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Ultrasound

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Ultrasound

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This is a highly technical area of veterinary medicine. For an accurate assessment you need a person with an extensive amount of training and experience coupled with the latest equipment.

Whenever we perform an ultrasound it is done by a specialist in the field called a radiologist. This means this person is a veterinarian that only does radiology and ultrasound. After regular veterinary school a person that wants to be certified as a specialist in radiology (called Board Certified) has to spend an additional 4-5 years of study.

Our radiologist comes to our practice and performs the procedure in our office. We get the advantage of a specialist without having to drive to a university or specialty center. We get the report immediately and will go over it in detail.

 Abdominal Ultrasound

This is typical of a report we get on a dog’s abdomen. This dog has liver cancer. Prior to the advent of ultrasound we had to do an expensive and painful exploratory surgery to get similar information.  We have the best of both worlds with ultrasound due to less expense and it is non-invasive.

Here are the ultrasound pictures that go along with this report. It is one of the lobes of the liver. The tumor is demarcated by the yellow arrows.

 

The heart is a very common area to perform an ultrasound (called an echocardiogram)

Here is the report that goes with this echocardiogram

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Gall Bladder Removal in a Dog

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Surgical removal of the gall bladder is called cholecystectomy. Most of us have heard of gall bladder surgery in people. It is not as common a surgery in animals. This page has pictures of a surgery to remove the gall bladder in a dog. At the end of this page you can see what gall stones look like.

Graphic surgical pictures on this page.

Our patient is an 11 year old Silky Terrier that came to us with some significant symptoms. They included anorexia for several days and lethargy. Her initial blood panel showed high elevations in Alk Phos., AST, and bilirubin.

Her blood panel is typical of a dog with this problem. You can see the significant elevations in her liver enzymes and bilirubin. Even the electrolytes are abnormal.

Her urinalysis showed significant amounts of bilirubin 

We could see hepatomegaly on her radiograph. Initial treatment consisted of antibiotics, fluids, vitamin supplements, and I/D food. Heather rapidly got better on the treatment.

This is what the liver looks like on an abdominal radiograph

She had a recurrence of the problem 3 weeks later. At that time an ultrasound was performed and it was determined that she had a  problem with her gall bladder.

Her gall bladder, the dark area on the top left had a problem. The line in the center is measuring the size of her common bile duct, which is large in her case. 

This is her ultrasound report

She responded well to treatment with antibiotics and actigoll. When her enzyme test were almost back to the normal range we removed her gall bladder.

Before we do any surgery on the liver we make sure the clotting system of the body is working well. The liver is intimately involved with the bodies clotting mechanism, and we need to make sure we are not going to encounter a severe bleeding problem during and after surgery. This test is making sure her red blood cells are adequate (no anemia is present), along with the 4 clotting tests on the bottom, starting with Prothrombin Time. 

Our patient is now ready for gall bladder removal This is a specialized surgery that is tedious and requires an experienced surgeon. In Heather’s case we called in Dr. Linda Larsen, a specialist in surgery.

Dr. Larsen is a board certified surgeon, and experienced at this surgery

Monitoring of anesthesia is critical in an older pet with liver disease. Monitoring Heather’s blood pressure is an important aspect of anesthesia.

Surgery-Monitor

We keep a close tab on important physiologic parameters for all of our surgeries. Monitors like this give us an early warning of an impending problem.

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Once our surgeon has scrubbed up and is  in sterile gown, gloves, and mask, the surgery begins

The incision into the abdomen is made at a special location called the linea alba. It is here that the tendons of the stomach muscles come together, and will hold the sutures after we close the abdomen.

The swollen liver is apparent as soon as she enters the abdomen

The first thing our surgeon does is locate the gall bladder

Now the careful dissection of the gall bladder starts so it can be removed

After careful dissection it almost full exposed at this point

As dissection of the gall bladder continued she traced it down to the common bile duct. The arrow points to the gall bladder under our surgeon’s finger. The vertical bluish structure below the gall bladder is the enlarged common bile duct.

The bile that is stored in the gall bladder is removed with a suction apparatus. This allows better visualization.

When she is satisfied with the exposure she puts several very strong sutures where the gall bladder attaches to the liver

Here is the trouble maker after it has been removed


A biopsy is taken of the liver to give us substantial information as to its health

The abdomen is flushed many times to remove any contaminants 

The long incision in the linea alba is sutured. After this layer, there are several more layers of sutures placed in the subcutaneous tissue and the skin.

At this point our patient is given a local anesthetic on the suture line, an additional pain injection, and the skin incision is treated with companion laser to decrease swelling and aid in healing,. You can its use on the video below.

Gall Stones

This is a different gall bladder removed from a different patient. This gall bladder was thickened due to stones in it.

The inside of the gall bladder after removal. The chronic thickening is apparent.

These are the gall stones that were found inside of it

The pathology report on this gall bladder

This is the analysis of these stones

Return to the Canine Diseases Page.

 

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Urinary Stones and Sludge (hypercalciuria)

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Rabbits make wonderful pets, that need special attention from everyone in your family regarding their health 

Rabbits are prone to problems of the urinary tract.  These problems range from irritating sludge in the bladder, to kidney problems,  to the formation of a bladder stone that needs surgical removal. Sludge is urine thickened by calcium salts to the point of being chalky and thick in consistency, sometimes as thick as toothpaste. This causes problems in the urinary bladder usually, although it can occur in the kidneys or ureters. There are many factors why a rabbit might get this problem, so it is important to address all of them.

Rabbits need routine exams to ensure their health

Graphic photos on this page

Underlying Problem

As opposed to most other animals, rabbits absorb almost all the calcium in their food into their bloodstream. This causes a higher than normal blood calcium level relative to other animals. If an individual rabbit is not efficient at utilizing and eliminating any excess calcium through the urinary tract, a sludge or bladder stone problem might present itself.  Some of the factors we know about that might predispose a rabbit to a urinary problem with calcium include:

Genetics- Some rabbits are not as efficient at eliminating any excess calcium

Rabbits that are not good drinkers

Obesity

Sedentary lifestyle- rabbits that stay in a cage all day

A diet with excess calcium

Soiled litter pan area in a fastidious rabbit

Diseases elsewhere in the body can have an effect on a rabbit’s normal physiology, disrupting it to the point that they can stop eating and get dehydrated, leading to decreased kidney function and sludge or stones in the urinary bladder. You can learn more about them in our Rabbit Diseases section. The more common ones are:

GI Stasis

The dark round area in the center is a greatly distended stomach due to GI stasis

E. Cuniculi

The severe head tilt in this rabbit could be a sign of Encephalitozoon Cuniculi

Teeth Conditions

The point on this molar tooth could cause an inability to eat well over a period of time

Pasteurella

This conjunctivitis could be an indication of Pasteurella

Reproductive Disease

This is the radiograph of a rabbit with a uterus that is greatly distended. That large whitish area in the center of this abdomen is the uterus.

This is that fluid filled and greatly enlarged uterus during the surgery to remove this uterus

This male rabbit has a very large tumor in its left testicle. The surgeon is pointing to a normal sized testicle on the other side. The cancer was removed in a neuter surgery.

Urine that contains excess calcium will have the consistency of sludge. This irritates the bladder and urethra, causing significant inflammation and pain. If the problem persists long enough, a bladder stone (urolithiasis) might form.

In order to make a diagnosis of the problem in rabbits, we follow the tenets of the Diagnostic Process. This is a methodical and detailed way to approach diseases that ensures an accurate diagnosis. It includes:

Signalment- age, breed, and gender of an animal

History- what an owner has noticed at home about a pet’s specific behavior

Physical Exam- the findings from an exam by one of our veterinarians

Diagnostic Tests- What tests are used to make a diagnosis

Response to treatment- if the diagnosis is correct the pet should get better

Signalment

Urinary problems in rabbits can occur in all breeds of any age or gender. Young or old, large or small, male or female, it doesn’t matter.

History

Symptoms are variable, depending on the duration and degree of the problem, along with the individual rabbit’s tolerance for pain and discomfort. Some of the symptoms to watch for include the following:

Lethargy

Poor appetite

Diminished droppings

Urinating more than usual (pollakiuria)

Straining to urinate (stranguria)

Unable to urinate

Blood in urine

Chalky deposits on the fur in the perineal area

Moist or damp rear quarters from urine dribbling

Licking at rear quarters

Rubbing rear quarters

Skin rash in inside of rear legs or perineal area

Grinding teeth (a sign of pain)

Odor to urine

These are also the symptoms of other diseases in rabbits, so at the first sign of any of these problem you should bring your rabbit in for an exam with one of our veterinarians.

Physical Exam

Any sick rabbit gets a thorough physical exam by one of our veterinarians. It starts with body weight and temperature, and progresses to checking your rabbit from nose to tail for any physical abnormalities. Typical findings might include:

Low body temperature (hypothermia)

Underweight (low body condition score)

High heart rate (tachycardia)

Dehydration

Irritation to the perineal area

Neurologic deficits

Painful abdomen upon palpation

Small kidneys upon abdominal palpation

Distended bladder upon abdominal palpation

Bladder stone palpable upon abdominal palpation

Excess amounts of chalky or bloody urine when the bladder is expressed

Diagnostic Tests

Over the decades our body of knowledge regarding normal and abnormal values in diagnostic tests of rabbits has increased to the point that they are crucial for a proper diagnosis.

Blood panel

This test should be performed on all sick rabbits irregardless of the symptoms. It should also be performed yearly as part of the Wellness Exam on rabbits. These animals age rapidly, and oftentimes hide their symptoms, so it is important to have baseline normals on an individual rabbit, and to catch problems before they become entrenched and untreatable.

The blood panel in rabbits checks for a wide array of problems. It starts with a check of the red blood cells for anemia or infection. There are tests of the kidneys and liver, important organs to assess when we suspect a urinary or kidney problem in rabbits. We also check the electrolytes, and especially the calcium level.

This rabbit has blood abnormalities that can happen with a sludge problem, and also many other problems

Urinalysis

This will check for white blood cells, red blood cells, and crystals in the urine. We also assess the specific gravity and the protein and glucose levels, in addition to looking for signs of bacterial infection.

Urine Culture and Sensitivity

If we suspect a urinary tract infection (cystitis) we will take a sterile sample of urine directly from the bladder and attempt to grow out any pathogenic bacteria. If they do group out, we will check many different antibiotics to find out what antibiotic that particular bacteria is sensitive to and will kill it. This report takes 2-3 days.

This pet has a Staph. infection, that is sensitive to several different antiboitics

Radiography (X-rays)

It is important to radiograph any sick rabbit. There are a multitude of problems that can occur on the inside that are not apparent externally during our physical exam.

This is what a radiograph of a rabbit looks like. The important abdominal structures are labeled:

K- kidney

B- urinary bladder

Cecum- our appendix

Did you notice the spinal fracture? Without this radiograph, we would not have known this.

This rabbit is laying on its back for a radiograph. The arrow points to the left kidney because this rabbit has significant sludge in its bladder, and we wanted to assess the kidneys. Do you notice anything else?

The two lower arrows point to the different appearance of the wings of the ileum of the pelvis, which could indicate bone cancer. We would never had known this if we had not taken a radiograph. 

The sludge that occurs in the bladder, and the stones that also might occur, have a large amount of calcium carbonate in them. This means that they are radiopaque, and show up vividly on an abdominal radiograph.

The small whitish area in the center of this radiograph is some sludge in the urinary bladder of this rabbit. This small amount is of no significance in a rabbit with no symptoms of disease.

This rabbit has more sludge in its urinary bladder. This amount may or may not be of significance, depending on how this rabbit is doing, other diagnostic tests, and follow up radiographs.

S- stomach

K- kidneys

This rabbit is not eating well, is lethargic, and has an odor to its urine with urine scalding on the perineum. It needs to be treated for sludge in its bladder. Can you identify other organs besides the sludge in the urinary bladder? The radiograph below labels the organs. 

H- heart

L-liver

S-stomach

The cecum and sludge are obvious. In the radiograph above, did you notice the calcifications in the kidneys, circled in red?

Same rabbit as above, this time laying on its back. The large amount of sludge in the urinary bladder is even more apparent in this view.

You can see the calcification of the kidneys in this view also

This is what a distended bladder looks like at necropsy

In addition to sludge, rabbits with urinary problems can get bladder stones. Other names for bladder stones are urolithiasis and cystic calculi. These stones also occur in dogs and cats. They are handled differently in the rabbit though.

Click here to see how we take care of bladder stones in dogs and cats.

Click here to learn more about how we do surgery at the Long Beach Animal Hospital in a wide variety of animals.

These are bladder stones in the urinary bladder

Bladder stones in rabbits are removed surgically. We take special precautions in all rabbits when anesthetizing them. Our Anesthesia page has more details on anesthesia.

We have a team of people present when we anesthetize a rabbit

They are closely monitored while under anesthesia 

We approach rabbit surgery like any other surgery using aseptic surgical techniques.

Everyone in the surgical suite practices aseptic surgical techniques

We use the laser to make an incision into the bladder and remove the stone. Note the lack of bleeding on this highly vascular urinary bladder when using the laser. 

After any anesthetic procedure we closely monitor our patients until full recovery

Ultrasound

This is a precise and highly accurate way to assess the kidneys and urinary bladder, and it complements radiography. We also check the other organs in the abdomen carefully with ultrasound.

This is an ultrasound of the urinary bladder with a bladder stone

In this ultrasound the kidney it is being measured

Treatment

In the acute phase sludge is removed with gentle manual expression. If your pet has a chronic problem with sludge in the bladder we can teach you how to do this at home. Flushing the bladder, after manually expressing most of the sludge, helps complete the process. We might sedate your rabbit if we need to pass a urinary catheter to flush out of the sludge.

We might need to hospitalize to provide intravenous (IV) fluids in a dehydrated rabbit and to help support the internal organs like the kidneys. Pain medication is commonly used, along with assist feeding for those rabbits not eating.

If a bladder stone is present we will remove it surgically.

Once your rabbit is stabilized our goal is to help prevent recurrence of  the stone. This is done by you at home in many ways:

Adding water to the food if your rabbit is not a good drinker

Giving supplemental (SQ) fluids under the scruff of the skin to increase urine output

Showing you how to express the bladder

Show you how to assist feed

Keeping the litter box clean

Decrease the weight if obese by feeding less, and increase activity

Using medications as prescribed by us if one of our doctors think it is indicated. This could include:

Pain medication

Antibiotics

Cranberry juice

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Using food that does not have an excess of calcium might be helpful. This means no pellets or alfalfa hay.

Feed only Timothy, Oat, or Orchard Grass hay. A small amount of fruits, and grass hay based pellets can be fed

Also feed fresh leafy green vegetables like kale, mustard greens, dandelion parsley, broccoli leaves and romaine lettuce.

If your water is hard (lots of minerals in it like calcium) you might want to get a water softener.

Follow Up

Any rabbit that has a sludge or bladder stone problem is susceptible to recurrence. Routine monitoring by physical exam, blood panels, and radiographs every 3-6 months is needed to catch the problem early.

Our Rabbit Diseases section has  more information on rabbits, including how we surgically repaired the fractured femur in the radiograph below. This is put here as a reminder that rabbits have powerful back legs in relation to their spine and long bones. If not restrained or held properly they can easily fracture these bones. A femur can be repaired, a fractured spine cannot.

This is called a mid shaft transverse fracture of the femur

Don’t forget to give your bunny lots of TLC, like Dr. Kennedy is doing here on one of her patients

 









 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Namibia- Where Desert and Ocean Meet

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After my Botswana trip I met up with a different assistant photographer and went to Namibia. My overall observations of Namibia are very positive; great guide, friendly people, interesting desert, and great wildlife viewing. If you like landscape photography, in addition to great wildlife viewing and photography, Namibia is for you.

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Namibia is a desert country, with beautiful sand dunes that go right up to the ocean. There is more to Namibia than desert, but the desert is unique, and is what I will emphasize on this page.

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The people that work in the tourism industry want you to have a nice time, and make the effort to help make that happen. 

Our guide’s name was Frank. He knew many people, was competent, had eagle eyes, and a warm personality. He went along with all of my antics, including how to say “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck” as he practiced his English. You will hear his efforts in videos several times in this page. Hearing his laugh after he attempts this saying was worth the price of admission!

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Frank was one of the best guides I have ever had in my 10 trips to Africa

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Frank worked non-stop, never taking a break, and was always ready to go at moment’s notice

His first “woodchuck” lesson

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Our trip started in the city of Windhoek. Going counterclockwise from Windhoek, we hit all of these spots, which you will learn about in this page:

Sossusvlei- sand dunes and stars

Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast- seals and shipwrecks

Twyfelfontein- rock carvings and petrified forest

Etosha National Park- wildlife (especially rhino)

Cheetah Conservation Fund- cheetah

Sossusvlei

After a five hour drive from Windhoek we saw our first sand dunes in Sossusvlei. Of course I had to climb one and leave my mark. After this first dune we spent several days in the Namib-Naukluft National Park exploring other dunes. As we drove around Frank practiced his ‘woodchuck”.

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I was still suffering from jet lag when I put the rocks in the sand, so read my message from bottom to top

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Even the t-shirts emphasize the sand in Namibia. In case you missed it, this is a spoof on the insignia for Land Rover cars. 

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Time for some housekeeping after running around in the sand

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The Le Mirage is a beautiful hotel in the middle of the sand dunes. I felt like I was in Morocco after seeing this hotel.

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The hotel comes alive at night

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Camp fires and stargazing were one of the night activities

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There was a spotlight on the waterhole to the right

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We could watch the animals drink at night

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Early evening star gazing

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Late night star gazing

The stargazing was great, and thanks to Cindy’s expertise and late nights, we have some beautiful time lapse photos of the stars at the waterhole

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I signed up for an early morning balloon ride, but it was cancelled the night before due to excess wind. I have gone on several of these in Kenya and Tanzania, and was looking forward to one over the desert. Maybe next time. 

Frank still could not get the second half of “woodchuck” just yet as we drove to more dunes

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The entrance to the National Park

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When we arrived some people were already at the top

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Time to get ready to join these people 

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Part way up and I was pacing myself


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Fun with early morning shadows

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This is the limit of my artistic ability in the sand

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A little more walking and I made it to the top

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The view from the top of a sand dune

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We drove to another location that had some interesting topography with trees

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Some of the trees grew in the middle of the dunes


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Frank took us to one of his secret dunes

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The dunes are almost alive, and in a short time our tracks would be gone

The wind keeps the dunes in an ever-changing state

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We learned about animals tracks. These are from a lizard, the long line is from the tail

Namibia-Namib-Naukluft-Dune-beatleThis beatle was busy digging a nest, little did I know there was something under him

The female that popped out caught us by surprise

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Frank pointed out a spider trap from a dancing white lady spider

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As we left the dunes it was my our first chance to see an Oryx, also known as a Gemsbok

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Time to leave the “Sand Is Fun” area and work our way up the coast

The Skeleton Coast

The waters off the coast of Namibia are cold and rugged.  Due to the ocean conditions, and the high level of shipping and fishing, many of the boats have been shipwrecked.

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The entrance to the Skeleton Coast National Park

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Our first shipwreck was not far from the entrance. Frank asked us if we wanted to swim to it. “I think we will pass this time Frank, maybe next time”.

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The birds found this ship to be a good place to hang out

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The next ship was a fishing vessel

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Before we left the local artisans carved a nut with some names as souvenirs to take back home

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It was interesting how they did it so easily

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Cindy scored, and got seven of her souvenirs for co-workers at this spot, each with their name carved

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As we continued up the coast we came across these roadside stands. Can you guess what they are selling?

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People leave money when they take one

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They are pieces of salt

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Next stop was the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, which has Cape Fur Seals, which are a type of sea lion

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The hotel is beautiful

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That is the skull of a whale at the hotel

We had lunch here, which gave Frank more time to practice his “woodchuck”. We aren’t making progress as you can see from the video.

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This is one section of the beach, giving you an idea of how many seals are present. There are reportedly up to 100,000 of them. 

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The bulls and the females were constantly interacting

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It was their courtship dance

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When there are females and males interacting, this little guy tends to appear 8 months later

We could have kept going many more miles up the coast, seeing a multitude of shipwrecks, but it was time to turn inland and start making our way to Etosha National Park. On the way to Etosha we went past Twyfelfontein.

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On the way to our hotel at Twyfelfontein we came across desert adapted elephants

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Supposedly, their feet are flatter to make it easier to walk in the sand

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The mother of this calf seemed bothered by our presence at first, as can be seen by her body language

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She calmed down rapidly, and lazily fed with her calf right in front of us

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As the herd slowly moved on the mother took one last nibble from a tree

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We stayed at the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge

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The beautiful hotel is carved into the rocks

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This is the lobby

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Where the rooms were located

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There are two sites in this area to visit. The first is the petrified forest, where we saw wood (now quartz since it is petrified) that was 280 million years old.

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These pieces of petrified wood are located all throughout this area

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Our next stop was a guided tour of the rock carvings. They are up to 2,000 years old, and were performed by ancestors of the San people. 


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Can you see the giraffe, the lion with the human hand at the end of its tail, and all the plain’s animals?

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This one has many carvings, including human foot prints

Our journey continued northwesterly towards Etosha, paying a visit to the Himba people, who number around 30,000 in northwest Namibia. These semi-nomadic people eke out a living with their livestock and selling crafts to tourists. Every morning the women apply a paste called otjize, which is made up of ochre stone fragments mixed with butter and fat to their skin. This gives their skin that red hue. The crown on their heads is called the erembe. So far they have been able to keep their tradition going in the face of changes brought out by the modern world  in their country.

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The morning milking was done, so the women showed us their crafts

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If the Himba continue to resist modernization these boys will become cattle and goat herders when they grow up

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After our visit to the Himba people we continued on the long road to Etosha National Park. Etosha  has been on my radar for quite a while, hard to believe I will be seeing it soon.

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There is a substantial amount of wildlife on the road to Etosha, as evidenced by this elephant crossing sign

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And this warthog crossing sign

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They should have put up a turtle crossing sign also

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Etosha National Park

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Finally, after many days of driving, we made it to Etosha

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This is rhinoceros country. There is a serious poaching problem, fueled by the demand by the Chinese and Vietnamese for powdered rhino horns. They have this misguided, irresponsible, and archaic notion that these horns, similar to our fingernails in composition, have some special medicinal value. Their involvement with many governments in Africa, to illegally kill the rhinos and ship their horns to Asia, will cause the demise of the rhinoceros in Africa. They just don’t care. 

As another example of Chinese disrespect for animals, the guides told us of Chinese tourists ignoring park rules. We observed this disrespect on our trip when we saw four young Chinese tourists get out of their car and approach some wildlife at a waterhole. Not only is this dangerous to them, it also disturbs the animals. The guides took this seriously, and emailed a photo of this to the park rangers at the exit to the park. The rangers can fine these people, and prevent them from returning to the park. After seeing this the guides told us a story of some Chinese tourists that were made to leave the country when they did something like this in the past. 

I have seen rhino in East Africa at the Ngorongoro crater numerous times, along with rhino in northern Kenya and Zimbabwe. These sightings pale in comparison to what I saw at Etosha. The following photos are just a few of these sightings. 

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Our first rhino in Etosha carefully approached us from a distance. This is a male black rhinoceros.

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He seemed to be unperturbed by our presence and got closer

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They have poor eyesight, but good senses of hearing and smell, which he utilized to check us out

Watch him check us out, using mostly his ears and sense of smell, before he comes closer

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He looked at us this way for a while

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Apparently we passed muster, and he approached

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And came close enough to get this shot

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The horn is nothing more than a big fingernail in composition. I plan on going back to Africa soon to help sedate the rhino, either for transportation to a protected area in Botswana, or to help them cut off the horns to prevent poaching. You are welcome to join us. Email me at vet@lbah.com for more inormation. 

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Driving around the park we encountered this old bull covered in a chalky substance

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This lioness protecting her Oryx kill from the night before, kept a close watch at some people in a vehicle looking at her that were moving too much and standing up

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Even though the Oryx is a vegetarian, it chews bones for the phosphorous and calcium

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Lots of giraffes in Etosha

Before I go on to giraffes drinking, you need to learn some anatomy and physiology of this unique animal. To get the blood all the way to a brain this high there are several adaptations, the most important of which involve the cardiovascular system. Giraffes have a large heart in proportion to the rest of the chest compared to other animals. This is so that it can pump the blood at a pressure of 240mm of Hg (mercury), which is twice that of a human. This high pressure is needed to get blood to a brain that is high above the heart. If there is not a continuous flow of blood to the brain the giraffe will literally pass out.

This system works well when the giraffe is standing, but what about when it lowers its head. All that blood, rushing to the brain at such a high pressure, can burst the cells in the brain. A human brain experiencing a flow of blood at this pressure would experience a hematoma, and go into a coma, rapidly leading to death. How does the giraffe get away with this when it lowers its head to drink?

Giraffe have special one-way valves in the jugular veins, which keeps the blood flowing to the heart and not backwards towards the brain, where it would increase the blood pressure to dangerous levels as the head is lowered.

They also have strong and elastic valves that can expand or contract, and give local control of blood pressure at the level of the brain.

In addition, when the blood does enter the brain, they have a sponge-like structure of blood vessels (it’s called a rete mirable) that diverts the excess flow of blood around the brain, and not directly to the brain, as the head is lowered. The rete mirable does the opposite, and releases this blood back to the brain, when the head is raised. This prevents the giraffe from passing out due to a low blood pressure as it raises its head after drinking.

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The action at Etosha was at the waterholes. Notice this giraffe’s front leg technique in order to lower its head to drink

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This one drank with its front legs in a different position

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We came across some interesting animal interaction at a waterhole. There was a very thirsty giraffe drinking in front of a male lion, with ostrich and gazelle waiting their turn. 

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It seemed odd to us that the giraffe got closer to the lion as it drank, when there was plenty of water at the waterhole further away from the lion. This is another one of those wildlife behaviors that is hard to understand. 

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Apparently the giraffe knew what it was doing, and the lion only glanced that the giraffe while it was in its vulnerable head down position 

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After a short while a playful lioness walked past the male for a drink

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He followed her, as a male lion is supposed to do, as she raised her hindquarters to him

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He checked to see if she was in heat by checking her pheromones

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He lost interest and went back to hanging out by the waterhole

After three great days at Etosha National Park we drove to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Even though there were plenty of tourists, the wildlife viewing was great, and I want to go back to a different part of the park next time.

Cheetah Conservation Fund

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It was time to say good bye to Frank when he dropped us off at the Cheetah Conservation Fund

We said good bye to Frank, but not before he did his final  “Peter Piper tongue twister”, and invited all of us in America to join him on a trip

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The Cheetah Conservation Fund, founded and run by Dr. Laurie Marker, started in 1990

Namibia has more wild cheetah than any other country, and Dr. Marker is trying to save them from the goat farmers that kill them when the cheetah kill their goats. A farmer with 10-20 goats can suffer a catastrophic loss when a cheetah wantonly kills half of the farmers goats. She came up with a novel idea to help the farmers and the cheetah.

She imports and breeds Anatolian shepherds from Turkey. These are large herding dogs that are not afraid of cheetah. The program is working, and now the CCF breeds them, trying to keep up with the number of goat herders that are on a waitlist for one of these dogs.

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Kangal dogs are also used in addition the the Anatolian Shepherds. These dogs are raised with the goats as pups, so they bond with the goats and want to protect them, and the goats get used to them. 

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In addition to the herding dog’s program, the CCF does genetic research and education of the public. Dr. Ann is in charge of the genetics program, and utilizes a sophisticated lab, with capable assistants, to do state-of-the-art genetics research on this species with poor genetic diversity. She has serum from cheetahs that goes back 25 years, and is looking for someone working on a Master’s or Doctorate in genetics to help her do a genetic analysis on this serum. There is a treasure trove of information in this saved serum.


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CCF has its own creamery to help generate funds

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There is a hospital that takes care of the dogs and injured cheetah, in addition to obtaining samples for genetic testing. We are going to help them upgrade their equipment. 

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Their young veterinarian, named Robin, has a great personality and is dedicated to helping the animals at the CFF. Dr. P plans to bring her to California for ultrasound training, and hopefully get them a new ultrasound machine to replace their dated one. 

There are several captive cheetah at the CCF that cannot be released back into the wild. They have no fear of humans, and will approach the goat herds and get killed by the goat herders. They will stay at the CCF for the remainder of their lives, being well cared for, and also used to educate the public.

They are exercised daily with a special set up that pulls a red flag on a pulley. The flag is rapidly pulled around a large circumference early in the morning when it is cool.

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It’s an ingenious mechanism that allows them control the speed and direction of the red flag, taking advantage of a cheetah’s natural curiosity at a moving object

You get to watch them as they are exercised every morning. The following photos show them in action chasing the red flag.


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On my last night I had a chance to do a night drive with a guide from the CCF

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One final sundowner with this guide, before its time to head back home the following day.

I have another Africa trip in the works for 2019, dates and locations to be determined. If you are interested in joining my group contact me at vet@lbah.com

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