Beyond providing excellent care for the institution’s collection, Lincoln Park Zoo’s veterinary staff also conducts research to advance the science of veterinary medicine. Read on to get a closer look at ongoing veterinary research projects.
Correlation of Thyroid Hormones and Season in Pallas’ Cats
Thyroid hormones are essential for a variety of physiological functions, including metabolism, growth and reproduction. Thyroid hormone abnormalities are common in domestic dogs (reduced levels) and cats (increased levels). These issues manifest as changes in weight, appetite, activity level, hair-coat quality and fertility. However, very little information is available about normal thyroid hormone concentrations for non-wild exotic carnivores.
Pallas’ cats (otocolobus (felis) manul) are small wild felids native to the montane steps of Central Asia. The ones living at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Kovler Lion House presented signs that would be attributed to low thyroid hormones in other cat species. However, with no baseline information on this species, it was difficult for veterinarians to interpret their findings.
With assistance from the Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife, which provided samples from wild Pallas’ cats, and nine other Association of Zoos and Aquariums–accredited zoos, Lincoln Park Zoo Associate Veterinarian Kristina Delaski, D.V.M., completed a project to determine normal thyroid hormone concentrations in Pallas’ cats. She evaluated them seasonally, as this species has yearly fluctuations in reproduction, which is known to affect thyroid concentrations.
As expected for seasonal breeders, thyroid hormone concentrations were lower in the fall and winter for both wild and zoo Pallas’ cats. This decrease in thyroid hormone serves as a mechanism to decrease metabolism and conserve energy during cold months. These data can now serve as a baseline when evaluating the thyroid status of zoo Pallas’ cats.