UC Davis veterinary team evaluates mass near kangaroo’s heart

UC Davis veterinary team evaluates mass near kangaroo’s heart

Photo Credits: A UC Davis veterinary team treats Brodie, a 10-year-old kangaroo from the Sacramento Zoo with a suspected mass mass near her heart. (Rob Warren / UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine)

Female kangaroo Brodie undergoes her annual evaluation conducted by the veterinarian team in collaboration with the Sacramento Zoo

In collaboration with the Sacramento Zoo, a UC Davis veterinary team recently evaluated Brodie, a 10-year-old kangaroo with a suspected abnormal mass near her heart. 

Melissa McCartney, the senior manager of animal care and veterinary health services at the Sacramento Zoo, described the observations in her recent annual health exam on Brodie.

“We could see maybe some little nodules in her lungs that look older and not active,” McCartney said. “There was also an esophagus issue, which you can find in macropods, often associated with genetics. They’re born with it. But because we don’t have a full history on her, it’s hard to tell if she was just one of these kinds of mildly abnormal macropods or if there was something going on—an underlying cause.”

The zoo had accepted Brodie in late 2018 from a private owner who kept her as a pet on their ranch in Texas. The family had thought that it was best to transfer her over to a zoo to ensure that she would receive optimal care. 

Dr. Janessa Gjeltema, an assistant professor of zoological medicine at UC Davis and service chief of zoological medicine for UC Davis’ Veterinary School, is the head veterinarian for the zoo and leads the team on Brodie’s case.

“Upon performing an echocardiogram and a CT scan, the advanced imaging techniques determined that there was no mass in Brodie’s chest,” stated a press release from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “It did confirm, however, some minor abnormalities in her lungs, a small nodule in her heart, and an abnormal esophagus.”

Currently, Brodie is out in her new Australian exhibit at the Sacramento Zoo front and center, along with her fellow kangaroos and emus. As part of what the zoo does in collaboration with the veterinarian team, preventative health care is important, according to Gjeltema. 

“I think one of the messages that comes out of Brodie’s case is that preventive health care is incredibly important,” Gjeltema said. “And for her, we were able to recognize a disease process going on inside of her before she started feeling really bad because of it. Because we’re very proactive, and we’re looking for abnormalities, we’re able to find them at a point where we can actually do things about them. So it gives us more options for figuring out the right path forward for her, and hopefully instituting any kind of therapy or treatment before it becomes a huge crisis for her from a physical standpoint.”

McCartney added that though check-ups may look different for certain animals, they are all performed on a consistent basis. 

“As part of our preventative health program, and our welfare program, every animal at the very least is going to have their yearly checkup,”  McCartney said. “And sometimes that’s not a full sedation knockdown. Sometimes, that’s just getting an exam with a vet. And we review all of their medical records at that time. We have our caretaker staff fill out a full welfare assessment, which looks at all aspects—how was their enrichment program, how is their housing situation, what is their social group and so forth.” 

Not only is preventative health care important for the well-being of animals, it also serves as a good reminder for individuals to take care of ourselves on a consistent basis. Despite the often observed separation between health care of animals and that of humans, Gjeltema noted the striking similarities that send an alarming message of awareness of one’s personal health. 

“Much of [health care] is the same between humans and animals,” Gjeltema said. “I know that sounds kind of weird to think about, but humans are an animal species. They are a primate. So some of the things that are seen in human healthcare and animal healthcare are very similar.”

Gjeltema has treated a plethora of different animals along with Brodie. Animals from the same species are treated differently as unique individuals, receiving their own form of creative therapy and treatment, according to Gjeltema.

“The way that we have to deliver them to the patient, or implement them to the patient, needs to be a little creative,” Gjeltema said. “We have to sort of make it work for not just that species, but also that individual. Every animal has a different personality, and has different comfort levels with different things and different experiences. It’s also a team sport. We have incredible experts in so many different fields. And we’re able to sort of pull all of that expertise together to really provide the best options and solutions and knowledge and evidence that we have in medicine to a specific problem.”
Written by: Brandon Nguyenscience@theaggie.org

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