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Opossum Help

Wallabies, kangaroos, Sugar Gliders, Possums, Quolls, etc.

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Boscopossum
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Opossum Help

Postby Boscopossum » Mon Sep 08, 2014 11:22 pm

Hello there!
Very new to raising exotic animals. But, I recently became the mommy to a little opossum.
I have a lot of questions though!
He seems pretty healthy, but I think hes begging to show signs of MBD.
I'm really not positive on what to feed him.
I would really love if someone could give some diet advice. For both treating MBD and for once he is better so that he can stay healthy. (:
Thank you!
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:29 pm

Welcome to the forum!

Do you have an indication of how old the baby may be? What are you currently feeding him? In what situation was he in when you found him(dead momma, attacked by dog, etc)? How is he showing signs of MBD? Do you have any pictures so I could maybe get a good idea on age?

Their diet is very complex. Be prepared to spend a fair penny on this special little fella. Otherwise they're not very high maintenance, their diet is the absolute hardest part about them.

Opossums need a certain ratio of calcium to phosphorus(cal:phos), and when this is not obtained they develop MBD. The preferable ratio is somewhere between 1.8:1.0 or 2.0:1.0, though it makes it abundantly clear that you need to strive for NEAR double the calcium to phosphorus.

One thing to avoid is red meats. They are 20 TIMES the amount of phosphorus to calcium(1:20) for one cup of red meat. IF you feed red meat, be prepared to stuff the poor fella like a thanksgiving turkey to even out the ratio. This is generally why it is not recommended that you feed them this food item. It is, however, necessary that they have a source of meat based protein. Poultry is a good option.

Poultry is 10 times the phosphorus to calcium for one cup, much easier to even out with calcium rich foods. If it has a bone, leave it in! That's more calcium for your growing boy. Just be sure not to feed COOKED bones.

Here is a very helpful list of food items with their cal:phos ratio. For the list that does not have a ratio listed, it's simple, really. Say that one of them has a calcium listing of 146 per cup.. and a phosphorus listing of 479 per cup... The lower number of the two is going to be the '1'. Now, divide the greater by the lesser. 479/146= 3.2. This ratio would then be 1:3.2, a not so good food choice unless you chose too many calcium rich foods.

http://www.angelfire.com/marsupials1/possum20.html

MBD goes both ways. It can happen if you have too much phosphorus and not enough calcium and vice versa, that's why a perfect balance is key.

Here is a very good veterinary study on Virginia Opossums. When it discusses temperament, please keep in mind it mostly refers to wild caught opossums.

http://www.2ndchance.info/raisepossum-McRuer2009.pdf

As far as reversing it, diet is the key. Get him on a good, healthy balanced diet and get him exercising and working those muscles, since in more severe cases the legs don't function too well and the muscle may deteriorate. You may want to start with simple stretches, like working the legs VERY gently with your hands(I stress gently because MBD causes very brittle bones, if there is resistance, don't force it). It really depends on how severe it is at this moment. If he can still walk, then, by all means, get him working those muscles on his own to keep him in shape. Try a cat toy. Some opossums will chase a feather teaser. If there's an exercise wheel you can find that's big enough, try training him to walk on it, starting with food incentives. They live to eat, food is a huge motivator for them!

If it is already severe, try not to handle him too much as his bones are brittle and may break easily.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Ash » Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:44 pm

Very good info here. :)

Boscopossum--Welcome to the forum! I hope Luxe can help answer your questions. I don't know too much about how to care for opossums. Any pictures of the little guy you'd like to share?
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Boscopossum » Tue Sep 09, 2014 7:53 pm

Thank you so much for your reply!

I'm not exactly sure how old he is, but I've had him for about 3 months.
I got him when he was very small, a friend brought him to me when she found the dead mother (who had been hit by a car). When he was first brought to me, he was dehydrated and pretty beat up. I did as much research as I could to help nurse him back to health, and he is been doing very well!
When my friend brought him to me, he was actually a few weeks old. He had all his fur already.
Because he was in kind of a sad state, I planned on helping him and releasing him later. Since he was already a few weeks old I figured he would be aggressive once he was better.
But it had the opposite effect, actually. He is very sweet and loves people. It would be very dangerous to release him. Especially in this area.
But recently I've really started noticing that he doesn't really hold onto stuff well, and doesn't like to climb around at all. Hes also starting to sleep a lot more than normal. Even at night. I'm not sure if thats just how he is, or if it's early signs of MBD. Maybe I'm just paranoid...
He also hiccups all the time. I'm not really sure if thats the "spasms" that MBD mentions, or just normal hiccups, but he gets them way more than what I would say is normal.

But, unfortunately even with all the research, and talking to people who have had opossums before, I didn't really have a good idea of what to feed him.
I tried to make it diverse. I give him a lot of fruit (he loves them) and some green veggies (doesn't love those. Haha). I also sometimes give him low-fat yogurt. But the main food I gave him was cat food, which I've now learned isn't very good for him. ):
I hope I haven't hurt him too bad because of my lack of info...


Sorry for the bad pictures by the way. He really only takes good pictures when hes sleeping. Haha.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:00 pm

Ahh, ok. See, they're ESPECIALLY prone to developing MBD when they're young like this(which would make sense since their bones are growing with them).

I didn't get a chance to have my baby Ozzy... but in the time I spent with him, he was a doll. When they're obtained between 3 - 5 weeks old, they usually come out exceptionally well, it's just a lot of work to raise them from that young. If you get an adult, don't get me wrong, they CAN be tamed, but they probably won't ever be as sweet as a hand raised baby is.

I'll give you the schedule I had worked up for Ozzy. If, for some reason, you can't obtain some of these items, try to find decent substitutes based on the list. You can use half cup or full cup measurements, just make sure they're all measured out evenly so the calculations are correct.

As far as sleeping, opossums will generally sleep around 16 hours a day, are active for around 2 hours, and then spend the remaining time grooming themselves. They have been known to adjust their active hours to fit yours better, despite being naturally nocturnal. They are exceptionally lazy, yes, but during their active hours they do need to exercise since they're also nomadic animals, meaning that, when in the wild, they roam quite a bit during their active hours.

There is a study I plan on conducting in the near future regarding life span and their diet. As we know, captive opossums are documented to live around 3 - 5 years which the occasional rare 10 - 15. I have suspicion to believe that, as you mentioned, even people that own them seem to be uneducated to their excessively specific needs, I feel as if the general consensus that they're 'just short lived' is false due to the sheer lack of education, research, and/or outreach of knowledge there is. I stumbled upon the veterinary article while searching for a symptom of illness. From there I stumbled onto the list of food items with ratios. They don't appear to come up in ordinary searches like 'opossum care'. So, considering this, I feel that if a opossum is fed this very specific diet, they may live longer than what is generally expected of them. I'm not saying it's a guarantee, but it is definitely something to consider.

To further prove my point, I like what little Facebook pages there are when it comes to captive pet opossums. One of them is made by a rehabilitator that has a group of unreleasable opossums. One of the photos she shared from a fellow opossum enthusiast startled me, given my knowledge. This is from a well-meaning, ever so loving owner, one like you or me that would do anything for our furbabies... but what it was eating was so terrible for its health, I can only hope it wasn't eating that blend frequently! It was an opossum eating a dinner mash composed of, quote,"chicken wing, avocado, banana slice, grapes, spinach, kale, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cabbage, a bit of dry dog food and a little bit of yogurt (kefir)." Horrible! So many phosphates!

Just a note, while spinach may have a perfect ratio of 2:1, do keep in mind only 1/3 of the calcium is absorbed by your opossum, so it actually isn't all that good of a food item unless the meal is especially rich in calcium.

By the way, loss of gripping strength in the hands and tail are definitely signs of the beginning stages of MBD.



Ozzy's Feeding Schedule:

-Feel free to mix and match, these are seven different compositions made for seven different days, just be sure to space out the poultry maybe once every two days or so.

-Excessive feeding of watery or liquid-like foods can lead to intestinal complications. I do like to make a nice mushy mash they could lap up every now and again, but it is not advised to do this frequently.

- Feed once per day.

*The phosphorus ratio in poultry makes it difficult to balance out. Feel free to either feed gut-loaded insects(like Dubia Roaches fed a calcium rich diet) or sprinkling a pinch of Rep-Cal Calcium Supplement with Vit. D3 PHOSPHORUS-FREE(pink label).

Monday: Blackberries(1.5:1), Mustard Greens(1.8:1), Kale(2.7:1) Total ratio: 2:1

Tuesday: Apples(3.6:1), Cucumber(1:1.3), Green Beans(1.2:1) Total ratio: 1.7:1

*Wednesday: Chicken Thigh(1:10), COOKED Collard Greens(7.8:1), Turnip Greens(4.4:1) Total ratio: 1.1-1

Thursday: Oranges(2.2:1), Raspberries(1.8:1), Grapes (1.4:1) Total ratio: 1.8:1

*Friday: Chicken Thigh(1:10), COOKED Collard Greens(7.8:1), Papaya(4.5:1) Total ratio: 1:1

Saturday: Kiwi(1:1.5), Blackberries(1.5:1), Apples(3.6:1) Total ratio: 1.7:1

*Sunday: Chicken Thigh(1:10], COOKED Collard Greens(7.8:1), Apples(3.6:1), Oranges(2.2:1) Total ratio: 1.1:1

Overall diet ratio: 1.4:1

It's not perfect, but I tried. Maybe in the future I'll devise a better diet, but for now that's what I had in mind. Feel free to do some tinkering of your own. If if weren't for the poultry days it would be a wonderful 1.8:1, but, as I said, the phosphates in the poultry make it hard to even out without gorging the fella, that's why it may be a good idea to sprinkle phosphorus free calcium supplement on top on those days or feed gutloaded insects. My little fella went CRAZY for insects.

... I wonder what the ratio is in rats... This is one reason why it's so hard, you got to know the ratio for EVERYTHING. I wonder if rats had a better ratio, therefore more suitable for the meat based protein days.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Ash » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:31 pm

He's absolutely adorable! Hope he's okay.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby TamanduaGirl » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:40 pm

Wow that's great info Luxe.

Look at the retinol too as it's a co-nutrient that potentates the absorption and use of Calcium. I had to do a similar thing with their blood values of phos/cal are about the same as other mammals but they seem to have developed a way to recycle their calcium so need less and the wild diet and the one I developed is 4:1 phos/cal because they are just alien compared to other mammals. For the most part excess calcium is just excreted but Their natural diet has little to no retinol as well so when the captive diets had both too high cal ratio and too much retinol they developed a different sort of MBD where their spinal bones fuse together(seen in many zoo tamandua in the past). Rarer than the regular sort but it's sometimes seen in dogs who eat cat food as cat food has much more retinol than dogs need.

Retinol comes from animal protein. Retinol is real vitamin A. Vitamin a precursors are beta caraoteins which you can get from plant matter. Most mammals(cats are excluded) can convert caroteins into retinol. So you can avoid feeding the extra meat with phos by finding high carotein containing foods to feed which will help them better use the Cal.

But if you can find any real info on how much retinol they need that will be helpful, remembering though that caroteins will not be converted to retinol by the body if the body doesn't need it so you don't run into the same problems with a lot of that as you do overdosing retinol it's self. My diet has hardly any retinol from plant matter but has plenty of caroteins but their blood values are normal and even being a bit middle aged Pua's spinal x-rays were clear.

PS I may be spelling carotein wrong? Like beta-carotein but there are many different ones besides that one.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Boscopossum » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:48 pm

Bosco really is a sweetie!
They're such loveable little guys when you get to know them.

But it really is difficult to know what to feed them...
I've heard so many different things now, but your advice really sounds like you've put a lot of time into it.
And thank you so much for the chart!
I kind of understand your ratios, but I'm just wondering about how much of it to actually feed him?
(like how many blackberries, how much apple, etc) Is it based off of that list you linked me to earlier? Or your own ratios?

And only once per day, correct?

And Is avocado bad for them? I've read that it's good for their health.
I've also read that citrus is not because of the acidity.

What I've read seems pretty far off from your chart...
It also suggests baby food. What are your thoughts on that?

And thank you so much for everything! It really means a lot.
Bosco is like my baby... I don't know what I would do without your help!


And can they really live to be about 10? Thats insane. The longest I've ever heard of one living is about 5 years.
Hopefully charts like this can become easier to find... It could really help a lot of unreleasable babies live longer and healthier lives.
Last edited by Boscopossum on Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Boscopossum » Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:52 pm

Thank you so much to everyone who has commented!
I will try to update with lots of pictures!

Hopefully I can fix his diet to get him on the right track and keep him healthy (:
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:21 pm

Once a day, yes.

I did read to feed half an avocado(NO PIT) every other week, but upon further research I've found avocados have a 1:3.6 ratio for one cup's worth, so I only recommend it if you balance out that phosphorus. Definitely would not be a 'meat day' food item, would spike up the phosphates.

My measurements are in one cup measurements(so, for example, with blackberries take a one cup measurement and just fill it to the top with them), though it would probably hold the same values if you used half cup measurements, two cups, etc. It really depends on how much your fella will eat, so, for example, if he doesn't eat a whole plate full, maybe half cups would be better. If he eats a whole plate full during meal time, maybe whole cups would better suit him.

Baby food is fine, just make sure they're made with reasonable items. When Ozzy was being raised I only recommended things that would appear to have a good ratio, or mix one with another, one that had a seeming calcium ratio and one with a seeming high phosphate ratio. Just remember, feeding liquid-like foods frequently will cause intestinal complications, so I don't recommend it being something that's fed often. Maybe once or twice a week.

Example for the 'seeming' to look like it has a ratio, one of the ones I'd recommended was a mixture of organic Kale, Broccoli, and Mango. Kale is a 2.7:1, Broccoli is 0.7:1(though feeding actual broccoli, not baby food variety, may be a little too fibrous), Mango is 0.9:1. Total ratio would be 1.4:1 assuming the equally distributed those ingredients.

When it comes to foods that humans predominantly eat, it is difficult finding the ratios on them since, well, most people don't worry about that. I had a hard time finding the ratio on the kefir yogurt. Finally just looked up how much calcium and phosphorus was in each serving separately and then calculating the ratio.

I did locate these lists while trying to figure out Broccoli and Mango, so here's some more food items you could work in.

http://www.iguanaden.org/diet/calphosfruit.htm

http://www.sugar-gliders.com/glidervet-60.htm

I notice the glider list does mention Iceburg Lettuce. I stress to not feed this to any animal ever. It has nearly no nutritional value and I know in, at least some reptiles, they can become addicted to it, so to say, and die of malnutrition. Better to play things on the safe side.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:35 pm

I tried looking into retinol in reference to opossums but what I found is soooo complicated. I don't understand it. It's some kind of chart, maybe you can make sense of it?

http://www.genome.jp/kegg-bin/show_pathway?mdo00830
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:43 pm

Just found these that you may want to give a read. The treatment section on the MBD article pretty much details what I've mentioned already. He's not an advanced case, but the decrease in grip is definitely an indicator. There is no need for calcium pill supplementations at this moment. Some people purchase calcium supplemental pills, like we humans take, and crush them up, but only for SEVERE cases. He's not at that point, and you've caught it fairly early, in comparison to the process it follows.

It does recommend contacting a vet, wildlife rehab, etc. If you don't know the laws in your state and/or don't have a permit when one is necessary, I would do this with caution and at your own discretion. All it takes is one report for the Game Warden to be knocking at your door.

http://opossumsocietyus.org/metabolic-bone-disease-mbd/

It does mention sunlight. As a reptile owner, I know that generally reptiles that consume whole prey items do not need full-spectrum lighting like more herbivorous or insectivorous reptiles do. Whether the same would apply to mammals and other classifications, I'm unsure, but if you would like to do this, ZooMed sells a full spectrum lighting stand for avians that could be used to help with the metabolic process. It's not too terribly expensive, but replacing the light bulbs can be.

Image

Here's another article I found of use. I'm currently reading over this now, very very good information so far.

http://www.ncwildliferehab.org/conf2013 ... op%202.pdf

Edit: Tamanduagirl, based on the above, it seems as if, if my diet is used, then Vitamin A retinol may not be an issue since it is composed of primarily fruits, leafy greens, etc. Right?
Last edited by Luxe on Wed Sep 10, 2014 12:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby TamanduaGirl » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:48 pm

Luxe wrote:I tried looking into retinol in reference to opossums but what I found is soooo complicated. I don't understand it. It's some kind of chart, maybe you can make sense of it?

http://www.genome.jp/kegg-bin/show_pathway?mdo00830


A little bit it is showing how they take retinol and break it down and into what chemicals and what it combines with etc. as well as showing that they can take beta-carotene and turn it into retinol. So at least you know carotenes will in fact work for them(unlike cats) but that's true for most species. Doesn't have any info on how much they need or normally take in the wild diet though.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:57 pm

TamanduaGirl wrote:
Luxe wrote:I tried looking into retinol in reference to opossums but what I found is soooo complicated. I don't understand it. It's some kind of chart, maybe you can make sense of it?

http://www.genome.jp/kegg-bin/show_pathway?mdo00830


A little bit it is showing how they take retinol and break it down and into what chemicals and what it combines with etc. as well as showing that they can take beta-carotene and turn it into retinol. So at least you know carotenes will in fact work for them(unlike cats) but that's true for most species. Doesn't have any info on how much they need or normally take in the wild diet though.


Ah, ok, I see what you're saying.

"3. Hypervitaminosis A Osteopathy: Chronic and/or excessive Vitamin A intake can cause the body to accelerate calcium loss from bones"

I'll see if I can't find anything on the necessary balance.
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Re: Opossum Help

Postby Luxe » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:59 pm

Oh, Boscopossum, another important thing to mention, they're lactose intolerant. If you give them products with lactose in them, be prepared for a stinky night and a lot of tummy upset.
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