Nicki Rosenhagen, 2014, Tanzania, June 26, 2014

Today our surgical site was at Mikumbi Center Village, again in Mikumi National Park. We set up our surgical tables outside of one family’s home, next to the large, flat stone used for slaughtering cattle. The crowd today was much smaller, but the dogs were plentiful. We completed fourteen surgeries and vaccinated another twenty dogs.

Veterinary students and veterinarian setting up temporary surgery site

Setting up the day’s surgical site

The majority of the surgeries were uneventful, but two in particular had some interesting developments. The first was a small female dog. Her owner suspected she was pregnant and wanted to have her spayed before the puppies became too big. When we opened her up, we realized that she was indeed pregnant, and taking care, we gently located and identified the two fetuses. The trouble began when the pedicle for the right ovarian horn was clamped with the hemostatic forceps. Despite gentle manipulation and careful placement of the clamps, the pedicle and tissue surrounding it began to tear. The surgeon was able to fully ligate one area of the pedicle before the entire tissue tore away from the clamps and retracted into the abdomen. At this point, Dr. Bennett stepped in to locate the dropped pedicle and effectively ligate it to prevent further blood loss. After two or three tense moments, the rogue tissue was located and the bleeding stopped. Luckily, the anesthetist was able to place an intravenous catheter to bolus some fluids to the dog, and with the exception of a larger surgical incision, the dog was no worse for the wear. She recovered without issue and went home with her owner, disoriented but stable.

The second exciting event happened during a puppy neuter. Typically, for young male dogs, the neuter is much less invasive and can often be completed within a few minutes. This particular dog had no abnormalities with his surgery, but while he was be monitored during recovering, the anesthetist noticed some large nodules. After speaking with Dr. Muhairwa, we learned that these were actually caused by the larval stage of a parasite called the tumbu fly. The tubmu fly, also called mango fly and skin maggot fly, is a species of blow fly common in east and central Africa that utilizes large mammals (including humans!) as hosts. In fact, the species name of the fly is anthropophaga  and literally means “human eater” in Greek. The larvae crawl over the soil for several days until they encounter a host; then, they attach to and penetrate intact skin where they live in their newly made “burrow” until they reach maturity. Damp areas contaminated with feces or urine make for ideal environments for contracting the parasite.  This particular dog was living in a very damp environment beside a body of water and had nearly a dozen of the maggots under his skin. Fortunately, the parasites are often easy to remove, and we were able to apply some gentle pressure and remove them with forceps with minimal tissue trauma. After all of the parasites were removed and the dog recovered, Dr. Muhairwa explained to the owner what was happening with his dog and why it was imperative that the living conditions be changed to save the dog’s life. The owner appeared to understand and thanked us for our assistance.

Parasites in metal container after being removed from dog

Parasites removed from a canine patient

Another very busy and productive day – we’ve completed over 80 surgeries and vaccinated nearly 500 dogs so far! Looking forward to one final day before we turn in our instruments and hit the beach for some much needed R & R!