something that you'd never think would go hand in hand - seizures (from some kind
of abnormal neurological function) and poo! But apparently - so my hand raised
Common Wombat Keti showed me - there is a connection. This is a not a scientifically
documented occurrence, in fact there doesn't seem to be much known about the connection
at all, but from the ordeal that Keti went through it certainly does seem to be
an issue and one that we should keep in mind.
received Keti as a furless joey, aged approximately 4.5 months and weighing 542
grams. Her mum had been hit by a car, but luckily for her, she was rescued not
long after the accident and brought into care. Keti had a pretty hard start. She
was my first tiny wombat, but when I saw her I was concerned with her appearance
- she looked gaunt. I set Keti up in a warm, humid environment and started a feeding
regime using Wombaroo formula. She was taking her milk and seemed settled, but
a few days later she still looked "wrong".
took some photos, including the one above, and emailed them to an experienced
wombat carer. I received an urgent email back saying that the hollows in her temples
indicated an immensely distressed, malnourished or dehydrated joey. I had been
told by her rescuers that she had only been in care for a few hours and that they
had kept her bundled up and warm until I arrived to collect her, so I am at a
loss as to why Keti was in such a bad way when she received into care. Maybe her
wombat mum had been struggling during the drought and Keti had been compromised
before coming into care. Who knows? That part of Keti's life will remain a mystery.
was advised that although she didn't look dehydrated in the photo, sub-cutaneous
fluids may be beneficial. And I was told that if I couldn't pull her out of the
condition she was in she would probably die within days. PANIC!! The next day
I took her to the vets and she was given subcutaneous fluids. I also decided to
increase our contact with her and started carrying her in her pouch tucked down
my jumper - she improved remarkably. Those hollows disappeared within day and
she gained weight - a week and a half later she weighed 670 grams.
next month went by without incident. I had noticed, however, that Keti wasn't
poo-ing regularly but I was advised that it wasn't uncommon for a wombat joey
to go without passing faeces for days at a time. I noted in my diary that 3 days
had gone without a poo and although I was concerned I was told not to worry and
she would pass faeces when ready. A week went passed and she only did a couple
of very small poo's. During this whole time she was offered water as well as her
normal milk intake. I mixed olive oil into her milk to make the bowel lining slippery
so poo could pass easier. Keti was constantly checked for hydration and appeared
at 10pm at night, Keti had a seizure. It was one of the most frightening things
I have ever experienced as a wildlife carer. Her tiny little body, now weighing
around the 1 kilogram mark, convulsed and contorted and her breathing was very
sporadic. When the seizure stopped her body became rigid and the look in her eyes
showed she was terrified. The worst thing - she stopped breathing - my husband
Todd immediately performed mouth to nose (!) resuscitation. What seemed like forever
but was probably only about a minute or so her body relaxed and she started breathing
normally. She was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep until the morning.
was taken to the vets the next day and we could find no reason for her not to
passing normal faeces. My vet, Kim Rolls, was also concerned that she hadn't passed,
and didn't agree with the advice I was given about "not pooing" being normal.
Kim gave Keti an enema and recommended I take her home and insert oil mixed with
warm water into her anus. Although the oil in the bottle is good, it doesn't work
as well as the oil being inserted straight into the anus. The oil forms a slippery
coating around the faeces and the warm water absorbs into the faeces making it
softer and easier to pass. Keti passed several small faeces over the next week,
but not as much as I'd hoped.
days later I was on my way into town with Keti and her buddy Alu so that Todd
could look after them as I was meeting up with a friend for lunch. 500 metres
down the road Keti had her second seizure. It was similar to the first - her little
body (1.2kg) was rocked with spasms. When the seizure was over her body, again,
was a stiff as a board and her breathing stopped. This time it was me who gave
mouth to nose resuscitation! When she appeared over the worst of it I drove to
Todd's work and rang Benn Bryant, Senior Vet at the Western Plains Zoo to see
if he could shed some light. I advised him what had happened and he told me to
come directly to the clinic for intensive tests. Dubbo is an hour and a half's
drive but I left straight away - all thoughts of my much anticipated lunch were
forgotten (sorry Margie!).
took blood and also gave her an ultrasound (or x-ray, can't remember which one
it was now!?!?!) to find there was a fair bit of faeces built up. Keti was given
more sub-cut fluids and after finding nothing else wrong I was allowed to take
her home. Later, blood test came back showing a very healthy little wombat. The
days later Keti did the biggest poo in the whole wide world! I could find no substance
in the poo that may have blocked her up (yes, we wildlife carers have to look
through poo!) although some of the poo was very hard. Since that day Keti poo'd
regularly and didn't have another seizure.
my visit with Benn he told me about a baby rhinoceros at the zoo that suddenly
showed signs of neurological problems. He seemed fine one day, but then suddenly
couldn't stand and kept falling onto his bum. After a few days of tests - and
head scratching - Benn and his team gave the rhinoceros an enema. Hey presto!
No more falling on bottom!
there's got to be link there somewhere between no poo and seizures. Maybe the
discomfort and bloat from being constipated pressed on the spinal column which
then effected the brain? I really don't know for sure what happened and my vets
don't either - but my advice from all of this is to never ignore a joey that hasn't
poo'd for a while - it's just not right! Always act on it, whether it's via sub-cut
fluids, enemas or whatever - always act sooner rather than later!
the way, Keti was (soft) released some months later - a strapping 17 kilogram
bundle of wombat and she still lives in the area today.
years and seven months after Keti was released....
was found on the side of the road a few weeks ago, she'd been hit by a car.
do we know it was Keti? She had an unmistakable swirl of fur on her forehead which
set her apart from all other wombats.
a horrible way to find out that the rehabilitation and release method I have been
using over the years is working. Keti must have been 40kg plus at the time of
her death. She was massive! She had no signs of mange or wounds from territorial
fighting. She was still big, healthy and beautiful!
it is a sad ending, but a good one at the same time. Keti lived a full and happy
life. It puts to rest - at least in my mind - the claims that (correctly) rehabilitated
marsupials do not live long in the wild after release.