Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cat-ching Up

You’ll have to pardon the absolutely terrible pun, but I’ve been dealing with a lot of the cats here at the HDZ today…or their files, anyway. It’s time for vaccinations, so I’ve been given the job of going through all of the files on all of the cats in the collections, figuring out who needs what and how much of everything we need. Wednesdays are the day of the week when much of the staff has various meetings. This morning I got to sit in on the Animal Planning meeting where the vets meet with the curators and coordinate schedules as to what animals need what. I can tell you for this meeting that we have some cool stuff coming up, so stay tuned!

So, back to the cat file project….All of the major mammals in the collection are anesthetized yearly for their annual physical exams as a part of their regular health care. During these exams, every body system is evaluated and blood is taken for evaluation, research and banking. Minor health care work is also done at this time such as teeth cleaning and vaccinations. Whenever an animal needs to be anesthetized for other reasons throughout the year (injury, reproductive work, transport, radiographs/ultrasound), a full physical exam and blood draws are also routinely done as well as vaccination boosters, if needed. As far as the cat files go, I have gone through everything from "Bobcat" to "Serval" and just have all of the tigers left which I should hopefully finish tomorrow.

The cats are routinely vaccinated against rabies, tetanus, FVRCP (feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia virus), FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and canine distemper virus (CDV). Canine Distemper, you say? Aren’t these felines? Well, big cats are particularly susceptible to this virus so they need to be vaccinated against it. As it so happens, ferrets are also very susceptible and Merial produces a modified-live vaccine against CDV specifically for ferrets. Without getting into too much depth as to the reasons why the ferret vaccine is used in big cats, just know that it is safer and more effective at inducing immunity than the canine vaccine. So why am I going into this? Well, due to demand, Merial keeps stopping production of the vaccine, then starting it up again. The zoo has been trying to get hold of vaccine for awhile now to booster the cats, and finally got a shipment in…so now everyone needs to get vaccinated. And, while we are vaccinating with the distemper vaccine, we may as well throw on any other vaccines that the cats need to reduce the number of times they’ll need to be stuck in the future.

So, how do we vaccinate them? It’s not like we can restrain them like we do our household cat. We use blow darts! Pictured at right is the blow pipe and a few of the darts that we use. So you can have an idea to the size, the needles on the darts are 1.5” long. I’ll try to take a closer picture of a dart and explain to you how they work later (because it is really quite cool). And pictured at left is the target I was shooting at from about 20 feet away at the end of my first practice session. Yes, those other holes in the box were made by me…and it doesn’t count the several that bounced off the wall or the floor…but not too shabby for the first day, eh? Since we have so many cats to vaccinate, I will likely get to try my had at it, so it should be interesting!

As to the rest of the day, we also did the necropsies on the wallaby and the pronghorn. Unsurprisingly, the pronghorn had massive injuries secondary to the trauma she received. The parma wallaby likely had pneumonia, but we will need to wait for the histopath results to know for sure. In other news about the parma, I’m likely going to write a paper (possibly for publication!) on the hand-rearing of this particular joey. Parma wallabies are highly endangered, and no one has ever been able to hand-rear a baby of this species, particularly as young as he was (he was found in the exhibit several weeks ago and has been receiving around the clock care from the hospital staff since then). Even though he didn’t make it, the techniques they used it raising him to this age clearly worked well and it would be of value if their procedure was published to hopefully help other baby wallabies.

And today’s random picture: this is a common marmoset. To give you an idea of how small he is, look at the loris picture from the first post. He’s about that size, or maybe a little smaller.

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