The photo above shows our veterinary team at work examining a six-month old otter cub with a suspected broken hind leg.
In this case, the diagnosis, following careful examination and X-rays, was one of badly torn ligaments that would require rest and time to heal. This was fortunate because although broken bones can be screwed and plated, problems with the wound becoming infected can arise during convalescence. While this otter was under sedation its teeth received a thorough clean, because remarkably, in only six months a build up of scale had arisen. This clean up will benefit the otter greatly in later life when poor teeth can be a factor in malnutrition.
In this country today one of the biggest threats to otters is death on our roads, as is the case with so much of our wildlife. With otter hunting being outlawed it would appear that our otters are far less nocturnal than in the past since they are no longer persecuted.
However, although it must be easier for otters to find food during daylight hours, it is of course at this time that most of our roads are at their busiest with traffic. So if a road crosses an otters territory, or if the river otter has to cross a road from one river system to another it will only be a matter of time before it is run over. With road accidents involving otters the vehicle often will not stop so if the otter is not killed outright it could not be taken for treatment. Also though an injured otter would be very difficult to handle without proper equipment and expertise. Remember they can and will remove fingers with just one bite. Consequently in many cases it would perhaps have been possible to save an injured otter but they are not taken for treatment and are left to die beside the road.
We have over the past 15 years or so, treated a wide range of ailments from bad teeth and malnutrition to broken bones and kidney stones. In most cases we can help, though sadly sometimes there is nothing we can do.
In the case of our resident otters, regular check ups, which include blood tests, urine samples and in particular dental examinations, help keep our otters in the best possible health. Also with the availability of a wide range of veterinary products and a good dietary regime and lifestyle our otters live long lives, sometimes 18 years or more.
We share our knowledge and expertise and work with other agencies and organisations around the world and much of what has been learned with captive otters is now being applied to those living in the wild.