Culpeper Animal Hospital

441 Aspen Street
Culpeper, VA 22701


Dr Vargas' Trip to Guatemala



217 surgeries!!!! Please see our facebook page for pictures and details about the trip. Or visit


Total surgeries performed this year was 166. Please visit our facebook page for pictures and daily reports.

Dr Vargas, Vet Assistant Becca Karis, and Juan Vargas traveled to Guatemala in 2009 to help with their spay / neuter clinic.  They will also took shoes and clothes for the local residents, and made tamale baskets for the families. All donations towards the cause were greatly appreciated.  You can call the clinic at any time to find out more about making donations to


As many of you may know, I recently was part of a trip to Guatemala with a large group of fellow adoptive families.  Four months ago when we were at the beginning of planning this journey I could have have never imagined all that we could have accomplished.  First it started as an idea that of maybe I could try to do a vet clinic while in Panajachel but not knowing at all what was involved in a clinic in Guatemala.  The second step was to form a team which did not take long. Just the mention to Francine and Kerry of a spay and neuter clinic in Guatemala and within days we had a great team put together of avid animal lovers with a wealth of knowledge and skills to offer to the trip. Third step was fund raising and with a lot of hard work and extremely generous donations from everyone we had a large amount of supplies and cash to really make a difference, and we were off to Pana.

The first day, Miguel the veterinarian that works with the Healthy Pet program, along with Patty and Ezzie from Mayan Families set the team in action and organized the day which was not an easy task. We had 3 doctors, 7 vet students and 5 members of our team to organize.

As the veterinarian I first needed to learn a new spay and neuter technique that is necessary under these conditions. The technique was different than how we are trained in the states in that you need to have a very minimal incision (approximately 1/2 of an inch for a female dog) and we used sterile zip ties to ligate instead of suture.

There were also difference in anesthetic protocols. Surgeries needed to be very quick since we are performing the surgery under inject able anesthesia only. The reason it was important for me to learn these differences were the majority of the pets needed to be released back to the streets the next day or released to their owners within a few hours. So a technique that was quick and allowed animals to go right back on the street was extremely important.

We had our crew that needed to be divided into groups to work with the vet students to perform intake of patients, pre-anesthetic exams, premedication, anesthesia, recovery and discharge. Not to mention the language barrier. But we did it!

The clinic was held in Pana for three days and in a neighboring town of Solola for one day. The clinic in Solola was a huge step forward from their traditional animal population control method of feeding strychnine to the street animals. This not only is a cruel way to kill the animals but very risky for children since it is not uncommon for this to poison a child as well.

Solola has never had any type of vet clinic performed. Mayan Families worked hard to promote awareness via radio, television and other local media. Guatevision, a national television station, came out and interviewed Dr. and the other vet students giving great awareness for the cause.

While there I had a chance meeting with a Guatemalan plastic surgeon who performs clinics like this throughout the country. He drove home the point that Guatemala not only needs groups like ours to perform clinics, but more importantly it needs us to pass on our education to local vets. Which is why in the last two days our focus shifted to real teaching time for the vet students and the young doctors working with us.

Overall, we performed 88 surgeries. That was short of our original goal of 125 animals, but we realized there was more important goals to accomplish than number of surgeries.

For example, because of cultural differences relatively few people embrace the idea of spay/neutering their pets. Mayan Families had to entice pet owners by giving them first dibs on the next shoe shipment if they brought their animals in for spay/neutering. It was important for us to help the community become comfortable with the procedure and also to bring awareness that there is a humane way to control the animal population.

We also now know the focus of our next clinic will be on teaching to promote efficient, safe and humane processes and to stimulate the field of veterinary medicine here in Guatemala. I believe we left Dr. Miguel and the vet students with the enthusiasm to improve their skills and aspire to elevate the level of care that they are capable of offering the animals here in Guatemala. They were very eager, willing and appreciative of the time we spent helping them learn new skills and techniques.

This week was an eye opening experience for everyone involved. We accomplished 88 surgeries in 4 days of clinics, all with positive outcomes. Each and every person played an important role and made a difference -- from catching the street dogs, to preparing the patients for surgery, to monitoring anesthesia, to monitoring and comforting in recovery, to post-op meds and discharge, to releasing on the beach at the lake or to the owners.

Thank you to everyone for making this spay and neuter clinic a huge success!!!! 

Please checkout these 2 websites for more information regarding the trip and Mayan Families the  organization in Panajachel, Guatemala.  Feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like to help out on the next trip at



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