What are the most frequent veterinary medicine cases at the Montréal Biodôme? With the multitude of animal species we have here, we get to see every possible kind, but I have to say that the number of geriatric patients presenting various aches and pains is growing steadily.
The law of nature
As a general rule, captivity extends the lifespan of residents in zoological institutions. That’s because the wild state imposes constraints and stress such that only very hardy individuals boasting vigorous health can prosper. For example, to survive, a wild otter has to be in top shape to fish in a lake, where its prey can escape at lightning speed and hide. Here, since we offer it dead prey as well as easy-to-catch living prey, its primary need is easily met. In nature, Canadian otters live to an average of 10 to 13 years; in captivity, they can double their life expectancy. Currently we’re hosting a 17-year-old male otter at the Biodôme.
Joints losing their flexibility
The aging of the body, whether that of a human, a giraffe, an otter or an ostrich, involves its share of problems. Among the most widespread, osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, affects the health and at the same time the quality of life of our residents. At 17, our male otter is no exception. We began to notice a few months ago that he wasn’t moving the same way, and that he was limping intermittently in his hind limbs. We weren’t surprised to learn, after taking x-rays, that some joints were affected.
An easy pill to swallow
As is the case for all animals suffering from osteoarthritis we know that the disease is painful, and so we started a treatment to reduce inflammation and pain. We’re rounding off his diet of fish with nutraceuticals, these being combinations of glucosamine, chondroitin, green mussels, etc. In addition, the carpenter team, in collaboration with our animal-care team, built an access ramp to facilitate comings and goings in his night quarters and make his getting about less painful!
Better quality of life
As veterinarians, we’re responsible for the health and wellbeing of our patients. And certainly osteoarthritis can diminish quality of life, sometimes to the point where there’s none left… Which is why we use evaluation grids to arrive at an overall and more objective portrait of our patient’s wellbeing, in order to make the right decisions. As far as our “grandpa” otter’s concerned, we can safely state that he hasn’t lost all his vim and vigor, and that, good otter that he is, he’s still having a fine old time!