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Primate Captivity Infirmity

Malnutrition is the No.1 killer of pet monkeys and is caused largely by their being held in captivity without receiving the foods necessary for their health. Often the first sign of this dangerous and common ailment that is noticed is the inability to walk on all fours. It is not natural for a monkey to "scoot" (that is to shuffle along in a sitting position) or to crawl on its knees and elbows.

However, there are other danger signals that indicate the condition: eyes that protrude more than normal, a mouth that doesn't close completely, a tongue that protrudes a bit, too many or too few teeth. There may be bowed, stiff or too short arms and legs, a slight hump-back, inability to open and close fingers or toes, bony knobs on wrists, and sometimes tics (involuntary jerking movements) or seizures that seem a type of epilepsy. This condition develops in young newly imported monkeys who are suffering from the shock of captures, infections picked up from others crammed into the same crate or cage and parasites that might do it no harm in the wild state but now can prove serious.

Infant monkeys who would still be nursing cannot properly digest the sort of food thrown to them, and so arrive half starved and dehydrated; and older ones, who they stand a better chance, are on the verge of this disease which is basically rickets. They must have good nourishing food at once, and most important they must have Vitamin D and a calcium supplement. The purpose of Vitamin D is to aid in the absorption of Calcium and their lack causes rickets. The amount of D should be increased at least three times the regular dosage if rickets is present, but be careful that you check the product you are using to see that you do not give too much Vitamin A. It might be safer to use a supplement containing D alone and calcium separately if the monk is badly crippled. If D3 in powder form is used, do it only under supervision of a veterinarian or doctor and do not over do it, as it can permanently damage the kidneys or cause death. In addition to the D and calcium, a good multiple vitamin should be used as all are needed- but never overdose.

Sometimes when malnutrition is obviously present, hyperparathyroidism has already developed. This simply means the parathyroid glands keep pulling calcium from the bones to keep the calcium in the blood in a ratio of 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. Once they start, the parathyroids don't stop stealing calcium from the bones so that supplements must be continued or osteoporosis (adult rickets) results. Also calcium deposits may occur in vital organs as a result of this condition interfering with their function and causing early death. Some supplements available are: Cod Liver Oil Concentrate (White Laboratories) which is Vit. D in tablet form 400 Int. units per tablet. This has too much A if given in markedly increased dosage for rickets. Drisdol (Winthrop) containing no Vit. A but only 200 units per drop so dosage must be double that of products containing 400 units. Multi-vitamins; Avitron (Lambert-Kay), Vi Daylin (Abbot), Unicap (Upjohn), Poly-Vi-Sol (Meade-Johnson, drops or chewable tablets).

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