Lincoln Park Zoo’s veterinarians serve as internists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, oncologists, radiologists, podiatrists, emergency responders, and dentists for more than 200 species. Their patients include approximately 800 individual animals, from newborns to geriatrics, from fish to reptiles to amphibians to birds to mammals, and from .35-ounce Henkel’s leaf tailed geckos to 2,700-pound eastern black rhinoceroses.
Veterinary Care at Lincoln Park Zoo
Preventative Health Care
The zoo’s veterinarians perform more than 130 preventative wellness assessments each year. These proactive measures provide a baseline on an individual animal’s health, allowing an opportunity to detect problems at an earlier stage, and contribute to effective management. Examinations include physical evaluations; blood, urine and feces collections; vaccinations; dental cleanings; and imaging, such as radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasounds. For the safety of both the animals and zoo staff, veterinarians anesthetize many individuals for these evaluations and some treatments—not unlike how veterinarians care for domestic cats and dogs.
Like humans, animals can develop chronic or degenerative diseases, such as kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritis. Many of the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo live far beyond their median life expectancy, increasing their chances of experiencing these ailments as they age. Zoo veterinarians develop and manage individualized treatment plans. They also make clinical rounds for routine observation of the animals, engage in discussions with keeper staff about each animal’s daily behavior, administer medications that cannot be hidden in food, collaborate with nutritionists on specialized diets and supplemental foods, and play an important role in positive reinforcement training that allows animals to participate in their own care.
For example, when male polar bear Siku developed itching in 2019, zoo veterinarians quickly pinpointed allergies as the likely culprit. Through collaboration with a board-certified veterinary dermatologist who conducted a series of skin tests, similar to those administered to humans, they identified the allergens: tree pollens, grasses, and weeds. The treatment plan included oral allergen immunotherapy, which dampened Siku’s overzealous natural response to the allergens.
All animals are susceptible to sudden illness and injury, but at Lincoln Park Zoo, veterinarians are on hand at a moment’s notice for an emergency diagnostic exam or surgery. Such was the case in 2013 when western lowland gorilla Nayembi, then only 3 months old, sustained a serious facial injury at Regenstein Center for African Apes. The zoo’s veterinarians prepared immediately for surgery, which allowed Nayembi to make a fantastic recovery.
Veterinary Residency Program
Lincoln Park Zoo’s three-year residency is a post-graduate veterinary medicine program of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited animal care in an urban setting. The program is consistent with the expectations of both the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM) and European College of Zoological Medicine (ECZM) and is supervised by a diplomate of these colleges.
Animals Depend on People Too
When you ADOPT an animal, you support world-class animal care by helping to provide specially formulated diets, new habitat elements, and regular veterinary checkups.