Equine Hospital helps tapir from Zoo
By Carole Robinson, Senior Staff Writer
Dr. Bonnie Kibbie, a Veterinarian with Tennessee Equine Hospital, encourages Houston, a Baird’s Tapir from the Nashville Zoo, to eat some kibble. Houston is recouperating from intestinal surgery.
Medical services provided to endangered animal
Houston, an eight-year old Baird’s Tapir from the Nashville Zoo, is in stable condition after undergoing surgery last Friday at Tennessee Equine Hospital in Thompson’s Station.
According to the zoo’s veterinarian, Dr. Heather Robertson, the female Tapir has been with the zoo “for quite awhile,” but demonstrated distress from abdominal pain and colic last week.
When standard medical treatment for colic didn’t work, Robertson contacted Tennessee Equine Hospital’s Head of Surgery, Dr. Liberty Getman.
“We have a good relationship with the Equine Hospital,” Robertson said. “We don’t have the facilities here to manage large animals.”
The surgery, which took a couple of hours and resulted in the removal of about five-feet of the small intestine or bowel, was “just like doing surgery on a horse,” Getman said.
Although the Tapir has a proboscis similar to a short trunk used to find food, much of the Tapir’s anatomy is the same as a horse.
It looks like a cross between a pig, an elephant and a horse, said Getman.
Although the intestinal tract is the same as a horse, being an exotic animal, it’s the before and after care that’s quite different, she explained.
“We are trying to feed her—that can be a challenge after this type of surgery,” Getman added.
The five-foot piece of intestine was trapped in a rent or hole in the lining of the mesentery and it was dying, said Dr. Monty McInturff, DVM and co-owner of the hospital.
“Dr. Liberty got it untrapped and had to remove that section,” he explained.
“Eighty-five percent of colic cases are routine, about five to 10 percent need extra care and five percent need surgery.”
This surgery was significant for another reason.
The Baird’s Tapir, an herbivore with a range from Southeast Mexico to Ecuador, is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources endangered species list.
There are only 30 in captivity in the United States, and most of them are male. This female Tapir is nine-months pregnant—the gestation period is 13-14 months, making this animal very valuable, McInturff said.
“The baby is doing good,” Getman said. “We are doing an ultrasound every day. It is moving around and the heart rate is good.”
The success of the surgery was a cooperative effort between the Nashville Zoo’s veterinary staff and the Equine Hospital staff, McInturff said.
“Working with them has been great,” Getman added. “We had the facility and the skill, but we could not have done it without them. We’re not used to exotic animals.”
Posted on: 12/19/2013