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Animals: An unlikely veterinary partner

Categories: Animals, Support the Zoo, Veterinary Exam

At the Sacramento Zoo, the care and welfare of our animals is our top priority. The veterinary care received by each animal at the zoo is truly world-class, thanks to a more than 50-year partnership with the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. We are very proud of our partnership with UC Davis, which helps us provide each animal at the zoo with state-of the-art veterinary care with a focus on wellness, disease prevention, and early detection of medical problems.

Providing exceptional animal care is a team effort – and is especially rewarding when the animals are active participants as well! Did you know that many of our animals voluntarily participate in their own preventative, prenatal and general veterinary care thanks to their partnership with the dedicated staff who care for them?

ostrich getting blood drawn, part of her veterinary careOur talented team of keepers and veterinary staff work with many different species at the zoo, utilizing positive reinforcement training with the animals to teach them how to respond willingly in their veterinary care. The animals volunteer for everything from blood draws and vaccinations, to radiographs and ultrasound treatments.

Recently, one of the zoo’s two female ostriches, Clove, exhibited signs of potential illness. Her keepers worked with the zoo’s veterinary team to obtain an initial blood sample to help drive Clove’s treatment plan. Staff also began working with Clove on a medical behavior training plan, with a goal of obtaining voluntary blood draws for future analysis and comparison. Utilizing positive reinforcement training sessions, it was not long before Clove actively participated in her care by allowing staff to draw blood voluntarily. Ostriches are large animals; providing them with treatment and care can be very dangerous. Thanks to our staff’s efforts with both Clove and her sister Cinnamon, the outcome of their training sessions was a stress-free treatment plan that allowed the birds to participate in their own care, resulting in two healthy ostriches.

rowdy the cheetah getting vet careAnother example of this amazing teamwork involves cheetah brothers, Rowdy and Zig Zag. One day during training and observations, staff noticed Rowdy exhibiting mild lameness. Just like humans, animals can have minor sprains, tears and twists of joints and muscles that vary in severity and need of treatment. Although Rowdy’s symptoms were mild, staff got right to work using positive reinforcement to condition Rowdy to receive voluntary radiographs as part of voluntary training sessions. Fortunately, initial images showed no obvious cause of lameness or injury. Once Rowdy and his care team had “mastered” the voluntary radiographs, work then focused on training Rowdy for voluntary injections. This would allow for a stress-free immobilization procedure if necessary to evaluate any continued lameness. The ability to perform this sort of delicate voluntary training with a carnivore requires an amazing amount of skill, trust, patience and persistence. All of which, I am proud to say, our staff have and practice in abundance.

Care and welfare are at the forefront of our work each and every day at the Sacramento Zoo. Veterinary health staff works closely with animal care staff to monitor animal health, identify any medical concerns and work collaboratively to implement treatments. This collaborative team focus and dedication ensure that the zoo is successful in consistently achieving our mission in providing the very best care for each of the animals that calls the zoo home. Your continued support allows us to provide each animal at the zoo with exceptional care and makes it possible for us to recruit and maintain a compassionate and knowledgeable team. This hard-working team pours their all into collaboratively and creatively working with the animals to provide each unique individual with exceptional care every day.

All of our wonderful visitors and guests play a vital role in our animal welfare. Won’t you consider making a gift today to the Sacramento Zoo to help us continue our work on behalf of the animals in our care? We can’t do what we do without your support!

end of year appeal enrichment at the sac zoo with a lion, anteater, and red panda

You make exceptional animal care possible!

Won’t you make a year-end gift to the zoo today?

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