Working as a veterinarian in the Caribbean comes with its fair share of adventures and challenges. We get some unusual stories from our clients about the care and treatment of animals. Here are some the more memorable ones we have come across:
Client - "Aye Doc, the dog have worms, but ah deal with it."
Friendly Neighbourhood Vet - "Ok. How did you figure that out?"
Client - "The worm from under the tongue. I cut it out and put salt and ashes to stop the bleeding. The neighbour tell meh the dog appetite will increase."
"Aye Animal Doctor, the cat not walking and I give it some Panadol. It still not walking and now it face swell up."
"Doc, this dog pregnant. I eh want the puppies. You think I should give she a hot Guinness?"
“The dog get worms (maggots) and ah use the black disinfectant to burn them out.”
“The dog have mange and I douse it with car oil.”
“I really doh understand why the dog’s skin so dry. Ah bathing it twice a week with blue soap / Squeezy (dishwashing detergent).”
For the record, we do not recommend ANY of these as treatment options! They are ALL HARMFUL to your companion animals. This is not to say that SOME home remedies are not useful and we will look at some of the best in a later post. Today, our focus is on the popular mistreatments.
Let’s dissect from the top.
Myth 1 – The infamous worm under the tongue – There is no worm under your dog’s tongue. It is actually a ligament, just like the one under your tongue (check it out in a mirror). Cutting it puts your animal in serious pain. Removing this ligament does not increase the dog’s appetite in any way.
Myth 2 – Giving Human medicines to your dog or cat – This should only be done under the advice of a Veterinarian. For example, Panadol, Tylenol, and Paracetamol are definitely not for cats. Cats are extremely susceptible to acetaminophen, an active ingredient in many of our over the counter pain medications. As our client aptly described, “The cat face swell up” is one of the tell-tale signs of acetaminophen toxicity. This is called facial oedema. These medications cause severe damage to the kidney and liver of both dogs and cats, and can be lethal.
Another client complained that his dog was not eating for a couple of days so he gave it his grandmother’s antibiotics. Where to start with this one? Another day, we will discuss the abuse of antibiotics and why antibiotic treatments have to be directed by a trained medical professional, not your grandmother (unless she is a Vet). In the case of our client, it was the wrong antibiotic to treat the condition, the wrong dose (amount) and he ended up doing more harm to his precious dog.
We cannot stress this enough. Unless you have specific instructions from a Veterinarian, DO NOT USE HUMAN MEDICATION on your dog or cat.
Myth 3 – A Hot Guinness to abort puppies – Seriously? This is truly one for the record book. In our beautiful Trinidad and Tobago, there is a belief that drinking a hot Guinness can cause an abortion in women. We don’t want to know how it works, but some people swear by it. Apparently, people believe the same logic applies for dogs. Just to clarify, giving your pregnant female dog a hot Guinness is not the way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Definitely visit your Veterinarian for sound and SAFE medical treatment and advice.
Myth 4 – Home treatments for worms (maggots) –In Trinidad and Tobago, we have been blessed with a warm, tropical climate and that blessing has also been extended to the flies. Flies live and prosper under hot, humid conditions and open, festering wounds are a fly’s dream! They eagerly lay their eggs in and around open wounds. When the eggs hatch as larvae (which are the maggots we see), they begin their flesh feast.
Home remedies for maggots include using undiluted chlorine bleach on the wound, black disinfectant (phenolic fluid), car oil and the infamous purple spray (TetraVet Aerosol – topical antibiotic) (pictured).
Bleach and black disinfectant are toxic, corrosive substances and can cause irreparable damage to your animal. They may temporarily deal with the maggots but the damage to skin and tissue can be quite extensive. As for car oil, don’t even go down that route. Just say no. Purple spray is one of most commonly used medications at home and works well for superficial wounds. For more serious injuries, it may provide temporary relief but can contribute to tissue necrosis (death) which delays the healing process. If wounds are not being cleaned, flies will continue to enjoy themselves, laying their eggs and producing even more hungry maggots. Depending on the severity of the maggot wound, treatment would require the animal to be sedated (with an anaesthetic), removal of the maggots, cleaning of the wound, administering of a parasiticide, appropriate medication and aftercare. Unfortunately, we have had tragic cases of maggots eating out an entire eye and feasting on a dog’s ears and brain. Many of these cases are too far gone to save. Maggots are entirely treatable when caught early, so please consult your Veterinarian for treatment options.
Myth 5 – Treatment of mange and other skin conditions – Mange is a term used to describe various more or less severe, persistent, and contagious skin diseases that are marked especially by eczematous inflammation and loss of hair and that affect domestic animals and sometimes humans(1). However, in Trini lingo, any abnormal skin condition is called mange.
Client - “Doc, meh dog have mange. What to do?”
Friendly Neighbourhood Vet - “Well bring it in. Let’s check it out.”
Client - “Doc, but ah telling yuh what it have. It have mange. Gimme a treatment over the phone nah.”
Taking the Trini definition of mange into consideration, ‘mange’ is any abnormal skin condition (localised or generalised hair loss, intense scratching, scabbing, bleeding and oozing skin etc.) which could be caused by MANY FACTORS. A Veterinarian usually has to diagnose the underlying cause prior to treating the animal. It can be extremely complex, as causes range from mites, bacteria, and yeast to hormone problems or even allergies. A diagnosis over the phone is certainly not adequate, as the cause and signs of ‘mange’ have to be figured out before treatment is issued.
The car oil therapy is one of the popular home remedies for ‘mange’. Perhaps the owner assumes that the ‘mange’ is caused by a mite or bacteria. One client informed us that the oil stifles the disease-causing organism, cutting its air supply. Well, a lot of these organisms do not need much oxygen to survive and this usually does not work. In the event you manage to kill the mite/bacteria using the car oil therapy, you will also succeed in introducing a toxic substance into your animal’s skin that could create even more problems. An animal’s skin is sensitive and fragile (just like ours!). Using harsh substances like car oil can result in a myriad of problems. Also, without a proper diagnosis of the ‘mange’ (is it allergies? is it hormonal?) any treatment is likely to be highly ineffective. So it’s best to save your car oil to treat your car. These types of treatments should be avoided at all costs.
Another popular treatment for ‘mange’ is the Trinbagonian panacea, blue soap. Blue soap, a detergent bar soap, is usually used for washing clothes. Trinbagonians refer to it as the ‘Problem Solver’. Off label uses include ritual ‘bush baths’ which are done to wash off blight (bad luck), to scrub children’s mouths when they use offensive language and for mange for animals. This so called ‘Problem Solver’ does not solve the mange problem. We are not in a position to comment on its effectiveness for the rest.
Clients frequently come in complaining that their dog’s coat is dry and flaky. A question that is always asked –‘What are you using to bathe your dog?’ many times gets the response, -‘Blue soap, sometimes 2-3 times per week. The dog smelly.” The Blue soap culprit strikes again!
Blue Soap is very harsh and depletes essential oils from the dog’s skin, resulting in a plethora of skin issues. Avoid blue soap baths like the plague. There are specific dog shampoos that are safe to use on your pets. Generally speaking, baths should be performed once in two weeks as bathing too frequently can result in excessively dry skin. Although there are exceptions (such as medicated baths that require a greater frequency of application), this is a good rule of thumb to go by.
Just because Veterinarians treat animals doesn’t mean we bite! Don’t hesitate to check in with your Veterinarian if you’re a little suspicious of your neighbour’s favourite pet cure. It could save both you and your animal a great deal of unnecessary stress and trauma.
Stories courtesy of:
Dr. Paul Crooks
Dr. Dennis Diptee
Dr. Michael Diptee
Dr. John Fernandes
Dr. Adana Mahase-Gibson
Dr. Kevern Sawh
(1) (Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary)
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