Just like people, animals need periodic health checks. The majority of our animals get examined on a yearly basis while some get checked every other year. Most of our yearly examinations are performed at the Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center, where visitors have the opportunity to watch. While the hospital was built to accommodate large and small animals alike, some of the large animal exams are better performed in the field (in their barns or holding pens).
During their yearly physical exam the animals are weighed, temperature is taken and blood is drawn. We also check the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal (GI) tract and other body systems. In some instances more in-depth diagnostic testing is necessary – we may need to perform electrocardiograms (ECG) to check heart function, or take radiographs to check the respiratory system, GI tract or musculoskeletal system. For those animals that need it, we also perform dental cleanings to ensure good oral health.
Most of our patients do not come willingly to the hospital. The majority of the animals in our collection maintain wild instincts and do not like to be handled by people. In order to examine them, we often use some sort of sedation. The smaller animals can be captured, placed in a crate and transported to the hospital where they are anesthetized. Our medium-sized hoofed animals can be captured by hand, sedated, and transported to the hospital where they are maintained on gas anesthesia. Of course, our large carnivores are some of the more challenging to capture. Most often this involves the use of a dart gun to safely deliver the sedative, after which the animal can be safely transported. Our keeper staff works diligently to train some of the large carnivores to target a certain spot so we can safely hand inject them with the sedative. This is a much safer method for the animal and also reduces stress.
No matter the size of the animals or the way in which they are restrained, we take great pride in monitoring and supporting our animals’ health. We want all the animals in our care to live long, healthy, and productive lives.