Our Dog Had An Emergency, There Was No Vet on Ambergris Caye…What Now?

Last Wednesday night, our BELOVED pitbull-potlicker mix tripod lay on our bed listless…with a hazy unfocused look in her eye.  We texted her vet at the San Pedro Animal Hospital (SPAH) – and checked the phone for a response throughout the night.  Checking the phone and checking to see if Elsie was still breathing.

The next morning, we learned that Elsie’s vet had completed her 6-month contract on the island and there would not be another veterinarian at SPAH until the end of August.  We contact SAGA (SAGA Humane Society) and found that their vet wouldn’t be on the island this week but we could bring Elsie into the clinic to figure out our next step.

The bad news:  There was no veterinarian on Ambergris Caye.  The good news:  Elsie was doing a bit better – she was more responsive and getting around a bit but after one SCARY night…we couldn’t leave it there.  We needed to get a diagnosis for the best dog in the world.

One of the 100,000 photos I’ve taken of Elsie over the last 5 years

But let me back up a bit (and make it quick!)  Jeff and I adopted Elsie almost 5 years ago!  I found her on a spay-neuter round-up in Dangriga, Belize when I was volunteering with the Hopkins Belize Humane Society and some visiting vets from the states.  Of all the dogs we collected for basic procedures – Elsie was BY FAR in the worst shape.

You can read more about her journey in my blog post AND in the Dodo (“Dog Who Nearly Starved to Death Now has Best Life in Belize”) – but here is the bottom line:  She is the best dog I’ve ever known.

Thursday morning, we went into SAGA Humane Society just south of San Pedro town.  The vet would not be in but the vet tech, office manager and super-human Ingrid gave her a basic check-up.

Elsie smiling as she waited for Ingrid.

One note:  Elsie’s front legs are always wrapped.  She has something called lick granuloma and licks and chews her front forearms raw if we let her.  A nervous habit left over from the very stressful first few years of her life?

Ingrid suggested we go to Belize City for a blood workup and complete evaluation by a doctor.  We quickly made an appointment with Animal Medical Centre for the next morning.

Again, since it was not an emergency at this point, we decided to take the water taxi (rather than the plane) to Belize City.  The Friday morning 8:30 am San Pedro Belize Express water taxi would have us there in plenty of time for the 11 am appointment.

7 am.   After only a very light breakfast, we lifted Elsie into the golf cart (with her cushion) to head to town.  We took a few towels along for crate-comfort and emergencies.

Elsie waiting patiently as we ran into Celi’s Deli to get johnny cakes for breakfast.

San Pedro Belize Express Water taxi has large dog crates that you can rent for the ride.  Any non-lap dog must be crated for the ride.  Rental is $15bzd each way for the crate and the dog’s ride is free.  Jeff and I bought our tickets and were the first to board with Elsie.

Easy.  We all walked off the boat and got a taxi to the medical clinic in Belize City.  The 15-minute ride cost $20bzd – double the usual cost since we had Elsie with us.

The hospital is in a lovely neighborhood just off the Northern Highway and is VERY impressive.

You can get a closer look at their hours.  They have 4 veterinarians on staff – and one always on call for overnight emergencies.

Inside, we gave our information – and what we know about Elsie and waited for our appointment.

I love a spot that lists the resident cat as “Staff” – super cute.

Good girl Elsie.

At 11 am, we went in to see Dr. Jane.  Her first thought – from the description of her hunched walking and her trouble moving – was her spine.

She tested her back and found that she was not reacting at all to the pressure in certain areas – which meant pain.  Elsie had hurt her lower back – it was time to do an X-ray.

The hospital has an on-site blood work laboratory and an X-Ray machine – two huge services that aren’t available at either SPAH or SAGA in San Pedro.

The doctor found compression – it could be an injury but it could also be from her compensating for her three-legged-ness.

She was most likely suffering intense nerve pain.  POOR ELSE!

She also got a full CBC blood test.  All looked good except for slightly elevated liver indicators.

We got medication – and advice – and…RELIEF.

PHEW!  While I’m not super excited about Elsie’s hurt back, we now have a diagnosis and can watch for strain and pain and we can work to alleviate it.

Elsie will need to get another blood test in 90 days – we can even ship the blood to the Animal Hospital (on ice) to save her the trip.

Here is all the information that I think you need to know –

This trip may seem daunting – the golf cart to the boat to a taxi – but it is very do-able.  San Pedro Belize Water Taxi was SO helpful getting Elsie to Belize City.  The guys put the crate on the boat and you just lead your dog right in. Letting us board the boat first is almost a reason to bring a dog on every trip 😉 (avoid lines and crowds VIP style)

Here are your first calls in San Pedro if you have an animal issue or emergency:

San Pedro Animal Hospital – Ambergris Caye’s private clinic is located by Pedro’s Inn just south of San Pedro.  Call or Text 610-DOGS

SAGA Humane Society – Our amazing donation driven humane society – with incredible staff.  226-3266

We are incredibly lucky to have both on our island.  Many parts of Belize have little to no care for pets.

If you and your pet are new to Ambergris Caye – I would take him/her to one or both of these clinics.  So that you know them and they know you.  And also to go through the additional concerns there are for an “island pet”.   Diseases like tick fever are common here – and heart worm is a serious issue.  You need to be on top of flea/tick care – something that I didn’t even think about when me and my cat lived in an apartment in NYC.

Additional information that I now have:

Belize City: Animal Medical Centre – the website has all of the details and contact information.

I hope this helps!


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