2016 Year in Review: Dr. Ernesto Dominguez, Veterinary Intern

It’s time to look back on 2016! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2016 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Wow, these past six months went fast! There are so many different and cool stories and patients that I can’t pick just one.

As most of you know, I am a fan of reptiles -- in particular, snakes. One of my most exciting patients and surgeries was on an Eastern Black Snake (#16-2319) that ingested a golf ball that was placed in a chicken coop. It was the first time for me performing a gastrointestinal surgery in a snake. I’m so glad and happy that the snake is recovering well, is eating and passing feces normally. I still have the golf ball I removed as a good memory from this exciting patient.

Other really good memories have been the Black Bears. Who doesn’t like Black Bears? They are amazing creatures, they are cute, but oh boy, they are challenging. In six months I have admitted about 11 Black Bears, and most of them came when Dr. Peach was not around (for some strange reason). I have good memories of all of them, but I think the most memorable case for me is the adult female (#16-1817). She came severely affected with sarcoptic mange, and it has been the worst case I have ever seen in my career. Because of her condition and how sensitive and painful her skin was to the touch, it took us almost three doses of anesthetics to knock her down and start treating her. I got really involved in this case and because of the severity of her lesions, we decided to try a new medical treatment. Now, she is a completely different animal, she gained weight, her fur has completely grown back, and she is doing great with us. You would never recognize her if you compare the before-and-after pictures we have of her.

The last, but not the least important, are the two Bald Eagles (#16-2439 & #16-2440) that were accidentally intoxicated with pentobarbital. These have been (so far) the most challenging raptor cases I have ever treated. Both eagles came in grave condition, barely breathing and the hearts slowly beating. I needed to improvise a critical care unit for both, so I could administrate IV fluids, emergency drugs, and oxygen for 48 hours. After hours of research and reading lots of different literature, I decided to treat them similarly to how they treat human patients that use this drug to try to commit suicide. Sodium bicarbonate is an emergency drug that helps regulate the pH of the blood and causes a better excretion of barbiturates. Pentobarbital is a drug we use in veterinary medicine to euthanize animals, and it has no antidote or reversal. The only way to treat is to give intensive care, monitor the vital signs closely, adjust the medications every 8-12 hours, and try to help the body to excrete the medication through the kidneys. After three days of treatment, the eagles were alive. On December 21, I had the honor of releasing one of these eagles back to the wild. The emotion and feeling seeing the bird fly free is indescribable.

When we have these type of successful cases, that is when I know I choose the best career, I have the best coworkers, and I work in the best place. And all of these is true because of your kind support. Thank you so much!!

--Dr. Ernesto

Keep checking the Wildlife Center's blog for more year-end posts this week!