Here you can see our resident Wild Things Playgroup, which is a program for preschoolers featuring music, games, and of course wildlife tours. In this photo they are observing an opossum about to be fed by one of our technicians in Quiet Baby ward.
Rodenticide is the commercial name for rat poison, and it is an issue that we have to deal with fairly commonly here at NEWC. Interestingly enough however, we almost never treat rats that have ingested rat poison. Hawks are by far the most common animals that we treat suffering from rodenticide toxicity. This is due to the fact that rats tend to hide themselves very well, so those that do get poisoned rarely reach us, and due to rats being a common food item for many species of hawk. The hawks will eat the rats that have just ingested the poison, and it will transfer into their system through the digestive process.
The reason this type of poison works so well on rats is that rats are very good at telling when they are eating something dangerous. They will eat small amounts of a certain type of food and then wait to see if it makes them sick before continuing. Rat poison is odorless, tasteless, and generally takes over a week to start affecting the rat, meaning they never have a chance to associate its effects with the food they ingested, and they will not stop eating the poison.
Rat poison works by preventing the production of vitamin K, which is necessary for the creation of essential blood-clotting factors (primarily prothrombin and proconvertin). The toxin also causes damage to the capillary system (small blood vessels) which causes internal bleeding. The combination of wide-spread internal bleeding and a lack of clotting factors to stop it usually leads to death after a few weeks.
Treatment for rat poisoning is fairly straightforward, although it is very important to correctly identify the issue early and begin treatment as soon as possible. The most effective solution is to give daily doses of injected vitamin K, which we keep on hand in our hospital. The poison works by preventing the creation of vitamin K, so by providing a daily dose of it we completely negate its effects. Rodenticide usually takes about two weeks to leave the body naturally, and so two weeks of vitamin K therapy is generally enough to ensure our patients will recover well.
We are extremely excited here at NEWC to welcome the newest member of our team, Dr. Lisa Trout. An exceptional veterinarian who graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in May of 2013, Dr. Trout will be joining Dr. Mertz and Dr. Adamski in our Odd Pet Vet service, which will now offer appointments 7 days a week.
Dr. Trout is originally from Pennsylvania, and earned her BS in Small Animal Science from Delaware Valley College. She has a very diverse background, having worked in both farm animal medicine and small animal emergency and intensive care. Additionally, she has already volunteered her time with us at the Center learning from Dr. Mertz and Dr. Adamski about exotic pet medicine and wildlife medical care. We have gotten to know her both as a veterinarian and as a person over the last few months she has spent time with us, and we are truly glad she chose to accept the position as one of our official veterinarians.
In her free time, Dr. Trout will kick back with a good book, head out for a hike, or bake (especially Pennsylvania Dutch recipes).
Here’s a video of one of our new tiny opossum babies being fed. It can take quite a long time just to get a few milliliters worth of fluid into one baby, as if we go too fast we could cause the opossum to aspirate, or in other words to get liquid into their respiratory system. This leads to a high risk of pneumonia, not to mention being a very uncomfortable immediate experience for the baby.
This is a short video of a surgery we had recently. One of our raccoons developed an abscess in his neck. An abscess is an accumulation of pus within the body that is generally surrounded by inflamed tissue. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection, which can result from as little as a tiny cut. Normally this is an easy fix, as we keep close track of all our animals, and with regular wound care it would have been healed in a matter of weeks. We cleaned the wound, removed all the dead tissue and pus, applied antibiotic ointment, and bandaged the area. Raccoons are very intelligent and curious however, and although we did the procedure under anesthesia, as soon as he woke up he would pull the wrapping off to see what was underneath. The surgery in this short video clip shows our solution to this dilemma. Dr. Adamski cleaned the wound again, made sure it was on track to heal well naturally, and used surgical staples to close the skin over the cleaned and treated abscess. This should now allow the wound to heal without interruption.
An animal’s blood contains an incredible amount of information if you know how to look. You can find signs of infection, or signs of an infection that occurred in the past. You can discover whether an animal has had enough to eat, if it is missing a specific type of vitamin or mineral, or if it has had too much of the same. These are among the vast array of conditions that can be effectively diagnosed by examining an animals blood. Most of the more complicated tests are very expensive and require specialized machinery and testing supplies. In order to make the process more efficient, most veterinarians send out their blood samples to a lab that specializes in these tests and that can quickly and efficiently get all the pertinent results.
There are a few specific tests that we like to do in-house however, for a good first impression of some of the more critical aspects of an animals health. This helps us assess their state as stable or critical, and can make it easier to create an accurate and effective treatment plan. The four values we tend to look at for almost every animal are blood glucose, total protein, hematocrit, and buffy coat.
While not as exhaustive as the more complicated tests, these tend to give a basic picture of an animal’s state of health. Blood glucose is a general way of measuring how much nourishment an animal has received in the recent past. If they have had steady meals for a day or two before the test then the levels should be normal. If low, it implies the animal has not gotten enough food recently, and if high it implies the animal is stressed. Total protein is a measure that we use in a similar fashion, although not quite the same. If the total protein is low then it is likely that the animal has been deprived of nutrition for an extended period of time and is malnourished. High total protein levels on the other hand indicate the presence of inflammation, and makes it likely that there is an infection present.
Hematocrit refers to the percentage of actual red blood cells in relation to the amount of plasma, mostly water, that makes up what we see as blood. There is generally a larger amount of water than actual red blood cells, but if there is even more plasma than normal (a low hematocrit value) then it implies that the animal is having trouble producing blood cells or they are being destroyed by something. This can be due to a variety of factors, including lead poisoning and hematoparasites. A high hematocrit value means that there is not enough water in the blood, and suggests that the animal is dehydrated. Finally, the buffy coat can be roughly described as an indicator of the amount of white blood cells present at the time the blood was drawn. A higher than normal value for this means that there could be an infection.
These are all general values, and while they are useful to observe they cannot conclusively identify an issue without other symptoms being taken into account or more exhaustive testing done. They are easy to get for most animals we get in however, and can be very useful for identifying a large number of common problems.
Here you can see a video of our raccoon painting enrichment. They dip their hands in the paint and walk around on the paper we have laid down. We make the paint personally, it’s a mixture of edible food dye, flour, and water, so it is completely safe for the animals to handle. Raccoons are very intelligent with an excellent sense of touch. We make sure our raccoons get novel items and phenomena to explore and investigate as much as possible. Activities like this help them develop their touch sense as well as helping them exercise their minds. We give them regular enrichment to help them learn to effectively explore their surroundings.
Hi everyone, as you know we are gearing up for Tater Day on June 14th and we are trying to find as many potatoes as we possibly can for all the games and events that we are planning. If anyone has any extras or wants to donate some normal or sweet potatoes we would really appreciate it. Thanks so much!
Please join us for our first annual Tater Day on the 14th of June. There will be games, music, food, and potatoes everywhere! Check out this flyer for more information, and call us if there’s still any questions you need answered. We hope to see you all there!
We recently admitted a very young great horned owl to our hospital. He came to us in perfect health after being found wandering around by a concerned passerby. Most likely he fell out of his nest, then went searching for food and ended up on a sidewalk where he wasn’t supposed to be. Regardless, it was very nice to find out that he was healthy. When we admit a healthy baby orphan there are generally two options. The first, and this is the less preferable one, is that we raise them at NEWC until they reach an age where they are able to fend for themselves in the wild. This can often be quite late, for example this owl would likely not be ready for release for several months at least. The downside to this is primarily that the animal will not be raised in an ideal environment. Parents often shows their babies basic skills such as hunting, foraging, or hiding depending on the species in question, and animals raised with humans often become too used to us despite our best efforts and become more prone to wandering into humans that they find once they have been released. This is very dangerous for them. Unless there is some pressing danger in the environment that prevents the animal from having a good chance for natural survival it is much preferable to allow wild animals to be raised in the wild by their own species.
This leads to the second option we have with healthy wild babies, and this is the option we prefer when it is possible. We can foster them out to a different family of wild animals of the same species. This does not work for every animal, and indeed can often be dangerous if it is a member of a species that is selective about how they care for their young. Great horned owls, fortunately, tend to raise their young without paying too much attention to specific individuals. If the babies are all the same size and are all healthy the parents won’t notice an extra owl being placed into the nest while they are away. We are moving our baby great horned owl today to a special facility that keeps a list of local known nests belonging to birds of prey, and our baby will be fostered into one of those with appropriately aged young. This will allow him to have as natural an upbringing as possible with no chance of being imprinted upon or becoming too familiar with humans.
Although it is often exciting to have interesting animals such as owls here at NEWC, we are very happy that we were able to arrange for him to go back to the wild this quickly. It is always better for wildlife to be in the wild whenever possible.
Raccoons are wonderful, intelligent, and adaptable animals. Here at New England Wildlife Center we have adopted them as our animal mascot, because we believe that they symbolize many of the characteristics we strive to embody. They are curious, hands-on animals that are constantly exploring their environment to learn more about it. They are creative and adaptable, able to eat pretty much anything they find in order to survive, as well as being able to live in almost every type of habitat imaginable. They exist in swamps, cities, forests, marshes, and many other ecosystems in between. We treat quite a lot of raccoons every year, and the majority of them come to us as small babies.
When treating a baby raccoon, there are four very important things to keep in mind. The first is the frequency that they need to be fed. We start by feeding babies as much as 8 times a day if they are very young, and feeding at regular intervals is very important for their digestion.
The second is hydration levels. Baby animals need to be kept around a certain level of hydration, which is usually taken care of due to the fact that the formula we feed them contains a large percentage of water. What is often a problem is too much hydration. Babies can get diarrhea easily, and feeding too often with too much water is one of the easiest ways to give them loose stool. A balance needs to be struck between over and under hydration.
The third thing to keep in mind is the need for genital stimulation when their eyes are closed. In the wild, their mothers lick their genital area in order to stimulate the babies to urinate and defecate. We need to wipe the area with a warm wet cloth after every feeding, or their waste builds up in their intestines and can lead to some nasty problems.
Finally, it is very important to keep the babies warm. Young animals have very little tolerance for the cold, and succumb to hypothermia much more easily than adults. The cold can also hurt the function of their immune and digestive systems. We keep heating pads under our baby raccoon cages at all times until they reach a more adolescent stage. Like hydration however, it is important to remember balance. The heating pad is always set on low and we keep an area of the cage off the pad so that the babies can self-regulate their temperature by moving to that area if they get too hot for some reason.
Soon enough these babies, like those we have raised in the past, will be living on their own in our large outdoor enclosure and be ready for release. For now however, we will care for them diligently and make sure that every aspect of their health is taken care of. We do love wild raccoons!
I have exciting news! Get your planners out, because on Saturday June 14th we’re having an awesome event here at NEWC, our first annual Tater Day celebration! Here’s a flyer with some more details, but I can tell you there will be fun activities (like potato sack races), delicious food (french fries or potato pancakes anyone?), and really fun science projects (so many uses for potato batteries!) everywhere you go. We hope to see you there!
It’s springtime now, and for NEWC that means it’s time to start raising baby animals. We see a lot of squirrels, opossums, robins, grackles, and raccoons, but right now we have two rarer patients that we’re very excited about. These two are red foxes. They have had a pretty rough start, but now that they’re with us we’ll make sure that they get a second chance for health and happiness out in the wild.
Their story actually starts with a couple named Amy and Fred Carlsen. They were out walking their daughter’s dogs on March 15th when one of the dogs, Meeka, smelled something interesting behind a chain-link fence. When Amy and Fred went over, they found three dead fox pups outside of a den with two baby foxes still alive inside. One of them came out to bark, but the other was quiet and stayed mostly hidden.
Fred and Amy left some dried dog food for the pups, but they were still worried about their safety due to the fact that three of them had already died. They called Brockton Animal Control and Megan Hanrahan, an amazing ACO who has brought an incredible amount of rescued wildlife to us at NEWC, came to investigate. Megan had found a dead adult fox hit by a car in the area shortly before this, and so she knew that the pups needed to be taken care of. When she arrived at the den, she was only able to recover one pup, and assumed that the second had unfortunately already passed away like the original three.
Just in case, Megan left safe and humane traps with food and water around the area to see if the second fox could be found. Foxes are social animals, and need to be raised with others close to their age. It was very important to find the second fox both for its sake and for the fox she had already rescued.
After several days with no results, Animal Control pulled the traps as it looked pretty hopeless for the last baby. The Carlsens were still invested though, and they wanted to be absolutely sure. They took pictures inside of the den to see if they could get any sign of the last fox, and amazingly he was actually in there, huddled into a back corner hiding from the world.
Amy and Fred immediately called Animal Control, and Megan came right over with a freshly baited trap. She asked the Carlsens to check the trap in a few hours and to call her if there were any results. When they came back to see, the fox was in the trap! He had gotten hungry enough that fresh food right by the entrance to his den overcame his fear. Amy and Fred called Megan right away, and she came over immediately to get the fox. He was brought to us at NEWC the very next morning.
Now the foxes are both with us, and are receiving medical treatment for their roundworms. They are both eating well and are looking great, and should grow up just fine.
We’re very grateful for the effort Amy, Fred, and Megan all put into this rescue mission, and we’re thankful that it worked out so well in the end. It’s always wonderful when orphaned wildlife get a happy ending!
This is a Pleosaurus that Dr. Mertz recently saw in Odd Pet Vet. She’s just a baby, and was here for her first check-up. After some basic tests, Dr. Mertz gave her a clean bill of health, and she was ready to go home. Pleosauri are originally from the cretaceous period, and are herbivorous animals.
One of the many hats that Dr. Mertz wears is that of the Cold Blooded Vet. This is a well-deserved title, and comes from the fact that he sees an incredible number of reptile patients every year. A popular type of reptile pet is the boid family, encompassing boas and pythons. The picture below is of one of the boas that came in recently with a relatively common problem called blister disease.
Blister disease, also known as vesicular dermatitis, is an infection common to boids that exhibits as blistering and lesioning of the skin. It is quite painful, and also commonly fatal without treatment. It is caused by the snake lying in its own urine in a warm environment. It takes only 24-48 hours to occur, so pet snakes need to be handled or at least carefully observed daily to ensure that their habitat is healthy and safe.
Treatment for blister disease is a course of systematic antibiotics for 45-60 days and water therapy, which means running water over the snake for at least five minutes a day. Salves, ointments, and creams are all ineffectual and slow treatment. It takes three to four sheds over the course of about five months to see even partial healing. Like many snake diseases, this is preventable with proper husbandry. It is incredibly important for reptile owners to be aware of their snake’s environment and be regularly checking to make sure nothing has gone wrong.
This is a really incredible video that one of our former interns named Christine Dwyer made about the Center while she worked here. It’s especially amazing because she didn’t get any help from us, she did it on her own and then showed us afterwards. Quite a talent!
Recently we had a cedar waxwing come to us with no particularly terrible condition other than the fact that he was cold. Many cedar waxwings migrate south for the winter, although like most species of songbirds there is always a small percent that choose to stay behind. They are specialized fruit eating birds, and even during the winter they can find sugary food primarily in the form of juniper berries. Despite the fact that winter is survivable for these birds, it is still not particularly pleasant. The cold is just as unfortunate for a bird as it is for us
Unlike most of the other cedar waxwings that try to stay warm in their nests, this little bird had a plan. A local woman woke up one morning to find that he had taken up residence inside of her car. It was enclosed, warmer than the outside, and sheltered from wind. She tried to get him to leave, but when he refused she fed him and gave him water instead. It seemed impractical to have the bird live out the winter in her car however, so she brought him to us, where he will be able to stay even warmer until we release him for the early spring.
Here he gets free food and a warm bed, so I guess he outsmarted the ones who decided to fly all the way down South!
Baby season is coming, and we are getting prepared here at NEWC! Last season Vicki Croke from WBUR did a piece on our Center and the beginning of the wildlife baby boom, here is the video if you’re interested in hearing more about this time of year from a wildlife veterinarian’s perspective.
Today New England Wildlife Center staff worked with our volunteer audio engineers and webmaster to create an animated version of “A guide Dog: NEWC’s manual to creating a successful online presence for dog shelters”. It is our goal to share with dog shelters and other small nonprofits our steps and miss steps in developing a successful virtual presence. The audio slide presentation of “The Guide Dog” will be available online at the Center’s website, newildlife.org at the end of March. For more information, or for a hard copy of the manual, please contact Katrina at 781-682-4878 x 122.
The image in this post is of a bearded dragon’s feces sample that is being examined under a microscope. The objects that are in focus are not normal. They are crystals that are formed when salt and sugar are precipitated out of the feces sample due to a lack of water, and are an indicator of dehydration.
A second noticeable issue that arises from dehydration is the occurrence of stones in the urine. Urine is the body’s way of getting rid of harmful nitrogenous waste that is a normal byproduct of the body’s everyday functions. Normally, it has quite a lot of water in it, as that dissolves the nitrogenous material and safely carries it out of the body. Reptiles that are dehydrated, however, can’t spare the extra water to produce normal urine. The body keeps as much water as possible, and as a result solid material precipitates out of the urine and forms small stones.
Sometimes, in severe cases, the stones can become large enough to actually block the opening of the cloaca, which is the point at which all waste leaves the bodies of reptiles. This can lead to many other problems.
Reptile hydration is extremely important, and can often be neglected by well-meaning pet owners. It is a good idea to soak your reptiles in warm water baths regularly to help them remain healthy.