Dehydration in our Wildlife Patients

Most of the patients we see in the Wildlife Medical Clinic are suffering from a common abnormality in addition to any illness or injury they have: dehydration. While dehydration might not sound that harmful, it can actually be a significant contributor to an animal’s poor prognosis. One of the many reasons we must address dehydration quickly is because a patient’s hydration can affect whether they absorb medications and nutrients from their digestive tract. This means that we must rehydrate a patient before expecting them to eat food or take medications orally. There are many ways we can address a fluid deficit, but all involve careful calculation and planning.

A skin tent is one of the ways we can examine a patient’s dehydration. Here you can see a volunteer is gently lifting the patient’s skin. They will release the skin and watch how long it takes to lay flat on the patient again. It’s completely painless and well tolerated by even the squirmiest patients (baby bunnies, for example).

First, we must determine if our patients are dehydrated and the severity of their dehydration. The first step in estimating a patient’s hydration status is looking for specific physical changes. A mammal’s hydration status can be examined by using a “skin tent” test. We gently pinch and pull up on a patient’s loose skin then observe how quickly it returns to a normal position. If a patient is healthy the skin returns to normal in within a second or two, while a dehydrated patient’s skin fold will take longer or may not move back into place at all. You can even try this on yourself by gently pinching the skin on your lower arm or abdomen & seeing if it snaps back into place quickly. For birds and reptiles, it isn’t always possible to find an area of loose skin to tent, so we rely on other changes such as “sunken” eyes or thick strings of saliva in their mouth. These changes are signs we can use to quickly and non-invasively determine what measures need to be taken. Continue reading

Canada goose Case Report

On June 10, 2020, a juvenile Canada goose presented to the clinic after being abandoned by the rest of its flock. Upon first examination, we noted he was lethargic, had a few superficial scabs on his head and neck, and was mildly dehydrated.

After cleaning his wounds with a dilute disinfecting solution, we began him on a course of pain medications and antibiotics. We also administered subcutaneous fluids to correct his dehydration. We also collected a blood sample to run diagnostics and better evaluate his condition. One of our concerns for wild birds presenting with severe lethargy is lead poisoning, however this test came back negative. Next, we determined his PCV/TP values. PCV, or packed cell volume, tells us the percentage of red blood cells to total blood volume, which is helpful in determining if the patient is anemic. Most birds have a PCV of about 40 – 60%, and this goose was mildly anemic at 35%. The TP, or total protein, tells us the amount of proteins in the blood serum and can range from 3.5-5.5 mg%. Our patient had a TP of 4.6 mg% which was in the normal range. Continue reading

Undergraduate Volunteer Interviews

A majority of the individuals who work in the Wildlife Medical Clinic are current University of Illinois veterinary students. However, a not-enough-talked-about aspect in our clinic is the incredible undergraduate program that allows students hand-on experience prior to attending veterinary school! Our undergraduate volunteers are an irreplaceable asset to our entire team. These amazing students make the trek all the way to the vet school campus to assist with orphan care, patient treatments, pager shifts, and everything in between. We wanted to take the time to spotlight just a couple of the students in this program and see what they like about volunteering in the WMC. Take a look at what they had to say below!

Lindsay Dwyer

Q: What has been your favorite part of being in the Wildlife Medical Clinic?

My favorite part of being in WMC is getting exposed to knowledge that I wouldn’t learn through undergrad classes. Learning from vet med professors, team leaders/members and from the patients has made me feel much more prepared for my future. Continue reading