First off, I’m sorry my posting schedule has been a little off lately, but the blog has become more difficult lately. After the new year, I cut my hours at the infirmary down by two thirds, and while it has done wonders for my grades…I have less to write about.
But you didn’t come here for excuses! You came for results! So I will do my best to comply.
This Saturday, we lost a critter. We had been brought a small grebe earlier in the week. Grebes and Coots are funny birds, in that they are designed to work very well in the water, but not so much in other places. Their feet, tail, and feathers are all designed to make them efficient swimmers and fishers, but they are slow in flight, and almost immobile on land.
|A Western Grebe similar to our patient.|
Also, being waterfowl, they are not terribly bright. Occasionally, they will mistake a parking lot or a street for a body of water and land. Unfortunately they cannot take off from solid ground, so we get in a lot of hungry grebes with scuffed up feet.
Such was the case with this guy, but for one reason or another, on Saturday morning he began to deteriorate. It was difficult to see, and because we were shorthanded, the poor little diver floated under the radar.
It wasn’t until we had finished the other chores that we noticed he had not eaten. I lifted him out of his tub, and his feathers were not waterproof, he was soaked and cold. The sharp, pronounced breastbone under his feathers told me he had not been eating as well as he should, while the strands of mucus and pale coloration inside his beak told of dehydration.
Small animals are very fragile, and in the state he was, there was little we could do for him.
As a last emergency measure, I injected some fluids under the transparent skin just above his hip. This subcutaneous injection (or sub-Q) is not ideal, the skin does not absorb liquid as well as the digestive system, but it allows us to place a full days worth of water into an animal, something the stomach cannot hold. This can also be done when tube feeding would kill the animal outright.
The grebe died about thirty minutes later, after we gave him the fluids and placed him on a warm rice bag to recover some heat.
Not all stories from the infirmary are happy ones. Sometimes there are issues that we cannot detect with the technology and personnel available to us. Sometimes an animal can deteriorate in a matter of hours, or succumb to wounds too deep or too old to treat. But even in these situations there are lessons to be learned. We will all be more observant in the future.
This week’s plug is the new blog by new HNC intern Melissa! Go read about her adventures in nature and life here. Make sure to tell her the Wildlife sentcha!