Health care

Most facilities employ staff veterinarians who specialize in exotic animal medicine. Zoological medicine has been identified as a distinct and identifiable specialty of veterinary medicine on the basis of academic programs in colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States from the 1960s. In 1972, the National Academy of Science committee on Veterinary Medical Research and Education first documented the need for veterinarians specially trained to manage the health of zoo animals. It is typical for each mammal within a zoo population to receive a routine health exam at least once a year if they have no signs of illness. Care is provided as often as needed if health problems are suspected. Routine physicals usually involve blood serum chemistry screening profiles, a complete red blood cell and white blood cell count, x rays,

The thick glass allows these children to get extremely close to a bear at the Seattle Zoo. (Photo by © Mug Shots/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.)
An Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) mud bathing in a zoo. Zoos provide opportunities for people to see animals that they would not typically have a chance to see. Photo by Animals Animals ©Doug Wechsler. Reproduced by permission.)

and dental cleanings. Appropriate vaccinations against life-threatening diseases are also given. A fecal analysis to check for the presence of parasites is usually performed every three months on each mammal in a zoo collection. In the event of a serious illness, many zoos have access to and perform the same advanced procedures on captive mammals as a human would being treated by a surgeon or other specialist. Veterinarians depend on the input of zookeepers for evaluating when an animal is sick and what would be the least stressful mode of treatment.

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