This week we had another unusual patient in the vet department.
Bonito the Giant Anteater stopped by to have a general health check and a few x-rays.
He is an old chap, and we suspected he, as other elderly patients do, had back problems as he has appeared stiff some mornings. London zoological society was lucky to have a couple of x-ray technicians from the RVC visiting so we planned for Bonito to have his x-rays taken with their assistance. We do have x-ray facilities at the zoo, but the machine the RVC could bring in is able to capture larger and clearer images, which is why we have had them help us before if a larger or unusual animal needed x-rays.
The vet and our two MSc Students sedated him in his house in the BUGS department and bandaged his front paws. This is to protect us; anteaters have very long and sharp claws on their front paws, designed to dig up ant and termite mounds, but they are also very efficient weapons, and wild giant anteaters have been known to chase off jaguars! They do this by sitting on their behind and swinging their front legs using the sharp claws as swords and will, if scared, give the keepers and vets the same treatment.
So for today, Bonito was wearing boxing gloves. Once asleep he was driven up to the vet department and we took the x-rays and some blood samples. Bonito has been healthy and we have no worries about him, apart from him showing signs of his age, but the vets always like to take blood samples at every opportunity to keep an eye on changes we can’t see. It is also equally important to have blood results form a healthy animal as from a sick, otherwise we wouldn’t have any normal results to compare to, and by routinely screening the animals we have a clear picture of what their health status is. The very last procedure was an ultra sound scan of his abdomen, which also looked normal. The x-rays showed what we expected; some changes to the spine and hips and the vets and keepers will keep a close eye on him to make sure he is comfortable at all times. We will wait for the blood results, but we anticipate they will be absolutely fine.
Bonito was driven back to his den, boxing gloves removed and the sedation was reversed. He was up and walked about in a flash, probably looking for his mate Sauna or more likely, his food bowl.