(from a veterinary nurse’s point of view)







Cathy Hough


Before you raise a lovable, cute and cuddly being, (marsupials in this case) you must be aware that during it’s life span, which can be anything from three to fifteen years depending on the type of marsupial, there will come a time when you need veterinary help.


What I want to put forward is some thoughts on how to make life much easier for the animal during treatment and convalescent care.   There are a few things to consider:


1.    What is wrong with the animal?

2.    How to treat it?

3.    What is involved for care and nursing requirements?


4.   Are there any special requirements?


Most animals need heat, quiet, and medication of course, to get over any illness whether it is a broken bone or general ill health.


It is well to consider all the above points when building your particular animal’s enclosure; think of what that particular marsupial needs and don’t forget to include a catching area if necessary.   In the case of kangaroos, a large area, say, a small acreage with trees and shrubs, maybe a shed and/or windbreak would do nicely.


You should include a heater light and feeder in the shed so if the animal has to be handled and treated for any length of time it can be contained within the confines of the shed.


Trying to catch a kangaroo without a specific area, firstly, to catch them in and secondly, to keep them in, spells trouble with a capital T.   The ‘roo you are chasing, even though it may be unwell, says ‘Forget it”.   To run it down and catch it tends to make the ‘roo hot and stressed as well as the catchers becoming hot under the collar.


If they are regularly fed inside their shed this is one of the easiest places to catch them.   You can run them into a net but this is easier said than done.    This is usually more successful for wallabies than for kangaroos.


If you have hand-reared a joey, then keep up the contact, maybe not everyday but at least every second day.   You don’t need to keep it on milk; treats are the best idea but be sure to give the treats in the usual feeding place each time, which should be an area where it can be easily caught.   It is easy to fall into the trap that if the animal is sick it is easier to handle - this is rarely the case!   If you do get to handle it, and it is normally unhandleable, will probably mean that the animal is extremely sick.   Of course there are always exceptions to the rule!


Most owners of nocturnal, underground and ground dwellers build their animals homes for them.   Wombats that live underground during the day, maybe a hole in a mound or a cement kennel.    Bettongs live in scrapings under logs or overhangs from rock caves. These can all be duplicated but stop and think, how can you get the animal but if you need to.   Beware of sticking your hand into a dark hole, most of these cute animals have very sharp teeth and are not afraid to use them.   Doors on all these nests can be arranged and they make life so much easier if you can seal off the entrances and catch the animal inside.   It is hopeless trying to coax the animal out when the vet arrives, you must have access to them.   The same goes for tree dwellers.


Possums, gliders, etc. are normally kept in an aviary situation.    Have a doorway so you can get into it and have a doorway to the log or nest box large enough to be able to remove the animal without being scratched or bitten.   Have a smaller enclosure that can be brought inside for warmth and care if needed.   It must be big enough for the animal to continue its nocturnal habits and be fed and cleaned regularly without being disturbed.


There have been numerous examples of disaster.  Turning up to a new client’s house to treat a two year old Western Grey kangaroo that has a weepy eye.   It doesn’t seem like an emergency, but it had to checked out.   The kangaroo is in a 11/2 acre paddock with a six foot fence and hasn’t been handled since it was twelve months old.    It was fed at the gate and there was a shed in the middle of the yard but it wasn’t used.   The animal needed to be sedated and a course of antibiotics administered over a couple of weeks.   In this case a yard had to be built which took a couple of days and the kangaroo darted (which is no mean feat), which meant that treatment was put on hold, for about three days.   In this case time was not critical but sometimes (most times) you have not got three days to wait once the owner has realised the animal is sick.


Another example is a Red kangaroo in an open paddock of about an acre with seven other kangaroos, there is a shed but it is not enclosed.   Lumpy jaw was the diagnosis, treatment, a course of antibiotics.    Sounds easy doesn’t it, but we would have tramped up and down that yard dozens of times while seven other kangaroos looked on in terror and one in particular became very distressed.

There was the case of the Kangaroo Island buck of about 7-8 years old, 8ft high and very broad across the chest, who had to be caught. I can’t remember why but I do remember that he didn’t want to be caught.  Thankfully he was in a fairly small yard but with three of us trying to catch him we had all been grabbed, scratched and jumped on before he was eventually sedated.


Finally, there was the example of a Brushtail Possum who was to be castrated. His home was a 4ft piece of 4” polypipe which was big enough for him to turn around in, but to try and get him out was an absolute disaster because he could always get at me before I could get to him - remember the “sharp teeth”.   After a while of pushing with a towel I finally got him out but not before being bitten.


All these sorts of problems can be avoided with a little thought and preparation before hand.



Bennett's Wallaby
Juvenile NT Brushtail Possum
Swamp Wallaby
Golden Brushtail Possum
Red Kangaroos
Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies
Baby Squirrel Glider
Sugar Glider

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