It’s been 6 weeks since we started our online clinical rotations during these strange times, and I just finished my zoo medicine course. While I’m sad that I do not get to spend a month at the zoo like was originally scheduled, I’m also grateful that they were able to offer an online course. During the last two weeks, my classmates and I have been working on Zoom, going through real-life cases of animals living at our local zoo. We were given clinical signs and history of our patient and then we create our problem list, differentials, as well as diagnostic and treatment plans. It’s been interesting because treating zoo animals is quite different than small animals, and we have to take a unique approach to their veterinary care. As our clinician always says, when this animal comes to you it may be the only time that you will be able to get your hands on it for a while. This means you need to think broadly about what needs to be done for the animal, and that doesn’t always mean just treating them just for the problem. It could also mean treating the patient empirically, meaning that if there are potential diseases, you treat them all on what you suspect. For example, if you think it’s possible a patient has a bacterial infection, you treat it with antibiotics. Could it be suffering from parasites? Deworm them.
In addition to working through cases, we also were able to put together an anesthesia plan after being given a fake scenario (that could have been very real). This was a great way to think ahead about all the things you might need when putting a zoo animal under anesthesia. This assignment also gave us critical thinking into what could go wrong and what might be needed in those cases. Anesthesia in wild animals can also be a challenge in itself, and using our resources we were able to look up medications and dosages that had been used in that species by others in the field.
We may not have been able to be at the zoo physically practicing skills like performing visual exams, anesthesia, diagnostic tests, and treatment on live animals, but I think we were able to gain an insight into zoo medicine. I was able to get a glimpse into the world of zoo medicine and what it takes to be a zoo veterinarian.