Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series. In part 1, co-founder of SARDOGS Nepal, veterinarian Daniela Neika, told the incredible story of the genesis of a Search And Rescue (SAR) dog team on the roof of the world. In part 3, Daniela discusses the medical challenges some of the SAR dogs have faced in recent years. She also tells the story of Chetan, a springer spaniel from one of the SAR dog litters who went blind then had his sight restored!
Dog medicine in Nepal is not the same like in Germany, where I am from (and maybe like other industrial countries). For example, from the SAR Dogs Nepal training camp in a remote mountainous village called Shyauli Bazaar, to reach the vet while dry season, we had to walk 2 hours to the next dirt road and then to drive 5 hours by local bus (that drives only twice a day) or to rent a jeep and drive 2-3 hours to the next city of Pokhara.
While rainy season, the dirt road mostly is blocked by landslides and this means 9 hours of hard walk in mud and rain. If a sick dog is not able to walk, the dog handlers have to carry him on their shoulders all the time. Our vet has a private practice, but he is mainly a government employee. So, sometimes his duty orders him to remote areas of Nepal for vaccination programs, neutering stallion programs or to treat buffaloes and elephants in the southern plains of the country. Sometimes he has to visit conferences abroad or meetings in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. That means, sometimes we have no vet available. And in case of emergency, the dog handlers have to treat the dogs themselves.
I brought surgical instruments, many, many dog medicines like de-worming, anti-ectoparasite remedies, antibiotics, local anesthesia, cotton and bandages, infusion pipes and vein catheters, ointments and many more to Nepal, every time when I came there. In the beginning, I made some stupid mistakes. For example, I bought vaccinations for the dogs in Kathmandu at a vet, worth of 500 Euro, and kept them cool stored all the way to Pokhara and then to Shyauli Bazaar. It should be used for the re-vaccinations of our adult dogs and later for the puppies. We had a fridge in Shyauli, but it was operated by solar energy. In the first night, the solar batteries got problems and the fridge switched off. And all the vaccinations became warm. They became useless…
I bought expensive medicines in Germany and transported it with my baggage to Nepal. There I found, that the same remedies were available in every pharmacy without receipt and for a much, much cheaper price than in Germany.
With each medical problem we faced with the dogs, we made more experiences and so we changed, expanded and optimized our own dog pharmacy.
The image above was the medicine board in our store room. All drugs were bought by donations, either in Germany or in Nepal. You find bandages, small surgical instrument kit, suture and wound cramp kit, syringes, cannulas, permanent cannulas, Infusions including pipes, anti-worm and anti-flee remedies, antibiotics, painkiller, anti-vomiting and anti-diarrhea medicine, several ointments, Ear cleaner and ear drops, Eye ointment, emergency remedies like Atropin, Furosemid or Dexamethason and others for treatment of shock, snakebite, high altitude sickness and much more. The problem is, that we have to store all this in Shyauli because the way to Pokhara to the vet is too long, so in emergency case we have to treat the dogs immediately in Shyauli, and also have to take this stuff to our search missions in the mountains. But to have so much medicine all the time means that sometimes we don’t use it and then the date of expiry ends and so we waste lots of medicine. And this is very costly.
All dog handlers were taught by me in first aid of dogs. They learned how to use antibiotics and emergency medicines in case of snake bite and other accidents. They learned how to install an intravenous infusion and how to make a surgical suture. They learned to make correct bandages and how is the schedule of anti-parasitic treatment. We trained these sutures with banana and orange skins, and with the rubber tube of bikes. One day they showed me a local goat. She has had a big wound in her neck, but our dog handlers were able to treat her and make a suture. The scar was nearly invisible anymore!
One day, SAR dog Dunston was bit by a poisonous snake. But the dog handlers knew how to treat this and he survived.
After Maggie died, I came in early spring of 2011 and brought another young and highly talented female German Shorthair Pointer named Wicky. To bring a dog from Germany to Nepal is very expensive. The transport fees range between 2200 and 2800 Euro at the time… Wicky was loved by everybody and became a fantastic mantrailing trainee. But only 8 weeks later, suddenly she became sick. She showed all symptoms of an intoxication with phosphoric esther pesticides. This is still common in use in Nepal and even if we never found out how she was intoxicated (we suggest it was a revenge attack because of the court case we later won), she had to die within few hours. All dog handlers were around her when it happened. Since that, we stored the specific antidote together with Atropine in our dog pharmacy.
Few weeks later, 2 of the female springers became unplanned litters. Somebody accidentally let the hot females out of their kennel while the male dogs were running free on the compound. While Tendi got 4 puppies, Tulsi had 3. We suggest that the fathers were Dunston and Hunter, but this was not sure.
Once again, the disaster happened. The puppies got sick in age of 4 months, again with pneumonia. Only one puppy of each litter survived. Bilbo and Anju. While Bilbo became a great mantrailer, Anju showed fear of strangers and barked at visitors. Later she started biting them.
The team decided to sell her. First she came to nearby Besisahar, but later she was sold back to a villager on a farm above our compound. He used her as a watch dog and she had to stay outside of the house while night. One night, a leopard came and killed her. Leopards come into the villages to look for goats, chicken and dogs when they have a litter of kittens and need much of food.
We were still waiting for a litter from Aldo and Laxmi. But she never got pregnant. We had no idea why. In January 2012 I visited Nepal together with Laxmi’s donators from the Netherlands. I was just arriving in Kathmandu when I got the message that Laxmi is vomiting all the day and is drinking too much. I ordered her to Pokhara. We arrived nearly same time. I knew that she has been hot 8 weeks ago and all the team was hoping to get puppies from her, because her belly became round.
But I feared a very common disease in female dogs, that I am faced with every week in the animal hospital where I work in Germany. Pyometra, a deadly disease if you don´t discover it in time and make a surgical operation. Laxmi’s condition was very bad. She was vomiting and had diarrhea, but no pus came out of her vagina. The belly was filled but one could not palpate what it was. I saw that she had signs of septicemia (blood poisoning from infection). Our vet called us to come to meet him. We took a taxi and met him at a hospital. A human hospital. There, the technician made an X-ray of her belly. But the quality of the x-ray was not good, the only thing one could see was that there was a big round thing inside her. Could be the full urinary bladder… or the maximum filled uterus. No puppies, this was sure. I sent her dog handler out of the hospital to let her pee. We wanted to make another X-ray and an ultrasound but, same time another patient arrived and we could not do the next steps. Only, we took a blood sample. Our vet promised to come in the evening and to bring medicine and the blood results.
In the late afternoon, our vet arrived. He gave antibiotics together with a saline infusion. Even if we stored a box of permanent vein catheters in our base, nobody had brought some. Our vet put a simple cannula (tube) into the vein but the problem was that Laxmi was moving all the time and the cannula flipped out again. At the end, we hold her on the floor with 4 persons and all her veins were damaged. The last one, the right great saphenous vein, I could catch and I was pressing my fingers around her leg to fix this thing inside her vein. With the other arm I pressed her belly down on the floor… and suddenly the pus was flowing out of her vagina. Now, the diagnosis was proof. Pyometra.
Our vet said, he could make the operation the day after tomorrow… maybe on the kitchen table… but I asked him to make it directly on the next morning in his practice rooms, because maybe we would need some more equipment.
And so we did. I was used to working in a German operation theatre but this time, everything was different. My Nepali colleague chose a common anesthesia, but then everything was new for me. I can say, I never have performed under such unsterile conditions in my life. The scissors fell onto the floor, but was used again. We had no electricity and the only light came through the window and from my headlamp that one of our dog team was holding. In the middle of operation the dog started to wake up and we had to give her some more narcotics… with sterile gloves we had to give another injection and then continue to work in her open belly.
Then she started to vomit, and I had to clean her throat with my sterile hands… and continue surgery… then the worst happened. Laxmi started bleeding on both ligatures of the ovaries. I knew that now she would die if I don’t do anything. As a guest, I asked my colleague if I could stop the bleeding, because I had the better view from my side of the table. So I did. We later closed the cut … but then the surgical thread was empty. One of our dog team had to drive to the next medical shop and buy new ones. I took the tiny rests of the threads that I have cut off before… and closed most of the wound until he came back from the shop.
My colleague closed the skin, made a belly bandage and we gave her infusions and antibiotics. She was completely cold and pale. I was not sure if she would survive.
We brought her back home to our office. Her dog handler put her into blankets and slept with her on the floor on rice straw mats. I was sleeping in the next room. I woke up before sunrise next morning and did not dare to knock on the next door… but after a while the door opened, and Laxmi came out. Weak, but she was alive. The first thing she did, she came to me. I was kneeling on the floor and she came and licked my hands…. truly, I had tears in my eyes.
She got again saline infusions and antibiotics twice a day. We tried rice and chicken soup, spoon by spoon, and waited if she would vomit again. She didn’t. One could see that she felt bit better.
I had to drive to our base in Shyauli Bazaar on the next day, and 10 days later I met her again when her dog handler came home with her. Her wound was perfectly healed… despite all the lack of sterility while operation. Really, I learned a lot about the wonders of vet medicine there…
Laxmi survived only one year after this heavy disease. Her kidneys had been damaged by the septicemia and in March 2013 she died of kidney failure. Her dog handler was on duty in a search mission in Dolpo at the time. It was incredibly sad.
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