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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
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Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian and am happy to discuss any concerns & questions you have on any species.
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Ive been taking care of two orphaned opossums for 2 1/2 weeks.

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I've been taking care of two orphaned opossums for 2 1/2 weeks. They've progressed from eyedropper to dish just recently, and use a tiny litter box. I've fed them 1 part puppy milk replacement (Esbilac), 1 part baby oatmeal, and 1 part all natural babay applesauce, with enough water to make a good consistency. They thrived: good climbers, gained weight, etc. About 2 days ago, I added a little baby mashed sweet potatoes, so the applesauce part was about half and half apple and sweet potatoes. Last night, I also cut back a little on the Esbilac, and added plain organic yogurt to make up the 1/3 component of dairy. I watch these guys very very carefully, and noticed that one startled when I sneezed, and I thought she should stand up a little taller. They both climb and grip, but I want to be sure to reverse any potential damage. I read (too late) that too many orange vegs are bad because of the excess Vit A. I know all about how I shouldn't even have these guys, etc. but I've successfully rehabbed raccoons and wild rabbits in the past, and am very patient and observant. At the moment, I cannot drive, so I didn't want to try to find a big shelter where they would be lumped into a crowd. If I go back to the straight 1/3 Esbilac, 1/3 oatmeal, 1/3 applesauce, will this be ok?
Hello & welcome to Just Answer/Pearl. I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Now I appreciate that you are aware of the potential situation in rearing captive wildlife in your area. The reason why we tend to advocate turning wildlife over to rehabilitation centers is because they will be properly equipped for the care these wee ones (which you may also have with your wildlife history), able to ensure that the opossums receive balanced nutrition to ensure proper growth/health, often have veterinary access that you may not have, and most importantly will have the appropriate permits for legally rearing captive wildlife. And between the US having laws at the federal and state level regarding legal care of captive wildlife, I do need let you know you that if you did wish to seek out a rehabilitation center near you, you can check at: Wildlife International (LINK), US Wildlife Rehabilitation (LINK), Wildlife Rehabbers (LINK), or Wildlife Sanctuaries (LINK).


Otherwise, in regards XXXXX XXXXX diets for these little ones, I am a bit concerned about your current diet regime (especially your protein levels on first glance). Therefore, I will outline the regime I use for rehabilitating opossums at weaning. As we wean them off the milk, we tend to do this in phases. These phases are divided by how many formula feeds they are getting. And as we decrease the formula support, we increase the solid food's nutritional support until we are finally at the weaned stage.

Therefore, for our first phase, we tend to still offer formula 3-4 times daily but supplement with a 1/4- 1/2 cup of a diet containing 20% banana + other fruit bits, 40% chicken or turkey baby food or canned cat food (avoid beef with opossums), 20% small mice + chick bits, 20% veggies (no greens), and a sprinkle of food grade calcium carbonate.

Once we get more interest in solid food and they are ready for us to drop our formula feds to 1-2 times daily, then the diet is altered a wee bit to reflect the increasing role solid food plays in meeting their dietary requirements. In this second phase, you should offer the same volume but change the diet to 30% canned or soaked cat food, 30% mice/chick bits, 25% grapes, apples, banana, cantaloupe, or watermelon, 15% veggies (peppers, carrots, no greens) and again our sprinkle of food grade calcium carbonate.

Once they are full weaned and dependent on their solid diet, we again will tweak the diet to meet their full requirements at that life stage. And at that stage, we tend to offer fully weaned opossums 25% soaked dog food, 10% canned or soaked cat food, 30% whole mice/chicks, 15% fruit, 20% veggies (no greens) and again we continue the calcium supplement. At this stage, since there is no formula supplement, meal volume should be increased to 1 cup per full weaned opossum.

Overall, I would be a bit concerned here about the protein levels you are offering them so far. It is early days, since they are just starting to wean, but I would strongly advise modifying your diet as I have outlined to make sure you don't cause any adverse effects from nutritional deficiency. Hopefully, if you do so, we will see them continue to grow properly. And if you are struggling, then do consider at least speaking with your local wildlife folks to tap their knowledge. With your experience, you may even be able to join their group (and thus have a permit) and continue to aid wildlife has you have done.


I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

Dr. B.

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Dr. B. and 4 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks for detailed information. Getting quantitative recipes is like dealing with the Masons or something...


How can I modify the formula immediately to reduce the protein?

You are very welcome.

Actually, I was saying that your protein levels may be too low for their age (I am making the educated guess that they are fully haired + eyes-open at this stage -- thinking you may have ~10-12wk olds just by the activity you have reported and that they are starting to take a bit of solid food. But since I obviously cannot see them, feel free to amend that age estimate for me). The puppy formula tends to work fine for them when they are pre-weaning but the current regimen you are using is going to be diluting what protein level the formula provides, if you know what I mean (since apple sauce, yogurt, sweet potato are all low protein). And while the yogurt, baby oatmeal, and applesauce are fine and some rehabilitation centers will use these, I just am concerned about the overall protein level dilution with this mix (especially if we are concerned that they may have some abnormalities).

Therefore, that is why I'd be keen to still have them get a level of formula feeds and at the same time make sure our solid foods have significant protein as well as calcium and fruit based sources. So, you can use your apple and sweet potato as the fruit/veg sources of the diet I have outlined but I would try and up the protein with the sources I have noted.

Hopefully that is a wee bit more clear.
Let me know if there is anything else I can clarify for you.

Dr. B.

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Remember that if you have any lingering questions or concerns, please reply so that we may continue our conversation. I will be happy to work with your further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied (with 4-5 stars or a happy face) so that I may receive credit for my assistance. Thank you & have a great day. : )

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes, I see. I thought that the protein level seemed low, too, but it was the "standard formula" for one rehab center that I found.


 


I have a difficult guessing their age, since handfed babies are almost always larger than their mama raised counterparts. Yes, they have just gotten their full coat, but it isn't long enough to bend over the way an older baby's hair does. Their eyes were open when my husband pulled them out of their deceased mom's pouch 2 1/2 weeks ago, but at that time, their ears were papery thin, and the guard hairs hadn't developed. I keep a daily log of weight before and after meals, quantity and quality of bms, etc. They were 35- 40 grams when they came to me, and a little dehydrated. Now, after a large meal (Minnie's a bit gluttonous, Dolly more sensible) Minnie weighs about 95g. I just stretched out Dolly, and she's almost 10 inches from tip of nose to tail. I would guess they are at the age where the earliest weaning attempts can be gradually introduced. Does this sound feasible? I don't want to rush them, but I also don't want to "baby" them so I have "twentysomethings" sucking up baby food when they could be doing more for themselves...

Hi again,

I know what you mean about the difficulties of aging them (the one time you wish they spoke english) but it sounds like they may have at least 9 weeks when you took them in. And if they were in that neighborhood age-wise, then its absolutely fine to consider slowly introducing weaning at this stage. As well, just by having the food there to get them thinking about taking in solid food is a good step in the right direction. The key consideration is to keep it at their pace and making sure they are keeping the weight on (or gaining) as you make the gradual switch. Just like any baby species really.

Overall, I do think you are at the right stage here. So, just make those wee dietary modifications we have discussed and take it slow with them. They sound like they aren't daft, so I suspect you won't be bottle feeding 'teenagers' in the time to come.


Dr. B.
Hi,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Minnie. How is everything going?

nekovet
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello,
Thanks for asking. Minnie and her sister Dolly are thriving now. The startle reflex is gone, and they stand straighter, are very active and are excellent climbers. They now weigh about 105g each.


 


They like the mushy foods, but sometimes Dolly wants just a little milk from the eyedropper for old time's sake. (Minnie hits every milestone first. I'm always amazed by the subtle differences among littermates of any species.) Minnie is trying her teeth on everything, including fingers, so she is ready to have more chunks.


 


Thanks, it looks like things are progressing toward successful release. It's touching to watch how they grow from clingy and cuddly to independent little wildlings, isn't it?


 

Thank you for the update on the wee ones.

It does sound like they are progressing quite positively there. I agree it is quite moving when you hand rear any species and that day comes where they are their own little critter and not just the dependent ball of fluff or feather s you had initially taken in.

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. In regards to Dolly and Minnie's individual rate of mental development and maturity, it is one of those fascinating elements of rearing any species (even human babies) and does tickle one's brain on how much individual nature plays a role along with nurturing for any wee one.

It does sound like everything is going as it should.
Keep up the good work & all the best for getting these little ones back into their natural habitat.

Take care,
Dr. B.