On February 21, 2006, I took Henri (my otherwise glowingly healthy, not quite 6 year old boy) to see his regular vet. At that time I knew of no other skunk vet in my area, and she came recommended from the reptile store where I discovered him. He was my first baby, and I was a neurotic over him! When I brought him home, I was a helicopter mom; I agonized over all my choices regarding his care (as best I could anyway with the limited and conflicting information that was available to me at that time). All of a sudden one day, I noticed he had a slight limp and needed to be sure he was O.K. She took x-rays and concluded that he had “a touch of arthritis in his right knee”. She gave me two different medicines and the option to choose. One was Torbutrol, which she explained was a narcotic, and the other was Metacam / Meloxicam, an “anti-inflammatory”, which she likened to “you or I just taking a Tylenol”.
Naturally the narcotic sounded dangerous, and an unnecessary over-kill, so I picked the Metacam, comfortably believing I chose the safer option. I started him off very slowly and even gave him HALF of his prescribed dosage. He seemed to improve and I continued him on the Metacam, again keeping the dose at less than half of what she prescribed. When I took him back for a follow up visit, she was pleased with his improvement and advised that I continue him on the Metacam indefinitely. I did, and not quite one month to the day of this therapy, we had a weekend where he wouldn’t eat. I took him in to her first thing Monday morning, March 20th, and she advised I leave him there because he was dehydrated. They administered I.V. fluids, but the damage was already done – he didn’t make it through the night. She called me to tell me what had happened and “offered” to do an unofficial necropsy on my behalf. She said she had no conclusions from this, but did offer that she found “over a cup of infectious fluid floating freely in his abdomen”.
I entrusted my skunk’s care to what I thought was an informed professional; that from what I understand is still prescribing this to skunks in my area.
I will never as long as I live, forget the way I felt the ground give out from under me that morning, to hear that my little guy was gone! I was completely BLIND-SIDED. My grief let me to befriend more skunk owners online and share my heartbreak. They told me from similar experience that these types of pain reliever [NSAIDs] cause stomach ulcer/ruptures in many pets, not just skunks. Older animals are at much greater risk of this. But I would not risk a skunk, or any pet of mine, regardless of their age.
I will never forgive myself for the feeling that I lost my skunkie to something totally unnecessary and preventable. I chose his vet, paid her, and trusted her. And I thought I did all I could, but I will never get over this. I will NOT let His be a complete loss. I will continue to tell his story in the hopes of saving others from this tragic fate. Henri has already saved other lives. And he continues to inspire me, as I continue to rescue skunks.