Santa brings an unusual gift to vets

EVERY day at work is different here at Robson & Prescott and Christmas Eve was no exception.

We received a phone call from our reception staff informing us that an otter had been brought in by a member of the public.

Obviously we were all quite excited by this unexpected visitor, especially as Eurasian otters were near extinction in this country up until a few years ago.

Due to the hard work of organisations like The Otter Trust and changes in pesticide usage, the otter has made a strong comeback and they can now be seen throughout the British countryside.

After examination, we realised that the little otter was very thin and weak and quite cold but otherwise uninjured.

We promptly placed her in an incubator and offered her a selection of foods to try and stabilise her condition while we sought further advice from The Otter Trust.

They estimated her age to be five to eight weeks old and recommended a variety of fresh fish and meat and supplementing her with a specialist milk formula.

They advised us to squeak to her whenever we entered the room and especially whenever we had to interact with her. This was to replicate the call the mother would make around the cubs and would help to soothe her.

This started a fun and noisy afternoon in the surgery.

We had to source some unusual foods and every member of the nursing team developed a variety of squeaking noises.

We quickly named the little otter Muddy and it wasn’t long before her condition improved and she was full of energy again.

She took to the bottle feeding very well and would empty the bottle within a few seconds.

I soon realised that Muddy would require regular feeds throughout the day and night and decided to take the brave step of taking her home with me over the Christmas break.

I prepared all the equipment needed and put Muddy into a carrier.

We made the short trip home and then set up her kennel.

She soon settled into the quiet home environment and loved to play in the shower, dancing in and out of the water.

I was very careful not to spend too much time handling Muddy as I didn’t want her to become tame.

Our aim was for Muddy to one day be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

Otters are very timid animals and are known to be quite aggressive, they have on occasion bitten off fingers so I was also very cautious when handling her.

Muddy progressed well and gained lots of weight. We sought assistance from the RSPCA to find a rehabilitation centre where she would be able to interact with other otter cubs and would eventually be able to be released into the wild again. The RSPCA were able to find a suitable centre for her to go to and she will spend the next year there learning all the social and hunting skills required for her to survive in the wild before being released.

Muddy was not the Christmas present that I had hoped for but she certainly made for an interesting festive period and it highlighted the varied nature of my job as a veterinary nurse at Robson & Prescott.

Laura Petts

Senior veterinary nurse