Freaky Tropical Parisites

November 6, 2008

The Sahel can be a very harsh place for animals. Living there, I came to really appreciate the power of a little hard frost from time-to-time. In addition to familiar parasites like roundworms, tapeworms and heartworms there are other-worldly parasites that can give you nightmares.

In particular, I’m thinking of “tumbu” worm. This thing is actually not a worm at all but rather a general term for bot fly. These flies lay their eggs on an animal (or clothes) and the maggot burrows into the skin where it takes up residence until it matures into an adult fly which crawls out of the skin. Ugh.

Botfly are common all along the Niger, Gambia and Senegal river basins, particularly after the rains come. Most sheep, goats, cattle, dogs and even people have these maggots crawling in their skins.

It turns out that Ivermectin, which is marketed as Heartguard, is totally effective against botfly. If you are living in an area where botfly is endemic, regular doses of Ivermectin will prevent your dog from being infected.  In part because we were careful where we hung our laundry and also because we gave our dog Ivermectin (labelled for cattle), I never had to extract any maggots from anyone in my household.

I have extracted the damn things from dogs and people, though. It’s enough to give you nightmares.

Think Aliens.

The video below was shot in Costa Rica, but the horror is the same.


October 7, 2008

Frustrating Drips

For the past few months, my juvenile male Azawakh, Azelouan, has been dripping “semen” all over the house. At one point, I mentioned the dripping “semen” problem to a few people who I thought would be knowledgeable and they chalked it up to “testosterone poisoning.” I didn’t think too much of it. We figured the poor guy was loaded up with testosterone and just way oversexed. It was starting to drive my wife crazy, though, because cleaning up the waxy drips is a monster chore that requires a kind of degreaser to remove them from hardwood floors. When he shakes himself the drips are often flung onto the walls for an extra disgust-factor. Suffice it to say that if a way could be found to turn off the dripping faucet of dog “semen”, it would make me a hero.

To cut quickly to the chase, the stuff dripping from my dog’s penis was not actually semen, it was pus. The poor guy was suffering from a condition in dogs called Balinitis: an infected penis sheath. Fortunately, there is an easy home remedy that almost always cures the infection.

Balinitis in a male Greyhound from iCare of the Racing Greyhound/i

Balinitis in a male Greyhound from "Care of the Racing Greyhound."

Stumbling upon a Solution

A few months ago, I purchased an out of print book, used, on the marketplace. It is called Care of the Racing Greyhound. My dogs are not Greyhounds, but this book is very interesting because it is dense with information about canine sports injuries, particularly coursing injuries. It also has medical information not normally found in books for the general population. This book is extremely dense and I had set it aside, having read about half of the thing. I was bogged down in sprains, strains and massage therapy. After running the 10-miler, I happened to pick it up and the book fell open to page 314 which, unbelievably, had a picture of Azelouan’s problem (shown above).

Balinitis can apparently have a number of root causes from masturbation to anabolic steroid use to excessive vitamin E in the diet. The end result is an infection in the penis sheath that can also lead to cystitis and even kidney infection. Most dogs that have balinitis with a discharge also develop tonsillitis. Fortunately, the cure is pretty simple and usually does not require antibiotics or a trip to see the veterinarian. In the vast majority of cases, just rinsing the sheath out with an antiseptic disinfectant cures the problem.


Flush the penis sheath out with a dilution of 1 part Betadine in 9  parts water, 1 teaspoon of Hibitane in 1 pint of water or quaternary ammonium disinfectants. Use a syringe without a needle or a pediatric enema bottle to flush the area for at least a minute. The program calls for cleaning the penis sheath once daily for three days followed by every other day for two to three weeks. According to the book, the vast majority of dogs resolve with simple rinsing. If the infection is resistant, it recommends trying a switch to a different antiseptic. If the infection is stubborn, it may require an antibiotic like amoxicillin with clavulanic acid (Clavamox).

I opted for Betadine dilution because we have that in the house. The day after the first treatment, the discharge was nearly gone. After the second treatment, the drip was gone and the tip of his sheath has become much less red.

Azelouan doesn’t really enjoy having his penis washed out and I can’t say that I’m that excited about it either. On the other hand, he is clearly less agitated and is spending a lot less of his time peeing and licking himself. He seems quite relieved. Actually, he’s overjoyed. Christie, too, is overjoyed that Azelouan is no longer splattering disgusting waxy drips all over our house.

Score one for biblioholism!