A ubiquitous problem, across the United States, is that of the
concerned, very often highly dedicated, lay-person searching for a
veterinarian with whom she/he can work to assist injured/ill opossums
from the environment.
It's not that doctors aren't concerned
and good. The problem is one of both geographic distribution and of
uneven experience of qualified individuals. Occasionally, unfortunately,
it may be lack of interest in the species, or any wildlife species. But,
more often, it's lack of knowledge and/or experience with opossums which
prevent doctors from "getting involved". Then, too, there are states
whose wildlife/game departments variously enforce outdated and, often,
environmentally "unfriendly" regulations which cover what may and may
not be done for wildlife. Repressive, unsound laws can be changed. All it takes is for
people to care enough to get them changed!**
By and large, veterinarians are dedicated to assisting animals
become well again; regardless of the species or nature of their illness.
In one's search for a veterinarian for ill or injured opossums, whether
wild or captive, here are a few pointers. They are only guidelines to
assist you in finding a doctor before you need one. Interview several
doctors and different facilities, if necessary.
- Should, certainly, be a licensed, well-qualified general
practitioner. It's helpful, not essential, if the doctor already
sees exotics (i.e., other wildlife, non-domestic species). You'll rarely
find an opossum specialist.
- Will welcome questions and give useful, understandable
information in return. You and the patient will feel comfortable with
- Should be gentle, calm, and demonstrate care and concern in
handling the opossum. Quick, unwatchful movements will frighten any
animal (and any bite received is not the animal's fault!)
- Will take a thorough history and perform a complete physical exam
at each visit.
- Will refer to the animal as opossum, 'possum, its name, or other
appropriate term. Words or phrases such as "pest", "varmint", "they
aren't endangered", "have little use for them", etc., have no place in
her/his vocabulary. Nor will your doctor assail you with the latest
horror story of what friends or others have done, in anger or ignorance,
to individual opossums.
- Will, depending upon her/his level of expertise with opossums,
seek outside consultation whenever necessary, or upon your request.
- Will seek out sources of up-to-date information on opossums and
demonstrate a willingness to help combat ignorance in others through
education about the species.
- Will usually permit your presence during exams and most
procedures with the opossum, because she/he recognizes most opossums are
more cooperative in the presence (with or without assistance) of their
care-giver, depending on what is to be done, of course.
- Will recognize the opossum is not like a dog, or a cat, or
a…except in some well defined physiological ways.
- Will have concern for the environment overall, and for the place
of wildlife within it.
- Will not opt for euthanasia (i.e., killing) of any individual
opossum without sound medical justification, based upon current
knowledge of this species and its adaptability.
- Will, ideally, have hands-on experience in rehabilitation
principles and techniques if she/he works with wild or captive opossums,
or will consult in these areas with other veterinarians.