Ask a Vet: Zoo Vet Exams

By Dr. Ray Wack, Sacramento Zoo Veterinarian

Reading Between the Lines: What Happens at a Routine Vet Exam?
One of the ways that the Veterinary Department at the Sacramento Zoo provides quality health care to the animals is through routine health exams.

Many of these procedures can be viewed by Zoo visitors through the windows in the veterinary hospital. These exams are similar to routine physicals performed by your own primary care physician. A complete physical exam includes body weight, determination of body condition, ophthalmic exam, dental exam and cleaning, checking the transponder microchip, careful palpation of the limbs and abdomen, routine X-rays are taken, and auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) of the heart and lungs.

A blood sample is often collected for a complete blood cell count and serum chemistry panel, as well as banking a sample in our ultra-cold freezer. Any vaccines needed are given at this time. For those animals prone to specific diseases, additional screenings are done to identify these conditions when early treatment can make a difference. For example, heart disease is common in many species of great apes. As a result, more in-depth cardiac exams are performed during the routine examination of our older chimps and orangutans. During these cardiac exams, additional testing such as electrocardiograms (ECG) and echocardiograms are conducted.

Veterinary specialists from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital travel to the Dr. Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital at the Sacramento Zoo to lend their expertise. This strong collaboration with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine enables the Sacramento Zoo to provide a high quality of health care to the resident animals at the Zoo.

Note: Ask a Vet is recurring column in the Zoo's newletter, Maagizo. Check back soon at for the complete Spring issue under About Us.

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