Kansas State University veterinarian travels to Israel to study black-tailed prairie dogs
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
MANHATTAN — There’s no place like home for David Eshar, assistant professor of exotic, wildlife and zoo animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. While prairies dogs are common in Kansas and the central Plains, Eshar is conducting a study on a group of black-tailed prairie dogs where he grew up in Israel and collaborating with veterinarians from the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem.
"The Jerusalem Zoo, also called the Biblical Zoo, is the top attraction in Israel and admits nearly 1 million visitors annually," Eshar said. "This well-managed zoo keeps a large collection of prairie dogs that are well-trained and handleable. The purpose of this study, which is sponsored by Abaxis Inc., was to evaluate the effect of isoflurane gas anesthesia on blood gas analytes and selected physiological parameters in black-tailed prairie dogs using point-of-care blood analyzers that require a small blood volume and provide prompt and bedside results, which is an advantage when performing anesthesia. Basically, we want to know what happens to them physiologically during anesthesia and with that improve their anesthetic care and reduce anesthetic risks."
The black-tailed prairie dog, or Cynomys ludovicianus, is a member of the order Rodentia and the family Sciuridae. Eshar said that ecologically, prairie dogs are a keystone species in North American prairie environment, which makes them an important species to biologists and wildlife veterinarians alike. Black-tailed prairie dogs also are studied frequently in research, are kept in zoological collections and are kept as pets.
"General anesthesia is frequently required for examination and diagnostic testing of prairie dogs, and inhalant anesthetics are typically used for anesthesia," Eshar said. "However, a comparative report showed that rodents and other small mammals had a significantly higher anesthesia-related mortality rate when compared to other anesthetized species."
Eshar said that the measurement of physiologic parameters is important when evaluating the overall health status of an animal. These parameters can help to detect an unidentified pathologic state or to eliminate a possible cause of an animal’s illness. However, limited venous access and smaller body size make blood testing challenging. Clinical expertise and modern technology designed to work with these challenges can improve care for smaller mammals.
"In the past couple of years our Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center Exotic and Zoo Medicine Service has been working hard in collaboration with some of our other clinical services units to study and describe important physiologic clinical data for this species," Eshar said. "Information about their clinical pathology, ophthalmology, cardiology and radiology was described for the first time during this study."
Eshar said his work would be published soon in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.