Vet Check with Keira the Bobcat

ZooAmerica is home to more than 200 animals native to the continent of North America. As a recently re-accredited zoo by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), our team maintains high animal welfare and care standards. We partner with the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County to provide our animals with the utmost expert love and care.

One of the ways that our veterinarian ensures high-quality health care is by doing routine health exams just like your doctor does. Many of our residents get a routine annual examination.

Back in November of 2021, one of our Naturalist staff noticed that Keira, our loving, elderly bobcat, was consistently limping on her back left leg. Thankfully Keira has a great relationship with her trainers and allowed them to get an up-close examination which revealed no superficial wounds. Our vet then explained that the limping could be a sign of arthritis due to Keira's age. The average lifespan of a bobcat in the wild is 5-15 years, and Keira will be turning 24 in May of 2022.

Keira received a daily dose of fish oil to help with her joints; cosequin and gabapentin were later administered daily. Her trainers also started training her to do various behaviors recommended by our vet to help stretch and relieve pain in her joints. Between physical therapy and medications, we saw remarkable improvement with her limping. 

However, at the end of January 2022, our Naturalist staff found that Keira was not putting weight on her front right leg. After careful examination, her care team discovered that some of her claws were ingrown. This can happen in older animals, especially those with arthritis, as it becomes too difficult to move their limbs to scratch and wear down their nails. Symptoms can also get worse in colder weather. Normally, Keira would wear down her own claws on natural items like logs, similar to a house cat wearing down its claws on a scratching post! As a result of Keira’s arthritis, she would need some help from our vet staff.

In order to safely do a nail trim on Keira, she had to be anesthetized in her den. Once deemed safe, she was taken into our medical building, where she had a complete work up done. She had her nails trimmed, was weighed (she is 20.6 pounds!), had her teeth and eyes looked at, had bloodwork done, and was given x-rays to help the vet see the arthritic areas. The medical staff could instantly pull up the x-rays on the computer to see precisely where Keira was hurting most. X-rays showed that Keira had arthritis in her lower back and elbows. Due to this discovery, one of the vets injected a shot to act as an extended pain reliever. This can be done in geriatric patients like Keira to help reduce inflammation, thus reducing pain. 

After the procedure, Keira was transported back to her den, and the vet administered the sedation reversal. Staff continued to watch Keira for the rest of the day to ensure she was comfortable and had a good recovery. By the next morning, Keira was back to her usual loving self and was seen snuggling with her 13-year-old daughter, Fuzzy.