- Pet Care: An Ex­tra­or­di­nary Case of Car­ing

What was re­ally hap­pen­ing in this mys­te­ri­ous case and how could we help?

Howler Magazine - - Contents - By Dr. Gil­berth Cavallini

Car­ing for sick or in­jured wildlife is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary at our vet­eri­nary prac­tice, where res­cued an­i­mals are brought to us in many com­mon cir­cum­stances. Par­tic­u­larly dur­ing Costa Rica's dry sea­son, wild crea­tures are at higher risk from ex­po­sure to preda­tors, hu­mans and do­mes­tic an­i­mals when scarcity of food and wa­ter forces them away from their nat­u­ral habi­tats.

At this time of year, for ex­am­ple, our clinic typ­i­cally treats be­tween 10 and 15 howler mon­key pa­tients a month on av­er­age, with elec­tro­cu­tion from power lines be­ing the cause of many in­juries and deaths. But one of our re­cent cases in­volv­ing an el­derly fe­male howler mon­key was any­thing but typ­i­cal. Every­thing about the rea­sons for this mon­key need­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion and the man­ner of seek­ing and re­ceiv­ing it was truly ex­tra­or­di­nary. Ac­cord­ing to the peo­ple who brought her to the clinic, she had been found sit­ting alone in the mid­dle of the road, ap­par­ently far from the vicin­ity of any mon­key com­pan­ions. She looked scared, but re­mained calm as they ap­proached and showed no ag­gres­sive re­ac­tion when they picked her up.

Upon ar­rival at the clinic, this mon­key did not ap­pear ill, only a lit­tle de­hy­drated, and was calm enough for us to per­form a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion without se­da­tion. That's when we dis­cov­ered our new pa­tient was an old lady. Both her eyes were dirty with a coat­ing of yel­low ma­te­rial, but that was the ex­tent of any health prob­lem we could de­tect. We be­gan treat­ment by clean­ing both eyes twice a day and a diet of trop­i­cal fruits. (In fact, mal­nu­tri­tion is a com­mon con­di­tion in wildlife cases, due to the ten­dency of prop­erty de­vel­op­ers to sub­sti­tute or­na­men­tal plants in their land­scape de­signs for the na­tive tree species that pro­duce ed­i­ble leaves, fruits and flow­ers.) Al­though our lit­tle lady was not in­ter­ested in eat­ing from the floor of her cage, when we gave her a Ger­ber-type strained mix­ture with a sy­ringe, she ate it hun­grily and im­me­di­ately.

So, what was re­ally hap­pen­ing in this mys­te­ri­ous case and how could we help? We made a de­ci­sion that turned out to be lucky for this mon­key, by putting her un­der anes­the­sia and look­ing deeper. My col­league, Dr. Cajal, and I brought in the con­sult­ing vet­eri­nary oph­thal­mol­o­gist who vis­its our prac­tice ev­ery two months. Dr. Gam­boa agreed to pro­vide a com­plete eye ex­am­i­na­tion on our geri­atric mon­key pa­tient for free: flu­o­res­cein test, ul­tra­sound and retinog­ra­phy. The old lady was di­ag­nosed with a deep, in­op­er­a­ble cataract caus­ing blind­ness in her right eye. A long­stand­ing ul­cer in her left eye is caus­ing par­tial blind­ness but might be re­spon­sive to daily treat­ment.

This story ends with the of­fer from a vol­un­teer to drive our lady to the Sibu Res­cue Cen­ter, where she will con­tinue re­ceiv­ing treat­ment and en­joy the rest of her old age.

How re­mark­able that a wild an­i­mal would emerge from the for­est, make her way to the road, and just sit there wait­ing for two con­cerned hu­mans to come along and bring her to a place where other spe­cially trained hu­mans could give her the right kind of help for a bet­ter qual­ity of life that re­mains. There must be a su­pe­rior be­ing tak­ing care of us all! Thanks to the kind of car­ing peo­ple who some­times get in­volved when least ex­pected, as well as ded­i­cated vol­un­teers and groups like SalveMonos, I feel we are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

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