Earlier this year I attended the North American Veterinary Conference. While there I attended some lectures on zoo medicine. This is not knowledge that I plan to use, as all of my patients are more domestic in nature, but it is always fun to see what is possible with Veterinary Medicine. Not only was the information fascinating, but also surprisingly applicable to my dog and cat patients.
We spent some time discussing lemur pediatric (baby) care. The lemur babies have cute round faces and big eyes. Like babies of all species their primary needs are nutrition, warmth, and safety. Ways that these are provided in zoos are applicable to new born kitten and puppies.
Gorillas are large imposing creatures with awesome strength. To get a blood pressure on a gorilla operant training was used. The frequency of the desired behavior (putting on a blood pressure cuff) was increased by association with a positive stimuli (treats). This is similar to giving treats to a cat when it is receiving subcutaneous fluids for kidney disease.
One of the most applicable lectures was geriatric medicine in large carnivores. Like all animals (us included) age is not a disease, but certain disease are more common in old lions than young lions. Seeing that a lion is sick requires attention to their behavior. Often the first sign of sickness is a change in her behavior, such as becoming less active. The first step to treating a sick lion is recognizing when she is sick. This is also true of our feline patients who, like lions, are subtle in their expression of sickness.
It was great to see how advances in medicine for exotic mega animals are advancing knowledge in how to treat animals that we consider members of our family.