The OVAH not only has clinics for dogs and cats, horses and production animals, but is also home to the busy Bird & Exotic clinic owned and run by Dr Dorianne Elliott. So it is not unusual to see owners walking into the hospital with snakes, bearded dragons, pet monkeys and colourful parrots, but the arrival of an Argentinian Maned Wolf is a rarity indeed!
Inka was born a week premature in early June 2010, and as her mother was unable to suckle her, she was removed and rushed from a nearby zoo to the Bird & Exotic clinic in the hope that Dorianne would succeed in hand-raising the tiny newborn. Inka weighed only 266g – a scant two thirds of the normal birth weight of an Argentinian Maned Wolf newborn.
Upon her arrival, Inka was immediately placed in an incubator, and strict biosecurity was instituted, as the newborn had received no colostrum from her mother. Colostrum is the vital ‘first milk’ that passes on a mother’s antibodies against various diseases to her offspring, and without it, Inka was extremely susceptible to any and every dog disease including the dreaded ‘cat flu’ (parvo virus) and distemper. The tiny newborn could not even suckle and had to be tube fed every hour, so for the first few weeks Dorianne slept (briefly!) with an incubator containing Inka, on her bed.
Inka survived, and grew slowly but determinedly. She initially struggled with pneumonia, and later had to have her tail tip amputated as it had been damaged at birth. Once she got the hang of suckling she enjoyed being bottle fed so much that she refused to learn to eat, and it took many hours of patience to get her to start licking up her special canine ‘puppy porridge’.
When she was a couple of months old, Inka started playing enthusiastically with Dorianne’s dogs, and they happily accepted her as one of the pack, with Dorianne’s Dachshund Badger becoming a special buddy. However, it was clear from the start that Inka was not a dog, but very much a ‘wild’ animal. Pleasant with people, she was nevertheless a loner and much more independent than any of Dorianne’s dogs. She never whined and rarely barked, but she listened intently and it was clear that her hearing was extremely acute. And her predatory instinct grew along with her body size so that by four months of age, she hunted cats, birds and any other small creatures with far too much stealth and enthusiasm! In fact it was easy to see that Inka was becoming a liability to keep - either at the clinic or at Dorianne’s home! So at the age of five months, Dorianne and staff bade a fond farewell to their unusual patient. Inka, thriving and beautiful, went back to the zoo where she was born, and where it is hoped she will live a long and healthy life, and contribute positively to the captive breeding programme of Argentinian Maned Wolves.