This little coyote pup was brought to the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital ER overnight after a kind stranger picked him up out of a drainage ditch. He was very thin, dehydrated, and so weak that instead of walking when prompted, he could only army crawl to try and get away. As part of the initial stabilization, an intravenous catheter was placed so that we could efficiently provide fluid support. There were no other obvious problems noted on the physical exam but his blood analysis indicated that his body was mounting an inflammatory response to something. Without an external source of inflammation, we focused our attention inward and performed one of the simplest tests we can—a fecal exam. The results were astounding. This animal could be the poster child for gastrointestinal parasites—hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms—you name it, he had it. (The image below was taken from our microscope; it shows a whipworm egg—one of thousands we saw on the fecal exam before treatment.)
We started treatment for the parasites as soon as the pup was hydrated, and within two days, he had chewed out his catheter (not ideal, but a good sign that he was feeling much better!), he was eating, and even walking short distances in the cage. To be thorough, the students and staff performed additional diagnostic tests, but no other abnormalities were found.
With wildlife medicine, it’s a dangerous thing to proclaim that a patient is out of the woods because we can never really know for sure, but we’re all feeling pretty optimistic about this guy. With any luck, he’ll be on his way to the rehabilitator* within the next couple of weeks to finish growing, become stronger, and prepare for a life in the wild.
Coyotes typically give birth in the spring and the pups will stay with the parents throughout the summer learning to hunt and find food. Usually by the fall, the young animals are self-sufficient and able to survive on their own. The pup in our care is probably 14-16 weeks old and not yet ready to be independent. Luckily, coyotes (like most wild animals) are smart and instinctual, and with some time at the rehabilitation center, he should be able to fine tune the skills he needs to survive.
*The Wildlife Medical Clinic is a hospital for wild animals; we examine, stabilize, and treat injured and sick animals but we do not have the large, outdoor enclosures necessary for long-term care. Therefore, once an animal’s injuries have been managed and it is healthy and stable, we transfer it to a licensed rehabilitator for pre-release conditioning.