In Greek mythology, Zeus is the god of the sky and ruler of the Olympian gods and is known for hurling his thunderbolt when angered. At the Exotic Bird Hospital, Zeus is a Blue and Gold Macaw, and instead of hurling thunderbolts, he drops his food on the floor, visibly delighted to watch us clean up his messes.
When visiting the clinic, most clients invariably gravitate to the large cage situated to the right of the door which is home to the impressive, colorful parrot named Zeus.
Often perched atop his cage, Zeus is always excited to greet his many visitors. In fact, Zeus will even lean forward, eager to have the feathers on top of his head stroked. Charmed by the gentle and affectionate nature of the amiable Blue and Gold Macaw, some people even fail to notice that Zeus only has one leg.
We first met Zeus on February 4, 2016 when he was brought in as an emergency, and his situation was quite dire. Housed in a cage outdoors, Zeus was the victim of a raccoon attack, and his injuries were extensive.
The doctors and staff at the clinic worked tirelessly to care for Zeus in his time of need. The field of veterinary medicine requires many skills including the ability to quickly and accurately anticipate problems and assess the best course of treatment. The severity of his injuries, including the loss of his leg during the attack, left Zeus very vulnerable to infection. The wound was so large that his right pubic bone was visible and above where his leg should have been, bone and muscle were left exposed. Zeus also suffered bruises, scratches, and abrasions on his back and chest. Bites from animals are notoriously tricky due to the bacteria that is transmitted, so doctors had to be vigilant while monitoring Zeus. The wounds had to be kept clean, and Zeus was given injections and oral medications to assist his body in the long, painful process of healing.
Throughout the lengthy ordeal that was his treatment, Zeus was always good-natured. He allowed us to wrap him in a towel several times a day, examine him, and give him medicine that we sneakily mixed with his hand feeding formula to mask the bitter taste.
Zeus never bit, even when he was in excruciating pain. It seemed as if he never complained, as if he communicated with his quiet gaze that he understood that we had his best interests at heart.
By the time his owners said they could not provide an adequate home for him, Zeus had captured the hearts of the doctors and staff. He was improving every day, and his indomitable spirit was an inspiration to us all. Soon, Zeus was eating on his own and getting around his cage incredibly well on one leg.
These days, Zeus is content to live at the clinic where he is showered with treats and attention as he sits atop his cage, crunching his pellets while anticipating his next visitor. Zeus was incredibly lucky, but sadly, what happened to him was not an isolated incident. The clinic has seen several cases of raccoon attacks in this year alone.
In the wild, birds are prey animals, and their main defense is the ability to fly. When we place our birds in cages outdoors, we remove their greatest defense, leaving them vulnerable to predators that see them as easy targets. As our pets, birds rely on us to keep them safe, so it is best to keep them indoors.
We know that mistakes like these are often the result of a lack of information, so the staff at the Exotic Bird Hospital is always here to answer any questions. Call or stop by, and if you do come to the clinic, say hi to Zeus!
Commonly referred to as “Velcro-birds,” cockatoos are some of the most sought-after parrots as pets because of their extremely affectionate nature. However, their natural tendency to cling to the object of their affection is precisely why they are also one of the most frequently rehomed parrots.
The comparison to Velcro isn’t quite adequate because Velcro doesn’t make much noise when separation occurs. At least, not when you compare it to the sound a cockatoo is capable of making.
Parrots are not known for being quiet pets, but the larger cockatoos are incredibly loud. According to the cockatoo website mytoos.com, “A 747 Jumbo Jet produces as much as 140 decibels of noise…Moluccans [a type of cockatoo] hold the record as the loudest bird on earth at 135db (average = 120db.)”
Despite their fondness for making loud noises, (and it is important to note that making noises throughout the day for various reasons is a normal part of parrot behavior), when their needs are met, cockatoos are wonderfully charming, adoring little friends. They are wholly dedicated to loving and being loved in return, which is the perfect way to describe the Exotic Bird Hospital’s Umbrella cockatoo patient named Buddy.
When we met Buddy, she was twenty-years-old, and like many Umbrella cockatoos, she was exhibiting typical hormonal behavior. It is important to mention that while hormonal behavior may initially seem minor, it can lead to enormous problems that could be costly to fix. What begins as a panting, excited cockatoo or a delicate egg on the cage bottom can eventually become a cockatoo with egg-laying issues or even a prolapse. It almost seems cruel that the very desirable traits of being cuddly and affectionate have the potential to lead to medical problems down the road, but owners of cockatoos need to be aware of this in order to avoid unintentionally encouraging dangerous hormonal behaviors. Although a cockatoo might relish being petted and cuddled, indulging in that behavior is not good for the bird. Petting should be limited to the head because petting or stroking a bird the way one might pet or stroke a dog or cat will give the bird the wrong impression as that is mating behavior in the bird world.
Another interesting fact regarding hormonal behavior with cockatoos and cockatiels is that these birds originate from Australia. Dr. Stevenson once remarked that the hormonal behavior, including excessive egg-laying, made sense in the perspective of where they originate. Australia can be an inhospitable, perilous place for our feathered friends, so for a bird, you reproduce whenever circumstances seem favorable. When these same birds are in our homes, they are always comfortable and no longer subjected to the dangers of being in the wild, but the impulse to reproduce during favorable circumstances remains.
When faced with a hormonal parrot, the first line of defense is increasing the amount of uninterrupted sleep, cutting certain warm, wet foods from the diet, possibly changing certain aspects of the diet (only after consulting your bird’s veterinarian) and/or changing things in your bird’s environment. When the aforementioned measures prove unsuccessful, it is sometimes necessary to look at other options including Lupron, which can come in a series of injections or as an implant.
Aside from exhibiting hormonal behavior when we met her, Buddy also had a 2.5 cm mass at her pelvic area. According to Buddy’s owner, the mass originally appeared approximately eight years prior to this first visit with us, when her flock sister, a Caique named Sophie, startled Buddy and caused her to fall off her perch.
The nature of the mass was uncertain. A cytology revealed cells that were consistent with a lipoma, which is a lump of fat growing in the soft tissue. Lipomas are often harmless, and Dr. Stevenson advised that weight loss might help to shrink the mass. We continued to monitor the mass and measured it each time Buddy visited the clinic. Buddy’s hormonal behavior was intense enough to require treatment with a suprelorin implant, and we also kept in close contact with Buddy’s mommy regarding her weight and hormonal behavior.
Over the next few years, the mass fluctuated in size. However, the mass came to be 3cm by 3cm without shrinking, so Dr. Stevenson and Buddy’s family discussed the mass and decided to get a better understanding of it before determining how to proceed. When Dr. Stevenson initially mentioned the possibility of surgery, Buddy’s mommy was afraid. She had been advised against surgery in the past, possibly due to the length of time the surgery might take.
The first step in trying to distinguish the nature of the mass was radiographs to get a picture of what was going on with Buddy internally. Buddy was briefly placed under anesthesia. The x-rays revealed that Buddy had an enlarged coelom, compressed air sacs, mild hyperostosis (excess growth of bony tissue) and an enlarged cardiohepatic silhoutette. According to a paper entitled ‘Radiology of Exotic Pets’ by James K Morrisey, DVM, ABVP (Avian) of Cornell University, “the liver is closely associated with the heart and forms the caudal portion of the hourglass shape called the “cardiac-hepatic waist.”
Despite the information revealed in the radiographs, which included narrowing of air sac space due to the increased soft tissue density in the coelomic cavity and a view of the soft tissue mass in the right ventral caudal area, Dr. Stevenson was unable to determine if the mass was a hernia or a lipoma. The reason this distinction is important lies in the fundamental difference of the two. A lipoma is a generally harmless lump of fat growing in tissue. However, a hernia refers to a protrusion of a tissue through the wall of the cavity in which it is supposed to be contained. In essence, a hernia is significant and can be quite problematic.
Since the radiographs were unable to completely reveal the nature of the mysterious mass, Dr. Stevenson recommended an upper GI which is when a patient is given barium, (an x-ray absorber that appears white on an x-ray) which shows differences that may not be visible on standard x-rays and is often used to detect abnormalities including tumors, ulcers, hernias, diverticula (pouches), strictures (narrowing), inflammation, etc. An UGI produces a series of images over several hours, and after reviewing the results of Buddy’s UGI, Dr. Stevenson was pleased to find that there were no intestines in the mass. The next step was scheduling surgery to remove the mass.
Jennifer Graham, head of Tufts’ Zoological Companion Animal Medicine Service talks about pets and anesthesia on the university’s website. When she spoke about exotics including birds, she said, “Because these pets weigh less than dogs and cats, “things can go bad for exotics much faster.”
The same article mentioned that anesthesia specifically with birds has what is referred to as a “golden hour,” which means that after being under anesthesia for more than one hour, risks of complications with birds are exponentially greater.
“A dog might be under anesthesia for four or five hours for an orthopedic procedure,” said Graham. “You just can’t do that with a bird and have a good outcome.”
Prior to surgery, Buddy was placed on medications to help prevent excessive bleeding. Buddy’s mommy was nervous the day she brought Buddy in for surgery, so Dr. Stevenson spoke to her at length to make sure that she understood the procedure and to try to minimize her worry.
Buddy was fasted prior to surgery, and since she had previously been anesthetized for her suprelorin implants on other visits to our clinic, Dr. Stevenson and her anesthesiologist already had an idea of how to manage Buddy’s anesthesia.
Buddy was restless on the table at first, but she soon succumbed to the anesthesia. Once Dr. Stevenson was certain that Buddy was numb, she began examining the mass. The room was nearly silent, and the anesthesiologist made small adjustments as she vigilantly watched Buddy, alert to even the smallest changes in breathing or heartrate, her own body tense as she leaned over the table and stared down at the patient.
Dr. Stevenson’s face was fixed in concentration as she began. She used an electrocautery tool, a handheld device that utilizes an electrical current to simultaneously cut and cauterize the skin. The device sounded like a mechanical, buzzing mosquito, and Dr. Stevenson moved it slowly, in a very precise manner. While she worked, her anesthesiologist occasionally stretched, her body obviously sore from holding the angled position over the table. Neither the doctor nor her anesthesiologist ever took their eyes off of the patient. Every now and then, Buddy trembled slightly, a small tremor, the movement a spark of energy from a creature whose instinct prompted her to attempt to regain control, and the anesthesia then had to be adjusted in the tiniest increments.
Dr. Stevenson worked quietly. The only sound in the room was the instrument doing its job. She stared down at her patient and lightly moved the instrument along until she was finally able to remove the tumor and separate the stubborn fibrous tissue and fat. Fortunately, intestines and the cloaca were not involved in the mass removal, so once the mass was placed in a jar, Dr. Stevenson was able to close the hernia and begin suturing the skin closed.
Once the surgery was coming to an end, an hour and 20 minutes had passed, which was 20 minutes beyond what is referred to as the “golden hour.” Buddy was soon waking up, and once she was up, she was happily chattering. Despite having incredible success with these surgeries, Dr. Stevenson credits her years of experience and the fact that together with her anesthesiologist, they keep the anesthesia on the lighter side and constantly monitor the patient, which reduces a lot of the risk with lengthier procedures.
After surgery, Buddy stayed with us for a few days so we could observe her and make sure she did not pick at her sutures. Buddy was a happy-go-lucky girl and much more energetic without her mass. Also, aside from her cute chattering, Buddy was generally pretty quiet for a cockatoo. Her mommy said this was because she socialized Buddy but did not spoil her, which prevented her from becoming too clingy.
When she saw her bird, Buddy’s mom was ecstatic. As she gathered Buddy’s belongings to go home, she said, “Dr. Stevenson saved Buddy’s life. I was so nervous, but they got it all. This has changed my life.”
Petting Buddy’s head and kissing her, her mommy said, “I no longer look at my beautiful bird and think oh no, will she die during surgery? Will there be complications? She is fine! I look at her so differently now. She’s my baby. Everyone in the house loves her; she’s the queen.”
We are always overjoyed to have such a happy ending, and we still see Buddy and the rest of her flock quite frequently. The flock is fortunate to have such a loving family, and we are so glad that we get the opportunity to have them as our patients. Having an open dialogue with your pet’s veterinarian is essential, so don’t ever hesitate to ask questions. Make sure you understand the information you are given, and we are always happy to go into detail, especially in cases where anesthesia or surgery may be involved. We hope everyone is feeling as lighthearted, happy and healthy as Miss Buddy is.
Foxes in folklore are often depicted as clever little thieves, and in some myths, it was the fox who stole fire to give to people. As foxes are becoming an animal of interest to the exotic pet trade, they are often described as the perfect combination of cat and dog traits, but this inaccurate description is already leading to devastating results for these wild animals.
Eevee’s owners never imagined their household would include a fox, but after stumbling onto a social media post where a man stated that an eight-week-old fox had to be out of his home within two days or he would simply release it outside, they were worried enough for the animal’s welfare to take a chance.
We first met Eevee and her family under extremely unfortunate circumstances. They arrived at our clinic in a state of pure panic because Eevee, still a baby fox and just over five pounds, was attacked by a large dog. Although Eevee’s owners diligently researched how to care for a fox prior to bringing her home, their research failed to prepare them for an emergency of this magnitude. Research also failed to warn them that some veterinary clinics would refuse to treat a fox.
The situation appeared very bleak, but our doctors did not hesitate to begin making every effort to save Eevee’s life. The attack was severe, and because the dog grabbed Eevee by her head, the injuries consisted of a possible dislocated jaw, visible damage to the face and skull, bleeding from her nose, and displacement of her right eyeball from its socket. To make matters worse, Eevee was coughing up blood. During her examination, the tiny fox was in shock and unable to stand. Since her injuries were so extensive, our doctors needed to build Eevee’s strength prior to performing any major diagnostic testing or radiographs.
Eevee was immediately hospitalized. She was placed on IV fluids and given medications to prevent pain and fight infection, and we also placed lubricant on her injured eye. Other than performing treatments, we limited our handling of Eevee to avoid causing her any stress in her delicate condition.
We were all relieved when Eevee finally began holding her head up, and once she seemed to be more alert, our doctors scheduled radiographs to get a better grasp on the severity of her injuries in order to determine the best course of action.
Eevee was placed under anesthesia, and the radiographs showed multiple fractures on the right temporal bone which is a bone that forms part of the side of the skull and protects the middle and inner ear. Eevee’s injuries were accompanied by soft tissue swelling on her right side. Our doctors were unable to realign Eevee’s jaw while she was briefly under anesthesia for radiographs.
Eevee’s anesthesia was uneventful, and we were all pleased when she awakened with an appetite. By this time, Eevee had regained enough strength to be taken off fluids, but the threat of infection was still present. Eevee was kept on antibiotics and pain medications. Despite her injuries, Eevee was doing quite well and eating soft food on her own even though her jaw was not properly aligned.
Since Eevee’s vision in her injured eye was permanently damaged and the eye was displaced from the socket, she would need surgery to have the eye removed. Our doctors kept in constant contact with Eevee’s worried family and explained that while performing surgery to remove the eye, we would try our best to realign Eevee’s jaw.
During this time, Eevee’s family remained cautiously optimistic. They often came to visit her and asked many questions about how to best assist in her recovery. Eevee’s family felt relieved that she was still alive and already eating on her own, especially since prior to arriving at the clinic, they feared that she might have to be euthanized due to the extent of her injuries and the possibility of brain damage.
A few days later, Eevee’s surgery took place. She was given pain medication prior to the procedure, and after she was comfortably numb, she was placed on oxygen and given anesthesia. Once Eevee was blissfully unaware of what was happening and unable to experience any pain or discomfort, her right eye was removed. Our doctors placed hemostatic gauze to prevent excessive bleeding and closed the area with monofilament absorbable sutures.
The removal of Eevee’s eye was a success. However, despite their best efforts, our doctors were unable to realign her jaw. Eevee’s owners were given a referral to a top orthopedic specialist and briefed with all the information our doctors could provide regarding what could potentially be done by the specialist to repair Eevee’s jaw.
We were all ecstatic once we could see that Eevee was well on her way to feeling much better. We still monitored her appetite and behavior because the little fox had lost weight while recovering from her life-threatening ordeal. While she was in our care, Eevee’s dedicated owners supplied us with all of her favorite foods in an effort to entice her to eat.
To lift Eevee’s spirits, we took her to play in exam rooms several times each day, watching her closely because she is very curious by nature and capable of getting into trouble if left unsupervised. We could ascertain that she was feeling much better because Eevee was soon wiggling out of our grasp when we tried to hold her or give her medicine.
Less than a week after her attack, a fox that seemed close to being lost, was finally ready to go home. Eevee’s owners were incredibly excited to take their little fox home. They referred to her as their miracle fox and happily took over giving her medications. Her family monitored her progress and made sure she maintained her weight and continued to grow. Eevee must have been pleased to be home because her appetite improved as soon as she was back in her normal surroundings enjoying cuddling and playing with her owners.
Eevee’s owners kept us updated as they followed our advice and took Eevee to the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital (UF) for a CT Scan which displayed a more detailed image than a regular X-ray. Due to the extent of her injuries, the doctors at UF were amazed that Eevee did not show signs of any neurological damage. The CT scan revealed that Eevee suffered from multiple depressed skull fractures involving her left nasal cavity, right cheek bone and upper jaw bone with some of the fragments impinging on the space in her skull where her brain was located. The injuries were so great that the specialists at UF said it was a miracle that she survived.
Since there were no signs of neurological damage, no additional surgery was recommended. We were all grateful when we received the happy news which stood in stark contrast to the somber mood that had accompanied Eevee’s first visit to our clinic. We love a happy ending, especially when it is so astounding that the word miracle seems to be the only sufficient description.
While Eevee continued to grow and quickly adjusted to seeing the world through only one eye, the difficulties associated with keeping her as a pet did not diminish. Eevee’s owners struggled with behavior issues and often sought advice, for as she grew, Eevee presented many challenges for her well-meaning owners.
Even if they are tame like Eevee, foxes still possess their wild instincts. These innate instincts often lead to behaviors we regard as undesirable such as chewing, stealing objects, digging, climbing, and marking their territory with urine that has an odor much more pungent than that of a dog or cat. Foxes are clever and need mental stimulation and are not naturally predisposed to trust humans or follow commands. Also, some foxes do not tolerate being petted and can be quite aggressive. Their housing and dietary needs are far more complex than that of a dog, and unlike a dog, a fox will not adapt to our environment; we have to adapt our environment to suit the fox.
Months after her attack, Eevee returned to board with us. During her stay, we had to keep Eevee in a kennel that was covered because the tall walls of our regular dog kennels were inadequate to house the crafty little escape artist. We loved seeing Eevee running and jumping and gorging herself on the elaborate meals her family brought for her to enjoy.
Around this time, Eevee’s owners discussed her increased aggression. We recommended spaying Eevee to hopefully decrease the frequency and intensity of some of these episodes. Eevee was fond of stealing objects, and once she absconded with something – whether it was a shoe or an expensive set of headphones – she guarded it and became hostile if her owners tried to retrieve the object. Eevee would growl in warning and sometimes would jump up and bite.
Willing to do whatever it took to make life with Eevee a little easier, her owners returned to our clinic for Eevee’s spay surgery. Eevee was given anesthesia and pain medication. Her surgery left her a bit tired and sore but otherwise fine. We instructed her owners to try to limit her activity and explained how the incision site should appear as she healed. Her owners said they would try their best to keep their little miracle fox from running and jumping but were honest about how difficult that would be.
Eevee recovered from her surgery, and despite the dog attack that nearly ended her life shortly after it began, Eevee has not developed any prejudices against dogs. In fact, aside from her owners, Eevee’s best friends are dogs.
Eevee’s owners have expressed the sentiment that research could never have prepared them for the immense amount of work it takes adapting to having a fox as a family member. Each day is a challenge, but they readily accept the difficulties because they love Eevee and want to give her the best possible life. After her incident, Eevee’s owners had to water down kibble so that she was able to chew it, but as she grew older and the use of her jaw improved, the miracle fox began to eat like a queen. When discussing her diet during one of her visits to the clinic, Eevee’s owners explained, “We buy her a whole rotisserie chicken once a week, and her sides include carrots, snap peas or green beans. Eevee loves vegetables. Cranberries are used for treats.”
Eevee has grown, and so have her needs. Her owners are in the process of seeking a larger enclosure and want people to know that foxes require an outdoor enclosure that is also escape-proof from above. Also, foxes require a lot of attention and exercise to prevent unwanted behaviors that can occur due to boredom and frustration.
Every moment of every day is an exercise in earning her trust and encouraging the formation of a strong bond through positive interactions. Despite the fact that Eevee gets along with doggie siblings, one has to be extremely cautious when an adult fox resides in a home with other pets. Foxes, like any wild animal, can be unpredictable. They are naturally inclined to be opportunistic feeders and might view smaller pets such as birds, fish, rodents, kittens, and even small breed dogs as a viable food source. A fox should never be left unsupervised with other animals. Also, it is not uncommon for adult foxes to dislike other animals without having an obvious reason for the intense, disagreeable reaction. An interesting fact is that dogs will sometimes have an unforeseen negative reaction to foxes which is probably why poor Eevee was originally attacked.
Eevee’s owners made the decision to bring her into their home because they could not abide the thought of a baby fox being abandonded to suffer alone in the harsh elements where she would have likely died. Releasing a fox into the wild is illegal and basically ensures that the fox will not survive, and introducing a tame fox into the wild may also threaten wild populations if the tame fox has any diseases. As a result of the difficulties associated with a fox’s needs and the way these animals form intense bonds, a fox is an animal that is almost impossible to rehome. With this idea in mind, bringing home a fox is a decision that should not be entered into lightly. Even after her spay surgery, Eevee continues to have bouts of aggression and is an unpredictable companion who still marks her territory. Her owners love her in spite of these negative traits, and Eevee is one of the lucky tame foxes because she now has kind and patient owners who are willing to make the many accommodations necessary to house and properly care for a fox.
This little miracle fox just might be the cutest criminal capable of stealing your heart and your shoes, but she is a pet that requires a lot of effort, kindness, patience and unconditional love. Eevee’s story is proof that love makes miracles possible. We are all grateful that she has found such a loving home, and we always enjoy seeing Eevee and her wonderful family when they visit our clinic.
If guinea pigs were given personality tests, they would score into the amiable range. These social, furry members of the rodent family are cherished by those who own them due to their docile, friendly and affectionate nature.
Guinea pigs are such little diplomats that even when angered, they often communicate it by simply chattering their teeth. If guinea pigs ruled the world, we probably wouldn’t have another war, and we would likely all benefit from having a vegetarian diet and a regular routine that allows everyone to nap more frequently. In fact, guinea pigs are so gentle and undemanding that to properly care for a guinea pig, owners have to really know and understand the behavior and body language of their pet in order to identify a potential problem.
When we see patients regularly for check-ups and trims, we often develop close relationships with both the animals and the owners. This was certainly the case with Vinnie, a guinea pig we have been seeing ever since his family moved to Palm Coast in 2014.
Aside from having a previous ear infection, Vinnie was a healthy, happy guinea pig until 2015 when he was a little over four-years-old. Vinnie developed a mass on his bottom near the base of his tail that his owners noticed was increasing in size and had swiftly grown to the size of a quarter.
Vinnie was brought into the clinic for an exam which included a physical, fecal, and CBC. Since guinea pigs are prone to anxiety and stress when their routines are disrupted, Vinnie was given anesthesia while blood was taken. His white blood cell count was high, and our doctors believed this was possibly the result of an infection in the mass. Vinnie’s owners were informed that Vinnie would need to have surgery for the mass to be removed and biopsied.
Vinnie was sent home, and his owners were given medications to help build his immune system prior to surgery. By the time our doctors performed surgery, the tumor had already grown to four centimeters, and extraction was difficult because it was attached to Vinnie’s skin and underlying tissues, leaving less skin available to close with sutures over the extraction site.
Vinnie came out of surgery a bit woozy but still sweet. After surgery, he needed to be monitored in order to ensure that he would not pick at the sutures and to make sure that he could defecate due to the location of the surgery site. Vinnie was described as sweet and overweight on all of his exam forms and patient notes at the time, and everyone enjoyed caring for Vinnie because even during uncomfortable treatments and examinations, he never lost his gentle, loving disposition.
Vinnie was sent home to heal, and we were all overjoyed when the results of the biopsy revealed that the tumor was benign which meant that he could return to being the healthy, happy guinea pig that we all knew and loved.
Life went back to normal for Vinnie. His owners kept us updated on his progress and told us that he was happy to be home with them and his bunny sister named Blackie.
However, this past September, Vinnie and his owners faced more hardships concerning his health. Vinnie’s behavior changed drastically. The once portly guinea pig’s appetite dramatically decreased, and Vinnie was now depressed and hiding instead of happily running around begging for treats.
Vinnie was brought to us immediately, and during his exam, our doctors noticed that his breathing was rapid and seemed to cause him great duress. Vinnie was hospitalized so our doctors could begin the process of identifying the cause of his sudden decline.
During hospitalization, Vinnie was given fluids and medications and was handfed four times each day to encourage him to build an appetite. He was also given anesthesia which allowed doctors to perform several tests to determine the functioning of his organs as well as radiographs to give us a picture of what was happening internally.
Diagnostics revealed that Vinnie had an enlarged heart, and his lungs were dense with either fluid or pneumonia. An ultrasound showed he was suffering from congestive heart failure, possible pneumonia and liver congestion. Vinnie’s harsh, labored breathing was particularly concerning, and as a result, he was kept in an incubator on oxygen.
Once the tests were complete, our doctors adjusted Vinnie’s medications and gave his owners the troubling diagnosis. Vinnie’s owners languished over the sad news and drove to the clinic to visit him everyday despite the long drive. They spent several sleepless nights worrying, and the situation was so dire that they even tried to mentally prepare for the worst outcome of all – a life without Vinnie. They explained that they did not want Vinnie to pass away alone in an incubator, and since we knew Vinnie very well, we were aware that he was miserable without his family.
Miraculously, within the next few days, Vinnie began to display a glimmer of his former self. He started to show an interest in the hand-feeding formula and exhibited a little more resistance to some of the treatments in his own passive, sweet way. His breathing improved, and his heart rate steadied. It seemed that the dedication of his family was strengthening Vinnie’s resolve to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds.
Once it was apparent that Vinnie was not ready to give up, his family was determined to bring him home. Despite the fact that it was likely that he would need to remain on oxygen indefinitely, Vinnie was homeward bound. As if he sensed that his time at the clinic was coming to an end, Vinnie perked up, and we were reintroduced to the once happy guinea pig we all loved. We didn’t take it personally. We knew that no matter how much we all loved Vinnie, we were an inadequate substitute for his family.
Vinnie’s caring owners built an oxygen tank for him and rented an oxygen concentrator by the month so he could receive a steady air flow while at home. They took over the treatments that we had performed at the clinic including hand-feeding Vinnie, giving him his medications, and placing him in his oxygen tank each evening.
Within a few months, Vinnie regained his appetite. We are relieved and incredibly happy to report that he no longer needs to be on oxygen. Although he will need to remain on medication, his family feels it is a small price to pay for additional time with their beloved furry family member. Since his appetite has been restored, Vinnie now stands on his hind legs and squeals in anticipation of his favorite foods which are mixed greens, parsley, kale, cucumber, carrots and sometimes apple, blueberries, pears and oranges.
When he is not eating or spending time with his family, Vinnie can be found peacefully napping while awaiting his next playtime or treat. In celebration of his miraculous recovery, Vinnie’s owners built him a large mansion. Like the Jeffersons sitcom from the 70’s, Vinnie is moving on up, and he just celebrated Christmas with his family.
Vinnie’s story is a testament to the healing power of love. If Vinnie’s owners had been less attentive and less determined, this story may not have had such a happy ending.
Small mammals like Vinnie and his bunny sister Blackie have a lot of needs including a spacious cage or enclosure that is regularly cleaned and a special diet including grass hay, fresh greens, fruits and vegetables and a small amount of pellets. These small, somewhat delicate mammals need gentle, careful handling. Vinnie’s owners are a good example of how a little creativity can go a long way in providing enrichment whether it is by designing a living space or even making toys. Also, as Vinnie’s story proves, routine preventative care is essential for ensuring long-term health. These good-natured, social pets thrive in loving homes full of enrichment, attention and good nutrition. Vinnie is a lucky little guinea pig, and for Vinnie, the old saying “Home is where the heart is” is certainly true.
Birds of a feather flock together, but not all birds in a flock are destined to become best friends. Birds are complex, sensitive and intelligent individuals with behaviors that are often influenced by the strategies they have developed to ensure their survival.
In the wild, a bird’s flock is an important source of safety and security. Birds carefully select a mate and form bonds so strong that the bird world is devoid of divorce attorneys. Nice, right?
Not all flocks are created equal, and research has shown that some species favor diversity while others prefer to remain segregated. For instance, Macaws and Amazons often peacefully coexist in the same flock while African Grey parrots live in a single-species flock. This is not because the African Grey parrots are prejudiced against other parrots; it is because being in a flock where everyone looks the same allows for safer foraging while on the ground. It is more difficult for predators to single out a victim when the birds all blend together.
In the wild, fights do occur, however, the fight or flight impulse typically results in one of the squabbling parrots taking the high road and avoiding the confrontation by flying away from it.
In our homes, our birds have less options. Therefore, bird on bird crime does happen, and when it does, the results can be devastating. Our patient Jambo, a charming 10-year-old Congo African Grey, was recently a victim of bird on bird crime.
They say curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity is not a trait that is limited to our feline friends. Jambo was out of his cage exploring his surroundings when curiosity got the best of him and led him to the cage of another bird in his household.
The other bird viewed Jambo’s uninvited arrival as the birdie equivalent of breaking and entering and decided to defend his home by attacking Jambo’s foot.
When Jambo was brought to our clinic, he had multiple puncture wounds on his right foot and a couple of his nails were missing. Our doctors were concerned because there was significant swelling accompanying his injuries. Poor Jambo was also clearly in pain and growled while being examined.
Jambo was immediately hospitalized and given injections along with medications to prevent pain and fight infection. We also gave Jambo hand-feeding formula which was the part of his treatment that he enjoyed.
Our doctors and staff kept a close watch on Jambo, and within a few days it was apparent that although the bruising of his toes was less substantial, one of his toes was very fleshy, and he was not moving it. A Complete Blood Count (CBC), which is a blood test that measures components in the blood like oxygen-carrying red blood cells and infection-battling white blood cells, was performed, and the test revealed that Jambo’s white blood cells were elevated, indicating the presence of an infection. We kept his foot clean, applied antibiotic ointment to his wounds and gave him medications to fight the infection and ease his discomfort, but upon examination, our doctors discovered that the toe had no blood supply. Little Jambo’s toe would have to be amputated.
Once our doctors informed Jambo’s worried owners about their findings, his owners agreed that his continued recovery was worth the loss of his toe. Jambo was taken into surgery and given anesthesia which allowed him to be completely unaware during the procedure. Once the toe was removed and sutures were in place, a groggy and slightly grumpy Jambo woke up with a bandage on his foot. Jambo was given post-op pain medications, and the toe that was removed was cultured along with his crop and cloaca. Part of Jambo’s toe was sent off for histopathology to determine if it was the source of his elevated white blood cell count. Jambo’s owners were given constant updates and were relieved that everything went so well.
Despite the success of the surgery, Jambo was not out of the woods yet. Jambo still had to be monitored because he continued to be at risk for infection. Another CBC was performed, and the test indicated that Jambo’s white blood cells were indeed elevated which signified that an infection was still present.
Our doctors were able to modify Jambo’s medications, and soon we all began to see improvement. Jambo became less sensitive using his foot, and he even started talking to us! (Earlier in his treatment, Jambo was giving us the silent treatment.)
Throughout his ordeal, Jambo’s concerned owners looked forward to the day they could take him home, but they did confess that they were reluctant to try to give him medications because he could be difficult at times. Once we were aware of the fact that handling Jambo was sometimes a challenge, we worked with Jambo to teach him to politely step up onto a towel. We also mixed Jambo’s medications in his hand feeding formula to make giving medications easier for his owners at home.
Once Jambo’s infection was under control, we were introduced to a lively, happy parrot. We are pleased to report that although Jambo lost a toe, he did not lose his charming personality or his rhythm. One of Jambo’s favorite activities is dancing!
Jambo is now at home with his family, and since he is easier for them to handle, they are enjoying a closer relationship with the delightful parrot. What happened to Jambo was a terrible accident, but sadly, it happens quite frequently.
In multiple parrot households, it is necessary that when parrots are allowed out of the cage, constant supervision is a must to prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring. Many parrots seem to go looking for trouble the moment our backs are turned, so owners must be incredibly vigilant. In one of our recent cases, a small parrot inflicted terrible injuries on a much larger parrot, so size does not always determine the outcome of an attack. We also want to mention that some parrots have Houdini-like escape abilities, so even parrots safely in their cages sometimes manage to escape and get into trouble. Make sure all cages are secure, and when out of the cage, always supervise your feathered friends. Also, some birds are quite territorial about their cages which is why toes are so often attacked. Even if you only have one bird, your bird is capable of getting into plenty of solitary trouble, and for multiple bird homes, remember that not every bird is destined to be friends with other birds in the household.
Jambo survived his attack because his caring owners acted immediately. If his owners had decided to just wait and see, it is likely that Jambo would have succumbed to the infection.
In a perfect world, we would never have to deal with accidents, but we all know accidents do sometimes happen. Our doctors and staff are always here to help, so don’t hesitate to call us if you ever need us. Also, if your bird happens to be a bit difficult to handle, we are always happy to offer advice and assist with behavior modification. We always want the best for you and your pets!
If iguanas became real estate moguls, they would seek water-front property in tropical and subtropical locations that are warm and humid with pools, plenty of vegetation, and an abundance of trees with sturdy branches for lounging.
If a real estate agent failed to find adequate properties, an iguana may react by giving the individual a thrashing with its tail.
This may make an iguana seem unreasonable or demanding, but for an iguana, the right environment is often a matter of life and death.
As pet iguanas gain popularity and become more widely available here in the U.S., with many pet stores now stocking their aquariums with cute baby iguanas sprawled across logs, people are smitten with the tiny reptiles and taking them home, sometimes without realizing that maintaining the health of an iguana is quite a difficult prospect.
Our patient Tia is less than a year old, and her health was rapidly deteriorating due to her substantial environmental and nutritional needs not being met. Tia’s owners brought her in for an exam and expressed concern that she had not eaten in a few days.
It was immediately apparent to our doctors that Tia was lethargic and dehydrated. The little iguana was thin and anorexic and was already experiencing muscle atrophy. Only slightly larger than the palm of our hands, Tia would just sit there, unable to muster the energy to move even while we examined her.
Tia was immediately hospitalized and given fluids along with calcium and a special herbivore hand-feeding formula through a small syringe. Tia’s environment was monitored constantly. Throughout the day and into the evening, we would diligently check the temperature and humidity of Tia’s surroundings, often misting her area. We also soaked Tia twice a day and took her outside to enjoy natural sunlight. Along with hand-feeding the formula, we chopped an abundance of leafy greens, vegetables, and small amounts of fruit in pieces tiny enough for her to swallow whole and fed Tia by hand to encourage her to develop an appetite.
Tia’s road to recovery has been assisted by our caring staff, and we are pleased to report that Tia has responded favorably to treatment. She has already gained weight and is eating on her own. Tia is now energetic, exploring her surroundings and splashing around in the water during her daily baths.
Tia is now ready to embark on the next part of her journey. With proper care, Tia will continue to grow and will eventually reach a length of five to six feet and should have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
As she grows, Tia will inevitably outgrow her current enclosure. Baby iguanas do well in small aquariums where food and water is easily located. However, as they grow, iguanas need large enclosures with branches and rocks for climbing, logs and artificial plants for hiding, and fresh water in containers large enough for soaking and to naturally increase the humidity in the environment.
To ensure proper digestion and a strong immune system, Tia’s enclosure will need to have temperature ranges that allow her to select warmer or cooler areas, and the humidity will need to be maintained at 60 to 80 percent. She will also need a full spectrum UV light source for normal absorption of dietary calcium.
Another important fact to mention is that Tia will need to be housed alone because iguanas are solitary creatures. Housing multiple iguanas in the same enclosure can lead to domestic disputes and sometimes even assault and battery!
As you can see from Tia’s story, in order to thrive in captivity, iguanas need their natural environment replicated, and when we fail to do so, an iguana’s health will inevitably be compromised. Despite the difficulties involved in keeping iguanas, they are one of the most enjoyable reptiles to own. Over time, iguanas can become friendly and affectionate, and they do recognize their caretakers. We even see iguanas that come into the clinic dressed in funny outfits! Iguanas can lead enjoyable lives in captivity if their owners fulfill their needs, and as a result, iguanas and their owners can enjoy the many benefits of the bond they establish.
For more information on the proper care of pet iguanas, be sure to check out our app where we have an Exotic Pets Library full of care instructions on the variety of animals we see here at the clinic. If you have an iguana, our doctors and staff are always happy to answer any questions, and scheduling a physical exam is a great and inexpensive way to determine your pet’s overall health and make any changes necessary to prevent a future emergency.