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Kemosabe the porcupine took a trip to the vet clinic where we found out why he was coughing. It was an adventure!

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Hi guys.  Welcome to Animal Wonders.  You all know Kemosabe the porcupine, right?  Well, if you don't, he is the cutest and most bizarre, well, he's like (noise) and (noise) and (noise).  He's pretty awesome.


Well, a few months ago, I heard him make a new sound, a deep coughing noise that I'd never heard him make before.  I was hoping it was just a one-time thing, nothing to worry about, but I did keep a closer ear on him just in case.  A week later, he did it again and then again.  It was hard to catch because he didn't do it regularly, but it was enough to make me concerned.  I called our vet, Dr. Card, to get her opinion.  She asked about his appetite, his activity level, and his overall behavior, all of which were normal, so I got a weight on him, which also showed he was a normal weight.  With all those things looking good, we decided to just let him be and watch for changing frequency or other signs of illness.  

Now the reason we wouldn't want to rush into getting him checked out ASAP is because it's very stressful and it can be risky taking an older exotic animal into the vet clinic.   It's not something that should be done on a whim, and Kemosabe hates going to the vet.  The last time we had to take him was in 2012 when we removed an infected incisor.  He was so upset by it that he refused to go back into his crate for two months.  Well, you know where this story's going, right?

Kemosabe's cough increased and he added a bit of a sneeze as well, so I decided it was time to take him in to the vet and make sure there was nothing wrong with his heart or lungs.  Kemosabe is so loved by all of you that I wanted to take you along with us so we captured as much of the experience as possible with my phone and a camera crew.  Here we go.

I'm getting ready to take Kemosabe to the vet, so I'm going to get his crate and everything ready and then get him in the crate and drive on in.  To get Kemosabe into the vet clinic, he needed to go into a travel crate and I wanted him as calm as possible so we used the same crate that we use for our public presentations.  He went in with ease.  

I covered up the crate for his comfort and then I packed a few pairs of thick leather gloves just in case we needed them.  So we made it to the vet.  We're all checked in.  We got moved to a nice quiet location.  Kemosabe is pretty upset.  He does not like going to the vet.  When he gets his procedures done, we're usually at Animal Wonders so he can stay nice and comfortable, so he's not a happy camper right now.  The longer we waited, the more nervous I became that his adrenaline was spiking, which meant that the sedative we normally would use to immobilize him might not be strong enough.  

A room finally opened up and we met Dr. Card for a quick rundown on why I decided to bring Kemosabe in.  Um, he does it when he's like, partially awake, partially asleep, and so when I'm in there in the mornings and I'll be cleaning for two hours, he'll probably cough like, five to ten times.  

Dr. Card: And is it a dry sound?

Jessi: It sounds like a (coughing noise)

Dr. Card: Okay, so a fairly deep sounding cough.

Jessi: Deep, but it doesn't sound like it's productive at all.

Dr. Card: And have you noticed any change in his activity level?

Jessi: No, it's still--he's still super active.  

Dr. Card: Okay.

Jessi: Like, there's nothing else that would make me worried about him.  

Dr. Card: Alright, well, I think our plan will be, we'll get a shot into him.

Jessi: Okay.  

Dr. Card: Let him go to sleep.  

Jessi: Okay.

Dr. Card: And then we'll get our pictures.

Jessi: Nice.

Dr. Card: And (?~3:06)

Jessi: She agreed that we should get a chest x-ray, which would check for pneumonia in his lungs, any abnormalities in his heart, or a tumor in any of his internal organs.  Kemosabe wouldn't voluntarily lay on his side and hold still for an x-ray, so we needed to sedate him.  Most domesticated animals can be sedated with inhaled gas given through a cone-shaped mask over their nose, but Kemosabe prefers not to be touched at all, so the only way to sedate him is with an injection into his thigh. 

Giving a porcupine an injection is challenging on a good day, but when they're on full alert because they're at the vet, it makes it that much more difficult.  Dr. Card was eventually able to get the medication administered and we prepared for quiet mode.  The best chance of getting him to fall asleep was a quiet calm space, so we hoped that he'd succumb to the sedative and we put him in the corner of a dimly lit room and waited.  

He's not down yet.  He's trying to pull through it.  We'll give him a couple more minutes.  

After 20 minutes, he still hadn't fallen asleep.  As I'd feared, his adrenaline had already spiked too high and he pushed through the sedation medication.  Instead of giving him a second injection, which runs the risk of slowing his breathing and heart rate too much, we decided to try and use the inhaled gas given through the cone over his  nose.  We moved him into the x-ray room and took on the task of restraining an angry yet groggy porcupine.  

Dr. Card made several attempts to get the mask over his nose, but Kemo was having none of it.  He kept pushing the mask away with his hands and then turning around and showing off his quills, so I put on the leather gloves and reached into the crate.  I found his arms and held onto his grasping hands.  I raised them above his head and Dr. Card was able to slip the mask over his nose.  

In just about a minute, Kemosabe was fast asleep.  We were able to move him onto the table and get a few x-rays of his chest.  We then checked the images and Dr. Card explained that the x-rays looked cloudy because his quills caused some interference, but it was uniform enough that she could tell his lungs were clear, so no signs of pneumonia.  

She said his heart looked a little large, but the blood vessels looked healthy and there was no signs of masses in his chest or anywhere else in his body.  His throat and mouth looked great, too, so there was no obvious medical reasons for his coughing.  While he was sedated, we took the opportunity to trim his nails and teeth and give him a full physical exam.  Then Dr. Card took a blood sample to check for any hidden symptoms of infection.

Finally, we weighed him, and just as he was starting to wake up, we got him back into the safety of his crate.  

Well, that went better than I thought, I mean, couple hiccups here and there, just, you know, getting him sedated and stuff, but I'm so relieved that he doesn't have a tumor or anything like that and heart looks good.  I don't think it could have gone better.  That's great--it's great news.

So what was the cause of his coughing?  Dr. Card discussed the possibility of an environmental irritant, like a new cleaning product or a  new branch or type of wood, but there hasn't been any major changes in the last few months.  To make sure we're doing everything we can to eliminate any environmental factors, we'll be doing a full replacement of all of his furniture in the coming weeks.

I really like remodeling and creating new living spaces for the animals so I'm really excited to see what we come up with.  I also like that we're able to offer our animals medical care when they need it.  Having a talented veterinarian nearby and the means to provide that care is priceless.  So that was quite the adventure for Kemosabe.   I just hope he doesn't stay upset with me for too long.  I'll be offering him peace offerings in the form of bananas for quite some time but it was totally worth it to make sure he was healthy.

I hope you enjoyed being able to go on this adventure with us.  If you'd like to join us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel AnimalWondersMontana.  Thanks, and we'll see you next week.


Okay, next question comes from Cathy W @Cathy_Wie, who asks, "What are some of the most interesting quirks the animals have?" Hmm.  Well.