May 25, 1999 COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It was only the second time that hip replacement surgery had been performed on a snow leopard, but everything went according to plan for Pasha, a nine-year-old, 85 lb. snow leopard from the Kansas City Zoo. Pasha traveled to Columbia today so that specialists at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine could perform surgery to ensure that he will be able to live a normal, full life and possibly expand the numbers of his endangered species.
"There were no complications or reasons for concern. Everything went the way we wanted it to go today," said Dr. James Cook, MU small animal surgeon and orthopedics specialist. "It was a real challenge. We had to make tremendous adjustments and extrapolate from the hip replacements we've performed on the domestic cat and dog, but the surgery couldn't have gone better. The post-operative care will be the hard part." This care will be supervised in Pasha's hometown by Dr. Kirk Suedmeyer, senior staff veterinarian at the Kansas City Zoo.
Both of Pasha's hips have degenerated with a form of osteoarthritis called hip dysplasia, a disease that if left untreated, would eventually cripple Pasha and diminish his quality of life. Suedmeyer decided that Pasha's condition and the pain he was experiencing warranted the surgery. "Animals are great at compensating for their injuries, but we decided we could do something to extend or prolong a normal life for Pasha," Suedmeyer said. Just in the last few months since choosing surgery, both veterinarians noticed marked degeneration and dislocation of the joint.
That problem was corrected today in Pasha's right hip. Pasha will return to MU for surgery on his left hip in four to six months.
"Not only did we get the opportunity to work with a rare and beautiful cat, but we get the feeling that we are making a big difference in this animal's life," Cook said. "If we can get Pasha functioning normally without pain and breeding with the zoo's other leopard, we have done a really great thing."
Because Pasha is a wild animal, extra consideration was taken with his care as a patient. Cook said they did extra suturing and applied protective adhesive on the site of the incision because they will be less able to restrict the movement of a patient like Pasha. He will live in a small, quiet enclosure behind the scenes for at least the next two weeks before he returns to his habitat at the zoo.
Suedmeyer, who graduated from MU in 1987, is an adjunct assistant professor in veterinary medicine at MU and will teach a popular elective class in zoological veterinary medicine here again this fall.
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