Category Archives: Fact Sheets

The following fact sheets are about….

Respiratory Illness

Kangaroos are susceptible to a highly contagious respiratory illness which can often be fatal in small animals especially less than four kg. The first symptoms are sneezing and a runny nose. If untreated the joeys can develop copious, thick, nasal secretions and mucosal oedema which can prevent the animal from breathing through its nostrils. Wheezing and breathing difficulty can also develop. Despite intravenous antibiotics animals often die . At post mortem there appears to be gastrointestinal tract ulceration and  consolidation in both lungs. Several joeys have developed ulcers on the cornea , nostrils and cloaca.

Herpes viruses are known to  affect kangaroos. We have used an antiviral called Valaciclovir successfully to treat this respiratory illness in  small eastern Grey Kangaroos. This medication is used to treat herpes virus infections in humans.

It is important to use this medication early ie. as soon as it is noticed that an animal has sneezed several times – not just got something up its nose!  Valaciclovir acts to prevent the virus from replicating.  Hence the need to commence it early in the infection as soon as the joey starts to sneeze.

Each Valaciclovir  tablet is 500mg. The human dose is 1g of Valaciclovir (ie.2 tablets ) three times a day for one week. We have been using the following dose rate for joeys . Crush one tablet finely and suspend in 15 ml of cooled boiled water. Use at a rate of 0.5 ml per kg of the shaken suspension  three times a day for seven days.This can be given before or with formula in a syringe to make it more palatable. Keep unused medication in the fridge for use the same day.

For those joeys which already have severe symptoms we have used the following medications to treat them symptomatically: (a)Paracetamol  at 10 mg per kg twice daily if the joey has a fever; (b) FESS nasal saline and simple suction instrument (available at a Chemist) to  soften and remove nasal secretions; (c) Bromhexine (Bisolvon) to  reduce the viscosity of the mucous.Crush one tablet finely and suspend in 15 ml of boiled water and use 0.5 ml per kg of the shaken suspension three times daily.This can be given before their formula or mixed with a small amount of formula in a syringe  to make it more palatable. Keep unused medication in the fridge for use the same day ; (d)Salbutamol (Ventolin) nebuliser or inhaler with spacer and mask if the joey is wheezing and having breathing difficulty;  (e) Amoxycillin(BetamoxLA) at 0.1 ml per kg SCI second daily to prevent secondary infection and  (f) Sucralfate(Carafate) for gastrointestinal ulceration. Disperse half  a tablet in 15 ml of boiled water and use 0.5 ml per kg four times daily for 7 days. Use if joey appears unwell despite  the Valaciuclovir  and is refusing formula.

In the most recent outbreak of this respiratory illness which appears to have been brought into  Possumwood by a 3 kg joey, Cherry Blossom, from Captains Flat 13 0f the 15 of our joeys less than 6 kg have been affected . Spencer and Darby were immune despite having   mild symptoms only during the previous outbreak.Most of the joeys stopped sneezing after 3-5 days of Valaciclovir.One  joey,Hogan- 1.9 kg, became unwell despite the use of Valaciclovir .He was given Bisolvon,  Carafate and Betamox and now appears to be doing well. Our newest arrival,Rafke-900g-has been given a prophylactic dose of Valaciclovir and as yet has not developed symptoms .Tthe prophylactic dose of Valaciclovir is 0.5 ml of the suspension once daily for 7 days.Prophylaxis is advisable for the smaller joeys (less than 3 kg).

Following infection the joeys will have developed immunity to this virus .The identity of the virus causing this illness will hopefully soon be available.

This fact sheet is dedicated to our pecious little Sophie -the last of our joeys to succumb to this virus. Valaciclovir saved her friends Spencer and Darby- the first time we  used  this medication. Since that outbreak it has been effective in treating  a number of our joeys whenever this virus has been brought into  our sanctuary by a new arrival. The incubation period appears to be about a week.

Hypothermia and Hypoglycaemia

Hypothermia and Hypoglycaemia

Rosemary’s story about Tinkerbell the Brushtail Possum

Winter is the time to check rescued animals for hypothermia. Even a very cold, floppy, unresponsive animal can show great improvement after a few hours of warming. We have seen a number of examples of this. Its important to be absolutely certain an animal has died before holding off  treatment for hypothermia.

Tinkerbell (re-named Zena because of her attitude) was a 500 gram brushtail possum with a severe case of hypothermia. When rescued she was cold and motionless laying on the ground. She appeared dead but I put her under my shirt and jumper for the short trip home. She was very cold, floppy and showed no response when I pinched her toe. I was about to get my stethoscope out to check her heart and be absolutely sure when I decided to try a blink reflex test first. There was an ever so slight eyelid movement when I touched her eye so she immediately got  treatment for hypothermia and hypoglycaemia.

To treat for hypoglycaemia I usually just wet my finger and coat it in glucose powder and then rub the glucose powder around the gums and into the mouth. To treat hypothermia I use warmed wheat bags, discs, an electric blanket on a low setting or a warm bath. Its important to warm the hypothermic animal slowly from the inside out. If you warm the animal too quickly the peripheral vasodilation (peripheral blood vessels dilate and blood is diverted to the peripheral areas of the body and away from the vital organs viz heart, brain, and kidneys) can cause a drop in blood pressure and death. The ideal treatment is to warm the animal from the inside with warm intravenous fluids when available. Warmed subcutaneous fluids are also useful in warming a cold, dehydrated animal.

After four hours of warming Tinkerbell regained some tone and curled herself up. She was now able to swallow Nutrigel and glucose water dripped into her mouth from a syringe. After a few more hours of warming she was able to drink Lectade from a syringe. She also licked baby fruit juice gel and apple puree from a spoon. After 24 hours she was eating wattle flowers, roses and gum tips. Over the next few weeks she ate her way through all my autumn roses, gained weight and was released after several  months in  care. We renamed her Zena because she became a very feisty brushtail and not a Tinkerbell at all.

Steve’s Story about Slim the kangaroo joey

Slim (Steve’s Little Miracle) was a small kangaroo joey that had been caught by both legs in a wire fence, released by a member of the public but left on the ground in very cold conditions. His mother was nearby but Slim could not get up from the ground to get into the warmth of his mother’s pouch. All through the freezing night he lay on the ground with his mother standing by. When rescued the next day it appears as though he must have been attacked by a fox as he had puncture wounds to the head and ear. If not for his mother he would have succumbed to the fox attack and the freezing cold. When noticed the next day Slim as taken to the local vet by a member of the public. This is where we came into the story.

With puncture wounds from the fox attack, injuries to both legs from being caught in the wire fence and hypothermic Slim was a very sick little joey.The veterinarian transferred him to Possumwood for care . He was unable to suck and his mouth was very cold (a simple way to check for hypothermia).The tympanic thermometers are an easy method for checking  a joey’s temperature.  He was dehydrated. He was warmed slowly in an electric blanket and I gave him glucose and Nutrigel every two hours for the first 24 hours. As he warmed he was also able to drink small amounts of Lectade and glucose water. After 48 hours he was able to drink small amounts of milk. He was also treated with Vit E/ Selenium, Dexamethasone and Baytril. After one week Slim was doing very well but was knuckling on both feet. His tarsometatarsal joints were bandaged to protect the joints  as he recovered. It was several weeks before he could hop again but he was happy recuperating in a warm bag.

It’s important that cold, rescued  joeys are carefully checked as they may still be alive despite appearing to be  dead.