Zoo Animal Hospital Goes Digital

August 14, 2018

Monroe County is committed to providing the best care possible for the animals at Seneca Park Zoo. This year, that commitment was manifested in a dramatic upgrade of the Animal Hospital’s diagnostic imaging capability. In May, the antique radiograph machine, dating to the 1970s and designed for use on humans, was replaced by a new, state-of-the-art digital veterinary machine. The system replaces traditional film processing that required a dark room and chemicals with computer generated images. This technology allows us to obtain higher-quality, more diagnostic images almost instantly, and positions us well for providing excellent veterinary care for our existing animals as well as new species being added with the Animals of the Savanna and the eventual tropics complex. The new table top has a capacity of 600 lbs. and floats in four directions to accommodate a lion, tiger, or adult orangutan. With our aging elephants and new large animals like giraffe and zebra coming to the Zoo, one of the best features of the new system is portability. The new digital interface communicates with our existing mobile x-ray unit, so we are able to obtain digital radiographs anywhere in the Zoo.

Moki the African elephant getting an xray
Dr. Louis and elephant keepers obtain radiographic images of Moki’s feet.
This radiograph of one of Moki’s front feet shows the bones that are equivalent to the bones of a person’s fingers.

We have already been able to put this new technology to great use. For example, you may know that elephants actually walk on their tiptoes. Over a lifetime, 8,000 lbs. on tiptoes catches up with elephants who are prone to a variety of foot problems. We’ve been able to obtain incredible images of our senior elephants’ feet to monitor signs of arthritis or other degenerative foot problems that may occur as they age.

We have also used the tabletop system as a screening tool for the animals who have come to the hospital recently for their annual health assessments or pre-shipment exams. No radiographic abnormalities were noted in Kaba the snow leopard and Katya the Amur tiger as well as many smaller animals like our nicobar pigeons and spotted turtles.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo’s support for our Zoo has been essential in helping us acquire these new technologies. As a result of her personal involvement, including visiting the Animal Hospital to see the equipment in action, the 2019 Monroe County budget will continue investing in the Zoo’s veterinary care program through the purchase of new ultrasound and anesthetic equipment. County Executive Dinolfo’s commitment to animal care at our Zoo means that we can continue to provide state-of-the-art healthcare to our Zoo animals, and because our Animal Hospital is open to the public, it means we can share better stories with our community. The digital system allows us to connect with our guests to more effectively teach them about animal anatomy, physiology, and veterinary care.

Be sure to stop by the Animal Hospital at your next Zoo visit to see our new digital radiograph machine!

– Dr. Louis DiVincent, Assistant Director – Animal Care and Conservation

(Featured image at top: Male snow leopard Kaba’s thorax or chest. You can see his spine, ribs, heart and the great vessels as well as amazing detail throughout his lungs)

Dodo, one of the Zoo’s nicobar pigeons. This image was taken as part of the pre-shipment examination to make sure the bird was health prior to transfer to another zoo.
Dr. Louis educating ZooCampers about the new digital equipment.