1 Exotic Pet P R A C T I C E SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE The Gray Short-tailed Opossum Cathy A. Johnson-Delaney, DVM The South American or Brazilian short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) was originally brought into the United States from the Caatinga region of eastern Brazil in 1978 for an exhibit at the National Zoo. Additional opossums were imported from Brazil a few years later for use in breeding at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. During the past decade, these animals have become the most widely used laboratory marsupial species, primarily because they are easy to breed in captivity and are economically feasible to maintain. The shorttailed opossum is tame and can be easily picked up and handled much like a hamster or other small rodent. In the wild, M domestica is a terrestrial or semi-arboreal species, reportedly living near water and building nests among rocks and in hollow logs. 1 These animals are nocturnal but, when kept as pets, will respond to owners during the day. They will use branches and climbing apparatuses within caging, as well as running on rodent exercise wheels. Strips of cloth or paper towels will be used for nest-building. Wire rodent caging suitable for rats or hamsters works, but it should be large enough to enable placement of a wheel and branches and should allow enough floor space for a nest. As these opossums tend to have fairly strong acidic urine, adequate ventilation and frequent removal of the fecal and wet bedding material is required. Enclosed caging (such as is used to house hamsters) is not suitable. Recommended bedding materials include recycled paper pellets or shredded bedding suitable for birds and small mammals. Water can be provided in a sipper tube. Food can be offered in a small dish, with live foods and bits of fruit scattered throughout the cage for foraging. Individual animals are usually intolerant of each other; however, conflicts rarely result in serious injury. Breeding pairs are often kept in separate cages connected by a tunnel that allows both parties to retreat and claim separate territories. Male short-tailed opossums weigh between 90 and 150 g; females are between 80 and 100 g. Head and body length is 170 to 200 mm and tail length is 60 to 80 mm. 2 The tail is about half as long as the head and body, but always shorter than the body alone, and is sparsely haired. It is prehensile and is used by the opossum to carry bedding and other items to be dragged back to the nest and for support during climbing. The pouch is not developed. The mammae are arranged in a circle on the abdomen and number between 8 and 14. The marsupial bones are readily palpable. Newborns cling to the nipples of the dam until about 2 weeks of age, and later they will ride on the back and flanks of the dam, clinging to her fur. M domestica may have up to 4 litters annually. The gestation period is 14 to 15 days, and most litters are born 19 to 24 days after pairing. 2 Neonates are hairless and embryo-like, and they weigh approximately 100 mg at birth. Postpartum dependence lasts about 50 days. Sexual maturity is attained at 4 to 5 months of age, with females capable of producing their first litters at the age of 5 months. Breeding occurs throughout the year, and estrus can be induced by the presence of a male. Females may continue to produce eggs until about 28 months of age, and males can be used for breeding until about 39 months of age. The life span of these animals is approximately 3 years. In laboratory facilities, the nutritional needs of M domestica have been evaluated, and the diet formulation found to be the best to promote health and reproduction is a pelleted fox diet (National Complete Fox Food Pellets, Reproduction continues on page 74 ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS: Common Surgical Procedures in Birds ROUNDTABLE page 75 Assessing Death in Reptiles FROM THE LITERATURE page 77 Salmonella typhimurium Infection in a Savannah Monitor CASE REPORT page 79
2 EXOTIC PET PRACTICE Editor in Chief Shawn Messonnier, DVM Paws and Claws Animal Hospital Plano, Texas Editorial Board Terry W. Campbell, DVM, PhD Department of Clinical Science Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado Cathy A. Johnson-Delaney, DVM Senior Veterinarian, Primate Medicine Washington Regional Primate Research Center University of Washington Seattle, Washington James K. Morrisey, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Avian Specialist Avian and Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service Animal Medical Center New York, New York Wm. Kirk Suedmeyer, DVM Senior Staff Veterinarian Kansas City Zoological Gardens Adjunct Assistant Professor of Zoological Medicine UMC College of Veterinary Medicine Kansas City, Missouri Amy Beth Worell, BS, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Avian Specialist All Pets Medical Centre West Hills, California Advisory Board Michael A. Dutton, DVM, Diplomate ABVP Companion Animal Practice Weare Animal Hospital Weare, New Hampshire Gregory Rich, DVM West Esplande Veterinary Clinic & Bird Hospital Metairie, Louisiana ISSN October 1999 by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Vol. 4, No. 10, October Exotic Pet Practice (ISSN ) is published monthly by Mosby, Inc., Westline Industrial Drive, St. Louis, MO POSTMASTER send address changes to Exotic Pet Practice, Westline Industrial Drive, St. Louis, MO Annual subscription rates for 1999: individual $51.00, resident $31.00, institutional $ For multiple-copy pricing, contact Periodical Subscription Services, Mosby, Inc., Westline Industrial Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146; (800) Editorial address: Susan Sibiski, Mosby, Inc., 7250 Parkway Drive, Suite 510, Hanover, MD 21076; (800) The Gray Short-tailed Opossum continues from page 73 Diet, Milk Specialties Co, New Holstein, Wis). Diets for pet short-tailed opossums are based on the diet successfully used at the National Zoo. A base formulation of commercial insectivore ration (Reliable Protein Products Insectivore, Rancho Mirage, Calif; or Pretty Pets International Hedgehog Maintenance Diet, Stacy, Minn), at approximately 1 to 2 tsp per day per adult opossum, along with a small portion (1/ 4 tsp) of cooked meat, 1/4 tsp of various fruits (eg, grape, apple, kiwi, banana, orange), and live foods such as calcium gut-loaded crickets, various commercially available insects and worms, and an occasional small portion (1/4 tsp) of cooked egg or cottage cheese seems to be adequate. Meat and fruits can be sprinkled with a complete vitamin/mineral powder. Because shorttailed opossums are prone to atherosclerosis after hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia, fat levels in the diet should be kept fairly low. 3 Mean body temperature is approximately 90.2 F (32.3 C). Respiratory rate is approximately 54 breaths/min. Heart rate is approximately 345 beats/min with systolic blood pressure of approximately 188 mm Hg. 2 Blood can be collected by an incision through the ventral tail artery. The animal is anesthetized with isoflurane and the tail warmed so that the vessels dilate. At the end of the procedure, the incision can be cauterized and sealed with surgical glue. The tail usually heals without complications. The jugular vein can be catheterized, as in other small mammals, for fluids and medication administrations. Few clinical disease reports appear in the literature concerning short-tailed opossums. A review of spontaneous pathology in laboratory opossums lists the principle disease problems to be related to the digestive system. 4 The most common cause of death from digestive system disease was rectal prolapse. Neoplasia was found most frequently in the pancreas, liver, and digestive system. Another frequent disease was enteritis of the small intestine with gaseous distention. The second most common system in which lesions were diagnosed was the urogenital system. The kidney was the most frequently affected organ in that system, with lesions of nephritis. The most common neoplasms found were pituitary adenomas (prolactinomas), followed by uterine leiomyomas, skin lipomas, adrenal gland pheochromocytomas, and liver carcinomas. Most of these were found in opossums older than 22 months. Cardiovascular disease was fairly common, with congestive heart failure occurring in males more frequently than in females. Heart disease was generally found in animals averaging 37 months of age. Ocular injuries, consisting mainly of scratched corneas, have been reported. 2,5 The corneal injuries are treated essentially as they are in other animals: topical ophthalmic antibiotic solutions administered several times a day, along with removal of cage obstacles, irritating bedding or nesting material, or other animals that may have caused the injury. Pet short-tailed opossums have been seen with malnutrition, chilling and subsequent pneumonia, trauma caused from being dropped, or fight wounds from cagemates. 6 References 1. Fadem BH, Trupin GL, Maliniak E, et al: Care and breeding of the gray, shorttailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica), Lab Anim Sci 32: , Kraus DB, Fadem BH: Reproduction, development and physiology of the gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica). Lab Anim Sci 37: , Vandenberg JL, Robinson ES: The laboratory opossum (Monodelphis domestica) in laboratory research. Inst Lab Anim Resources J 38:4-12, Hubbard GB, Mahoney MC, Glacier CA, et al: Spontaneous pathology of the gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica). Lab Anim Sci 47:19-26, Field K, Griffith TW: Corneal lesion in a grey short-tailed opossum. Lab Anim 19:19-20, Johnson-Delaney CA: Short-tailed opossum, in Johnson-Delaney CA (ed): Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook for Veterinarians, suppl 1. Lake Worth, Fla, Wingers, 1997, pp
3 PRACTICE TIP EXOTIC PET PRACTICE Cathy A. Johnson-Delaney, DVM Powder for Dermatophyte Infections Daniels Omni Powder (Daniels Pharmaceuticals, Inc, St Petersburg, Fla) mixed into the dust bath of chinchillas helps control a skin dermatophyte infection. It can also be used on hedgehog skin or quill dermatophyte infection as it is puffed onto the skin. ROUNDTABLE Common Surgical Procedures in Birds WHAT S YOUR DIAGNOSIS??? Shawn Messonnier, DVM Q. Name common surgical procedures performed on birds. Dr Campbell: Repair of a fistula in the ingluvies, removal of feather cysts and rhinoliths, eye enucleation, ingluviotomy, coeliotomy, proventriculotomy, cloacal prolapse repair, salpingohysterectomy, and removal of neoplasms are common procedures. In wild birds, orthopedic care and wound management procedures are commonly performed. Dr Morrisey: Common surgeries I perform include cloacal surgeries, endoscopies, and surgeries of the reproductive tract, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory tract. Mass removals, amputations, and fracture repairs are also commonly performed. Dr Worell: The procedures I commonly perform include surgical sexing, wing amputations, lumpectomies, laceration and trauma repair, and a variety of abdominal surgeries including exploratory surgeries. Q. What surgeries could someone perform without special equipment (electrosurgery, endoscopy, etc)? Please discuss the benefits of these tools. Dr Campbell: Most of the procedures can be performed without special equipment. Microsurgical equipment is helpful, as is electrosurgical equipment including bipolar forceps to reduce blood loss and to decrease surgical time. Endoscopes can prevent surgery such as the retrieval of gastric foreign bodies. Dr Morrisey: Familiarity with microsurgical technique is very helpful when performing celiotomies and other deli- A 5-year-old, 1080-g, female guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) was evaluated for an abdominal enlargement that had occurred over the preceding 2 to 3 weeks. The pet was eating and acting fine, otherwise. Physical examination showed normal growth of the incisors; auscultation of the thorax was within normal limits. Abdominal palpation revealed a large mass or masses in the cranial abdomen, more pronounced on the left side. Radiographs showed a large radiodense mass in the left hemiabdomen with displacement of bowel loops into the right hemiabdomen. Questions 1. What are causes of abdominal enlargement in guinea pigs? 2. What do you recommend to the owner? 3. If surgery is your recommendation, describe your anesthetic protocol. continues on page 76 cate procedures. However, with some practice, gentle and judicious tissue handling can be performed without special microsurgical instruments. Head loops (magnification) are also useful when performing surgery on most patients. Feather cyst removal, laceration repair, enucleation, and amputations can usually be performed without specialized equipment. The benefit to this equipment is that it allows us to perform the procedure more quickly, more precisely, and usually faster. Endoscopy is a very useful tool for evaluating several organ systems at once without a full celiotomy and is usually quick and inexpensive to the client. Electrosurgery is beneficial for controlling blood loss and minimizing operative times. Dr Worell: Most surgeries can be performed with standard veterinary equipment. Smaller instruments are beneficial. An endoscope is useful for surgical sexing and for biopsies. Electrosurgical units are great for times when hemostasis is difficult. Q. Briefly discuss your technique for surgical correction of cloacal prolapse. Dr Campbell: I anchor the replaced cloaca to the eighth rib on one or both sides of the body, and then incorporate the cloaca into the suturing of the body wall during closure. Dr Morrisey: I typically use the continues on page 76 75
4 EXOTIC PET PRACTICE Common Surgical Procedures in Birds continues from page 75 rib tack and incisional cloacopexy techniques in a combined fashion. A ventral midline celiotomy is performed and the cloaca visualized. A suture is passed full-thickness through the dorsocranial aspect of the cloaca, and the suture is then passed around the last rib. This is repeated on each side of the cloaca. The ventral portion of the cloaca is then incorporated into the abdominal closure, again passing the suture fullthickness through the cloacal wall. Dr Worell: I use a cloacapexy using Prolene. The suture anchors the cloaca to the most distal ribs on the right and left sides of the thorax. Occasionally, I also place several sutures through the ventral cloacal wall and attach the cloaca to the abdominal muscles. The abdomen is usually closed with 4-0 Vicryl. Q. Briefly discuss your technique for removal of a ventricular foreign body. Dr Campbell: I use an endoscope if the bird is large enough. A proventriculotomy can also be performed, using a left lateral celiotomy approach, which results in fracturing one or more of the caudal ribs. The proventriculus is entered and the isthmus is dilated with forceps to facilitate entry into the ventriculus. I prefer this approach as it is easier to close the proventriculus rather than the ventriculus with a waterproof closure in granivorous birds. (In carnivorous birds lacking a muscular ventriculus, ventriculotomy rather than proventriculotomy is performed.) Dr Morrisey: Because birds lack an omentum, ventricular incisions are more prone to leakage and subsequent peritonitis than gastrotomy incisions in mammals. For this reason, an endoscopic retrieval or ventricular flushing is preferred to ventriculotomy or proventriculotomy. Ventricular flushing involves passing a large bore catheter into the ventriculus and flushing saline or other fluid into the ventriculus to dislodge a foreign body. The bird should be intubated and placed in a horizontal or slightly vertical position with the head down. Dr Worell: Without the use of an endoscope, there are at least 2 different sites that may be used. A left lateral abdominal incision may be made and the proventriculus/ventriculus incised. Alternatively, the crop may be entered through the neck and the item grasped in the proventriculus or ventriculus. Metallic foreign bodies can sometimes be removed by flushing and aspiration through a rubber feeding tube passed into the proventriculus/ventriculus through the incised crop. What s Your Diagnosis??? continues from page 75 Answers 1. Abdominal enlargement can be caused by inflammation, infection, or neoplasia of any of the abdominal organs. An impaction of the gastrointestinal tract could conceivably cause abdominal enlargement; however, the signalment would be of an acute or peracute problem. Because the pet was an intact female, involvement of the reproductive tract was high on the list of differential diagnoses. 2. Radiographs failed to give an exact diagnosis; ultrasound examination might be more conclusive. Aspiration of the mass and cytologic examination may allow for a definitive diagnosis. 76 In this case, surgery was recommended. 3. The animal was anesthetized with glycopyrrolate (0.01 mg/kg), acepromazine (0.2 mg/kg), and butorphanol (0.2 mg/kg) subcutaneously. Anesthesia was induced and maintained with isoflurane. Surgical exploration revealed enlargement of the left uterine horn and uterine body. An ovariohysterectomy was performed. The guinea pig recovered without complications. Its postoperative weight was 720 g. Histopathology showed uterine leiomyosarcoma; prognosis was guarded, with a potential for local return. Metastasis may occur in some cases. As of 8 months postoperatively, the pet was doing well. A recent article on rodent neoplasms failed to mention uterine neoplasia in guinea pigs but did mention a high frequency of ovarian neoplasia (mainly teratomas) in intact females. 1 Abdominal enlargement in intact rodents should prompt the suspicion of diseases of the reproductive tract, specifically neoplastic diseases. Surgery is the treatment of choice. Although it is not always a cure, surgery does improve the quality of life by eliminating the weight associated with the tumor. Reference 1. Toft J II: Commonly observed spontaneous neoplasms in rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils, in Semin Avian Exotic Pet Med 1:80-92, 1992.
5 FROM THE LITERATURE Assessing Death in Reptiles Shawn Messonnier, DVM Assessing death in reptiles is challenging. In some situations, the heart may only beat once every few minutes or even once per hour, as in hibernating animals. Even after large doses of euthanasia solution, the heart may beat for hours. Opening the coelomic cavity does not ensure death, because reptiles lack a diaphragm and can breathe without negative intracoelomic pressure. Potassium chloride (2 meq/kg) given after the correct dose of euthanasia solution will stop the heart. Bennett RA: Management of common reptile emergencies. Proc Assoc Rept Amphib Vet EXOTIC PET PRACTICE Editor s Note: The difficulty assessing death also makes anesthetic monitoring difficult. I have had many animals stay light during anesthesia only to have prolonged periods of apnea during the recovery period. To hasten anesthetic recovery, I have found warming the patient, occasionally assisting with breathing via external chest compressions, and acupuncture using a handheld electrostimulating unit to be quite effective. Careful monitoring is essential, and reptiles may take an extended period of time to recover. We must be careful not to pronounce that an apneic reptile is dead until absolutely sure that all signs of life have left the patient. HOW I... Perform Liver Biopsies on Ferrets Shawn Messonnier, DVM Liver biopsy is often indicated in undiagnosed hepatic disease; checking for micrometastasis in pancreatic insulinoma is also warranted. There are several surgical techniques mentioned in the literature. The one I use I have also used successfully without complications on my canine patients. A midline incision beginning just caudal to the xiphoid process is made and extended caudally as needed to allow access to the liver. For those disease processes without mass lesions, any accessible piece of liver can be removed for biopsy. I place a mosquito hemostat on the edge of any accessible liver lobe and clamp down. A scalpel is then used to remove the tiny sliver of hepatic tissue. The hemostat is left in place for 5 minutes to provide hemostatis. The clamp is released and the liver observed for bleeding I have never encountered any. If needed, gentle direct pressure or hemostatic foam is applied to control bleeding. Closure is routine. I have never encountered problems with this quick and simple technique. Suturing of the liver is not needed with this technique because only a tiny piece of liver is removed. Availability of Back Issues As a service to our subscribers, copies of back issues of Exotic Pet Practice are maintained and are available for purchase from Mosby, until inventory is depleted, at a cost of $12.00 per issue. Please write to Mosby, Inc. Subscription Services, Westline Industrial Drive, St. Louis, MO , or call (800) or (314) for information on availability of particular issues. 77
6 EXOTIC PET PRACTICE Client Teaching Guide Bird CARE SHEET Terry W. Campbell, DVM, PhD Behavioral Changes in Pet Birds Birds have a remarkable ability to hide illness until the disease becomes so severe that they can no longer fake appearing healthy. This is considered to be a mechanism of wild birds to avoid being preyed upon by predators. The pet bird care provider plays a key role in the health surveillance of the bird by detecting the often subtle signs of illness in the bird s behavior. The earlier illness can be detected, the better the chances of successful treatment. The following is a list of common behavioral changes observed in pet birds that should prompt the pet bird care provider to seek veterinary advice. Loss of Appetite (Anorexia): Anorexia or decreased food intake is a serious health concern because birds have a high metabolic rate and cannot afford to miss too many meals. Weighing the bird routinely using a gram scale is a good method of monitoring the health status of a bird. A bird that has lost greater than 10% of its body weight, regardless of whether it is still eating, should be examined by a veterinarian. Generalized Weakness: Weakness, lethargy, and excessive sleeping are behaviors suggestive of severe illness. Sick birds are inactive and often stay fluffed with their wings drooped. Changes in Breathing Pattern: A bird that exhibits an apparent change in its breathing, especially if it has difficulty in breathing or obvious respiratory sounds, most likely has a serious respiratory disease. Periodic coughing or sneezing is normal; however, if this behavior occurs frequently, it can be a sign of illness. Decreased Vocalizations: Birds that become unusually quiet, quit talking, or are less playful and interactive may be ill. Sick birds, especially those with severe digestive tract disorders, may revert to their baby bird behavior of begging for food. Regurgitation of Food: Regurgitation of food may be part of the normal courtship behavior of some birds that have chosen their care provider or image in a mirror as a mate. Regurgitation that is excessive and associated with weight loss is abnormal. Excessive Egg Laying: Repetitive egg laying is a common medical disorder of some birds, such as cockatiels. Neurotic Behavior: Increased preening, screaming, and aggression are abnormal behavioral changes in pet birds. Excessive grooming can lead to feather picking. These conditions often are seen in birds that are frustrated or stressed. Falling Off the Perch: Birds may fall off their perch for a variety of reasons. They may be unable to balance themselves because of a neurologic disorder or they may suffer from generalized weakness. Falling off the perch and thrashing about in the cage during the night ( night frights ) is a common occurrence in some birds, such as cockatiels, if they are not provided with a night light. Picked on by Other Birds: Birds that are picked on by other birds in the flock may be too ill to defend themselves. 78 Copy and use in partnership with your clients.
7 EXOTIC PET PRACTICE CASE REPORT Salmonella typhimurium Infection in a Savannah Monitor Wm. Kirk Suedmeyer, DVM A 3-month old, 205-g, male savannah monitor (Varanus exanthematicus) was brought in having suddenly collapsed. The monitor was housed with one similarly sized conspecific. No premonitory signs were observed, although the animals had demonstrated intraspecific aggression 1 week before this initial presentation. The monitors were separated and housed in a standard 10-gallon aquarium with a flourescent lamp (Vitalite) and a black light bulb (Phillips) placed within 36 cm of the animals. Their diet consisted of whole dead mice. Fresh water was offered on a daily basis in a shallow plastic container. The substrate was a piece of indoor/outdoor carpeting. The temperature was maintained at an even 29 C (84.2 F) with an average relative humidity of 60%. Two additional siblings were individually housed in similar cages. A physical examination revealed that the monitor was comatose. Blood was obtained from the ventral tail vein for a complete blood cell count and select serum chemistry profile. Warm fluids (Tyrodes ringer s solution, 0.8% NaCl, Sigma Chemical, St Louis, Mo) were administered subcutaneously, and 1 injection of 6 mg piperacillin (Piperacil, Lederle) and 0.25 mg of flunixin meglumine (Banamine, Schering-Plough) was administered intramuscularly. The lizard was placed in an incubator at 35 C (95 F) but died 3 hours later. The CBC revealed a leukocytosis with a mature heterophilia. Necropsy findings revealed a hyperemic duodenal and jejunal mucosa and healed bite wounds on the forelimbs. The rest of the internal organs tested within normal limits. Aerobic and anaerobic cultures revealed a pure, heavy culture of Salmonella typhimurium with a wide spectrum of antimicrobial sensitivity. Histopathology of all organs demonstrated a bacterial enteritis, hepatic necrosis, and bacteremia. The three remaining monitors were cultured several times and the presence of Salmonella arizonae was revealed. The antimicrobial sensitivity was similar to S typhimurium, but resistance was noted to the tetracyclines. The three monitors were given prophylactic trimethoprim-sulfadiazine orally once every 24 hours. No clinical signs were observed, and antibiotics were discontinued after 10 days. These same animals were occasionally tested by culture in subsequent years and continued to be negative for Salmonella species. Human Salmonella infections and their association with reptiles have been widely publicized. 1 It is generally accepted that reptiles carry Salmonella as a part of the normal gastrointestinal flora. 1,2 Few cases of fatal Salmonella infections in reptiles have been reported. 2 In this case, immunosuppression from intraspecific aggression was presumed to be the underlying cause of the infection. A source for the Salmonella infection was not found. Determination of clinical Salmonella infection in reptiles is understandably difficult and must be correlated with history, serotyping, clinical signs, and species susceptibility. In most cases, culturing Salmonella organisms from an otherwise healthy reptile is not an indication to initiate treatment. In this case, no obvious source of the infection was found, although contaminated food from infected handlers was suspected. Practitioners should be aware that Salmonella can and does cause clinical disease in reptiles. References 1. Bradely T: Salmonella and reptiles: Veterinary guidelines. Bull Assoc Rept Amphib Vet 8:14, Mader DR: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 1996, pp 23, 122. UPCOMING MEETINGS American Association of Equine Practitioners, Nashville, TN; December 5. For information, call (606) State Veterinary Medical Association Meetings: Delaware VMA, Dover, DE; December 8. For information, call (302) New Mexico VMA, Taos, NM; December 2. For information, call (505) Rhode Island VMA, Newport, RI; December 1. For information, call (401)
8 EXOTIC PET PRACTICE Q & A Sugar Glider with Hard Ovoid Mass Cathy A. Johnson-Delaney, DVM A staff member brought in an 18-month-old male sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps). On its belly, the veterinarian noticed a thing hanging from the umbilical area. Described as a thing on a string was a hard ovoid mass, 2 2 cm suspended by a stalk approximately 2 cm long. The surgeon wanted to cut it off flush with the belly! What is the thing? Some vital marsupial organ? What should be done? The owner was interested but not concerned, because no problem was noted at this point. Instead, there was concern about an area on the center of the top of the head of the male, cm, that was alopecic. The skin appeared to be normal with no pruritus. The owner also had a female glider that did not have this alopecic area. I hope you didn t cut off the stalk with the testes, unless you were planning to neuter the glider. The male sugar glider s scrotum hangs by a stalk from the umbilical region. The male does not have a pouch. Neutering is fairly straightforward, but you must do excellent analgesia control after surgery or the glider may mutilate itself. 1 The patch on the forehead is the male scent gland that he rubs on the female during mating, as well as during courting and territory-scenting. Females do not have this forehead gland. Reference 1. Johnson SD: Orchiectomy of the mature sugar glider (Petarus breviceps). Exotic Pet Practice 2(9):71, Readers: We welcome your questions, practice tips, and case reports. Please submit any materials to Susan Sibiski, Mosby, Inc., 7250 Parkway Drive, Suite 510, Hanover, MD 21076; (800) ; fax (410) Westline Industrial Drive St. Louis, MO Bulk Rate U.S. Postage PAID Permit #21 St. Joseph, MI