All About Diarrhoea

Faeces, poo, droppings, whatever you want to name it, come in a number of consistencies : pellets; toothpaste-like; soft toothpaste; sloppy and liquid. Some joeys pass a few pellets at the start of a bowel action, then faeces of a pasty consistency, finishing with liquid faeces. This is not usually a serious sign. Sometimes it is the result of a stressful episode. Beware! What we may consider to be nothing, could well be a terrifying experience to a young joey, eg particularly noisy and/or disruptive people or animals coming into a quiet room. If outside, a sudden loud or piercing bird call.

Diarrhoea can be put into 2 categories, non-infective ie dietary; overfeeding; bad management; psychological and irritable bowel, and infective, ie bacterial; coccidial; candida or other parasites.

Some joeys will develop diarrhoea if the quantity of formula given is excessive. All joeys vary in the amount of fluids they can consume without causing problems but it has been my experience that more than 20% of bodyweight is ALWAYS too much. The average daily intake should be between 8-15% of bodyweight. If it is more than 15% of bodyweight, beware that diarrhoea may become a problem within 2 or 3 days. It has also been my experience that carers who call for advice rarely believe overfeeding is the cause of diarrhoea.

Bad management is often the reason for diarrhoea.

– Joeys MUST be fed the same quantity at regular intervals. The following are important.

  1. Pinks must be fed 6 times over 24hrs, all feeds equally spaced and all the same quantity. Once there is a covering of fur, the night feed can be eliminated. DO NOT BE IN A RUSH TO CUT OUT THE NIGHT FEED SERIOUS PROBLEMS MAY OCCUR. Make sure you have incorporated the quantity given in the night feed into the day feeds. Five feeds a day then until well grown.
  2. Always feed at the same time each day, consistency in care is critical.
  3. Keep the volume per feed consistent. Always measure the quantity accurately, even the smallest increase can cause diarrhoea in some joeys. To increase the total daily quantity, raise the amount of each feed by no more than about 5%; eg 10ml per feed increase to 10.5ml. Depending on the joey, I often do this to only 1 feed each day so it may take 5 days for the increased amount to be given at each feed, alternately I may increase each feed by 1 or 2 drops at a time. Raising the quantity suddenly will lead to diarrhoea in most joeys.
  4. The formula and formula strength must be kept constant. If you want to change the formula do it gradually. Don’t take risks, it isn’t worth any problems that may arise. Begin with quarter of new formula to three-quarters of the old for a day, next half and half for a day then three-quarters new to quarter of old, finally the new formula.
  5. Having the temperature too hot or too cold can cause problems. A temperature that feels tepid when checked is suitable. If a too hot formula is given, the joeys mouth may be burnt.

Immediately wash and dry joey when it becomes soiled by faeces; never allow a joey to stay in a soiled pouch; stimulate after every feed. Even very small joeys will groom themselves, if they and their pouches are not cleaned there is the risk of ingesting faecal bacteria or parasites.

When the joey loses its mother it becomes very stressed, everything familiar, ie smell, sound and touch of mother as well as the pouch all disappear. Pressing a newly orphaned joey to your chest so it can ‘feel/hear’ your heart can cause absolute terror to the joey, the ‘relaxing and cuddling into you ‘ that you think you are feeling is more likely to be the joeys instinct to play dead to fool you – the predator – better to place it in its nice new warm pouch and leave it alone as long as possible to give it time to adapt to the new environment.

We cannot avoid the stresses caused by the mothers death but we can avoid many other causes of stress.

  • Do not have a number of people handling the joey and NEVER hand the joey around as an object to be prodded, patted and poked.
  • The pouch must offer security and warmth. Arrange the inner pouch so that the joey is in the horseshoe position it would be if still in the mothers pouch. Don’t keep the joey in a large open pouch, it needs to feel secure, however, don’t wrap it like a parcel. With mother the joey starts looking out of the pouch after 80% of its pouch life has been completed. Joeys that are made to spend time outside the pouch when physically too young can become stressed, they can also suffer damage to their skeletal system.
  • Joeys should not be given to children [even older children] as pets, children and joeys do not make a good mix, stressed animals, and diarrhoea, are the usual result of this combination.

Once the cause or causes of the diarrhoea have been determined you have to ask yourself if it is a problem to the joey. If the joey does not have any infections and is happy and content and still drinking/eating normally then the diarrhoea may not be a problem Many carers become obsessed with the consistency of the faeces. To see a formed pellet is the most wonderful thing in their lives. Take care that you do not compromise the health of the joey simply to have a formed pellet, eg watering down the formula, this will only result in poor growth and a hungry, stressed joey.

DO NOT take the joey off his formula if diarrhoea is a problem, this only weakens the joey and you will often find that if you do manage to stop the diarrhoea, then it will recur once the formula is started. Keep up the regular feeds and give extra fluids between feeds [electrolyte replacer]. My preference is to give the extra fluids sub-cutaneously, this does not interfere with the gut. If the joey is badly dehydrated then give the extra fluids intravenously.

OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING RULES.

  1. I have never found it necessary to alter a diet when a joey with severe diarrhoea and badly dehydrated has come to my home, however, the formula must be a good one, universal formulas fed as per instructions on their labels do not raise strong healthy joeys.
  2. Between 8-15% of bodyweight is a rough guide to quantity, if dehydrated do not forget extra fluids [not formula] will need to be given, perhaps over a number of days. Consider night feeds for a time.
  3. A strict routine must be observed, choose your feeding times and stick to them.
  4. Keep everything sterile – use a sterilizing solution for bottles, rinse in boiling water before filling with formula. Wash teats thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse well, store in fridge. Before using teats soak in boiling water for a minute or two. Regularly scour with salt to remove milk buildup.
  5. If joey dirties himself, thoroughly wash and dry. Even tiny joeys will at times lick themselves, any faeces left on the body may be ingested and cause problems.
  6. You must stimulate the joey either before of after each feed to make sure the bladder and bowels are emptied, this also lessens the chance of messed beds.
  7. Never allow a joey to stay in a bed that has been wet or dirtied.
  8. It is vitally important that the joey is not subjected to any physical or psychological stress. His well-being depends on a continuity of care and all-over good management. You can never compromise the care you give the joey. He is your first priority and must remain so.

Remember diarrhoea rarely stops as soon as you begin treatment. It is my experience that with good care it is usually controlled within 24hrs. Acute bacterial diarrhoea with no stress involved usually responds to treatment within 2 days. Long term diarrhoea – a month or longer – may take anything up to several weeks to control [I have found this to be the case when joeys kept illegally are brought to my shelter, most have been subjected to constant stress and a poor diet. The joey will often stop dirtying beds within a day or so but the consistency of the faeces can take a long time to change]. If the joey is well, growing nicely, but has chronic diarrhoea do not worry unduly. The more you mess around with diet and diarrhoea preparations the longer the problem is likely to persist. A happy animal, growing at a steady rate is your main aim, not formed faeces.

Skip had been kept for many weeks by an inexperienced person and had been suffering from severe diarrhoea. He was badly dehydrated and unable to suck. Apologies for the poor image

 

This last photo shows the dramatic improvement proper care gives after three months. Skip's diarrhoea took six weeks to control.

Shows improvement after 4 days

Note almost normal head growth but grossly undersized body. Had to be put on a drip and could not stand unaided for 4 days

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Roo Poo: A Magnificent Obsession

First rule is DON’T OVERFEED

  • 10% of body weight is a good amount at first. After you have established a good routine then quantity can SLOWLY be increased. If faeces become soft or runny then go back to quantity given before the soft poo started.
  • Don’t worry about soft, even runny droppings; as long as joey isn’t constantly messing his bed, then he’s OK.
  • If you feel droppings are too runny/watery then albi calb or other ‘thickener’ in 1 or 2 of the bottles may help. Don’t make this a habit, medicating when not necessary can start up a range of problems such as going from runny to hard to pass which can end up with various worrying episodes such as refusal to feed, too much straining [eventual prolapse] even some bleeding. Far better to have a stress free you and a baby with sloppy poo than problems that are much worse.
  • DON’T HAVE YOUR BABY TOO HOT OR TOO COLD AND KEEP IN A STRESS FREE ENVIRONMENT –
  • It is best to have only one joey minder with an experienced back-up if you need one. Lots of noise [tv, vacuum, etc] may cause stress as can barking dogs.
  • Some joeys show stress by shaking/trembling, by licking their forearms in an agitated manner, by developing diarrhoea. Others appear to be quite calm and happy in their artificial pouch but are in fact more frightened than those showing symptoms. Look for diarrhoea, refusal to feed and no grooming; these can be signs of stress in quiet joeys.
  • A relaxed joey will groom itself in some way quite regularly even when very small.

 

ANTIBIOTICS ARE AN ESSENTIAL PIECE OF EQUIPMENT BUT –

  • Be absolutely sure your joey needs antibiotics before using
  • At times, despite vet advice to use antibiotics, it may be preferable to use your own or another experienced operator’s judgement and not use, or perhaps delay use, until you are certain they are needed.
  • Once you start antibiotics the full course MUST be taken. Do not stop just because joey appears to be OK.
  • Any overuse of medication can cause problems eg. diarrhoea or thrush. Thrush is also caused by poor hygiene. If not diagnosed in time it can cause eventual death. Medication is a poor and unsuccessful substitute for cleanliness. Undiluted bleach poured over the entire sink area and left for several minutes before being wiped with a cloth that has also been soaked in bleach is what I use. I then wipe over any other area where bottles, etc may have been standing.
  • Until your joey is eating plenty of solids then sterilizing bottles and teats is essential. Teats should be washed in warm soapy water after use then stored in the fridge until the next feed. Steep in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Use any reliable method of sterilizing bottles.
  • If your joey develops diarrhoea, regardless of the reason, the joey and all his bedding must be kept clean. After washing, rinse pouches in a suitable disinfectant. Don’t be afraid to shampoo your joey [dirty area only], use warm water and a mild shampoo, rinse off and towel dry. Don’t let him get cold.
  • Kangaroos don’t start getting out of the pouch until they’re quite old, usually over 8 months, therefore keep the joey’s pouch routine as it would have been in the wild, ie don’t allow finely furred joey’s the run of the house. There may not be any problems but it’s wise not to take the chance. Problems with the skeletal structure may occur.

I think the most important point is never to allow the ‘poo’ of your animals’ to become an obsession. If your baby is not messing his beds and is otherwise healthy then the consistency doesn’t really matter. This also applies to outside joeys, droppings vary in consistency for many reasons, don’t worry if your outside animals are not always popping out perfect little balls.

All this is only relevant if you know with certainty that your joey hasn’t an infection, personally I rarely have problems with sickness in joeys, on a couple of occasions a ‘stress’ episode has brought on a messed bed or two but before day’s end it’s cleared up. Stress can be something as simple as a sudden loud noise or a really ‘loud’ person coming into the room.

For constipation a drop or two of oil – I use wheatgerm oil [sometimes liquid paraffin] – in the bottle once or twice should do the trick. Pure prune juice is also good, wallabies enjoy it.

This little fellow was the victim of well-meaning but ignorant care. He arrived quite malnourished and suffering severe diarrhoea. His bones were very thin and was unfortunately beyond help. He was euthanased.

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Caring for orphaned Joeys

On arrival the baby should be quickly but carefully and quietly examined for injuries and its condition assessed, eg dislocations, broken bones, dehydration, hyperthermia or hypothermia. Immediately this has been done and everything found to be OK, place the baby in a pre-warmed pouch [unless hyperthermic] and weigh -you will have already weighed the pouch while awaiting the baby’s arrival – place in its warmed bed. Do not attempt to feed the baby if it is chilled. Body temperature must be raised to about normal first. Temp. will be OK when the baby feels ‘toasty’ warm when placed against your lips, all extremities should feel warm. A baby that is chilled through or hypothermic may take several hours to warm, don’t try to rush the warming process by placing in an overheated bed. If the baby is dehydrated and cold then giving fluids under the skin is a good idea, this will hydrate the baby and help warm it. Always warm the fluids to body temp. before injecting and never attempt to sub.cut. fluids yourself unless you are experienced. Get the baby to your vet asap.

If the orphaning event occurred only an hour or two before arrival it is not necessary to attempt to offer fluids immediately. If the baby is a pink, wait another hour or so before attempting to feed. Velvets can wait 3 or 4 hours and well furred can be left for 5 or 6 hours, this may seem a long time but it allows the baby time to settle into its new environment and also makes it more eager to drink when fluids are offered. Do not disturb baby during this time.

Sometimes baby will arrive very dirty and/or bloody, cleanliness is not the first priority just now, quiet, warmth and fluids are the primary considerations, however gently smoothing over some warmed oil [pure apricot, avocado or even baby oil] whilst the baby is in the pouch will loosen and help warm the pinkie or velvet covered body, the remainder of the dirt will rub off in the course of the day. Keep a fresh pouch on your heat source always and after feeding the baby change to the clean warm bed. Until established it is a good idea to keep the baby in the pouch at feeding time. Keeping the eyes covered can also reduce stress.

It is vitally important that you do not handle the baby unless it is essential, this means at feeding times only. Eastern grey joeys in particular stress very easily. Don’t misinterpret the signals baby is sending to you, eg relaxing in your arms or ‘snuggling’ into your body can, in fact, be signs that the joey is so frightened that it is surrendering to its captor, not that it is relaxed and happy in its new situation. Don’t take the chance, allow the baby to adjust to its new situation quietly and with minimal handling. It is a fact that stress is one of the major killers of eastern grey kangaroos.

The correct amount of formula needs to be given to prevent problems such as dehydration or diarrhoea and maintain the baby in a healthy condition. About 10% of body weight in fluid is required over 24 hrs, eg a 750 g baby will need 75 ml. Some babies will take up to 15% [112 ml], be wary though, after a few days there may be problems as baby’s gut becomes overloaded and refusal to suckle may occur. Diarrhoea is also likely to develop. I have found 10% to be a satisfactory amount at least until the baby has adjusted to its new lifestyle. Always heat formula to body temperature, approx. 36 degrees.

On arrival if baby is dehydrated you may offer lectade [or similar] if you wish, this is often taken eagerly and more than the 10% should be given. My preference for dehydrated babies is to sub.cut. fluids and begin formula straight away, by doing this the baby will begin to gain strength immediately, blood sugar levels will increase to a normal level giving more strength and energy. Sub.cut. fluids are given in conjunction with the 4hrly formula routine until full rehydration has occurred. Full strength, or almost full strength, formula is given from the beginning, the old rule of 24 hrs lectade, 24 hrs quarter strength, 24 hrs half strength, etc, etc is a definite no no, too much weight and condition are lost in this way and it is surely the cause of many deaths. Little, if any, weight is lost giving full strength formula from the beginning. A 2.5 kg baby will increase its weight by about 200 gms in its first week. Very occasionally a baby will react to the artificial formula and dirty a few beds. Do not mistake a few dirty beds or loose faeces for diarrhoea, diarrhoea is continual uncontrolled bowel movements.

All babies are slightly different and react a little differently to the artificial food and surroundings. If you experience problems with diarrhoea don’t begin to chop and change formulas instantly, formula, if mixed correctly and hygienically is rarely, if ever, the cause of any problems. Make certain the problem isn’t from another cause, ie baby too hot or too cold, too much noise, too much handling, irregular feeds, too much formula. Methodically work out a regular routine and stick to it. It’s probably a good idea to contact a shelter operator with more experience and talk things over, be prepared to accept that you may inadvertently be the cause.

Toileting at feed times is essential to prevent possible bladder or bowel infections. Exposing the ‘other’ end only, dab the urogenital sinus gently with a cotton ball or damp ‘chux’ wipe [I apply a little moisturizing cream – Roskens skin repair or unperfumed sorbolene with glycerine with no additives]. Don’t stimulate for too long as baby will become stressed and there is also the possibility of causing a prolapse [more in wallabies]. Bowels will eventually empty and 2 days of no action is not unusual until a routine is established, however, if you suspect pain in the gut area seek help. The bladder should work almost immediately, if you are not getting anything from the bladder after the first few feeds, then there may be a problem. When bladder finally empties collect a sample and check if it is clear and not cloudy or very dark, if in doubt have it checked by your vet. Stress can easily cause bladder infections.

The skin of pinks dries out in the artificial atmosphere and needs to be kept moist particularly the tail. I have tried many products but always come back to Roskens Skin Repair or any brand of Sorbolene and Glycerine. Humilac available from Vets is also used. Warm before use.

It is vitally important that feeds be given regularly and not erratically, 6 equal feeds per day [4hrly] is best. If very small then 3hrly may be necessary for a short while, I’ve found more than this isn’t required and can cause more problems than you may be trying to solve as constant handling and attempting to feed can cause unnecessary stress and possibly death. If you are unable to keep up this regular routine then it is best if the baby is passed on to someone who can.

Don’t be in a rush to reduce the number of feeds per day, small quantities 4hrly are by far better than large volumes spaced too far apart. If baby overfeeds then it won’t be hungry at the next feed time and will refuse, overfeeding may also cause pain and refusal to feed for a good many hours by which time baby will be stressed and so will you.

Kangaroos are quite old before they begin to eat solids, some around 9months, don’t worry if your baby seems too big to be on formula only, if a good quality formula is offered in the correct quantities your baby will be healthy and begin to eat when its time is right, always have a bowl of dirt handy, a little fibrous bark is good as is grass with roots and dirt attached, rolled oats and wallaby/kangaroo pellets can be left where baby can reach them. Never offer bread and if you offer any fruits keep them to a minimum.

Be suspicious of a young baby that begins chewing anything and everything. Is the formula lacking? Some babies will suck their pouch or various body parts, as long as they can’t harm themselves or ingest pouch fibres it’s not a huge problem but make sure baby isn’t hungry. Try to encourage baby to suckle on a teat without a hole, this will prevent sucking body parts or pouches. A baby not given a good formula will not grow properly and will end up with a multitude of structural problems, eg poor bone density, little muscle tone, etc. Those ‘cutesy’ frail looking thin boned animals rarely survive to adulthood. When baby begins to eat solids do NOT take this as a sign that milk can be discontinued, a quantity of milk is still required for many more months. Eastern grey kangaroos are not weaned in the wild until they are somewhere around 18months.

There are a number of milk substitutes available, none mimic mums milk very well. Macropods in their early development cannot digest lactose sufficiently rapidly when fed a bolus of cows milk or other high lactose formula. Therefore a low lactose formula must be given. It is likely that joeys could be fed cows milk if we could invent a method where the joeys were able to sip very small quantities of of milk very often as they normally would in mum’s pouch, rather than our 3 or 4 hourly regimes. It is the introduction of large amounts of lactose into their gut at the one time that causes problems not the lactose itself. Cows milk has always been suspected as being involved with the development of cataracts in joeys. Poor nutrition and overheating are known causes of cataracts, therefore good nutrition and a joey kept nicely warmed, should mean a healthy joey.

If you choose Wombaroo or Biolac then follow directions on the packet, remembering that from quite early on, if using Wombaroo, extra fluid has to be given to the baby either added to or between milk feeds. Di-vetelact and Formula One can be used but, if used as per pack directions, will not raise strong, healthy joeys. If using either of these products follow the formula below. With this formula animals grow at about the same rate as those raised in the wild, they will have an all-over healthy look, not frail and fragile, fur will be smooth not unkempt, bones and muscle will be well developed and strong. Weight by 12months should be about 7-8kg.

Cleanliness is essential, all equipment should be sterilized. Glass bottles sterilized in sterilizing solution are best, flush thoroughly with boiling water just prior to filling with formula, for tiny babies a salt solution may be preferred. Teats should be washed in warm soapy water and kept dry in the fridge, they are sterilized before each use by immersing in boiling water for several minutes. Regularly they should be scoured with salt to make sure there is no milk residue build-up.

The formula is as follows:

To 350ml warm boiled water, add 7 scoops [supplied] Di-vetelact, one egg yolk [approx. 16gms] and 3-4tspns full cream natural yogurt – Jalna, red lid is a good one. Stir with a fork. Always keep refrigerated, use within 24hrs.

Mix all together and always keep refrigerated. Do not reheat and do not keep more than 24 hrs. Formula 1 can be used but it MUST be weighed, mix as per instructions on packet and add yogurt and egg yolk as per the Di-vetelact. As the protein content of mums milk gradually increases as baby grows to pouch emergence, I usually begin with less egg yolk for tiny babies and gradually increase to the full amount as baby grows. For small babies I also add a drop of pure cold pressed wheatgerm oil to 1 or 2 bottles each day, this supplies vitamin E and helps the bowels. For the immune system a small amount of vitamin C in one bottle each day is a good idea as is acidophilus powder for the first few days after arrival. If using Formula One, weigh out 65 gms of powder and make up as for Di-vetelact. Do not use the scoop method with this product.

Calculations for raising a kangaroo from approximately 600 gms to weaned and near release is 350-360 hrs of time and, if using the above formula, several hundred dollars.

It is extremely important that you attend to your animals mental learning as well as his physical condition if you don’t want all that time and money to be wasted. Do not raise your animal to believe that humans are a part of his natural environment and do not let him eat or sleep with dogs, no matter how cute it may look you are quite possibly sentencing him to a cruel and painful death as on release he will have no fear of them

 

 

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