Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Assessment / General Physical Examination and Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation:
Long page - please wait to load
< > General Physical Examination and Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation of

UK MAMMALS:

Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation

This section provides a general indication of the COMMON conditions seen with UK Wildlife Casualties. It is NOT intended to be an all-encompassing overview of the diseases / conditions recorded in those species. Further diagnosis and treatment of disease may require the veterinary clinician to familiarise themselves with the diseases, agents and treatment protocols from external texts and other references, or to take further advice.

If mass mortality events are suspected, advice should be sought from organisations such as Environment Agency and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

Return to top of page

Physical/Clinical Examination

Except when a life-threatening condition is present (e.g. haemorrhage, obstruction of breathing) a full physical examination should not be undertaken until the casualty animal has had a chance to rest quietly and its condition stabilise after transport. (B118.18.w18)
  • When examining a wildlife casualty animal, as with any animal, it is important to be systematic.
  • Bilateral structures should always be compared with one another for asymmetry.
  • Remember that "common things occur commonly"; in wildlife casualties trauma (physical damage) is a common reason for presentation.

BODY TEMPERATURE (HOMEOTHERMS):

  • Increased body temperature can be useful in indicating heatstroke (see: Sunstroke / Heatstroke) and infections (pyrexia).
  • It is important to remember that there is a wide variation in body temperature between species and also a diurnal variation. 
  • Body temperature is likely to be increased due to handling.

PULSE, HEART & RESPIRATION

  • Heart rate may be measured by auscultation with a stethoscope.
  • Pulse rate may be measured by placing the fingers over an artery e.g.: carotid (neck), brachial (inside of the foreleg, in the axilla/armpit), femoral (inside of the hindleg, on the thigh), coccygeal (under the tail).
  • The pulse rate and the heart rate should be the same if the heart is functioning correctly to pump blood around the body.
  • The heart/pulse rate is typically higher in smaller animals than in larger species and can be very rapid in small mammals.
  • The heart/pulse rate is likely to be elevated in wildlife casualties due to stress.
  • Respiratory rate is likely to be higher in restrained animals than in the same individual prior to restraint.

SKIN & FUR:

  • Matted fur (pelage) may indicate an underlying wound - this is not always directly under the matted area (B118.5.w5).
  • The distribution of skin wounds may give an indication as to their cause e.g. territorial wounds in the badger (Meles meles - Eurasian badger) are typically distributed around on the rump, neck and ears whilst conspecific bite wounds in the otter (Lutra lutra - European otter) occur around the head and genital area. 
  • Careful examination for puncture wounds should be made in all casualties with a history of possible cat attack.
  • Check the skin around the neck and abdomen of all animals with a history of possible release from a snare or other ligature. Injuries may appear slight on presentation but wound breakdown caused by pressure necrosis can occur in the few days following snare removal and the casualty should be kept in care during this period. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring.
  • Check for the presence of external parasites: mites, fleas, ticks, lice, fly eggs/maggots.
    • Large numbers of parasites such as lice may be indicative of general debility. See: Lice Infection.
    • When maggots are present on the surface they may also be present under the skin and deep into the animal. If fly eggs or developed maggots are found on the skin of the animal it is critically important to check all the orifices (eyes, ears, mouth, perineum) and wounds for maggots. It is particularly important to check carefully for fly eggs/maggots in the warmer months as this is when fly-strike is most likely to be seen. See: Myiasis (Fly strike).

HEAD & NECK:

General:

  • Note any flesh wounds - punctures, lacerations, scalping. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
  • General pallor of the skin and mucous membranes, and increased capillary refill time, may be seen with blood loss and anaemia.
  • Flaky white thickened skin and hair loss on the face may indicate ringworm infection (fungal infection of the skin).
  • Note any masses which may be neoplastic.

Mouth:

  • Jaw should appear symmetrical, with teeth meeting evenly. Asymmetry or unevenness of bite may be indicative of jaw fracture or dislocation.
  • Check for dental fractures which commonly occur following a road traffic accident.
  • Assess dental condition for signs of excessive wear/ attrition. Aged badgers may present in poor body condition with severe dental attrition of the incisors and molars.
  • Check for signs of periodontal disease. This is particularly common in adult hedgehog casualties and may be associated with tooth loss / dental exfoliation.
  • Nostrils should be clean and open; check for discharge, occlusion, rhinoliths (solid discharge ("plug") in the nasal apparatus).
  • Mouth should be opened and checked for plaques, discoloration or necrotic areas.
  • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)

Eye & Periorbital Area:

  • Eyes should be shiny. In mammals, normal shape of the iris varies with the species.
  • The eye may appear dull and sunken in dehydrated animals.
  • Note whether the shape and degree of protrusion of the eyeball is similar for the two eyes. Eyeball (globe) rupture commonly occurs following concussive trauma. Eyeball prolapse (globe proptosis) is particularly common in small mammals e.g. hedgehogs.
  • Matting of pelage around the eyes may indicate increased ocular discharge (epiphora) caused by irritation, trauma or infection.
  • Check for inflammation of the eyelids and conjunctiva, e.g. due to the presence of a foreign body.
  • Check for swelling (unilateral or bilateral) just above/below the eye in birds which may be caused by sinusitis, seen with e.g. various respiratory infections.
  • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)
  • Check for the presence of surface lesions. Corneal scratches and ulcers can be identified using fluorescein dye. 
  • Note any difference in size and in reaction to light between the pupils (anisocoria).

Ear:

  • Check for mite infections within the ear canal (external auditory meatus), as well as for injury to the external ear e.g. badger territorial wounds.
  • Otoscopic examination of the tympanic membrane/middle ear is particularly important for casualties showing a head tilt.
  • Check for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)

Neck:

LEGS & FEET:

  • Palpate and manipulate legs carefully for fractures or dislocations. (See: Impact Injury and Brachial Paralysis)
    • Check the whole length of each long bone.
    • Palpate and manipulate each joint.
    • Check for deviation, normal range of motion, crepitus ("crunching" sensation) and instability.
  • Legs should also be held out together and compared for symmetry.
  • Check for joint swellings indicative of arthritis etc.
  • Palpation of the pelvis for evidence of fracture and dislocation is important. Following pelvic trauma, consideration must be given as to the subsequent likelihood that adult female mammals may have difficulties giving birth (dystocia).
  • Gentle palpation of the vertebral column for evidence of deformity or pain is important for casualties with a history of trauma and neurological signs.

BODY:

  • Palpate body gently for any surface masses.
  • Check major muscle masses are symmetrical.
  • Examine abdomen for signs of generalised distension (e.g. ascites, obesity, haemorrhage) or localised masses (e.g. peritoneal effusion, neoplasm, abscess, pregnancy).
    • In orphaned infant mammals, abdomen may be distended due to presence of retained urine/faeces.
    • In a normal mammal the kidneys may be palpable.
    • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) may be palpable and is an abnormal finding.
  • Check all female mammals for evidence of late term pregnancy or lactation (milk expression) where consideration of the possibility of rapid release of the animal must be made to maximise the possibility of the survival of any offspring,.
  • On abdominal palpation assess whether the abdomen/ gastro-intestinal system feels empty indicating that the casualty has not fed for some time prior to presentation.
  • Check around anus/vagina/prepuce for the presence of fly eggs/maggots. See: Myiasis (Fly strike)

Radiography is particularly useful with small animals that are difficult to examine, and should often be used as a routine part of examination.

Examination of faeces, haematology and other clinical samples is also often an important part of diagnosis.

(B11.2.w16,B11.3.w10, B13.8.w20, B14, V.w5, V.w26)

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Deer Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Deer Considerations
Capreolus capreolus - Western roe deer, Cervus elaphus - Red deer, Cervus nippon - Sika deer, Dama dama - Fallow deer, Hydropotes inermis - Chinese water deer, Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac.

These species are from the family Cervidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • "Orphans" See: Hand-rearing Deer
    • Many deer calves/fawns/kids, which are normally left alone for long periods, are picked up mistakenly as being "abandoned".
    • True orphans (where the mother is known to be unable to care for it) and sick or injured infants do need care.
  • Myiasis (Fly strike) occurs in weak / sick fawns, particularly those with diarrhoea and a soiled perineum. (V.w26)
  • Road traffic accident injury:
    • Injuries may include skeletal injuries, jaw fractures, antler stem fractures in muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi - Chinese muntjac) and ruptured diaphragms.
  • Dog bites (particularly in the smaller deer species):
  • Barbed wire injuries.
  • Wire and other ligature injuries:
    • These may be cause if a deer is caught in a fence.
    • Deer may struggle if their legs become caught and cause further damage to their upper limbs. Pressure necrosis may develop at the point of constriction under the ligature.(V.w26)
    • See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
  • Scrape injuries:
    • From being trapped in a solid object, for example a wrought iron gate or water trough.
  • Hydrocephalus (excessive fluid associated with the brain) in fawns.
    • This has been seen in association with apparent central blindness.(V.w26)
  • Capture myopathy:
    • Regardless of the initial cause of injury, capture myopathy can occur as a secondary result of the stress of trauma (physical injury) (and in some cases handling and transport) experienced by casualty deer. This may become a life threatening condition in its own right.(V.w26)
    • Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus - Western roe deer) casualties commonly suffer from capture myopathy with hyperthermia, profound cardiovascular shock and apparent central blindness. (V.w26)
  • External parasites: Deer ked Lipoptena cervi (particularly in late autumn/early winter), lice (Mallophaga, rarely Siphunculata) (particularly in late spring/early summer) and ticks (particularly Ixodes ricinus) may be present, also nasal bots. (B117.10.w10, B142, B237)
    • Burden of external parasites may be increased in debilitated individuals.
    • See: Tick Infection
  • Gastro-intestinal parasites: roundworms (nematodes), tapeworms (cestodes) and flukes (trematodes) may be present. (B237)
    • Parasite burdens may be increased if the animal is debilitated.

(B117.w10, B151, B199, B237, D24)

N.B.

  • Casualty deer with severe injuries should be euthanased.
  • It has been suggested that deer should be treated rather than euthanased only if no more than a brief period of confinement is required and a facility is available providing minimal contact with humans and dogs (minimum stress, minimum risk of habituation).
  • Female with pelvic injuries which may prevent normal parturition (birth) should be euthanased rather than released.
  • Consider the risk of foetal death from a doe's injuries (e.g. following road traffic accident) and subsequent problems such as uterine infection.

(P19.3.w2)

Other important diseases:

  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease
  • Tuberculosis (Mammalian and Avian).(B117.10.w10).
  • Brucellosis (zoonosis). (B117.10.w10)
  • Yersiniosis (Pseudotuberculosis) (See: Yersiniosis (with special reference to Waterfowl))
    • May cause non-specific foci of acute purulent pneumonia.
    • May cause small chronic inflammatory nodules.
    • (B158.2.1.1)
  • Lungworm (Dictyocaulus spp. infection)
    • Parasitic pneumonia is an important cause of overwinter mortality in roe deer (Capreolus capreolus - Western roe deer) and is also important in red deer (Cervus elaphus - Red deer) in some areas. (B117.10.w10, B142, B158.2.1.6.w9)
    • Treatment successful in red deer (Cervus elaphus - Red deer) includes: albendazole 10 mg/kg bodyweight, oxfendazole 4.5 mg/kg bodyweight, fenbendazole 7.5 mg/kg bodyweight, febantel 7.5mg/kg bodyweight, ivermectin 200 g/kg bodyweight [routes not specified]. (B158.2.1.6.w9)
  • Lyme disease (zoonosis).(B151)
  • Fasciola hepatica (liver fluke) infection.(B142)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Dormouse Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Dormouse Considerations Muscardinus avellanarius - Hazel dormouse, Myoxus glis - Fat dormouse.

These species are from the family Myoxidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

For orphans see: Hand-rearing Dormice

(B151, B199, V.w26)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Meles meles - Eurasian badger Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Meles meles - Eurasian badger Considerations

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Common findings and reasons for presentation:
  • Road traffic accidents:
    • This is the most common reason for presentation.
    • External injuries may include fractures of long bones, jaw, skull, pelvis, spine. 
    • Internal injuries may include intrathoracic and intrapulmonary haemorrhage, rupture of the spleen, liver or diaphragm.
    • Hip dislocation (usually ventral displacement) may be found.(J60.2.w2)
    • Badgers with head trauma and concussion following road traffic accident or rail collision injury often present in a semi-conscious or comatosed state.
      • They should be fully assessed and given appropriate shock therapy and treatment. 
      • They may remain in a comatosed state for a period of several days and then regain consciousness with gradual or rapid recovery.
      • (B151, V.w26)
    • Dental trauma such as fractured canines are common and may require specialist dentistry treatment: teeth with exposed pulp need to be root-filled or extracted.(V.w26, J60.2.w2)
  • Snare injuries. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
    • A snared animal is likely to be extremely aggressive and dangerous.
    • The noose of the snare may be caught around the limbs, head and neck, or abdomen.
    • Pressure necrosis of underlying tissues may not be visible for several days after the initial injury.
      • When releasing a badger from a snare, great care should be taken that the animal cannot escape with the snare still attached. DO NOT SIMPLY CUT THE SNARE LOOSE LEAVING THE SNARE ATTACHED TO THE BODY.
      • General anaesthesia may be required.
      • Examination of underlying wounds is essential. 
      • Animals from which a snare has been removed must be kept for several days for observation and not released immediately.

      (J60.2.w3, V.w26, V.w6)

    • It is illegal to use a snare on badgers in the UK therefore cases should be reported to the local police station, National Federation of Badger Groups and the RSPCA on their Snaring Incident Report form. Click here for: RSPCA - Problems With Badgers? - Snaring Incident Report. (V.w26)
  • Trapping in netting (tennis nets, football nets etc). See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
    • As with snare injuries, badgers should be kept in captivity for a period of 3-4 days before release to ensure that no tissue breakdown caused by pressure necrosis develops at the site of the net constriction if it is wrapped tightly around the animal. (V.w26)
  • Trapped in shallow slurry pits or empty swimming pools.(V.w26)
  • Territorial bite wounds. (See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds)
    • Generally affect the head, neck, shoulders and rump.
    • There is a seasonal variation in incidence with peaks of occurrence during February-May when cubs are born and October-December when boars fight to establish dominance and territory.(P27.8.w8)
    • A significant proportion of badgers carry bite wounds and careful consideration must be made in each case as to whether the bite wounds are a primary or secondary reason for presentation (e.g. diseased badger which has been attacked and ousted from its sett) or an incidental finding (e.g. road traffic accident injury badger in good body condition with a few puncture wounds). (P25.2.w2, V.w26)
    • Complete physical assessment should be made to ascertain whether treatment or euthanasia is indicated paying particular attention to the severity of the wounds, sex, body and dental condition and other concurrent injuries.
      • Euthanasia may be advisable for aged emaciated animals with severe wounds or dental attrition.(B157.w10, P27.8.w8, V.w26)
    • Scent is an important method of individual identification in badgers therefore washing and cleaning of casualties unless absolutely necessary should be avoided since this may interfere with recognition of social grouping on release. (P25.4.w3, V.w26)
  • Myiasis (fly strike, i.e. presence of fly eggs or maggots) associated with wounds.
  • Orphans. See: Hand Rearing of Meles meles - Eurasian Badger
  • Juveniles may present with starvation having presumably been unable to forage successfully after weaning.
  • Aged animals may present with the following:
    • Dental attrition and associated emaciation (starvation). 
    • Vertebral spondylosis/spinal arthritis
    • Cataracts.
    • Arteriosclerosis.
    • Limb joint osteoarthropathy (arthritis).

      (J3.105.w4)

  • Ectoparasites including fleas, particularly Paraceras melis, biting lice Trichodectes melis, and ticks (particularly on the ears, above the tail, on the inner surface of the thighs) may be present; mite infections, including Sarcoptic mange, occur more rarely. (B142, B236, J3.105.w4)
    • Burdens of lice and other ectoparasites may be very large in debilitated and emaciated individuals and may contribute to illness and death (See: Lice Infection, Tick Infection and Flea Infection in Mammals).(B236, J3.105.w4)
    • Fipronil (Frontline, Merial Animal Health) spray may be used on badgers more than two days old, applying the spray to the skin between the shoulder blades. (D50)
  • Piroplasmosis: blood parasites which may be seen on blood smears. 
  • Salmonellosis: clinical disease may be triggered by hospitalisation.(P27.5.w5)

    (J3.105.w4, J60.2.w2, J60.2.w3, B151, B157.w10, B199, B236, P25.4.w3, P27.5.w5, P27.8.w8, D24, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

  • Mammalian Tuberculosis (B199)
    • All people handling and working with badgers must ensure that their BCG vaccination is up to date. It is recommended that immunosuppressed individuals should not deal with badger casualties. (B151, V.w26)
    • Infection is particularly common in south-west England.
  • Badgers are susceptible to Canine Distemper, (P27.5.w5) and Canine Parvovirus Infection.(P27.11.w11) The possibility of badgers in care, particularly in a veterinary hospital environment, becoming infected with these diseases should always be considered.(J60.2.w2)
  • Lungworm Aelurostrongylus falciformis may be important in some areas.(P27.5.w5)
  • Susceptible to Rabies: (zoonosis). This disease is not currently present in the UK although the possibility of its introduction into the UK should be remembered.

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Talpa europaea - European Mole Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Talpa europaea - European Mole Considerations Common findings and reasons for presentation:

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Lutra lutra - European otter Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Lutra lutra - European otter Considerations

Click image for full page view

Common findings and reasons for presentation:
  • Injured adults commonly present with wound infections, physical trauma due to unknown causes, starvation, dehydration and other complications.(D57)
  • Road traffic accident injuries:
    • More commonly a cause of death than of presentation of live casualties. (D57)
    • Injuries may include fractures of long bones, jaw, skull, pelvis and spine.
    • Canine tooth fractures with pulp exposure can occur following road traffic accident injury and require dentistry treatment. Otters which rely on their canines to catch fish are not suitable for release if severe canine shortening or loss has occurred.
  • Bite wounds - intraspecific (from other otters). See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
    • Bite wounds are typically seen in subordinate males.
    • Most commonly puncture wounds over the skull, feet, and around the genitals. (perigenital area.)
    • Cellulitis, septicaemia, meningitis, bacterial endocarditis and pneumonia are common problems secondary to fight wounds.
    • Streptococcus spp. are commonly isolated.
    • Bacterial culture and sensitivity testing may be advisable.(V.w26)

      (D24, D57)

  • Dog bites. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
  • Orphans See: Hand-rearing of Lutra lutra - European Otter
    • Cubs are most likely to present in autumn/winter at 2-4 months old, e.g. having become separated from their mother during a storm.(P19.3.w3)
    • Trauma, starvation and separation from the dam are common reasons for “orphan” presentation.
  • Hydrocephalus has been seen in abandoned cubs.(D57)
  • Bacterial pneumonia or pleuropneumonia (J.C.M. Lewis pers. com. in B151).
  • Oiling may occur, particularly in coastal regions.
  • Ticks may be present, particularly in injured animals or in cubs which have not been groomed for several days. (B142, D58) See: Tick Infection

    (B151, D24, D57, D58, P19.3.w3, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

  • Retinal dysplasia has been noted which may have been associated with vitamin A deficiency. (P18.3.w4)
  • Renal calculi (more common in captive otters) occur. (B142)
  • Canine Distemper and  Leptospirosis have occurred in otters in captivity. (B142)
  • Dental abscesses (more common in captive otters). (B142)
  • Aleutian disease has been suspected. (J61.1.w2).
  • Susceptible to Rabies: (zoonosis). This disease is not currently present in the UK although the possibility of its introduction into the UK should be remembered.

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Insectivorous Bat Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Insectivorous Bat Considerations

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Bechstein's bat - Myotis bechsteinii, Brandt's bat - Myotis brandtii, Brown long-eared bat - Plecotus auritus, Daubenton's bat - Myotis daubentonii, Greater horseshoe bat - Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Grey long-eared bat - Plecotus austriacus, Large mouse-eared bat - Myotis myotis, Lesser horseshoe bat - Rhinolophus hipposideros, Noctule - Nyctalus noctula, Lesser noctule - Nyctalus leiseri, Nathusius' pipistrelle - Pipistrellus nathusii, Natterer's bat - Myotis nattereri, Northern bat - Eptesicus nilssoni, Particoloured bat - Vespertilio murinus, Pipistrelle - Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Serotine - Eptesicus serotinus, Western barbastelle - Barbastella barbastellus, Whiskered bat - Myotis mystacinus

The UK bat species are from the families Rhinolophidae, Vespertilionidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Cat bites: See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
    • Wing punctures and tears:
      • Prognosis varies with size and shape of the deficits in the wing membrane. 
      • Holes often heal and contract down well whilst wing membrane tears where the edges are not in apposition are more problematic.
      • Flight assessment should be made in each case because some bats are able to fly with small deficits to the wing membrane and further treatment may be unnecessary.(B151, V.w26)
      • Treatment may involve suturing with fine absorbable suture material, the use of tissue glue or apposition using op-site film; however it can be difficult to arrange the cuts in apposition and the bat may not tolerate the dressings and may remove them.(J3.128.w1, B151, V.w26)
    • Wing fractures.
      • Humeral and radius/ulna fractures are commonly compound (open) and bone desiccation can occur. (V.w26, B151)
      • Simple fractures particularly in the larger species may be pinned using e.g. a hypodermic needle as a pin (J3.128.w1); however self-mutilation at the site of fracture repairs has been observed.(V.w26)
      • Splinting may be carried out using lightweight tape e.g. Micropore (3M) reinforced as required with cocktail sticks.(J3.128.w1)
      • Other options for stabilisation involve the use of tissue glue or external skeletal fixation.
      • N.B. Whatever the method used, removal of external appliances, self-mutilation and osteomyelitis are common complications of fracture management.(V.w26)
      • Amputation through the proximal humerus is suggested for severe, compound or infected wing fractures.(J3.128.w1)
      • Euthanasia is suggested for individuals with bilateral compound wing bone fractures.(J3.128.w1)
      • Euthanasia is suggested for individuals which will not retain both thumbs after amputation as these are required for the bat to walk and climb. (B151)
    • Puncture wounds:
      • Management includes cleaning of the wound with diluted povidone iodine and treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics (e.g. amoxycillin/clavulonic acid, Synulox Palatable Drops, Pfizer Ltd.).(V.w26)
      • Euthanasia is suggested for individuals with severe puncture wounds to the head or body.(J3.128.w1).
    • Subcutaneous emphysema; may be left to resolve or, if the bat is dyspnoeic (breathing difficulties) may be aspirated using a fine syringe and needle (e.g. an insulin syringe).(J3.128.w1, B151, V.w26)
    • N.B. All bite wounds are likely to be infected; amoxycillin or amoxycillin/clavulonic acid palatable drops (Clamoxyl or Synulox palatable drops) have been recommended. (B151, V.w26)

Other important diseases:

  • Rabies: (zoonosis); a rabies-related virus, or lyssavirus has been detected in Daubenton's bat - Myotis daubentonii (in one individual bat only) in the UK. It has not been detected in large numbers of bats screened previously and subsequently; however the risk of rabies must always be remembered in bats (J3.139.w1, J3.147.w1, D49).
  • Insecticide poisoning e.g. from wood treatment in buildings used as bat roosts, or secondary poisoning via insects.(B142)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Mouse & Vole Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Mouse & Vole Considerations Apodemus flavicollis - Yellow-necked mouse, Apodemus sylvaticus - Wood mouse, Micromys minutus - Harvest mouse, Mus musculus - House mouse,  Arvicola terrestris - European water vole, Clethrionomys glareolus - Bank vole, Microtus agrestis - Field vole, Microtus arvalis - Common vole.

These species are within the family Muridae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

For orphans See: Hand-rearing Mice and Voles

Other important diseases:

  • Cowpox (Clethrionomys glareolus - Bank vole, Microtus agrestis - Field vole, Apodemus sylvaticus - Wood mouse are reservoir hosts and infection may affect reproduction (fecundity)).(P18.3.w3) This is a zoonotic disease and can affect humans. (B101)
  • Toxoplasmosis: has been reported associated with periods of high mortality in voles (Microtus spp.), with neurological signs and cerebral cysts periods of high mortality have been seen in which toxoplasmosis, was the only disease identified.(J81.3.w1, J81.4.w1).
  • Leptospirosis. (B142) This is a zoonotic disease and can affect humans. (B101)
  • Lyme disease (zoonosis). (J61.1.w2, B101)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Rabbit & Hare Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Rabbit & Hare Considerations Lepus europaeus - Brown hare, Lepus timidus - Arctic hare, Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit.

These species are within the family Leporidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Road traffic accident (B199): 
    • Fractures including long bone fractures.
    • Spinal injury is particularly common.(V.w26)
  • Cat and dog bites (mainly juvenile rabbits with puncture wounds to the neck and back area.(V.w26)
  • Myxomatosis (rabbits and occasionally in hares)
    • It is generally considered that treatment for the disease is inappropriate due to the suffering of the animals and the possibility of permanent eye damage making release inadvisable. (V.w5, V.w26)
    • Supportive care has been described.(B151)
    • An amendment to the Pests Act 1954 makes it an offence to release a rabbit with signs of myxomatosis where other rabbits may become infected. (J35.147.w1)
  • Snare injuries. (B199): may be severe limb damage or skin loss. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
    • When releasing an animal from a snare, great care should be taken that it cannot escape with the snare still attached. DO NOT SIMPLY CUT THE SNARE LOOSE LEAVING THE SNARE ATTACHED TO THE BODY.
  • External parasites may be present: Spilopsyllus cuniculi, the rabbit flea, which is the main vector of Myxomatosis, also ticks (Ixodes ricinus) and sucking lice.(B142(See: Lice Infection, Tick Infection and Flea Infection in Mammals)
  • Leverets, which are normally left alone during the day out in the open, are commonly mistakenly identified as orphans.
  • Rabbits in severe pain/ distress may vocalise with a high pitched scream.(V.w26)

Other important diseases:

(D24, B142, B151, P8.3.w4, J61.1.w2, V.w5, V.w26)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Vulpes vulpes - Red fox Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Vulpes vulpes - Red fox Considerations

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Common findings and reasons for presentation:
  • Road traffic accident:
    • Injuries may include fractures of the long bones, pelvis, spine;
    • Internal injuries may include ruptured diaphragm, liver, spleen .
  • Bite wounds with associated infection. This is likely to be associated with secondary septicaemia or toxaemia. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
  • Snare injuries - may develop subsequent pressure necrosis. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
    • A snared animal is likely to be extremely aggressive and dangerous.
    • The noose of the snare may be caught around the limbs, head and neck, or abdomen.
    • Pressure necrosis of underlying tissues may not be visible for several days after the initial injury.
      • When releasing a fox from a snare, great care should be taken that the animal cannot escape with the snare still attached. DO NOT SIMPLY CUT THE SNARE LOOSE LEAVING THE SNARE ATTACHED TO THE BODY.
      • General anaesthesia may be required.
      • Examination of underlying wounds is essential. 
      • Animals from which a snare has been removed must be kept for several days for observation and not released immediately.

    (J60.2.w3, V.w26, V.w6)

Other important diseases:

  • Angiostrongylus vasorum infection.(J3.139.w2)
    • Particularly in Cornwall.
  • Toxocara canis (zoonosis) and other intestinal helminths. (J32.59.w1)
  • Foxes are susceptible to the majority of infectious diseases of dogs including Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and possibly Canine Parvovirus Infection.
  • Rabies: (zoonosis) This disease is not currently present in the UK although the possibility of its introduction into the UK should be remembered.

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Seal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Seal Considerations

Click image for full page view

Halichoerus grypus - Grey seal, Phoca vitulina - Common seal.

These species are within the family Phocidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • The commonest presentation is "orphaned" pups. See: Hand-rearing Seals
  • Animals may rarely be found with serious illness.(P24.335.w13)
  • Common clinical conditions on presentation :
    • Malnutrition
    • Trauma
    • Respiratory disease
      • May be bacterial, parasitic i.e. lungworm infection, or combined bacterial/parasitic, also viral (Phocine distemper).
      • Clinical signs of lungworm infection include tachypnoea (rapid breathing), dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing) and a wet, productive cough. On auscultation rles and rhonchi ("rattles", "squeaks" and "whistles") may be audible together with areas of emphysema and consolidation. Epistaxis (nose bleeds) may occur with Parafilaroides gymnurus infection and adult worms of Otostrongylus circumlitus may be coughed up.(J15.20.w1)
      • Mucopurulent discharge, sneezing, coughing, dyspnoea and tachypnoea are common signs of bacterial respiratory infection. General signs may include dullness and pyrexia (over 37.2C/99F) and lung sounds (particularly rles) are audible on auscultation. (J15.20.w1)
    • Eye damage and/or infection.
      • Localised corneal oedema and ulceration is common.
      • Acute melting ulcers of the cornea may occur with Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.(J15.20.w1)
    • Oiling.(D60)
    • Diarrhoea
      • May be stress-related. It can also be associated with heavy helminth infections, coccidiosis and bacterial infection such as Salmonellosis.
    • Dehydration (mucous membranes are dry and eyes are sunken; lack of normal "tear stains" from the corners of the eyes).
    • Blood in the faeces (associated with gastric ulceration from heavy ascarid infections, oiling and occasionally with ingestion of feathers).
    • Umbilical infection.
    • Nail bed (cuticle) infection.
    • Skin granulomas (Seal Pox)
    • Hyperthermia or less commonly hypothermia (normal body temperature range 36.0-37.2C/ 97-99F).
    • Cardiovascular anomalies.

    (J3.147.w2, J15.20.w1, J61.1.w1, D14, D60)

  • Adults or juveniles may present entangled in fishing netting or other debris, often around the neck (cranial to the shoulders) or alternatively around the abdomen cranial to the pelvis. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
    • In pups netting may cut into the animal through skin, blubber and muscle as the pup grows. (J15.20.w1)
    • Entangled animals with no apparent injury may be released immediately after the netting or other debris has been removed. (P24.335.w13)
    • If the animal is in poor body condition, or if there are deep wounds associated with the entangled material further treatment may be required. (P24.335.w13)
  • Adults as well as pups may be reported with traumatic injuries.
    • Causes include territorial fight wounds, injuries from boat propellers, gunshot wounds etc.
    • Minor lacerations to blubber-covered areas, which do not appear to be causing debility, may not require intervention. (P24.335.w13)
    • For major injuries, intervention is required if the animal is severely affected e.g. obvious debility, inability to move, wounds penetrating into body cavities, eye trauma, jaw fracture, wounds with obvious purulent discharge.(P24.335.w13)

Other important diseases:

  • Phocine Distemper
  • Phocine Herpesvirus Infection.
    • Animals with acute or peracute infection (viraemia) with hepatitis, pneumonia and sometimes encephalitis.
    • Clinical signs may include depression, anorexia, difficulty in breathing and rapid breathing.

      (J61.1.w1)

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection has been reported in association with peracute/acute pneumonia and pericarditis. (J61.1.w1)

(B209.2.w2, D14)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Shrew Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Shrew Considerations Crocidura russula - Greater white-toothed shrew, Crocidura suaveolus - Lesser white-toothed shrew, Neomys fodiens - Eurasian water shrew, Sorex araneus - Eurasian common shrew, Sorex coronatus - French shrew, Sorex minutus - Eurasian pygmy shrew

These species are within the family Soricidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Cat bites. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
    • Domestic cats find shrews unpalatable and they are therefore frequently attacked and played with, but rarely eaten.(B142, B199)
    • Injuries may include limb fractures and prolapsed intestines.(B151)
  • Endoparasites are commonly present and may be detected by faecal examination. If required, treatment with ivermectin 20g per 100g bodyweight or mebendazole 5mg per 100g bodyweight may be carried out [route not specified].(B22.27.w4)
  • Ectoparasites such as ticks, mites and fleas are commonly present on shrews. (See: Lice Infection, Tick Infection and Flea Infection in Mammals) (B142, B199, B235)

For orphans see: Hand Rearing Shrews

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Squirrel Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Squirrel Considerations Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris - Eurasian red squirrel.

These species are within the family Sciuridae.

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris - Eurasian red squirrel):

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Cat or dog bites.(B199, V.w26) See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
  • Road traffic accidents.(B199, V.w26)
  • Orphans (See: Hand-rearing Squirrels). (B199)
  • Anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning.(B199)
  • Fleas (Monopsyllus sciurorum and Orchopeas howardii) may be present; sometimes heavy burdens.(B142, B151, D24)
  • Other ectoparasites: e.g. ticks Ixodes ricinus, harvest mites Trombicula spp. / Neotrombiculina spp., sucking lice Enderleinellus longiceps, Neohaematopinus sciuri may be found commonly.(B142, B199, J60.3.w2) (See: Lice Infection and Tick Infection). Alopecia may be noted associated with harvest mites.(J60.3.w2)
  • Diarrhoea is a common finding in sick squirrels. May be bacterial or coccidial in origin. J60.3.w2)
    • May be seen associated with disruption of gut flora due to use of antibiotics. J60.3.w2)

Other important diseases:

  • Squirrel Parapoxvirus infection: Pox-like lesions particularly on the eyelids, lips, inner hindlimbs and chin.(B151, D24, V.w26)
  • Metabolic bone disease: has been seen in wild red squirrels eating a diet with calcium/phosphorus imbalance (particularly a diet which has been provided by humans). (J3.100.w2, J3.137.w3, J60.3.w2, B151)
  • Coccidiosis: Eimeria spp.; Eimeria sciurorum is of unknown pathogenicity, but a common finding on faecal examination.
    • Coccidial enteritis, which may be fatal, may occur secondary to other diseases, poor management, poor nutrition or other stressors. (J60.3.w2, J61.2.w1, J82.13.w1)
    • May be treated with sulphonamides.(B151)
  • Leptospirosis.(B199)
  • Malocclusion of teeth: is sometimes seen in free-living individuals.(J60.3.w2, B151)
  • Ringworm: has been reported. (J82.13.w1)

Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel)

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Orphans. (See: Hand-rearing Squirrels) (B199)
  • Road traffic accidents or falls.(B199, V.w26)
    • May be limb or spinal fractures.(B151)
  • Dog or cat bites.(B199, V.w26) See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds
  • Anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning.(B199)
  • Fleas Orchopeas howardi and Monopsyllus sciurorum)(B142); may be heavy burdens. See: Flea Infection in Mammals
    • May be controlled with pyrethrum-based powder.(B151)
  • Other ectoparasites: e.g. ticks Ixodes ricinus, harvest mites Trombicula spp., sucking lice Enderleinellus longiceps, Neohaematopinus sciuri.(B142, B199, J60.3.w2) (See: Lice Infection and Tick Infection)
  • Epistaxis (nose bleed): may be caused by falls or spontaneous haemorrhage from warfarin-type rodent bait.(B151)
  • Ringworm.(B151)
  • Diarrhoea:
    • This is a common finding in sick squirrels. May be bacterial or coccidial in origin.
    • May be seen associated with disruption of gut flora due to use of antibiotics.

      (J60.3.w2)

Other important diseases:

  • Metabolic bone disease: has been seen in hand-reared grey squirrels given a diet with a high proportion of peanuts and sunflower seeds. In juveniles may see seizures and death.(B151)
  • Coccidiosis: Eimeria spp. may be found and disease related to coccidial infection may occur.(J61.2.w1, J82.13.w1)
  • N.B. Clinical parapoxvirus infection (Squirrel Parapoxvirus infection) is very rare in grey squirrels; there has been only one report of clinical disease in the literature. (J3.138.w1)
  • Malocclusion of teeth: is sometimes seen in free-living individuals.(J60.3.w2, B151)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Stoat, Weasel etc. Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Stoat, Weasel etc. Considerations

Click image for full page view

This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Martes martes - Pine marten, Mustela erminea - Stoat, Mustela nivalis - Weasel, Mustela putorius - Polecat, Mustela vison - American mink.

These species are within the family Mustelidae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

For orphans see: Hand-Rearing Stoats, Weasels etc.

Other important diseases:

  • Skrjabingylus nasicola. Nematode worms in the post-orbital region of the skull, sometimes causing severe bone distortions.(B142, B238)
  • Animals in the family Mustelidae are susceptible to Rabies: (zoonosis). This disease is not currently present in the UK although the possibility of its introduction into the UK should be remembered.

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Erinaceus europaeus - West European hedgehog Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Erinaceus europaeus - West European hedgehog Considerations

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

Click image for full page view

 

Common findings and reasons for presentation:
  • Underweight juveniles in autumn:
    • Animals which appear healthy (bright and active) may be re-released where they were found; supplementary feeding in situ may be appropriate.
    • Individuals which appear unwell (weak, emaciated, respiratory problems or presence of fly eggs/maggots) need treatment and rehabilitation.

      (J15.21.w1)

  • Orphans:
    • Hedgehogs may become orphaned following nest disturbance following construction or gardening work.(V.w26)
  • Caught in netting or other ligature. See: Foreign Body Entanglement and Snaring
  • Hedgehog Balloon Syndrome
  • Hedgehog Pop-off Syndrome
  • Road traffic accident injuries may include:
    • Leg fractures.
    • Spinal fractures (hind limbs protrude when hedgehog rolls up and spines caudal to the injury fail to erect. Differentiate from "pop-off" syndrome (Hedgehog Pop-off Syndrome) by radiography. Euthanasia is required).
    • Snout injuries.
    • Crushed feet.
  • Dog attack victims; injuries may include:
  • Garden strimmer injuries: clean lacerations with cropped spines at uniform level; bilateral amputation of hindlimbs or amputation of snout. See: Lacerations & Punctures including Bite Wounds (V.w26)
  • Myiasis
  • Eye prolapse.
  • Burns
    • Caused by garden fires, particularly bonfires.
  • Caught in vertical-sided holes such as beneath cattle grids or in open drains. (B142)
    • Cattle grids now sometimes include a ramp to allow hedgehogs and other small mammals to climb out.
  • Drowning in steep-sided ponds. (B142)
    • The risk of this may be reduced simply by providing a piece of rigid netting anchored to the side for the hedgehog to use as a ramp to climb out.
  • Hedgehog lungworm infection
  • Bacterial pneumonia: this is often secondary to lungworm infection.
  • Intestinal Capillaria Infection
  • Hedgehog Ringworm
  • Mange (Caparinia Mange of Hedgehogs, Hedgehog Notoedres Mange, Sarcoptic Mange)
  • Tick Infection
  • Lice Infection
  • Dental disease
  • Fleas (Archaeopsylla erinacei and other species) are commonly present on hedgehogs, sometimes in large numbers. These occasionally bite people.(B228
  • Bacterial skin infection:
    • skin infections are often associated with Staphylococcus spp.
    • treatment is preferably based on culture and sensitivity testing; the following has been used successfully; amoxycillin/clavulanate (Synulox, Pfizer Limited) 30-50 mg/kg bid, oral, intramuscular or subcutaneous; clindamycin (Antirobe, Pharmacia & Upjohn) 5-10 mg/kg bid oral; enrofloxacin (Baytril, Bayer) 10mg/kg bid oral, intramuscular, subcutaneous or intraperitoneal).
    • small pustules at the base of spines in juvenile hedgehogs can occur and can be treated with local spine clipping, bathing in dilute povidine-iodine and systemic antibiotic treatment (amoxycillin and clavulanic acid - Synulox, Pfizer Limited) subcutaneous once daily). 
    • abscesses involving the feet and distal limbs of hedgehogs may be the result of bite wounds. These infections are particularly erosive and can be problematic to treat.
    • generally a secondary problem seen with other diseases, but primary exudative dermatitis of ventral thorax and abdomen also occurs.

    (J15.21.w1,V.w26 )

  • Alopecia:
    • affected hedgehogs show hair and spine loss which can be severe
    • can be caused by zinc deficiency
    • in some cases, regrowth may be encouraged by use of a zinc/vitamin supplement (Vetamin and Zinc, Millpledge Pharmaceuticals).
  • Hedgehog Tapeworm Infection:
  • Salmonellosis (zoonosis). 

    (D24, B22.27.w3, B151, J15.21.w1, B156.7.w7, B228, P19.1.w4, V.w26)

N.B. Hedgehogs in severe pain/ distress may vocalise with a high pitched scream. (V.w26)

Other important diseases:

Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus - West European hedgehog):

  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease Hedgehogs are susceptible to this disease, and develop clinical signs. They can transmit the disease to other susceptible species. They are not considered important epidemiologically due to the small amount of virus produced and due to their limited ranges. (V.w6)

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Whale & Dolphin Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Whale & Dolphin Considerations Balaenoptera acutorostrata - Minke Whale, Delphinus delphis - Common dolphin, Globicephala melas - Long-finned pilot whale, Grampus griseus - Risso's dolphin, Lagenorhynchus acutus - Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris - White-beaked dolphin,  Orcinus orca - Killer whale, Phocoena phocoena - Common porpoise, Physeter macrocephalus - Sperm whale, Stenella coeruleoalba - Striped dolphin, Tursiops truncatus - Bottle-nosed dolphin.

These species are within the families Balaenopteridae, Delphinidae, Phocoenidae, Physeteridae.

Common findings and reasons for presentation:

  • Reasons for stranding include:
    • Navigational error particularly in individuals unfamiliar with the local coastline.
    • Individuals chasing prey too close to the shore, particularly in shallow estuarine waters.
    • Social bonding causing healthy animals to follow an injured/diseased animal onto a beach.
    • Diseased animals: bacterial pneumonia, peritonitis, hepatitis, parasitic infection such as lungworm and viral disease such as morbillivirus.
    • Injured animals: serious soft-tissue wounds, fractured or dislocated flippers, spinal damage.
    • Entanglement in fishing nets (usually dead at the rime of stranding).
    • Malnutrition (e.g. dependent calves which have become separated from their mothers, and old animals).

    Animals stranding due to navigational error or social bonding are generally pelagic, while animals stranding due to disease, injury or entanglement may be coastal or pelagic. 

    (D14, D23, P24.35.w2)

  • Presenting signs / problems in stranded cetaceans include:
    • Malnutrition/poor body condition/emaciation.
      • The lumbar muscles below the dorsal fin will have a flat or even concave outline in thin/emaciated cetaceans, compared with a convex, rounded profile in animals in normal/good body condition.
      • The "neck" may be visible in emaciated animals.
    • Trauma.
      • Superficial lesions are often not clinically significant, although bleeding may be considerable.
      • Wounds deep into the muscle, lateral flexion of the trunk (body) associated with muscle damage or scoliosis due to spinal injuries are all significant.
    • Respiratory distress.
    • Hyperthermia or, less commonly hypothermia.
    • Poor skin condition.
    • Dehydration.
    • Bleeding from orifices (blowhole, anus and/or genital slit).
    • Cardiovascular abnormalities.
    • Abnormal behaviour when supported in water.
    • (J15.20.w1, D23, D42, P24.35.w2)

Other important diseases:

For further information see:

Return to top of page

Common Findings and Reasons for Presentation - Felis silvestris - Wild cat Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general physical/clinical examination section above)

Felis silvestris -
Wild cat
Considerations
Common findings and reasons for presentation:

Other important diseases:

Return to top of page

Return to top of page

UK Contact Organisations and Published Guidelines for Further Reading (Electronic Library)

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

Return to top of page

Authors & Referees

Author Debra Bourne
Referees Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

Return to top of page