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
The Wildlife Medical Clinic is typically bustling with baby animals each spring. Sometimes these animals never actually needed to be rescued, however. You can help with that! By being able to tell which babies are safe with mom in their nest and which need our care, you can be their best advocates. Thanks to our knowledgeable community members – like you! – we are able to keep as many baby animals in the wild with their parents, giving them the best chances possible for a long and healthy life.
Take this quiz to make sure you feel ready for the spring rush! Continue reading