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Vince’s story
Ian Brooks cared for Vince, the American toad, beginning at the tadpole stage and was charmed by his developing personality. So he was especially concerned when a rectal prolapse became visible. Dr. Jennifer Graham, who specializes in exotic animals, came to the little guy’s rescue. And she determined that the little guy was, in fact, a girl.
October 24, 2014

Vince close up

Ian Brooks forged a bond with Vince that began when the eastern American toad was just a tadpole.

Brooks was on vacation in Michigan last summer when he decided to bring Vince and three other tadpoles home to raise into toads.

As the months passed, the tadpoles transformed into little creatures that charmed Brooks with their activities. “If I just had one toad, I might think they are all the same,’’ he said. “But each one has its own personality. They seemed to really enjoy being in their little group.’’

Which is what made the call he received from his girlfriend one day especially troubling.

“She said she could tell something was wrong,’’ he said. Something was hanging out from Vince’s rectal area. She took a photo to send Brooks, who was immediately concerned.

“I was not expecting it to be as severe as it was,’’ he said.

Brooks separated Vince from his fellow toads and placed him in a clean container.

As an intern veterinarian at Tufts VETS in Walpole, Brooks knew someone who could help: Dr. Jennifer Graham, Assistant Professor of Zoological Companion Animal Medicine at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Dr. Graham specializes in exotic pets.

When Dr. Graham saw Vince, she made two determinations. Vince, despite the name, was a female. And yes, she had a rectal prolapse.

“We replaced the prolapsed tissue in place and applied sutures on either side of the vent to prevent re-prolapse,’’ Dr. Graham said. “Because amphibians have permeable skin we were able to use a topical/local anesthetic in order to place the sutures with minimal discomfort. Amphibians are very unique compared to other species since even general anesthesia can be obtained using topical formulations on the skin.’’

In less than an hour, Vince was free to go home.

“I was relieved that the issue was easily resolved,’’ Brooks said.

The cause of Vince’s distress was not immediately known. Intestinal parasites can cause the problem, although the fecal test did not indicate this in Vince’s case.  Insufficient calcium may also be an issue, so more calcium was provided in the toads’ diet. A special light was added to their container to help them better absorb calcium.

Ingesting foreign material can also be a culprit. Brooks now feeds the toads on flat rocks placed randomly in their enclosure to minimize the risk of the toads ingesting dirt along with their food.

Vince is doing well, Brooks is happy to report. Although she was quieter than usual the day after the procedure, by the next day she was eating well and returning to her routine.

“She acts like nothing happened,’’ Brooks said.

And that is the best possible outcome for Brooks, who admits he has a special bond with Vince and her pals since he took them as tadpoles from the wild.

“Because I had been raising them since they were tadpoles, I feel a bit of a bond with them that way,’’ he said. “I wanted to do what I could for her.’’

He also wanted to keep the group of four toads intact. “It was sad to think about going from four to three,’’ he said.

The experience underscored the importance of caring for all pets, not just the more traditional varieties. With exotic animal care an established veterinary specialty, owners of non-traditional pets have the moral obligation to seek the necessary treatment for their animals, Brooks said.

They should take responsibility for them,’’ he said. “They need to seek veterinary care for them.’’

With dedicated staff such as the professionals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Brooks said, there is no excuse for any pet owner to avoid veterinary care for even the most exotic animal.