Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Veterinarian specialists in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan

Specialists in diverse fields of veterinary medicine often provide their expertise for various procedures across the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan sites.  This week we focus on two cases at Point Defiance Zoo &Aquarium (PDZA). While the zoo has its own on-site veterinarians that specialize in zoo medicine, the added expertise of specialists from other disciplines results in our animals receiving the best care possible.  This type of cooperation is not uncommon in zoo and wildlife medicine and there were a couple of recent red wolf cases where these specialists assisted the veterinary staff at PDZA. Veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Tom Sullivan from The Animal Eye Clinic, Inc. in Seattle, WA frequently visits PDZA to take a closer look at the ocular health of the animals. He routinely checks in on the walruses and harbor seals but has also evaluated birds, reptiles, and even fish.  In this case he came to examine a red wolf. This wolf had a preliminary diagnosis of entropion, which Dr. Tom was able to confirm. Entropion is a condition where all or part of the eyelid folds inward causing  eyelashes or hair to come into contact with the surface of the eye leading to irritation and scratching of the cornea. Ultimately this can lead to corneal ulceration or perforation. This condition is fairly common in domestic dogs and fortunately corrective surgery is a viable treatment option to‘re-direct’ the eyelid with some minor excision and suturing. Within several days following the surgery, the wolf was reexamined and declared good as new.  

Dr. Tom's eye examination of a captive red wolf.
The other case involved a red wolf identified as potentially having gastrointestinal inflammation based on physical examination and preliminary diagnostic test results. Dr. Beth Herman, an internal medicine specialist from Summit Veterinary Referral Center in Tacoma, WA agreed to perform an endoscopic examination. Using a fiber-optic flexible tubular instrument that is attached to a camera, she was able to visualize the stomach, intestines, and colon of the red wolf. The image projected from the camera to a monitor confirmed that there was visible inflammation in sections of the GI tract. Several biopsy samples were taken by inserting a small, flexible cable, with a pincher-type tool on the end, through the endoscope to pluck a few tiny pieces of tissue that were sent to a lab for further analysis. Having Dr. Beth available to skillfully navigate the endoscopic equipment and obtain samples provided the PDZA veterinary staff with valuable information to help develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Dr. Beth and Dr. Karen performing an endoscopic exam on a captive red wolf.
We are grateful to Drs. Tom and Beth for sharing their time and expertise to help us provide quality care to all the animals in the PDZA collection.  

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