New England Wildlife Center’s staff has just returned from attending the North American Veterinary Conference. Pictured on the left is Jean Fournier, veterinary technician, reconnecting with NEWC former intern Michelle. The Center values continuing education, which is critical to our ability to serve people and animals better! Some highlights included talks on reptile pain control, avian fracture management, pot-bellied pig surgical techniques, and the science behind the renal portal system in reptiles.
Do you need a place to keep your exotic pet for a few days or weeks? New England Wildlife Center offers a low-cost boarding service with dedicated veterinary oversight and daily care provided by veterinary technicians. Come visit us at 500 Columbian Street in South Weymouth MA, or call 781-682-4878 for more information.
This is a photo of a painted turtle that came to us awhile back with a cracked shell. Below you can see an X-ray of his shell from the side, and if you look at the middle of the top you can see an almost healed fracture. The wound was cleaned when he arrived, and zip-ties were used to pull the pieces together, analogous to how a human leg fracture would get a cast. Unfortunately this guy’s back legs are paralyzed from the injury, so he will likely never be able to be released. We did however managed to find a good home for him, so he’ll be able to live out the rest of his life in a safe environment.
This is a House Finch that was admitted a few days ago. The distinctive red coloration around the head and chest indicates that he is a male, in contrast to the more subdued grays and browns found on the females. They were originally located exclusively in the western United States, but have spread to the East and even down into Mexico. They are very well adapted to urban environments, often making use of human buildings for their homes. This guy is suffering from a case of conjunctivitis, or an infection of the eye. We are treating him with a course of antibiotics, and he should hopefully be ready for release within a few weeks.
Yesterday afternoon this adult Red Tailed Hawk was admitted to the Center. Upon arrival she was very weak, and was bleeding from the nose, mouth, and eyes. There were no immediate signs of physical trauma in the initial exam, which prompted our vet team to take a blood sample. The sample was very viscous and brightly colored, as you can see in the photos above. Generally it will take about two minutes for a sample to clot inside a collection vial, but in this case it took over an hour.
The packed cell volume, a test used to determine what percentage of blood is composed of red blood cells, was extremely low. This can be seen in the photo in the upper left hand corner, the dark portion at the bottom of the glass tube is the red blood cells and the remaining material is blood plasma. In a healthy bird these ratios would be must closer.
When examined together these symptoms indicate that the blood is not clotting properly, and has become too diluted to carry out normal body functions. Based on the evidence from the laboratory tests and a physical exam the most likely diagnosis is Rodenticide toxicosis.
Unfortunately, this has become a common problem in many birds of prey. Exposure happens when the bird eats a prey animal that has come into contact with a trap that contains poison. The prey animal is often left incapacitated, making them an easy meal for the hawk or owl. The poison works by inhibiting the normal clotting factors in the blood, which leads to catastrophic blood loss and a weakening of capillary beds. Secondary effects can include reduced oxygen supply, liver damage, and increased bruising. Often times the dose of poison is high enough that it will be lethal to both animals.
This hawk is currently receiving an intensive treatment of fluids and vitamin K. Vitamin K is an important cofactor in blood coagulation, and by giving an elevated dose the idea is to counteract the action of the poison. The fluids will aid in the production of new blood cells.
This is an unfortunate and avoidable problem that we encounter quite frequently. Using safe alternatives to poison traps eliminate the risks to birds of prey, humans, and other wildlife.
This is a Dovekie, a small waterbird that spends most of its time along far-off arctic coasts. Dovekies will only come down south in the winter, and even then they only go as far as New England. They eat small marine crustaceans and little fish, diving underwater to catch their prey. This little guy got lost in a storm, and was found pretty far inland. Someone brought him to us, and with a bit of time to rest in a dark and quiet place he was quickly looking much better. Dr. Mertz brought him back to the coast, where he was released at the ocean’s shore.
This is a photo of a sulcata tortoise’s plastron (lower shell). This was taken just prior to surgery. Dr. Mertz was fixing an intussusception, or a condition where one part of the tortoise’s intestines had slid into an adjacent part, causing a telescoping effect that blocked food from passing through. It’s difficult to perform surgery on a turtle due to the hard shell. Cutting out a piece completely cuts it off from any blood supply, and the piece of shell will die and not regrow. In order to allow the shell to heal after the procedure, Dr. Mertz essentially cut a window, as you can see in this photo. Three sides were fully cut, but the fourth just had holes drilled into it so it could be lifted up without being fully detached. This let him perform surgery while still allowing the shell to heal afterwards.
When people ask about the most dangerous parts of working with wild animals at New England Wildlife Center, there are many things that could be discussed. Great Horned Owls with their talons, foxes and coyotes that like to bite, potentially rabid skunks, and even particularly flustered chipmunks can all do damage to us if we let our guards down. One of the less often considered species however is Baylisascaris procyonis, also called the raccoon roundworm.
B. procyonis is a parasite (specifically a roundworm nematode) found in raccoons.
The adult worms live inside the intestines, and produce large amounts of eggs every day. These eggs then get carried out by the feces. All told, it’s not a huge problem for the raccoons. In fact, in North America the rate of infection in raccoons is generally above 50%, mostly with no serious symptoms. The real problem comes when the eggs are ingested by an animal that is not a raccoon.
In humans for example, the parasite is potentially dangerous. If the eggs are ingested, they do not follow the standard path straight down the intestines. Instead, they can penetrate the gut wall and pass into other types of tissue, eventually making their way up into the brain. This can cause severe neurological symptoms, and even death. This is generally how the parasite responds to being ingested by anything other than a raccoon. One theory for why this might be is that the parasite is attempting to cause neurological issues in its accidental host to make them easier prey for raccoons, as B. procyonis is a raccoon parasite and needs to be in a raccoon to thrive and reproduce.
This is a very rare medical issue, with less than 20 cases reported since 1980. Most people don’t have much reason to come in contact with raccoon feces, where the B. procyonis eggs live. We have to take precautions at NEWC however, since we treat many raccoons every year, and having animals in our hospital means that we clean up a lot of their poop. In order to minimize the risk, we all wear masks and gloves whenever interacting with raccoons, as well as generally being careful about touching them and cleaning their enclosures. No one at NEWC has ever had a problem with B. procyonis, and we will continue our safety procedures to hopefully ensure that no one ever does.
If you are feeling festive this holiday season, feel free to stop by our store! We carry a lot of fun holiday outfits, toys, and all sorts of other cool stuff. We also sell most of our items for 50 to 75 percent off standard retail value, and all of the proceeds go to helping us care for New England’s wildlife. If you’re feeling particularly excited and end up spending 20 dollars or more, you can print out this Facebook post for 2 dollars off your purchase
In these photos you can see the change from when she first arrived at NEWC to today. When she first came in she was lethargic, unable to eat, and had serious head trauma, in addition to an assortment of smaller wounds. Her treatment has been primarily anti-inflammatory medication, basic wound-care, nutritional support, and regular fluid administration. She’s already doing much better, and should hopefully be fine for release in the near future.
This is a Leopard Gecko that came into Odd Pet Vet recently suffering from a liver infection. This is an interesting case because Dr. Mertz could actually see the white spots caused by the infection through the Gecko’s belly, as you can see in this photo. Generally these would be hidden by an animal’s opaque skin, but in this case the Leopard Gecko’s transparent belly was helpful for the diagnosis. He was proscribed antibiotics, and should be feeling better soon.
This is an Eastern Screech-Owl that came to us recently with an injured wing. He’ll be with us for awhile with his wing in a cast while it heals. Eastern Screech-Owls, like most other species of owl, are nocturnal. They have both brownish-red and gray colormorphs, and they can be found in wooded areas throughout the eastern United States. Their diet consists of pretty much any small animal that they can catch, including a large number of invertebrates such as frogs, beetles, and earthworms.
This is a black and white tegu owned by one of the volunteers at NEWC. Black and white tegus are omnivores native to South America. They are exceptionally intelligent reptiles, and are fairly common pets due to their relaxed natures and their tendency to form fairly strong attachments to their owners. Fully grown males can reach almost 5 feet in length from nose to tail tip, significantly longer than the females, which generally only reach a maximum length of about 3 feet.
The Odd Pet Vet can now see patients 7 days a week. If your exotic family member needs veterinary care, please call us at 781 682 4878. 100% of all veterinary fees support the New England Wildlife Center’s care of wildlife and education outreach. Remember, if you need boarding for your bird, rat, snake, dragon or other exotic pet, we are your best bet! Reasonable prices from docs that care. New England Wildlife Center – it’s fun in here.
This is an example of one of the procedures we do fairly regularly at NEWC, tracheal intubation. We use this when we need an animal to be unconscious, for example if we are going to be performing surgery. In this case, we were doing a wound debridement on a red tailed hawk’s foot, which means that we were cleaning out a dirty wound. Tracheal intubation involves feeding a clean, plastic tube down the animal’s trachea. Oxygen and Isoflurane, our surgical anesthetic, are then supplied down the tube and shot almost directly to the animal’s lungs. This ensures that the animal has a steady flow of oxygen during the procedure, as well as a specific and controlled amount of anesthetic, and prevents anything from clogging their airway.
This is a young meadow vole that we have been treating at NEWC for awhile now. He came to us malnourished and dehydrated, but is doing great now and should be ready for release soon. Meadow voles, sometimes also called field mice, can be found throughout the northern half of North America. They are active year round, and are commonly seen both at night and during the day, without a set activity period. They prefer wet, grassy areas for habitat, and will eat mostly grass, leaves, flowers, and fruits.
This is a big brown bat, native to most of North America, Central America, and the far north of South America. He came in malnourished and with a bit of an infection about a week ago. Big brown bats are insectivores, catching prey such as moths, wasps, and mosquitoes while in flight. They are mostly active at night, and hunt using echolocation. This means that they emit a high frequency sound, and then interpret their surroundings based on how the sound bounces back to them off of objects. This guy is responding well to medication, and should soon be completely healthy.
This little fellow is a sugar glider that recently visited us at Odd Pet Vet. Sugar gliders are marsupials native to Australia. They eat a wide variety of foods in the wild, including insects, fruits, and nectar. As their name suggests, they have the ability to glide through the air using the flaps between their limbs. They are very social animals, and usually live in groups of about 6 or 7 adults, along with their young.
This is a Hairy Woodpecker, a species of bird found throughout North America. They can often be found pecking at trees in order to find the wood-boring bugs that are their preferred food source. This little one was admitted to us because she was unable to walk and had a head tilt. Often in cases where birds are displaying neurologic symptoms the first thing we think of is that they hit something head on. Birds often strike windows while flying, because they see right through the glass and assume that they have a clear flight path. After a few days of rest and some anti-inflammatory medication however, she is doing much better, and should soon be ready to go back to the wild.
Our very own Dr. Rob Adamski has been asked to speak at the annual meeting of the IWRC, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Dr. Adamski will be talking about a variety of subjects, including our recent involvement in research dealing with a new Polyomavirus found in raccoons. It should be a great opportunity to coordinate with some excellent wildlife rehabilitators.
This is Fluffy, an Ornate box turtle that recently came into Odd Pet Vet for a beak trim and helmet removal. He’s a male turtle, which we know due to the distinctive red color of his eyes. You can see the before and after here, it’s pretty interesting to see the difference. These are normal growths for a turtle in a gentle, captive environment, but it’s good to have them taken care of whenever they’re getting too large. We are now able to offer appointments seven day a week, so if you have an exotic pet that needs any treatment or attention feel free to give us a call! Our number is (781) 682-4878.
This is an American woodcock, a species of bird that commonly lives in fields with tall grass or woods with plenty of shrubbery. This guy suffered head trauma after running into a window, which sadly happens a lot with woodcocks right before winter. Their migratory path takes them right through the city of Boston, and they often fail to avoid buildings in their way. He should be fine though, after a few days of medication and rest we will hopefully release him back to his migration.