John Ball Zoo

Veterinary Care: Annual Exams

Whether you are taking your kids to the pediatrician, your dog or cat to your family veterinarian, or going to your personal doctor, one of the most important means of staying healthy is regular visits to your doctor for a physical exam. The annual physical exam is a crucial part of the veterinary care here at the zoo as well.


We strive to examine most of the animals here at the zoo every year to every other year. These frequent exams allow us to pick up on subtle changes early and to act if needed. We carefully track the animals’ weights and make adjustments if an animal is gaining or losing weight to maintain healthy body weights.



Some of the animals at the zoo, like the penguin pictured above, can be examined with the help of trained animal handlers. The zoo keepers and management staff are very experienced in the handling and restraint of many species and know the best ways to hold each animal to make sure that both animal and handler are safe.


Other animals, like this cougar, cannot be restrained or examined safely with basic handling and require anesthesia to allow us to safely examine them. Each patient has an individualized anesthetic plan and is carefully monitored during the procedure to ensure the safest possible anesthetic event.


Once the animal is safely asleep, we move quickly to gather all of the information we need. Unlike companion animal medicine, where it is possible to perform one or two tests, wait for results and perform follow-up testing at a later time, we often need to conduct multiple tests at one time so that we can avoid additional anesthesia if possible. Many physical exams also involve blood and urine sampling, cultures, radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasounds. We take the opportunity to verify or place permanent identification transponders and even check the animals teeth (if needed) to see if they need a dental cleaning while they are under anesthesia. Annual vaccinations and other treatments can also be performed during this time if they are needed.


With all of the testing completed, the animal is returned to his/her exhibit and monitored carefully until they are completely awake.


By keeping careful records, completing these frequent wellness exams and diagnostic testing, and providing thorough preventive care, it is our goal to keep all of our patients happy and healthy and to find and treat any changes early if they occur.