Since Mareki started to self-mutilate almost 2 weeks ago, I have had to have her in an e-collar. Until now, the only other experience I had with an e-collar was short-term and I didn't realize the special needs that would be involved with long-term e-collar use. So, I thought I would start a thread to share my experiences and lessons learned so far in the hopes that someone else with experience may chip in and illuminate me further and also for the benefit of others who may someday find themselves in a similar situation...
Cage Modifications Obviously, with an e-collar on, the cage needs to be modified to accomodate for the limited mobility of the glider. In order to do this, I am using a smaller cage than normal. It is only 18"dx24"wx18"h. A large hammock has been suspended halfway up the cage so that if she wanders about the top of cage and falls, she has a soft landing. There is also a rope for her to climb on and a chain of baby links to play with. (see picture #1)
Pouch Modifications A pouch has been modified for her. It is extra large (12"x12") and is attached in one of the corners of the cage so that the pouch is attached to the front and the side of the cage. The corner is held open by use of a plastic clothespin so that the pouch opening is a large triangle. It is set so that the pouch bottom rests on the cage bottom.
Feeding Modifications In order to accomodate eating in spite of the e-collar, I am using trough-style bird "water fountain or feeders". There is a large tube that sets into a cup with a trough that sticks out of the front of it and into the cage. The glider can get the trough between the collar and her mouth and eat accordingly. (see picture #2) Since I feed the BML diet normally, I am making a slurry of BML and juice so that it dispenses in the feeder easily for her. Solids are difficult for her to eat because she can not use her hands to hold them due to the e-collar being in the way. Therefore, she needs to be on a completely soft diet. Other soft foods that I am feeding Mareki include yogurt, Fruit Slushie and Veggie Relish.
Grooming Accomodations While in an e-collar, a glider can not groom herself due to the fact that gliders use their mouth for all grooming. Even when they scratch themselves with their specially adapted hind feet, they always lick their toes off afterwards. With the e-collar, this ability is eliminated. I have found that I need to check over Mareki every day to make sure that no feces has become embedded in her fur anywhere or her wound or her pouch. I also have to clean her fur periodically using a wet-wipe. In addition, I comb her fur daily. Combing is best effected using either a flea comb, a nit comb or an eyelash comb. All have very fine teeth and are good for combing the very fine fur of gliders.
Please note that the pictures are actually of Gizmo when he was in an e-collar. I have not taken any pictures of Mareki's cage modifications...
Exercise Accomodations When in an e-collar, exercise is difficult for the glider because of the limited mobility from the awkwardness of the collar. Due to this, I have found that allowing Mareki to have an hour of uncollared, highly supervised exercise time in the evening is imperative. In the two weeks since she started wearing the collar, she gained 6 grams - I am convinced this is due to lack of exercise. So, last night, for the first time, I gave her uncollared exercise time. I set up her wheel for her on my coffee table and then got down on the floor so that I would be at eye level with it. She was very excited to run in the wheel, but as she got tired, she would stop and then start to go after her wound. A gentle nudge from me to discourage her and she would start to run again. We did this for an hour, then put her collar back on her again. She was frustrated with getting the collar back on, but I am confident that the added exercise will help her to have better weight control with her limited activity level.