Northern Dogs Project begins new season caring for animals in remote Canadian communities

Northern Dogs vet tech reviving new born puppy.It’s that time of year again when the Northern Dogs team, including the vet team, head north to provide services to the communities with whom IFAW partners.

This year the team includes (again) two excellent vets, three surgery vet techs (who are amazingly efficient in surgery), an intake vet tech and intake assistant (these two do health checks and vaccines), and two volunteers. We also have a youth volunteer who is very interested in animals and in how IFAW works on the ground so she will be helping the dogs to recover after surgery. 

The team will drive up at different times with some of us heading up early to visit the kids in the schools and collect as much data on dogs and people’s attitudes about dogs as we can. After a week of being in the communities, the vet team will arrive and we will once again set up the clinic in the fire halls in three communities.  And then the animals come!

Also on, support IFAW’s Bosnian flood animal victims rescue efforts .

In 2012 and 2013 we had been going north to three communities in April and then another three in June. Due to scheduling conflicts this year, we were unable to head out in April and I think that was a good thing. Winter was definitely still with us and you want to make sure that it’s warm enough for the dogs to recover from surgery safely. 

Thinking back to past clinics, we’ve seen all kinds of dog (and some cat) issues walk through the door. Over that past 12 years, we’ve had porcupine quills, diaphragmatic hernias (you’ll want to look that one up), hit by car injuries (including the removal of a tail), a kitten who pulled out her stitches (twice!), vaccine reactions, tumour removals, full body shaves, broken legs, and emergency C-sections.

Neuters are not always quick and easy as some males are cryptorchid and of course, spring is pupping time so some females may be lactating when they are spayed. When services are provided annually, you make sure to have the biggest impact through creative, practical and expert vet care.

Last year I saw again how efficient, experienced and persistent the vet team is under extenuating circumstances.

A woman came in concerned about her cocker spaniel which had been in labour since the morning. The owner was given advice by the vets, went home, but came back later in the afternoon still concerned.

We asked her to bring her dog in and sure enough, the young mother-to-be was having trouble passing the first, large puppy. In a matter of moments, she was sedated and on the surgery table, Martine carrying out an emergency C-section while each vet tech was handed a pup as he or she was pulled out.

None of the pups were breathing and it was up to each team member to work on reviving their pup. What most people don’t know is that this can take a long time, and it takes a lot of work!

The pups were rubbed vigorously, swung safely but firmly up and down, given oxygen, swung, rubbed, rubbed, swung and repeated -- for almost half an hour! Finally, the first one started breathing and then peeping, then the next one started and the next until all the pups were wiggling and mewing.

The team was finally able to get a newborn pup breathing on its own.

When I think about it, all I can say is that the Northern Dogs vet team is amazing.

I look forward to what medical case comes through the door when we open the clinic on the last weekend of May and I know we’ll be seeing cocker mum again – though definitely under better circumstances!


For more information about efforts with our Northern Dogs project in Canada, visit our project page.

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters