Image Source: https://www.abc.net.au/
The RSPCA cares for “all creatures great and small” and they do not come much smaller than the graceful tree frog Brisbane veterinarian Meaghan Barrow successfully performed surgery on recently.
“It’s the smallest animal that I’ve ever done surgery on,” Dr Barrow told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“This graceful tree frog is less than two centimetres long and less than half a gram in weight.
“So a tiny, tiny frog. He could fit on the end of my finger.”
The senior wildlife veterinarian said the frog was found at the RSPCA’s Wacol facility, having hitched a ride on some foliage.
“One of our vet nurses found him on some leaves … that had been brought in to feed some of our koalas.
“She brought him into the clinic to me and she was really worried, she said ‘he seems to have a lump on the side of his body’.
“I had a close look and he actually had a little hole, it was only a couple of millimetres but on a tiny frog that’s only two centimetres long, that’s quite a big hole inside of his chest.
The animal’s tiny lung and intestines were poking out of a small hole in its thorax.
Surgery of single suture
While the assessment was straightforward, treatment for the amphibian was more complicated.
“It was a bit tricky because he was so small and obviously, we’re used to treating animals that are a lot bigger,” Dr Barrow said.
“In order to treat him, we had to anaesthetise him so that he was sedated enough to fix his wound.
“We had to dilute the medication by one in 1,000, to get a tiny, tiny dose to be able to make him go to sleep so he couldn’t feel anything.
“We just had to use very tiny instruments, tiny needle and suture materials to pick him up.”
Dr Barrow said the trickiest part was steadying her hands to suture the tiny frog.
“His skin is so thin, frogs have really thin skin that they absorb oxygen and things through and that just makes it really difficult.”
Dr Barrow managed to close up the hole with a single, dissolvable suture and a day after the surgery, the frog was hopping around and had his colour back.
“Sometimes when they have surgery and injury their colour changes to brown but very quickly he was bright green again and happy.”
The frog was fed tiny mealworms and had pain relief and antibiotics diluted again by 1,000 times.
“I’ve done surgery on green tree frogs, which are sort of palm-sized.
“You learn to treat so many different animals that you have to be adaptable and try the skills that you’d apply to a dog or a cat, to any species.”
The frog was released into the wild a week later.
“It’s just really rewarding to be able to offer help,” Dr Barrow said.