It is with deep sadness that Pedro (3/1/11 – 2/26/14), the Short-tailed Opossum passed on February 26, 2014. I obtained this adorable little guy from a woman who could no longer care for him on October 2, 2011. She estimated his age to have being born on March 1, 2011 but that was a guess at best.
These little guys have an average lifespan of 3-4 years, regardless what the books claim. At 2 years old they are slowing down and developing medical issues. Pedro stopped grooming himself last year. He began losing fur around the bottom which was typical of short-tailed opossums because of the oil in pine shavings. However, I found pine shavings to be better than anything else when it came to masking feces odor. To avoid the fur loss, my sto’s reside in a cardboard box and inside a critter ring or washcloths to keep the shavings from being up against their bodies during housing. But you can’t stop them from dragging in the shavings inside their house. Pedro also began not eating his dry food and I assumed it was a tooth issue from aging. So, I put him on canned cat food and softened dry cat food along with his insects, fruit and egg. In August of last year his stools had changed and the vet thought perhaps we should run a test for parasites but the issue cleared up and his tests were negative. Since then, on occasion, his stools were abnormal, but he was eating and exercising on his wheel. There were no outward signs of illness.
On February 26, I checked in on him, as I did daily. I noticed that his wheel was clean. Usually it’s dirty after a couple days of wheeling and going the bathroom in it and I have to wash it. When I opened his house, I noticed what looked like a scab on his lip but when I examined him further, it was on his tongue. I immediately called the vets and got an appointment that morning. He was a bit dehydrated, but his egg had been eaten and the canned food was half gone. After sedation, it was apparent that the spot on his tongue was where it had been bitten because there was a good size tumor under his tongue pushing it aside making it difficult for Pedro to eat or drink. I was devastated. Although I was prepared for the worse, it was no less easier to make the decision to let Pedro go. He didn’t act sick but there was no way I could allow him to continue struggling to eat or drink and operating was not an option.
Here are some photos of my great little Pedro. Prepare yourself for the last one as it is a photo of his tumor. I try to look at death scientifically at times. I try to learn from my experiences with animals. Had we noticed the tumor before it got so large, would I have had it removed? I don’t believe it would have been possible then and I would have lost him anyways. These little guys don’t favor me poking around in their mouths, ears and whatnot. Vet visits with sedation is a risk because they sometimes they don’t come out of it. So, the answer is to do your best at making their lives enriched. You give them all the love and care that you can muster up.