Illness/Sickness: Injured Eastern Newt Attacked by Cat

Snake Charmer

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I am new to owning newts and have had three for about a couple months now. One is badly injured from a cat attack and resting alone in a fish bowel in the closet. I am hoping to seek advise which I could not find from other threads, so below the lengthy write up is a slew of questions. I know this is long, but I tried to condense it while still keeping enough details.

I came home yesterday to discover my newt was not in the aquarium. I turned the apartment upside down and eventually found him in the other room dirty, curled up, beaten, and not moving (the cat certainly got a hold of him). I rushed him to the sink to rinse him, then I rushed him back to the aquarium to re-rinse him in the aquarium water, and finally placed him on the turtle dock. For about an hour or two as he remained motionless on the turtle dock, I called vets and Googled the issue. Most of the forums here concern injured axolotls, and some say to refrigerate them. The vet, over the phone, suggested not to refrigerate because it could be too much of a temperature shock and stress him. Instead, I took him out, held and gently pet him for a little bit to gauge his condition and responsiveness. His torso and tail appear in ok shape if not a little bruised while his head and limbs are brutal with his eyes red and sunken and front left leg the most mangled and chewed (other three are not nearly as bad). Afterward, I placed him in a glass fish bowl lined with paper towels wetted with aquarium water along with one of the land caves for him to hide. I set the bowl in the closet along with a thermometer, and created a duct system to funnel A/C air directly to the closet. This morning I checked the thermometer and the overnight temperature ranged from 59 to 63, and I see the newt relocated to hide inside the cave (for comparison I run a water chiller through the aquarium to keep the water between 68-69 and I usually do not regulate the ambient air room temperature which here in Houston has ranged between 70-85 the past few weeks which I feel is too warm for him and why I wanted to create a colder climate in the closet). I think that him being able to relocate under the cave is a good sign of movement compared to what I saw yesterday, so I chose not to do anything further and left him alone for fear of stressing him.

My plan is to leave him in the closet and continue running the A/C. I will eventually introduce flightless fruit flies as a source of food, but plan to wait a day or two only as a precaution for fear of having anything moving around him that might add stress. Here are my slew of questions:

What additional suggestion do you have? How often should I check on him? When I check on him, how much should I interfere, i.e. should I attempt to move him (or the cave he's currently hiding under) to see if he's still alive? Should I add anything else to his temporary habitat such as one or both of the other newts, a light source, peat moss or cleaned soil (maybe some of the dirt from the container of red wigglers I chop up and feed him)? When should I introduce the fruit flies as food? What temperature should I maintain the closet? If I cannot afford a vet visit, are their any OTC medications or supplements I can provide? How often should I change the paper towel and/or water keeping it damp? Should I use the aquarium water or dechlorinated fresh tap water?

Thank you for reading this.

For those curious how this happened and what I've done to correct it, this is my best understanding. I've previously been using a solid aquarium lid and had all gaps foiled and taped off (very secure). However, my cory cat fish seemed to be gasping for air at the surface more often than usual since I created this tight seal for the newts, so I assumed there wasn't enough air circulation to get fresh oxygen in the tank. This weekend I swapped the lid for one with screen meshing, but I think I did a poor job sealing off the opening where the water piping comes through the mesh to get to the chiller. Initially I had the mesh too tight around the piping and could not open the lid so I relaxed it a little bit. However, I think this may have been to relaxed and that the newt must have escaped through here. Therefore, I added an extra layer of net meshing around the piping. I'm planning to create another layer of netting as a failsafe, but if you have suggestions, then please let me know. It is a ten gallon aquarium, so the lid is one piece, which is what makes it difficult opening/closing when I maneuver the water piping around the screen meshing. I may engineer a two piece folding lid which would allow me to create a tighter seal in the back at the piping while the front could pivot open/closed. As for the cat, it's not allowed in the bedroom with the aquarium, so however the newt escaped, it traversed the bedroom and exited under the door. I plan to tape off these gaps under the door.
 

Snake Charmer

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Day one update: I've dropped the closet temperature down to 57 at noon, and now to 54. I also just removed his cave to check on him. It looks like he had a bowel movement, because under his tail looks to be digested snail shells (I didn't know he had been eating them). To help with wounds I gave him a salt water rinse followed by a fresh water rinse. I used the same aquarium salt I normally use with water changes and with both rinses I used the aquarium water after having refrigerating to 50-55 degrees. I then sucked out the excess water to pull out the feces. It was dark, but he seemed more responsive today. I think I'll do the same thing tomorrow and maybe change out the paper towels.
 

Snake Charmer

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Day two update: I checked the temp in the morning and the closest was 50-55 over night. Just checked on him now to do another salt water followed by fresh water rinse and then swap out the old water and paper towels. Then I added the fruit flies and just observed him for a little bit and took a closer look at him through the glass. He seems like a brand new newt. He explored the whole bowl several times over and tried climbing the glass. His eyes and head look normal and he's walking around on all legs evenly and at his normal pace. He eventually went back under the cave so I decided that was enough observation time. I think I won't run the AC tonight and will let the temperature climb back up to the mid 60s. If he eats all the fruit flies then I think I'll do final inspection and possibly release him back into the aquarium. I am nervous of prematurly marking him off as "all good". I've read several times on forums of folks saying how they spent a few days nursing a newt then to say he looks "back to normal" then the next day sadly say that he died. I know newts are master regenerators, but it seems odd to have only needed 48 hours to make such a recovery.
 

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I found out my injured newt was a female Friday afternoon when I put her back in the aquarium. It only took less than an hour and one of the other two began doing the mating dance with her. They haven't done it again since (maybe it bothered them that I was watching or maybe the increased exposure to the cool air the last two days boosted her reproductive hormones and getting back acclimated to high 60s made them go away). She continues to eat and explore like the others. I did however catch one of the males try to escape the aquarium the very same way I suspected (at the lid opening where the water piping comes through the net meshing). However, I went absurd with the extra layers of meshing before hand, so I watched him try to push through only to lose control and fall back down to the water.

I'm thinking she's the only female, so I'm really happy to see her pull through. I'm also really happy I didn't give up looking for her. I was just about to quit because I felt as though I searched everywhere. I pulled out the cannisters filter, fridge, oven, washer, dryer, bed, closets, but nothing. So I was just about to call the quits until I thought about checking on top of my cat's cat tree, which is too tall for me to see without standing on something. So I grabbed a chair and took a look, but nothing. I went to put the chair back and right there where I was going to put the chair is where I saw the odd looking, hairball like blob. Upon closer inspection, it truly was the last place I looked! I am baffled that this was the chair chose.
 

AuSu

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Hi! Very happy to hear she's in condition! I was wondering if the fish are reason why your newts want to get out- most newts prefer fishless water if they have possibility to choose. But of course it's up to you!
 

josh1990

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Glad to hear your newt is ok! You are doing everything you need to and I'm hopeful she will recover. The only thing I would not do is handle the newt as much as you described. Newts and salamanders do not like to be held and it can damage their delicate skin. All amphibians in fact simply hate to be held; they just are not like mammals or even some reptiles that enjoy human interaction in that way. I would also add that some different invertebrates would be great to add to your newts diet. Earthworms are an excellent food so are isopods, black soldier fly larvae, house fly larvae, butterworms, blackworms, tubifex worms and daphnia. Earthworms along with the live blackworms are probably some of the best prey items for aquatic newts. Most aquatic newts will also eating frozen bloodworms, tubifex worms, mysis shrimp and gammarus thawed in cool water as well. Fruit flies are a fine food but should not make up the bulk of the diet. I do have few questions for you if you don't mind; How many newts do you have in the aquarium? How is the aquarium set-up? Fully aquatic or semi-aquatic or even terrestrial. I noticed that you had put your newt in a fish bowel for a little bit while you got some treatments for it sorted out, one thing you should get for situations like this is a plastic shoebox or a critter keeper. A plastic shoebox with holes drilled into the lid is just about the best thing (along with the critter keeper) for temporary housing for salamanders. Critter keepers are relatively cheap and made by several companies in many different sizes, from tiny to something comparable to a ten gallon glass aquarium. The ones I use are the Exo- Terra Faunarium and the Exo-Terra Breeding Box. If you go to the Exo-Terra website you can see all the styles and sizes to see what would be your favorite. Sorry for the long post! I just hope I was of some help to you. By the way there is a wonderful care sheet on Eastern newts on Caudata Culture. Sincerely, Josh
 
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