Editor’s note: This is part 3 of a 3-part series about the experiences of German veterinarian, Daniela Neika, as she developed a Search And Rescue dog team with her Nepali colleagues in Nepal. Part 3 is about the ongoing challenges they face in keeping the dogs healthy. Many of the puppies born to the SAR dogs die of infection in puppyhood. Those who survive into adulthood, often face health challenges during search missions in extreme terrain, weather conditions and high altitude. Their dog handlers face the same challenges alongside them. Daniela also tells the story of one dog who went blind, but whose sight was restored. Part 1 is about the genesis of SARDOGS Nepal, and Part 2 is about the extreme challenges of veterinary care in Nepal.
SAR Dog Aldo
In autumn 2013 we had a search mission in Manang. Aldo had to search in a thorny brush area. All his paws were full of thorns and one by one started to ulcerate, his paws were inflammated over months. He could not walk properly any more and at the same time, got problems with skin allergy. This is a typical GSD-problem we know very well in Germany. He was looking like a sick rat. Due to his lameness, his back got problems too.
In autumn 2014, I came back to Nepal. I brough a special black ointment that is not available in Nepal. I gave him antibiotics, treated his paws with the ointment and every day I could open another ulceration on his paws. One by one, he was healing. He got many massages for his painful back and some physio. We mixed a special shampoo with sunflower oil and other ingredients and washed his skin daily. At the end of my 10-day-stay, his skin was healed and he could walk without lameness. On my last day, he was able to join the training session for the first time after 1 year. He is back in search missions since that, but he is still not able to walk for many days on the rocky pathes in the mountains. We can only use him for short searches nearby or if we can use a helicopter.
SAR Dog Hunter
In Winter 2014 we had to mourn a big loss. Hunter, one of our best dogs. The best mantrailer I have ever seen. Hunter was on search in Kyang to find victims of an avalanche after I left Nepal. There he got sick. He became thinner and thinner. In December, he performed a search for a missing Nepali girl in Pokhara. Sleeping in the office, they remarked his bad condition and alarmed our vet. He made an examination and took a blood sample. Then Hunter was brought back to our base.
Next day, we got the results. His kidney blood results were terrible. From this day, his state became worse and worse. He started vomiting and became more and more weak. Our vet was not able to come the next days, so our dog handlers and the local nurse asked me on Facebook chat what to do. I told them which medicines to take and to give him infusion. With my instructions the nurse was able to fix the vein catheters. They did their best, but few days later our Hunter passed away. It was hard for me but I knew from begining that we would lose this fight. In aftermath, we think that he got a kidney inflammation while working in the avalanche and sleeping on the cold floor. He became thinner and ate less weeks before, but all the female dogs were hot. He did same everytime in this situation in past. So we were not really alarmed…
SAR Dog Dunston
While on earthquake missions in spring 2015, Dunston got bronchitis and was not able to join the search party. Before earthquake, the team has been on a weeks long search in the mountains in rainy and snowy weather. So it was no wonder why he became sick. But no problem, we gave antibiotics and he became better soon. But, he took the occasion and used an unwatched moment to mate with one of the females. In the summer, we got 2 new puppies: Chetan and Chitra. To be sure that they don’t get sick during the monsoon (rainy season), they had to stay with their mother in our office, where one can keep the floor clean. It worked. None of them became sick with this scary pneumonia.
But Uttam did. He was together with Aldo again in Kyang to search for the remaining bodies under the avalanche. While Aldo got problems with his paws, Uttam started coughing. After few days they came back. Aldo only needed some days of rest, but Uttam was under intensive treatment. Since we lost Hunter, each dog gets a vet check with blood sample after they come back from a search mission. We learned our lesson and don’t take any risk anymore. It took 2 months until Uttam was fit and fine again.
Then we got the next bad news from our base. Dunston was missing. It was rainy season, hot and moist. The dogs are inside the buildings because at nighttime the leopard would come and kill them if they are outside. Dunston seemed to feel too warm inside the building. He always was our best climbing dog. He climbed up the wall and out of the window. None of the dogs has made this before. He found a nice cool place on the backside of the building. On next day, they only found some fur and blood…the leopard came and killed him silently in the night.
SAR Dog Kelly
In spring of 2014, we got an offer to buy a young femal German Shepherd in Pokhara. Her name is Kelly. Now in November 2015 she was old enough to mate with Aldo. At least, we wished to have a litter of pure breed German Shepherds. We were not sure if Aldo was able to make puppies, and so after he tried, we took also Uttam together with her. When she gave birth, the puppies looked more like crossbreeds than pure GSD´s. But that’s nature. No matter.
In November and December 2015 all females became hot. Tulsi is a very clever dog. She learned to open the gate of the female kennel…and released all the hot females to have fun with the male ones…the dog handlers remarked this within shortest time but it was too late. They have had their fun with the boy dogs and as the result, we got later another 2 beautiful litters. Even though one of the puppies died on the first night, after her mother was lying on her and pressed her to death, all others became healthy and vital puppies. Until…the next infection came. Now we were faced with a gastroenteric disease. It was horrible. The dog handlers gave infusions, medicines, antibiotics, tried to feed them carefully, but one by one died on diarrhea, exsiccosis and infection, even the puppies of Kelly. We don’t know until today what was the agent that triggered the epidemics, due to our puppies were vaccinated. We only know that other dogs and puppies around the area were also affected.
Chetan – From Blindness to Sight
Chetan also became sick with this infection. But he was nearly half a year old and stronger than the smaller puppies. After healing from vomitting and diarrhea, he lost weight and started drinking too much. The doghandler brought him to Pokhara and our vet made a blood test. The result was: diabetic. The reason was that Chetan had an inflammation of his pancreas from the inflammation of his intestines. This happens from time to time, but in his case, even the parts of the pancreas were damaged that produce the insulin. Suz (Dog International editor) came to Nepal at that time and offered her own pancreatic enzymes to help him. But what we would need was sufficient insulin.
There is no dog insulin or pork insulin available in Nepal. Only those are really useful for dogs. We tried human insulin, but the results were disappointing. We tried to support the therapy with a special diet. But he became thinner and his blood results were as high as before, even when we gave more and more insulin, but very carefully to get no rebound effect.
Then I found a very nice lady from Switzerland. She was vet nurse by profession and was travelling to Nepal soon. I asked her to bring Caninsulin (dog insulin) and a pocket blood sugar measure device to Nepal. It only took short time until we could receive these important remedies…but only few days before she arrived in Nepal, Chetan lost his eyesight. This is a common result of long-term high blood sugar. And usually, it is irreversible.
But despite all, we started Caninsulin carefully on a lower level, measured his blood sugar level and increased the dosage carefully. We continued his diet, and after 4 weeks he started to see again! In my 26 years of working in vet medicine, I have never faced such a result. Now, Chetan is living with his pack again in our base in Shyauli. Even if he will never be able to perform a search mission in the mountains with diabetes, he hopefully will have a good and long life with his medicines. And who knows… sometimes miracles happen especially in a country like Nepal. I am ready to learn a lot more there about vet medicine that I never will learn in our high-tech countries.
Editor’s Note: Chetan died on July 23, 2017 due to complications of his diabetes. He was 2 years old. (Daniela had written this post before he died.) He was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met. I spent some time with him during my visit to SARDOGS Nepal in the spring of 2016. I had tried to help with his health condition, giving him my digestive enzymes and nutritional supplements to help him digest his food better and to gain some much needed weight. I had thought about taking him home with me, but it didn’t seem feasible at the time. He will always have a piece of my heart. Rest in Peace, dear sweet Chetan. You will not be forgotten, sweetie.
To donate to SARDOGS Nepal (nonprofit) go here and click on the PayPal button that says “Spenden.” This is Daniela’s charity in Germany set up to support SARDOGS Nepal. It’s called “Rettungshunde für Nepal e.V.” (Rescue Dogs for Nepal.)
All images © SARDOGS Nepal.
Latest posts by Daniela Neika, DVM (see all)
- The Struggle to Keep Search and Rescue Dogs in Nepal Healthy - September 24, 2017
- German Vet Adapts to Extreme Challenges of Veterinary Care in Nepal - June 9, 2017
- The Incredible Genesis of a SAR Dog Team on the Roof of the World - March 17, 2017