Virginia Opossum #22-3692

December 28, 2022
February 7, 2023
Rescue Location
Harrisonburg, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Lead Toxicosis
Former Patient
Patient photo

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In late December, a private citizen in Harrisonburg, Virginia saw an adult male Virginia Opossum displaying erratic behavior, along with blood on his face. An animal control officer set a live trap and brought the opossum to the Wildlife Center of Virginia on December 28, 2022. Upon examination, Dr. Olivia, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, found a laceration on the opossum’s ear. Veterinary Technician Rachel drew blood from the injured opossum and ran a lead test, which came back positive, with high levels of lead. The lead toxicosis is likely the cause of the opossum’s neurological symptoms. Dr. Olivia treated the fleas with a topical spray and cleaned and treated the lacerations on the opossum’s ear.

To treat the lead toxicosis, the veterinary staff began a course of chelation therapy, along with administering fluids via an IV catheter. The opossum was the first patient to use a brand-new fluid pump that “Heart to Heart International” donated through the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. After about two weeks of chelation therapy, the lead levels in the opossum’s blood showed significant signs of improvement. He is eating all of his food and his disposition appears more alert than before treatment. Though his lead levels are improving, his prognosis is guarded because lead significantly affects the central nervous system, reducing the opossum’s ability to survive.

Watch Dr. Olivia treating the opossum here:

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Patient Updates

During the past few weeks, the veterinary team continued to monitor Virginia Opossum #22-3692’s appetite and condition and on January 30, determined that he was ready to move outside to re-acclimate to outdoor conditions. The opossum’s wounds, appetite, and neurological condition continued to improve throughout the course of treatment and according to lead test results on January 29, his lead levels had resolved. On February 5, the veterinary team assessed opossum #22-3692 and determined that he was ready for release. On February 7, the opossum was released by the original rescuer near his rescue location in Harrisonburg, Virginia.