This is a photo of Dr. Mertz administering medication to a Sulcata tortoise in Odd Pet Vet. This little guy tested positive for parasites on his fecal exam, so he is currently receiving Fenbendazole, which is an excellent anti-parasitic. It’s often difficult to make turtles take their medicine, so in order to make sure that he gets better Dr. Mertz has been tubing it down the esophagus, as you can see here. The issue is completely treatable, and he should be feeling much better soon.
This is a Canada Goose that was admitted to NEWC suffering from hypothermia and malnutrition, like many of the other animals with us at the moment. Fortunately this guy’s condition wasn’t awful, so with some time to rest, plenty of food, and constant warmth, he was ready for release. We found him a nice spot with open water and some other geese already in the area
Photo Credit Courtney Sepeck
Storm Update – The Merganser shown in this video made it back to the wild. He was joined by a Bufflehead Duck. Thanks for helping them! A lot of the sea birds did not fare as well – they were so emaciated. Our hospital is still full with owls, hawks, geese, swans and some of nature’s “fur kids” (a squirrel, a bat and a meadow vole). Come on by and see us, we bake chocolate chip cookies everyday. Please also check out the front page of today’s Boston Globe. Bella English wrote an article about wildlife in need of help this winter. The Center’s patients debut on the front page. The pictures are phenomenal. John Tlamuck is an amazing photographer. If you missed it, you can also see it online at the Boston Globe’s homepage.
Hi everyone, thank you again so so much for all the donations, supplies, and volunteer hours. You are all absolutely amazing smile emoticon I have another blizzard story for you today; this poor little guy was actually found stuck inside of a snow drift. He is very malnourished, suffers from a wing injury, hypothermia, and also a respiratory issue. Fortunately, we were able to stabilize him when he came in, and his condition is no longer critical. We used a combination of a splint for his wing, heat, fluids, and specially formulated emergency care diet for the malnutrition and hypothermia, and finally oxygen therapy for the respiratory issues. Oxygen therapy is the process that you can see in this photo, where the patient is put inside of a glass box and oxygen is pumped in to make an environment with a higher O2 percentage than normal, making it easier to breath. He’s still in rough shape, but he’s doing better, and we’re going to continue doing everything we can for him.
This is a Gray Catbird that was recently attacked by a cat. Catbirds get their name from their call, which has a wailing quality similar to a cat’s yowl. They can be found across almost the entirety of the United States, as well as through parts of South America. Their diet consists of mostly insects and berries. Cat bites are particularly problematic for birds due to the bacteria Pasteurella which is found in cat saliva. It is often lethal within just a few days of the injury. Fortunately, this guy got to us in time, and after being on a strong antibiotic for a week now we’re confident that he should be able to finish his course of medication and be released back to the wild soon. Here you can see him in the middle of receiving his morning treatment.
This is a Russian Tortoise that is one of a group of pet tortoises that were brought in for expert care from our veterinary team. They are suffering from a fairly severe parasitic infection, and are currently on de-worming medication, which has been helping them recover. In the meantime though, they are too lethargic to eat well on their own, so they are being assist fed specially formulated diets for malnourished herbivores, as you can see pictured here.
This Common Murre is a coastal seabird that was blown inland by the recent storm. He was dehydrated, malnourished, and generally lethargic. Common Murres spend most of their lives at sea, returning to the coast for breeding season each year. They are found on both the northeast and northwest coasts of North America. They are diving birds, able to swim effectively through the water and catch prey such as fish, shrimp, and squid. Fortunately this guy came to us before his condition became too critical, and with a solid regimen of warmth, nutritional support, and enrichment he is well on his way to being fit for release already.
Winter is always a tough time of year for local wildlife, and we are proud to have a dedicated, fully qualified veterinary staff able to give them expert medical attention every day. We are also glad to offer that same expert care to anyone who schedules an appointment with us for their pets, or uses our boarding service
This is a Big Brown Bat, native to North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. They are generally about 5 inches long, nocturnal, and eat a diet of flying insects. They hunt using a technique called echolocation, where they make noises that actually bounce off objects in front of them, and can then be used by the bats upon being reflected to make an image of their surroundings. Big Brown Bats also hibernate during the winter, which this guy had a problem with. He was found active in someone’s home, probably after beginning hibernation somewhere indoors and then being disturbed by all the activity. He’s healthy, and is just going to be staying with us until it warms up enough for him to be flying around outside again.
This is a Common Eider, a duck that lives off the coast of the upper half of North America. They feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, such as sea urchins and mollusks. The females are less colorful than the males, with a general brown coloration and black banding. This guy came in weak and lethargic, but is already responding well to treatment, and should hopefully be releasable soon.
Many of you probably remember the story that we shared recently about a Red Tailed Hawk that died from Rodenticide poisoning. It is unfortunately a common issue for us at New England Wildlife Center, with some hawks surviving and some not. Whether we can successfully treat the poison or not is impacted by numerous factors, including how quickly the animal comes to us after exposure and how much poison was ingested. Today I wanted to share some happy news, which is that we are currently successfully treating two poisoned Red Tailed Hawks at NEWC, one of which you can see here receiving subcutaneous fluids. Both hawks are stable, eating well, and are on track to make full recoveries.
This is a Teddy Bear hamster that came in for a check-up recently to Odd Pet Vet. The ancestors of today’s pet hamsters originated in Asia, mostly in areas around Syria, Russia, and Mongolia. They love to hoard food, keeping it generally both in underground storage chambers and in their own large cheek pouches. A full cheek pouch can as much as triple a hamster’s head in size!
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.