Veterinarians for Opossums



Looking for a Veterinarian...

The Opossum Care-Giver's Search

by Anita M. Henness, DVM

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 Then, too, there are states whose wildlife/game departments variously enforce outdated and, often, environmentally "unfriendly" regulations which cover what may and may not be done for wildlife.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.

Your chosen veterinarian:

  1. 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.
  2. Will welcome questions and give useful, understandable information in return. You and the patient will feel comfortable with her/him.
  3. 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!)
  4. Will take a thorough history and perform a complete physical exam at each visit.
  5. 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.
  6. Will, depending upon her/his level of expertise with opossums, seek outside consultation whenever necessary, or upon your request.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Will recognize the opossum is not like a dog, or a cat, or a…except in some well defined physiological ways.
  10. Will have concern for the environment overall, and for the place of wildlife within it.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Anita M. Henness
1942 - 2002

We are greatly saddened to report that Dr. Henness passed away on Saturday, February 2, 2002, at the age of 60, after a two-year-long struggle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

You may wish to view the Page of Remembrance that we are compiling on this site.


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