fingers, sprung up and started snapping pics (mostly of wife...lol); participating in towel rub etc.Loool!

By that time, I had finished stitching mum up and cleaning her. The whining was becoming louder and louder, so I expressed some colostrum from the nipples and "offered" them to the pups...Aaaaaaaw! Can you picture a vacuum cleaner nozzle stuck on your skin? Well, there they were...frantically pawing and suckling on these teats like they've done that all their lives!!

There are no words to describe my feelings in such a moment. You forget the time...you forget the strong smell of canine amniotic fluid permeating your sinuses; you forget the pain you have been feeling in your left knee (torn ligament) for standing so long...everything you can perceive is 2 babies falling asleep already on mum's incision line with teats in their mouth!
I looked at owner and I could see emotions flushing her system too; daughter was more into giving them names already and son-in-law had now switched from being a papparazi to pro cameraman now...shooting the scenes from various angles on his Hi-tech phone! Pffff!Hope I do not end up on Youtube or something!

Happy, Happy...Yeps! Babies are always bundles of joy! I guess Princess was happy too, loaded with pain killers for the next 5 days and I have been receiving text "updates" daily about them...all doing fine.

Can't wait for next saturday to see them again for their scheduled check up!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ontogenese rekapituliert die Phylogenese...

Feeling Nerdy today? Brace yourself...for some!

"Doc, can you tell me if this is a true German Shepherd?" I got this question today and this crops up like twice a week these days! Everybody wants a "pure" one and so many turn up with backyard crossbreed individuals!
So how do you tell a true GSD from a "fake" one? The real ones are all black at birth and only afterwards get their tan patches; just like true Dalmations are born uniformly white and start getting their much appreciated spots a week or so after. Lion cubs are born with spots; our Mauritian monkeys have babies born with jet black fur that slowly changes to grey after a few weeks; the african Colobus monkey is predominantly black but carries baby which is as white as milk!
So what's this whole buzz about having babies that are so strikingly differently coated from the adults? One would have thought that evolution would have provided those babies with some sort of colour that would blend them in the lot as protection from predators...but for the Colobus monkey, it's like placing crosshairs on the baby or painting it in fluo for the attention of any predator!!

Enter Ernst Haeckel, German biologist who, in 1866 came with his theory about "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny" (In german in the title). This theory was later taken to the extremes and discredited by most biologists. Yeps, that the way to do it: Take something someone said, try to apply it to far fetched situations and prove it wrong! Loool!Anyways...despite failing the test when confronted to conventional Darwinism, I always like to pull the argument that it does explain some stuff that are not explicable by the theory of evolution. Well, what does it say, that is so controversial, then?

Ontogeny - The development of an individual through it's various stages
Phylogeny - The development of a species.
Ernst Haeckel stated that through the stages of its development, and individual repeats the stages of the development of its species. Thus, in embryonic stage, the human embryo resembles an embryo of other animals, has gills like fish, later the foetus develops a tail like other primates and is covered with fur like all mammals. All this resorbs to give a baby the way we know of at birth.

Taken to the word, Ernst Haeckel was covered with shame because in the development of a chicken for example it does not resemble the adult form of fish-amphibian-reptile-archopterix then ends up like a fluffy yellow chick but it does have the genes for that. But the theory has some truth in explaining ancestry. Our ancestors had tails and we possess the genes to grow a tail and our babies start grow one which is later stopped and resorbed; just like birds have been proven to possess the genes to grow teeth - like their reptilian ancestors. Lol! Yeah! Chicken can grow teeth and that has been proven in the labs.

Ok ...back to our baby animals here! Yes...at some point of time in evolution, the ancestors of the German Shepherd Dogs were...all Black; the ones of Dalmations ...all white and adult lions wore classy spots like a leopard! The babies are just displaying vestigial coat colour of ancestors. This colour must have served a purpose in the past but no longer now with intensive human-influenced in animal breeding.
There you go! Taken from this angle the theory of Haeckel stands the test and makes complete sense too...

So, now, next time someone asks you how to tell a true GSD from a "sugar-cane GSD" you will know what to answer and have a nerdy explanation too!In any case, you should tell him that a dog is a dog...ready to throw so much love back at you...whether pure breed or mongrel!

What?! You did not grasp the whole point about Ontogeny etc? Go watch a Reality-TV show on your couch then! Looool!
Or you can always scroll up and read again!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two types of everything...

Grey hair falling over her lovely (hazel)eyes...curvaceous figure..she watched me come close and made a step backwards as I reached out a hand to stroke her back.
This is Kenza, 13 yrs old female "Griffon" upon her first visit in January (and not, as you thought, some hot chick playing shy with Dr Sam!)Owner brought her for a "fourth" opinion after being told that she had cancer and was terminal. Kenza had been spayed 6 years ago and the next year she was having vaginal bleeding again and since then has been with vaginal discharges of various colour and "consistency". Owner has been around, been prescribed numerous antibiotics, antihaemorraghics, hormonal suppressors and last vet told him that there was no hope..that she had to be euthanised.

First thing I noted was that she was smelling bad...and that she was having brown vaginal discharges.So straight to some "between-legs" inspection and gosh that was gross! Full blown abscess on upper aspect of vulva...packed with...wriggling maggots! 1 hr of anaesthesia and fun maggot-fishing later she went home with a medicated gauze drain. It took several wet to dry debriding sessions to get that wound clean and healed. Was happy to hear that she was doing ok and eating etc...until last week Mr Ramos called for an appointment - Kenza was again bleeding per vagina!
Okay...clouds of doubt in my head now...Have I missed something? Did my sutures block her urinary meatus and now she is having a bladder infection? Could it be that she is having an "ascending" infection that moved from vagina to bladder?Bladder Stones? I saw her last week with my head full of biased "convictions"...and guess what? I did palpate a 5 x 5 mass in her abdomen..roughly where bladder lies! See....Dr Sam knew it! It is a bladder infection!!Some Citrosoda,Fluoroquinolones and antiinflammatories would do the trick. Except that Kenza came back on Wednesday in worse situation and with more discharges...as evidenced by the matted fur in her genital area! Pfffff!

"Ok! Mr Ramos! I am going in!" I heard myself say! Poor owner...he was distressed when he came but the thought of having her old 13yr old friend go through anaeasthesia and a major surgery was not appealing at all.
I made him understand that the point of going inside is to actually see what was going on and if I could fix it. If, on the other hand I cannot do anything, we would at least know and take a decision on whether to prolong her sufferings or put an end to all this.
It was with a slightly shaking hand that I drove the anaeasthesia needle into her vein and later opened her abdomen...You know that feeling when you are hypnotised by something evil? Torn between fear and curiosity? Well...that entangled mass staring at me from under her bladder made me feel like that! Under the bladder of a female there can only be one thing...the uterus...but Kenza was spayed and a uterus could not look that big and round!At this point of time, Mr Ramos, who must have seen the sweat dribbling down my forehead, was pacing around, all nervous and panicked.
"Ooookayyy! Mr Ramos, we are in control here...we got it...we know what it is" I said to calm him down...but geeeeez this mass was hard to have a hold on in all this mess! I tried to detach but in vain!I kept talking to the owner whilst I tried to locate the cervical part of what I had now identified as a uterine stump. Finally made it after some 30 minutes; ligated and excised the mass. You know us vets!!! I had to cut it open! loool! And yes it was full of bloody purulent foul smelling material! The stench!!! All that I needed in a closed poorly ventilated surgery area! Hahaha!
So Dr X, did not remove all the uterus 6 years ago and left enough inside to be a "party zone" for bacteria! She's been with a practically chronic metritis that could have killed her!

Whilst talking to Mr Ramos throughout all this episode, I confirmed a few things to myself; There are 2 types of vets:
The ones who are very comfortably ensconsed on their pedestal; who enjoy crushing you into submission and don't you dare come challenge their diagnosis, as they are always right. These are the ones who prescribe pills and give shots ad infinitum...in the secret hope that one of them will work.
And there are the ones who think about the case with you and empowers you to be a good "nurse" at home; taking time to explain because he knows that the rest of the 23 hrs 30 mins of the day the animal is going to be in your care. They are the ones to take straightforward decisions with the owner and be frank and sincere about the feasibility of things.

Kenza has seen them all...and I was so glad to receive a text from Mr Ramos today asking me if she can be on solid food already...because she is making a big fuss with her bowl...asking for food!!

Kenza the Warrior!