August 31, 2016

Adventures in Cat Catching

Amazon CARES Motocar
We hopped aboard the official Amazon CARES motocar for our first mission: catching feral cats in the Belen Market for sterilization and re-release. This market is the largest in Iquitos City, spanning for at least 20 blocks near the Itaya River (a tributary of the Amazon River). The market is a complex maze of vendors selling everything from exotic jungle fruits and vegetables, to all types of meat, to Amazonian herbs, medicines, and questionable drink concoctions.
Amazon CARES was having a major Campaign to Spay & Neuter street cats, which included implementing this sterilization initiative in the local market, where the feral cat population is out of control. Sydney and I had arrived to Iquitos in perfect timing to help out!

Captured cats ready to be spayed & neutered
Moving through  the crowds of people and mototaxis, we unloaded our gear making our way to an indoor building containing restaurant vendors. It was hot, crowded, and stinky. Immediately we became surrounded by curious bystanders and people pointing out dogs and cats they wanted us to take. I followed veterinary assistant Junior to observe how exactly cat catching was done. The strategy was to first observe from afar, looking for cats that were adult size that did not have an "ear tattoo". At Amazon CARES we ear tattoo all feral cats that come to our clinic as a universal symbol that they've been sterilized already. Resting cats could be carefully picked up, or a net was used to capture quicker cats. I tried my hand at catching some, but Junior was clearly the expert cat catcher and we soon had about 10 cats in a carrier we could transport back to the clinic. Looking more closely, I noted that some of the cats had runny noses and eye discharge- a common sign of upper respiratory infection. Many cats had patches of burned skin, which I was told could sadly be from intentional splashes of hot water to shoo the cats away from the market. As a team we loaded up the cats into our motocar and made our way back to the clinic to prepare for the surgeries. 

Sydney and I ready for action!


While the clinic can only do so many sterilization surgeries in one day, little by little our efforts continue helping to stop the reproductive cycle of cats living here, working towards the stabilization and improved health of the whole population. Sydney ad I are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this special campaign! I can't wait to watch this program continue to grow.


Written by Sarita Patel, Amazon CARES Volunteer 

August 28, 2016

National Dog Day!

National Dog Day this past Friday was a pawesome reminder of the significance of dogs and other companion animals in many of our lives, and the incredible bond that humans and animals share. While in the United States it's normal for us to consider our pets members of the family and treat them so, it can be much different in foreign countries like Peru. In the city of Iquitos, Peru it's extremely common to see overpopulation of dogs and cats living in the streets almost everywhere. Even owned animals commonly live outdoors. The amount of unwanted, stray, and sick animals in this area is overwhelming. Amazon CARES has been dedicated to caring for the animals of Iquitos for 12+ years- from wellness exams and emergency care, to vaccination and sterilization campaigns, to a no-kill shelter operation, our organization is truly passionate about bettering the health and welfare of all companion animals and providing animal owners with the resources they need. Many thanks to everyone who supports our mission! 

Please become a sponsor today and help make the difference in the lives of dogs that need us http://bit.ly/sponsorpuppies - Any amount will help and be very much appreciated! Rest assured that your donation is being used to help the animals. All donations are tax-deductible under section 501(c)(3).

Volunteer Amanda Vargas and "Amanda" the pregnant mama dog
One of Amanda's Puppies

Mama Dog "Manuela" and her 7 puppies
Newborn baby bottle feeding as rescued mama Sydney recovers from C-section


August 24, 2016

Getting to Know the Clinic




ONGD Amazon CARES in Iquitos, Peru
We arrived at the clinic for the first time, where I would be spending the next three weeks working alongside the veterinary staff in their daily work. The clinic is located in a charming little 3-story building, with lime green walls and bright, colorful signs and decorations throughout. Two staff members, Susan and Marjorie, were assisting a client with a small pup in the reception area when Ann escorted us to the back treatment area where we were introduced to Dr. Edwin Inga and Dr. Fernando Rodriguez, the amazing veterinarians of Amazon CARES. Dr. Edwin and veterinary assistant Junior tended to a patient receiving fluid therapy while Dr. Fernando started to give us a tour of the clinic. I began my attempts to converse in broken Spanish, quickly realizing that it was much easier to ask a question than it was to understand the answer (the team was kind enough to always talk to me slowly and repeat themselves!). Improving my Spanish skills was another goal I had during my time in Peru and it looked like I would be starting full throttle on that one.

Surgical Suite
There were four exam tables in the treatment area where patients can receive physical exams, treatment, and fluid therapy- this is where Sydney and I would be spending a lot of time assisting with appointments. They also have a curtained-off isolation area which at the time was being used to house some orphan kittens that had recently surrendered to them, as well as a surgical suite. The 2nd and 3rd floors had a kitchen, supply room, grooming area, a beautiful outdoor cat condo, and area for small dog housing. 


Treatment Area
Dr. Fernando explained that the dog receiving fluids on the exam table was diagnosed with Ehrlichia, which is a tick-borne infection pretty common in the U.S., but extremely common and severe in Iquitos. Dogs will typically present to the clinic with non-specific signs such as lethargy, depression, and lack of appetite. The infection can progress to more severe life-threatening disease through destruction of vital cells like red blood cells (causing anemia) and platelets (used for clotting blood). While some topical flea & tick preventative medications are available in Peru, it doesn’t seem to be as widely used as I am used to seeing back home. At Amazon CARES, intravenous fluid therapy is an important aspect of supportive care for patients with this disease. In the coming weeks, I was prepared to see diseases and conditions that were much different from what I've seen, as well as different and innovative approaches to treatment with limited resources.

After getting settled, we were going on a cat-catching adventure in the local Belen Market- part of a feral street cat spay and neuter campaign. Stay tuned for the scoop!
Getting a puppy fix!

Written by Sarita Patel, Amazon CARES Volunteer 

August 17, 2016

Bienvenido a la Selva!



Arriving to the jungle!
I was absolutely ecstatic we had finally arrived!
Our plane to Iquitos, Peru descended for landing amongst the lush jungle foliage, the snaking waters of the Amazon River, and finally the quiet city of Iquitos. For the next three weeks, I would be living in the city, working with Amazon CARES, a non-profit organization dedicated to animal rescue in the Peruvian Amazon Region.

As a third year veterinary medical student, my goal in mind with this summer trip was not only to help an organization whose mission I felt passionate about, but also to experience veterinary medicine within a different culture, gain new perspectives on how to address animal welfare issues, and as always to gain as much veterinary knowledge as I could from the talented veterinary staff as possible.

While I had been in communication with the Executive Director of the organization, Manuela Rodrigues, I wasn’t 100% sure what all we would be doing. I had learned that Amazon CARES was founded in 2004 and that is the only organization in the Amazon to have a no-kill shelter for the animals. I had been following the Amazon CARES Facebook page for a while, so I’d gotten a rough idea of the quantity of stray animals that come into the clinic each day and the types of illness and injury we might see. I was anticipating to encounter many differences between the resources available in the clinics I’ve worked with in the United States vs. clinics in Iquitos, and was very curious to see how the team worked to overcome these challenges. Manuela had mentioned that we would be helping with a spay and neuter campaign for street cats, which I was excited to learn more about!

Upon stepping out of the air-conditioned airplane into the thick humidity of the jungle, we found our backpacks and wandered out of the airport. My classmate Sydney Young and I immediately were welcomed by Ann Owen, a longtime volunteer for Amazon CARES, and Carlos, who would assist us in getting all our belongings to our hostel via mototaxi. Our first moto ride was so exciting! The roads were packed with other people zooming by on their own motos, and I got the impression that there were fewer traffic laws than in the US by observing everyone weaving in and out of traffic and speeding ahead. I was so excited we were FINALLY in Iquitos and couldn’t wait for the experience this beautiful city had in store for us!


Written by Sarita Patel, Amazon CARES Volunteer