An RAC Catch-Up from April (Nov 2022)
Like Gerald Durrell, I’m addressing this to My Family and Other Animals!! You’ve probably noticed we haven’t posted anything for a while and, just in case this might have given the impression that nothing’s been happening and our work with the broken animals in our area has come to an end, this little catch-up is just to assure you that it hasn’t!! Sadly, the dogs just keep coming (along with an occasional cat) and, despite my abject failure in communication, I can honestly say that we haven’t ever failed them – which is the most important thing – if not the most sensible, given that what we’re trying to do is really too much for us to sustain on our own and we need all the help we can get!! What can I say? RAC is my raison d’etre, but it can also be quite overwhelming, and it’s sometimes all I can do to cope with the demands of the day, let alone try and organize them into an intelligible post for anyone else.

Tawanda and I work with a huge number of dogs and their owners and, given that responding to emergency calls for help takes precedence over everything else, I thought I’d go through our recent records to give you an idea of how many sick and injured dogs we’ve taken into town for veterinary treatment since my last post, along with a breakdown of their ailments. Having said that, these numbers are only part of the equation because they don’t take into account any of the follow up appointments
for reviews, bandage changes, X-rays and chemotherapies etc, and altho’ we took 35 dogs into the vet in August, they actually racked up more than 50 consultations in the same time. New dogs come in all the time and life’s always hectic, especially as quite a lot of them are discharged back into our care for rehab after their veterinary treatment, with malnourished and needy dogs spending anything up to 6 weeks or more in our kennels, along with those with broken bones, torn ligaments and lacerations etc.

Anyway, back to my catch-up. We’ve taken 189 dogs and a cat into Harare for treatment since I last posted (treating approximately 30 animals a month) and I thought I’d include the following (taken from mid-May to October) for your interest.

1 x Rabies – PTS

12 x Broken bones – 1 dog with a broken spine, 1 with a broken pelvis, 8 with broken legs and 2 with broken toes. The boy with the broken spine was PTS, the one with the broken pelvis came to us for confinement and altho most of the others had their legs pinned, 1 little boy (Flex) with a bad break at the elbow joint had his leg amputated. He’s still in rehab, but with his owners unwilling to take him back, he’ll join Bobs, a very happy one-eyed ex-stray who lives on the property with our night-watchman.

4 x Amputations – 2 legs and 2 toes. One boy came in with a massively swollen leg and when the infection in his bone proved unresponsive to treatment, it had to be amputated. 2 other dogs each lost a toe – one broken and the other badly infected.

2 x Cruciate Ops – 2 dogs, both in a lot of pain, came in with torn knee ligaments. After a lengthy post-op confinement with us, they’re now back with their owners.

7 x Lame Dogs – Physical injuries, swollen legs, infected punctures on paws and between pads are all regular complaints, along with arthritis and pain from old injuries.

6 x Cancers – 2 dogs had tumours removed and the others, who all had widespread internal tumours, were PTS. All of them were quite old, suffering from pain, battling to walk or fighting to breathe, but they had owners who cared enough to ask for help and we were grateful to be able to give it, even if their only option was the blessing of a pain-free end to their lives.

1 x Splenectomy (Surgical removal of the spleen) – With multiple causes, we’ve had several dogs that have had hugely enlarged spleens removed successfully in the past and without surgical intervention, none of them would have had a chance.

2 x Enucleations (Surgical removal of the eyes) – 1 dog had an eye that had suffered physical damage, but the other was more complicated. The vet said it was an ocular hyphema, (haemorrhage) but without a battery of tests it wasn’t clear what had caused the internal bleeding that had filled his eye and blinded him. One possible cause is poison and, given how prevalent it is, it’s quite likely to have been that.

2 x Surgical Eyelid Flaps – These 2 dogs with corneal ulcers (possibly the result of trauma or bacterial infection) underwent a surgical intervention where their 3rd eyelids were sutured closed for 21 days. With their eyes medicated and protected from irritation, they came back to us for rehab and healed beautifully. Lucky dogs.

2 x Eye infections –2 dogs came in with very painful eyes – 1 with an infection and the other with a problem caused by a run in with a snake, according to his owner. If so, it was probably a Mozambican spitting cobra, but both dogs recovered with treatment.

2 x Heart Conditions – Altho infrequent, we suddenly had 2 of these in succession – one dog with heart failure and the other with an enlarged heart.

1 x Liver Failure – This little dog, Chichi, broke our hearts because her death was the result of Hypoproteinaemia (HPN) and Ascites (fluid in the abdomen) – basically caused by a severe protein deficiency, or malnutrition. She belonged to a blind man who really loved her but, having lost his job when he lost his sight, he and his wife are very poor and can barely feed themselves, which says it all. We were hoping she’d improve enough for us to supplement her with a good quality dog food but it was not to be.

3 x HPN/Malnutrition – Ascites drained and livers supported with milk thistle or Heptonic, these dogs came to us for rehab and went home different dogs. The most important part of this exercise was the follow-up, teaching their owners about the importance of protein in a dog’s diet, and you would be surprized how many people don’t realize that sadza and scraps are inadequate.

1 x UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) – Presenting with incontinence, this girl responded well to the antibiotics she was given, which was a relief.

19 x Biliary – This number includes one dog with babesia, also a tick borne disease. Altho much reduced since our Saturday morning dog dipping programme started (about 9 years ago) this is still a killer disease if it’s not treated in time. Unfortunately, many dogs only get to us when they’re in extremis and altho we win most of the time, not all of them make it, despite intensive care with drips and the occasional blood transfusion.

21 x CPV (Canine Parvo Virus) – This is another killer disease because there’s no cure, only prevention, and hardly any pups are vaccinated in the rural areas. Presenting as diarrhoea (sometimes bloody) and vomiting, it’s all too common between 6 weeks and 6 months and as it’s not easy to predict the outcome of treatment – hospital isolation on a drip – it’s a difficult one because although it’s expensive, we lose quite a few of them.

14 x TVT (Transmissible Venereal Tumours) – This figure refers to new dogs coming in with TVT, sometimes called ’the flower sickness’ by locals because female dogs with advanced TVTs can have protruding tumours that look like bright red flowers. They all need sterilizing, if they haven’t been done, followed by a course of 5 chemotherapies, with infusions being made on a weekly basis by the vet.

1 x Cheek Abscess – This particular cheek abscess is included here because it was actually TVT. Originating in the poor dog’s mouth, it broke through the skin and come out on its cheek but, once diagnosed, it cleared up beautifully with a course of the chemotherapy used on the more common genital TVTs. We’ve also had a couple of dogs with sores in and on their noses which were also TVT – presumably contracted by licking or sniffing an infected dog.

1 x Septicaemia – Also under the TVTs, this poor dog had a badly infected cancerous tumour on his testes. He must have had it for a very long time and, unfortunately, by the time his owner heard about us, it was too late to do anything but put him to sleep.

1 x Canine Papilloma Virus (COPV) – These cauliflower shaped benign tumours are usually found on the lips, gums and mouths of young or very old dogs and are generally associated with under-developed or weak immune systems. Although a completely different virus to TVT, the vet treated it successfully with the chemo they use for that – thankfully, because we’ve seen some really bad cases.

8 x Lacerations, Dog Bites & Other Wounds – These are all fairly common conditions and depending on their severity, the dogs may be admitted, some for fairly lengthy stays if their injuries are infected.

3 x Abscesses, Haematomas & Seromas – Although listed separately from the ones above, they should probably have gone together as they all need meds, cleaning and suturing, very often with the inclusion of a drain to help the healing.

5 x Hot Spots – We see quite a lot of these red, oozy sores and altho they might start with an irritation from fleas, allergies or scratches etc, the more the dogs lick and chew at them, the bigger and more painful they get. They almost always end up infected and need to be treated by the vet. ‘Our’ dogs (in loco parentis!!) often need buster collars to stop them making them worse.

1 x Eczema – We’ve been taking this tabby cat (Ben) into the vet for years because, without regular injections, he gets really painful sores, not unlike little hot spots, all over him. He has an auto-immune condition and if we weren’t able to help his owners, he’d have a miserable existence.

3 x Poison – Very red gums can sometimes be an indicator of poison and there is a lot of it in our area. I don’t know how much is deliberate – some aggressive dogs are definitely targeted, as are others where intruders are intent on stealing, but I think many of them are probably just eating rats that people have poisoned to protect their maize supplies. The vets do what they can but, sadly, not all of them make it.

6 x Paralysis/Loss of Balance – 2 of these dogs (same family) came in with loss of balance, possibly poison, but both recovered fully. 1 had been hit across the back by robbers, and another (very beautiful paralysed dog, possibly a breeding bitch) had been left outside someone’s gate – presumably cos someone guessed he would contact us. She had TVT and altho we hoped she’d recover, X-rays revealed severe internal damage which indicated she’d probably been run over. Quite a number of dogs are involved in RTAs (usually with drivers who don’t stop) but each and every one – whether owned or found on the verge of the road – is examined and given a 2nd chance before being PTS.

3 x Fading Puppy Syndrome – This is a heart-breaking syndrome with multiple causes and the end result is inevitably the same as that which affected these 3 seemingly healthy pups whose condition suddenly and irrevocably deteriorated. Surprisingly common, we hadn’t heard of this before we experienced it and it needs a document to itself. If anyone’s interested, I Googled and put together a concise article for myself and we could either post it on our FBook page or email it to you if you contact us.

11 x Sterilizations (5 Spays & 6 Neuters) – Altho we aren’t able to do as many sterilizations as we’d like, with the blessing of their owners, we always try and make sure that every dog is sterilized before it goes home from rehab.

Every one of the animals we treat is important to us, but just as important is the fact that their owners have been exposed to hours of advice and light-hearted existential chit-chat, whether they like it or not!! We’re trying to change hearts and minds because there’s no other way to break what is often a very painful cycle of suffering, and although there’s no quick fix, we’re doing our very best to educate and support the poorest members of our community as we work to ease the pain of their animals, literally one dog at a time. Thank you for caring about them and for following us.