Veterinary Care Page 5

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10

Cardiac Shadow

There have been several references to a floating heart and other physical differences in internal structures being noticed on X-rays of skunks. The following is a response to these references:

The cardiac shadow noted on radiographs is no different than that of the cat or dog when comparing supporting structures. The heart is located in the middle of the chest with lungs in the same body cavity. There is no boney projection that holds the heart in place in any of our mammals. [Any] reference to a floating heart is not a radiographic, scientific, or medical approach to the evaluation of the chest. I am not sure what exactly is meant by a floating heart, but the heart is not in any way, shape, or form supported differently than in dogs or cats. This is my veterinary opinion of the subject. - Dr. Frank Krupka, DVM

Cardiac Ultrasound

Cardiac ultrasound measurements recorded on 1 skunk measured 3 different times during the course of 1 study, no anesthesia used. Data provided by Dr. Frank Krupka, DVM.

Pass FS % EF % LVC mm SV mL SVI .
1 18 41 0.683 1.117 4.468
2 15 35 0.937 1.496 5.989
3 13 31 0.50 1.898 7.593


The following information is provided to identify and prevent weakening of the heart in domestic skunks. We thank Wendi Vullo-Pencille and Bless the Beasts Foundation Inc. for allowing us to include this information.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Case Study in Striped Skunk

Wendi Vullo-Pencille
Bless the Beasts Foundation Inc.


The purpose of this discussion is to disseminate the information we gathered while trying to battle Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in our skunks in the hope that the information may be used to successfully treat the disease in future cases.

Wendi Pencille - President, Bless the Beasts Foundation Inc. BS Cornell University 1985, [former] Environmental Microbiologist - Bristol-Meyers Squibb Pharmaceuticals. Wildlife Rehabilitator [17] years and counting.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

A gradual weakening of the heart muscle caused by energy deficiencies at the cellular level. Causes can range from nutrient deficiencies to viral agents. Viral Cardiomyopathy occurs in humans and is not treatable.

The result is thinning of the muscular wall and subsequent dilation of the heart with associated fluid buildup and inefficient heart function which leads to several other symptoms including:


Initially the animal does not show outward clinical signs. Clinical signs include: lethargy, reduced appetite, reduced body temperature, weight loss, bluish color is often evident in the gums, purring sound when the animal breathes, the animal tires easily after exertion.

Once clinical signs are evident treatment must commence immediately!

Cardiomyopathy in other Species

Genetic factors play a role in Dobermans, cocker spaniels, boxers, golden retrievers Dalmatians and all giant breed dogs. Cats are also susceptible. In most treatable cases in these animals the cause is a nutritional deficiency of either Taurine or L-Carnitine.

L-Carnitine is normally synthesized in the liver from the amino acids lysine and methionine.


Treatment includes addressing the clinical signs as well as the underlying cause.

Supportive medication for all clinical signs must be administered carefully as they often can cause other problematic symptoms such as loss of appetite and vomiting of oral medications.

In our case we tried using one amino acid compound at a time. In hindsight I would suggest that it may be beneficial to try both at once so that no time is lost if the first compound is found to be ineffective. Research may later determine which compound is responsible, however until that time, you are fighting against a deadly clock.

Our Case Study

Skunks #1 and #2, both males, approximate age 7 1/2 years (de-scented animals used in educational programs.)

A transfusion of 70cc of blood from a non-related skunk (#3) was given. Initial reaction to the transfusion was positive, (increased strength and appetite) however the animal returned to its pre-transfusion state within three days. Transfusion from an unrelated animal can only be done once.

Our Case Study continued
Our Case Study continued
Our Case Study continued
Our Case Study continued



To Help the Heart

Heart and Body Extract

I have contact the manufacturer and they said

"Heart and Body Extract has been used successfully with cats, dogs, horses and flying squirrels so far that I am aware of Use 1 drop mixed with 1/2 ml of water for every 10 pounds of body weight."
We have used this in our skunks. Just thought I would share with people for just in case if any one wants to try it.

We use Cranberry relief to get fluids out of the body due to heart problems,

Natural diuretic taken from site

Natural diuretics are natural foods or herbs that will increase flow of urine and aid in the removal of fluids from the body. While using natural diuretics or synthetic to aid in removal of excess fluids from the body, it can also mean loss of very important vitamins and minerals too. It is essential that you supplement to prevent loss of vital electrolytes.

Diuretic food with high water content:

NOT for Skunks

Remember, Moderation and Caution should always be used for any Diuretic.

This information is for informational purpose only, and is not intended to replace the advice or care of your doctor.

Valid HTML 4.01! Validate HTML 4.01