USA Today features rescued baby squirrel who has eye surgery at BluePearl

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Rescued baby squirrel with glaucoma has eye removed

DETROIT — The options were limited when Thelma and Louise — 4-week-old squirrels found in a yard — were brought to a veterinary hospital in Birmingham.
“It was euthanize them or try to raise them,” said Dr. Laura Witherell. The veterinarian at Gasow Veterinary Hospital hadn’t raised squirrels before, but agreed to give it a shot. “I just wanted to give them a chance,” Witherell said.
She had the animals for about a week when they first opened their eyes. It didn’t take long before Witherell, who works at a clinic specializing in cats and dogs, realized there was a problem with Thelma’s right eye and sought additional help for the squirrel.
 “She had glaucoma,” said Dr. Michael West, a veterinary ophthalmology resident at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, adding that Thelma couldn’t see out of the eye. “It’s a painful condition.”

He has performed surgery on dogs and cats, even zoo penguins, but never on a squirrel — until last week. On Tuesday, Thelma, who weighed less than a pound, had her right eye removed during surgery in Southfield.

The surgery took less than a half-hour and three others participated, including Veterinary Ophthalmologist Dr. Susette Aquino, also with BluePearl, and two veterinary technicians. “I think after she started nursing and taking formula, that was our biggest sigh of relief that she was recovering and getting back to her normal self,” West said. Witherell said she wasn’t charged for Thelma’s surgery and told the Free Press the squirrel’s left eye looks healthy so far.

“I’m planning on keeping them through the winter,” she said.

Then she plans to release them in the country, at a park or reserve. Before that happens, Witherell said, she’ll put them outside so they can get acclimated to outside noise and weather.

The squirrels, now 11 weeks, are eating fruits and vegetables and puppy food, she said.

“They’re both doing well,” Witherell said. “They’re thriving.”