Vet in Panama finds cats, dogs and
El Tigre all in a day's work

Finding a good vet in Panama was a bonus when looking fro grass.

Finding a vet in Panama is a concern for many potential ex-pats. Most North Americans are real softies when it comes to their animals. Our 13-year-old Schnauzer, Spencer, is regarded by both my wife and me as a "fur person", not as an animal.

One of our biggest concerns about moving to the third world was about him. In fact, we originally passed on Panama because, at the time, the quarantine period was six months. If Spencer had to spend six months sleeping on a cold concrete floor he wouldn't have been alone - I would have been there sleeping right next to him.

Fortunately, Panama now has more liberal quarantine laws - your friendly fur person can now spend the obligatory 40 days in the comfort of his or her new home, under house arrest.

Finding a vet in Panama

Finding a good vet in Panama was clearly something in which I was interested, and I was delighted to meet my local vet the other day. Doctor Narcisa Prado Arevalo was working in her store in Volcan and I dropped in looking for, of all things, grass seed. She generously offered me some ground cover from the front of her house.

I duly turned up at her home, shovel in hand, ready for the transplant process. Unbelievably she said I could take the wonderful low growing "manee" from the front of her well-manicured lawn. "I can't do that." I protested. But the good doctor would have none of it. So I carefully cut about ten sod-sized segments and loaded them into the back of my SUV.

Refused money

Panamanians continue to surprise me in wonderful ways. Dr. Arevalo wouldn't accept any money. I even offered $20 as a donation for some poor people who might need emergency vet services. Again, my money was refused.

The clinic and surgery are located in a local agricultural store. Here, she treats everything from cats, dogs, parrots and even the occasional mountain lion.

A local storeowner had chanced across an orphaned Puma pup and the doctor helped bottle feed the little creature to a healthy life. Mountain lion's are common in the higher elevations of Chiriqui province. As in most of Latin America, hunting these elusive animals is banned, but this doesn't stop local farmers from killing them when they feel their livestock is threatened.

El Tigre, as the locals refer to them, are beautiful creatures. Although they can weigh up to 243 lb., so far there has not been any documented case of them killing and eating humans.

Four-way protection: $7.50

Today, Dr. Arevalo's job was quite mundane. Spencer needed updated shots. For just $7.50, he received a multi-combination vaccination covering, parvovirus, leptospirosis, distemper and hepatitis. The latter, the doctor told me, was the most important. Many local dogs contract this disease by eating bad meat or by drinking contaminated water.

The doctor will make house calls for $20 and, for emergencies, can be contacted 24 hours a day.

Besides hepatitis, I asked what the main dangers to pets were. Surprisingly, snakes were not high on the list, nor were spiders.

Frogs are a problem

Quite a number of dogs get sick from trying to eat frogs. A neighbour's dog ended up frothing horribly at the mouth from trying to eat the uneatable, but with the application of copious amounts of milk, the animal survived.

One common problem in the tropics, both for animals and humans, is the occurrence of intestinal parasites. Doctor Arevalo advised a regular regime of tablets to combat this, plus the use of proprietary applications for fleas and ticks. Regular bathing with the use of an insecticidal shampoo is also recommended - with greater emphasis on washing around the rectum - a favorite spot for ticks and fleas.

If you're a true "fur person' appreciator, then have no fear. Panama is as safe as back home. With a small amount of care, both you and your pet can enjoy a paradise of eternal spring in good health and safety. All you need is a good vet in Panama. - David Dell

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