Recently in North Carolina
(and probably many other states
, frankly I don't know
...) it has become fashionable
to purchase Prairie Dogs
from pet stores to keep in captivity
. Needless to say, there are many who believe that because Prairie Dogs
animals who spend all of their (ample) free time
burrowing around and creating intricate
underground passageways, keeping them by themselves in 20-gallon aquariums
s of cedar chips is cruel
. Others insist that once these animals are spayed
, they make fine pets.
Unfortunately, these particular critters don't always do well after they are surgically altered. For whatever reason, they are frequently unable to leave their incisions and sutures alone, and they sometimes manage to pull apart the surgery site entirely. If they do a sufficeint job of this, they can (and do!) very literally reopen their own bodies with their teeth and then, well, things get messy.
Male Prairie Dogs who reopen their scrotums subsequently bleed profusely and they can die pretty quicky, since they're so little and they haven't all that much blood to spare. That's bad enough, but it's nothing compared to what happens to the girls! The females have been known to pull out the stitches in their skin, then the ones that hold the muscle layer closed, effectively leaving a gaping hole in their lower abdomens out of which their vital organs (and other very important stuff!) can literally fall.
This whole gory nightmare is known as Self-Mutilation. The only way to save the lives of Prairie Dogs who've done this to themselves is to re-anesthetize and re-operate. However, if the repair surgery is going to be successful, it has to be done in a very timely manner, especially in cases where there are guts hanging out of a critter. If they survive the second operation, (general anesthesia is reasonably risky business, especially with an animal as small as a Prairie Dog,) they are stitched back up and fitted with miniature Elizabethan Collars. (Those humiliating lampshade devices.) IF they leave their E-Collars on and cannot reach their suture sites with their mouths until they are well-healed, and IF they don't suffer from infection after having torn themselves asunder, they may do just fine physically thereafter. Though I bet they still think living all alone with no place to dig is megasucky.