by Dr Joanne Sheen, Sydney Exotics and Rabbit Vets, Artarmon, NSW
Brinsea originally produced incubators for bird breeders but have moved into ICU units for sick and injured animals.
What’s good about it
The bulk of our caseload is small exotic mammals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and other rodents. We also have an avian caseload. All these animals have a high surface area to body volume ratio and a relatively rapid metabolism, which means they can lose body heat rapidly. An incubator is essential to actively warm animals when they are hypothermic, such as when they are presented in shock, or in the post-operative period after a long surgery.
In rabbits, we know that a body temperature of 36.6°C is considered a critical point for homeostasis, hence active warming plays such an important role in rabbit medicine. With all animals, hypothermia in the post-op period can delay recovery from anaesthesia. The use of the incubator ensures these small animals stay warm in the post-operative period.
The Brinsea ICU has a thermostat that allows us to adjust the temperature and humidity depending on the specific situation. We’ve also added a temperature probe to double-check that everything is as it should be. As the ICU is fairly small and there is a chance that an animal could overheat, they are physically checked every 15 – 20 minutes.
What’s not so good
It’s difficult to have an animal in there on intravenous fluid. While there’s an opening, you need to carefully thread the IV line through the hole. It’s also fiddly to move the animal in and out of the incubator, particularly in an emergency.