John Ball Zoo

Unique Cases Call For Specialized Testing - Penguin Ct Scan

Medicine, both human and veterinary, have come so far over the centuries. Amazing technologies allow for advanced testing that was not available in the past. We are very fortunate at the zoo to have built partnerships with many colleagues to allow us to utilize some of these technologies when we need them.  While we are able to perform a great deal on site at the zoo hospital, specialized equipment is needed for some tests.

Recently, “Ruby,” a 29-year old Magellanic Penguin was not acting like her usual self. An examination revealed a tumor that had developed on her skin. Initial testing of the tumor was suspicious for a cancerous type of tumor. Before removing the tumor, 

we needed to know how this process was affecting the rest of her body. Bloodwork was performed and radiographs were taken to determine if there was any evidence that the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body. When radiographs were not conclusive, a more thorough test was needed. The next step was a CT scan, sometimes nicknamed a “CAT scan.”

This test requires a specialized CT scanner, something we do not currently have at the zoo. This is when we turned to our colleagues at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners, formally Michigan Veterinary Specialists, here in Grand Rapids. They currently operate one of the only veterinary CT scanners in West Michigan. “Ruby” was transported to Blue Pearl where she was anesthetized by the JBZ veterinary team. While she was being carefully monitored, technicians at Blue Pearl conducted the scan allowing us to feel confident that there was no significant evidence of cancerous spread.

“Ruby” returned to the zoo, where she later underwent surgery for the removal of the skin tumor. She has recovered well from surgery and is doing very well.

We are very thankful for our partnership with Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners and the ability to offer our patients at the zoo these advanced diagnostic tools should they ever need them.