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Examination goes smoothly for western lowland gorilla

Little Joe, a western lowland gorilla, was put under anesthesia today at Franklin Park Zoo so the Zoo’s veterinary staff could examine him.

This was a routine physical exam for Little Joe. The examination included a general physical examination, blood work and a cardiac exam. The results received from the cardiac exam will go into a national database to assist in diagnosing cardiac disease in other gorillas.

“Everything went very smoothly with this examination and Little Joe appears to be in overall good health,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Director of Animal Health and Conservation Medicine. “We have a tremendous team and this was a well-coordinated examination involving several different departments at the zoo as well as specialists that we asked to assist us. This level of teamwork plays an important role in ensuring that we have a safe and smooth procedure for the animals and the staff.”

Through the well-established training programs, zookeepers and veterinarians are able to regularly listen to the gorillas’ heartbeats, perform cardiac ultrasounds, administer injections and check their eyes, ears, teeth, feet and hands. As a result of the regular awake cardio ultrasounds, indications are that Little Joe appears to be developing mild heart disease, though it will likely take at least several weeks to get final confirmation of that from today’s exam. Routine exams such as the one Little Joe underwent are necessary to get a fuller picture of the animal’s overall health. Bloodwork results are expected within the week.

The entire exam lasted approximately two hours. Within about an hour of the exam completion, Little Joe was awake and walking.

Zoo New England staff was assisted by Dr. Nancy Laste, Director, Cardiology at Angell Animal Medical Center; Dr. Emily McCobb, Clinical Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University; Dr. Rebecca Reader, anesthesiology resident at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University; Dr. Justina Wu, co-director, Noninvasive Cardiac Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Dr. Brian Bergmark, Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.