How?should you go about examining a?potentially?dangerous?animal? If you are a?Zoo?Veterinarian?or?Veterinary?Technician, this is a question you ask yourself nearly every day.?
Several weeks ago?zookeepers noted that?Happy Hollow’s?elderly?collared peccary, Eloise,?was losing weight without any obvious explanation.?Eloise is?15?years old,?and the?normal life expectancy for her species?in?the wild is?about?10 years.??
It was determined that this necessitated a vet exam, but?with an animal like a peccary this simple procedure comes with extra challenges.?Peccaries have a good sense of smell and hearing,?but poor eyesight, which could result in?Eloise being startled by a person being in close proximity to her.??
While Eloise has a generally docile demeanor and is often interested in, as opposed to fearful of, humans,?she also has very large teeth,?a stout?body?and?a?large skull?that could?knock a person over and injure them if?she was to run into them while startled. For Eloise’s safety and that of her keepers,?Happy Hollow uses a?system called?protected contact, where there is always a barrier between the animal and the human, as long as the animal is awake. This procedure is used with?all?potentially dangerous animals at Happy Hollow, including?the?jaguars, giant anteaters and?fossa.?
One?of Happy Hollow’s regular consulting?veterinarians,?Dr. Abrahams,?was brought in?to complete Eloise’s examination with the help of Happy Hollow’s own?veterinary?technician, Rachel Atkins. Here is an?up-close?peek at the process?of examining an animal like Eloise.?
Eloise was carefully anesthetized at her exhibit. Under ideal conditions the exam would?be?performed in?her?exhibit, but a particularly windy day necessitated?relocating?the exam to Doc’s Critter Care for the safety of all involved.?This?yellow?carry tarp allows Eloise to be gently and safely?moved. She was transported up to Doc’s Critter Care in the back of the Happy Hollow van.?
Dr. Abrahams inspects Eloise’s teeth?
Dr. Abrahams performs a physical exam of Eloise the collard peccary with assistance from Happy Hollow Vet Tech Rachel.?They also performed an abdominal ultrasound,?chest?and?abdominal X-rays, and took blood samples.?
Rachel takes a blood sample from Eloise to send?to the?laboratory
Dr. Abrahams and Rachel take X-rays of Eloise’s chest and abdomen. Dr. Abrahams is holding a portable X-ray machine which?creates a?radiograph?image?that is displayed immediately?on a tablet.?
Dr. Abrahams listens to Eloise’s heart after completing X-rays.?
After the examination was complete, Eloise was carefully moved to her crate and transported back to her exhibit in the Zoo in the Hollow.?
Dr. Abrahams, Rachel, and Zookeeper John carefully load Eloise into her crate for safe travel back to her exhibit.?
How many?zookeepers does it take to lift a?heavy metal?crate with a peccary in it? In this case,?five zookeepers carefully moved Eloise?and?her crate back into her exhibit, where she was monitored and allowed to rest?safely?while the anesthesia wore off.?
Vet Tech Rachel reports?that the results of Eloise’s blood work look?good and she appears?to?be doing well?overall?for her age.?Dr. Abrahams?did?observe?some worn?down teeth during?the?physical exam, but?Eloise’s?keepers have not reported that she has?any difficulty eating.?Rachel explained that “sometimes it is hard for older animals to maintain muscle mass due to a variety of factors, so giving them foods that are easy to chew and digest can help.??
Going forward, we’ve changed how we present?Eloise’s?diet?to her?and?have?added a supplement to help her gain and maintain her weight. She is?weighed regularly by the keepers, which is how we noticed the issue in the first place, so that is a great indicator of health for our?animals.”?In Eloise’s case, her regular weight checks consist of her voluntarily stepping onto a scale in return for a food reward.?This allows for a much more accurate measurement than if she needed to be restrained, and?makes the process nearly stress-free for Eloise and her?care team.?
Challenging situations like this are not unusual at a facility like Happy Hollow where a large portion of our animals are?near?or?even?above their normal life expectancy. “Happy Hollow is committed to providing a lifelong home for all of our animals, and to providing them with the best care possible for the entirety of their lives,” says Zoo Director Kevin?Hertell. “This means that we are always planning for how to address age-related health issues,?like what we?saw?with?Eloise, and strategizing ways to do it with the least amount of stress?and risk?for the animal and the zoo staff.”??
Animals receiving excellent care at facilities like Happy Hollow?can?live to double their life expectancy in the wild, so we are??happy to have so many?elderly animals still thriving late in life!?