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Research Study Begins: Prevalence of Tick-borne Disease and Heartworm Disease in Dogs in San Pedro

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Early this month we spent a couple of afternoons out in the Escalante neighborhood collecting samples for a study in conjunction with Dr. Lappin from Colorado State University.

Twenty blood samples were collected from island dogs without a history of consistent flea and tick control.  In return for allowing us to draw blood on their pets, each animal was treated with a topical flea control product free of charge (Advantix) supplied by Dr. Lappin’s laboratory in Colorado.

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The kids were out of school and immediately began assisting us by setting up a table in front of their house and bringing us pets from the neighborhood!

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Some of our patients were a little reluctant, but after a while they realized we were ok.

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Samples were taken back to San Pedro Animal Hospital where they were immediately processed.

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Results were as follows:

Of the twenty dogs sampled eleven of them were positive for antibodies to Ehrlichia, the tick-borne bacteria that causes “tick fever”.  This means that these eleven dogs had been exposed and may still be carrying the disease.

Of the twenty dogs sampled 7 were positive for heartworm disease.

Results were reported to the pet-owners and recommendations were made for treatment.

Dr. Laurie transported the samples back to the U.S. where they will be further analyzed at Colorado State.

These results will be used to design a more elaborate study planned for this fall, which will focus on new methods of tick control and their effect on the transmission of tick-borne disease.

More results to follow!  Until then make sure to keep your pets free of fleas and ticks as much as possible, and give them their heartworm prevention monthly.  In addition we recommend obtaining a heartworm test for your dog every year.

If you have any questions feel free to stop by San Pedro Animal Hospital or give us a call at 610-DOGS (3647)




Our Struggles to Promote Spay/Neuter and Humane Euthanasia of Street Animals

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Two weeks ago Saga Humane Society sent a little boy over to our clinic with his female puppy to be spayed free of charge.  His other two male puppies were being neutered at Saga that day.  We did an examination and a blood test on the puppy, but we decided that she was not healthy enough to undergo the operation that morning.  The puppy was dewormed and sent home with two weeks worth of doxycycline pills, which I donated to the cause.  Today was the two week mark, so we called the boy’s family about the spay surgery.  They said they did not have transportation so we offered to go pick up the puppy.  Then they said they did not want the operation after all.  They say this is because their other two puppies were very painful after their neuter surgeries.

Now if you are a vet in San Pedro you get accustomed to hearing a lot of excuses, and my B.S. meter was screaming on this one.  I don’t believe this family’s story.  Something has made them decide that they do not want their female dog spayed.  Do they want the puppies?  Do they want to sell the puppies?  Did someone tell them that spaying her would be dangerous or cause some other unwanted side effect?  I have no idea, but this does illustrate the difficulties we have here in regard to spaying and neutering.  It is definitely not as easy as some people think.  It also illustrates the importance of educating the public.  Donating money is great, but I believe that no amount of money can replace the value of volunteers hitting the streets in communities and providing one on one education.

Our second challenge, that many do not understand, is euthanasia solution.  It is not available in Belize.  Which means it is certainly not cheap to come by.  This month I will be renewing all my licenses which allow me to import euthasol.  This will come to a personal cost of 600 U.S. dollars.  And this does not include the cost of my plane ticket (the DEA will only allow me to carry it myself), the cost of the drug itself, and import permits and duties.

So in reality, the reason the laws of Belize and other third world countries promote poisoning street dogs with strychnine is that it is cheap, it is available, and it is easy to administer.

It is going to take a lot of work to avoid strychnine poisoning by the government in the future.  It was a very humbling experience appearing on the Morning Show last week, but I learned a lot from it.  We are the minority here.  This is not our country.  We have to respect the laws and understand that this is where the country of Belize is right now.  I do not agree with attempting to ruin this country’s tourism over this issue.  The mayor did not give the town a warning before he poisoned the dogs for two reasons.  One was because legally, he doesn’t have to.  The other is that it was a wake-up call.  It was a wake-up call to all of us who support humane euthanasia that we are not doing enough.  And it was a wake-up call to dog owners that if they do not keep their dogs at home they may be legally poisoned.

All of that said, I do believe that this practice will change over time and become more humane.  Strychnine poisoning is cruel, and Belizeans are not a cruel people.  When I was on the Morning Show the mayor gave the example of Hol Chan.  He pointed out that this used to be only a fishing village.  NO ONE wanted to protect Hol Chan as a marine preserve for snorkeling and diving.  But look at Hol Chan now.  Just let someone try to break the laws at Hol Chan and see what Belizeans will do to them, he told us.

Saga Humane Society has a good plan.  Please everyone who cares about the humane treatment of animals go out and help them.  While you are out there collecting dogs talk to people about spaying and neutering.  And if you can, bring the San Pedro Animal Hospital a pet to alter free of charge.  It is only by all of us putting in our own time and energy that the practice of poisoning dogs with strychnine can change.




Latest SPAF Beneficiary – “Princess”

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   Princess was brought to us in a cardboard box by a boy on his bicycle so that we could treat her skin.  She is from the San Mateo area, the area where we have collected most of our charity cases.  San Mateo is the poorest area of San Pedro.  Princess is five months old and has never seen a vet before, so she has never been dewormed or had any vaccinations.

 

 

 

 

 

 When presented with a skin problem of this severity in Belize it is typically mange, but there are two types of mange.  One is contagious to other dogs and humans, but it is easy to treat.  It is called “scabies”.  The other is not contagious to other animals or people but it is more difficult to treat.  It is called “demodex”.  The only way to tell the two apart is with a skin test called a “skin scraping”.  Cells are taken off the skin and examined under a microscope.  In Princess’s case, a multitude of live demodex mites were observed.

Demodex is usually a disease of puppies who are suffering from other chronic diseases, such as parasitism or chronic ehrlichia infection (the cause of tick fever).  In her case, she also had pale gums and a heart murmer, indicative of hookworm anemia.  Hookworms are extremely prevalent in Belize in puppies.  For this reason all puppies should be properly dewormed by a veterinarian multiple times.

 Princess’s owner paid for her examination, the skin scraping, and the treatment for demodectic mange.  The San Pedro Animal Foundation picked up the tab for the deworming and the antibiotic for her secondary bacterial skin infection.  She will need to return for a recheck in 2 weeks which the foundation will also cover. 

With proper long-term treatment over the next weeks to months Princess has a good chance of becoming a healthy happy puppy. 

 

 Thank you for supporting the San Pedro Animal Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 




Can you see the fracture in this leg?

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What about now?

 

Remember an xray film is a 2-D representation of a 3-D object.  If your pet needs xrays, always let your vet take 2 views!!!