Apr 07 2014

Porcupines will be out with the warmer weather. How to prevent pets getting quilled, and what to do if it happens.

  • Prevention:  Porcupines are most active at night, leash walking pets in the evening instead of free roaming can help prevent confrontations.  Be observant, look for sign of porcupines living in your pet’s stomping grounds.   Porcupines don’t see well, but have a great sense of smell, and although herbivores who usually eat bark, twigs, leaves and other plant, they will often seek out dog or cat food, horse feed etc.  Specifically important to large animals, they are drawn to salt and mineral licks. Curious cows and horses often go in for a smell and come out with quills!
  • porcupine1[1] a-Porcupine-in-a-tree[1]

 

 

  •  What to do, my pet has quills?:  Safety first!  Ensure you are protected prior to handling your pet a heavy coat, long pants and gloves will help prevent punctures while handling.  Minimize your pet’s movements to prevent quill migration.  Contact your veterinarian, let them know you are coming, or they will let you know what time to come.  A veterinary visit and consultation from your veterinarian prior to sedation +/- full anesthesia to remove quills is the best choice for many reasons. Removing quills under anesthesia reduces traumatic removal or breakage of the quills and allows skin, muscle, joints as well as the entire oral cavity to be examined. (When muscles and skin are relaxed, making it easier to palpate as well as pull the quills preventing further migration.)ppq5[1]

 

 

 

 

 

  • Is this an emergency or not?  Often yes it is.  Numerous quills in the face and oral cavity could have serious complications.  Placement or migration into the eyes, ears and deep into the throat where they can migrate from the esophagus into the aorta, heart or lungs.  Quills in the legs are often penetrating the joints causing temporary to longer term lameness and frequently require anti inflammatory and antibiotics to prevent joint infection and further lameness.1-Ginger-before-quills[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Quill:  Quills have very tiny one way barbs along the tip of the quill that not only helps them to puncture and stick, but continues to migrate into the tissues over time!  Due to this migration, the quills may puncture through skin and muscle to enter body cavities, potentially puncturing organs or blood vessels. Full or even the tips of quills buried in the tissues can cause abscesses to form.  Quills rarely work themselves out and more commonly the body tries to wall the foreign material off and let the immune system fight it causing an abscess.  imagesU2J3I89Z
  • Myths: 
  • Throwing quills – Myth, the porcupine cannot “throw” the quills, but they are easily “let go of” when in contact with a potential predator.  They often swing their tails as well when retreating, hitting limbs as they go.
  • Breaking or cutting the quills – Myth, quills are more likely to splinter, migrate to the point where they can’t be seen or felt etc.  They are like a feather and are hollow on the inside.
  • Many old wives tales regarding quills are out there, such as soaking or injecting quills with vinegar WILL NOT dissolve quills.
  • Prey drive – leaving the pet with a face full of quills will not teach them a lesson and may in fact increase confrontations with porcupines.  Likewise pulling the quills at home often creates behavioral and fear aggression issues as well.

 

  • Veterinary assistance, although an expense should always be the first choice when dealing with a pet that has obtained quills. Many cases require anti inflammatory and antibiotic treatment post removal. For severe cases, x-rays, ultrasound and surgery may be required to find internally embedded quills.

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