A couple of weeks ago, our animal husbandry and veterinary team provided some interesting comfort care treatments to some of our more elderly cats and canids (plus Chili Iguana). Cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and electronic stimulation therapy are noninvasive procedures with little to no side effects, making them perfect to use as alternatives or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals to maintain geriatric animals’ comfort as they age.
For these procedures, animal keepers rely on the training they’ve completed to allow this kind of contact. They are able to share space with and physically manipulate the smaller species, while the care for the big cats is done through fencing to ensure the safety of both human and animal.
Oz is over 20 years old, and keepers noticed that he was starting to hunch his spine, which is a sign of pain. Our keepers began training with one of our small cold laser devices and have noticed marked improvements. Our veterinarian was able to provide a stronger therapeutic cold laser as well as acupuncture and he responded very positively, rubbing and relaxing on the keeper throughout treatment.
Tut Fennec Fox
While Tut is only about 6 years old (about middle to upper-middle life span for such a small species), keepers had been monitoring him because of the trauma that he suffered before coming to the Animal Park; his back right foot was amputated and his jaw suffered severe damage after being attacked by a dog. Immediately after he was injured, his jaw had to be wired shut to promote proper healing, but eventually some of the wiring was removed to allow him to eat and function as normally as possible. However, our animal care team noticed in recent months that he wasn’t grooming himself as much as he should be. Generally speaking, if there are no other clinical signs of why an animal isn’t caring for themselves, it tends to be pain related. And animals are very good at hiding pain from their caregivers! We were able to provide him with acupuncture, cold laser therapy, and carefully placed B12 injections in an effort to help him feel more comfortable.
Masufa is 18 years old, and keepers have been monitoring his mobility on both fore and hind limbs. At this session, he was tolerant of cold laser therapy on his hips and spine and enjoyed cuddling the veterinarian almost as much as the treatment. We are hoping to get to his forelimbs on their next visit.
Kiara came to us as an adult in 2004. While we don’t know her exact age, she is undoubtedly geriatric. Keepers had started to notice a decline in her mobility on her forelimbs and, since she is also our heaviest lioness (which can have an impact on arthritis as well), her comfort is a priority. Keepers manage her diet closely and have started to train her for more touch stimulation. We were able to provide cold laser therapy along her entire spine which will help throughout her limbs because of the quality of the laser that was provided.
Wic is 15 years old, and his hips and spine are displaying symptoms of age-related discomfort. Our keepers are working with him to allow for a tail blood draw, cold laser therapy, and eventually we hope to provide him with acupuncture. However, at this session, he allowed for cold laser therapy and we will continue to work on the positive reinforcement training for the other behaviors that will help with his comfort care.
Chili is a geriatric reptile, and her toes and tail both had previous damage. We were able to do acupuncture on her tail, hips, and legs as well as electronic stimulation therapy (also called “stim”) and cold laser therapy. She looked incredibly relaxed during the treatment!