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K-State and area zoos team up to provide quality care for animals

By Jessica Clark


Whether it's a cat or a cheetah, veterinarians at Kansas State University are prepared for anything. They examine not only domesticated animals, but they also provide health care services to animals at several area zoos.

Manhattan's Sunset Zoo, Salina's Rolling Hills Zoo and the Topeka Zoo all have partnerships with K-State's exotic animal, wildlife and zoo animal medicine service in the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

"K-State's involvement in the care of animals from area zoos is beneficial to all involved," said Dr. James Carpenter, professor of clinical sciences. "Our veterinary students receive exceptional training opportunities and the zoos benefit from our staff's expertise in exotic animal care."

Photo of Carpenter with snakeIn addition to providing emergency care seven days a week, K-State's exotic animal veterinarians provide routine and preventive medical care for the zoo animals. Most animals are examined at least once every year to identify and correct any health concerns early on, said Carpenter, pictured at right with snake.

Physical examinations, dental care, deworming, vaccinations, evaluation of blood chemistries and a variety of other medical services are provided during the examinations. Large animals such as bears and tigers and small animals such as birds and turtles are examined and treated.

"Early detection of disease or other medical problems in exotic patients is key to ensuring quality health care," Carpenter said. "Most exotic animals conceal any signs of illness because predators prefer to single out weaker animals for an easier kill. Many of our exotic patients are so adept at concealing these signs that illnesses may not be detected until the disease is in late, if not terminal, stages of progression."

The first partnership between K-State's veterinary hospital and areas zoos was established with Manhattan's Sunset Zoo in 1990. Dr. Edwin Frick, who was fundamental in the inception of the zoo, was a former faculty member and department head of surgery and medicine at K-State and helped to form the current relationship between the two, Carpenter said.

A partnership with the Topeka Zoo began soon after but was discontinued six years later due to lack of staffing. In fall 2001, the partnership was reinstated. The affiliation with Salina's Rolling Hills Zoo began two years ago, Carpenter said.

"The successful partnerships we have with the zoos have resulted in K-State's exotic veterinary medicine evolving into one of the top programs of this kind in North America," Carpenter said.

K-State veterinarians in the exotic animal, wildlife and zoo animal medicine service also treat exotic pets and injured or orphaned wild animals at the teaching hospital.

"In exotic animal care, we are never bored," Carpenter said. "The field is constantly changing. The range of different species and the rare and sometimes new diseases they present always challenge us. There is always something to be learned and a new discovery to be made."

In addition to Carpenter, exotic animal veterinarians include: Ramiro Isaza, assistant professor of clinical sciences; Christal Pollock and Connie Ketz, both assistant professors at K-State's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital; Adrian Mutlow, resident; and Jennifer D'Agostino, intern.

Spring 2003