A day in the life of a zoo veterinarian

A day in the life of a zoo veterinarian

dvm360 goes behind-the-scenes at the Kansas City Zoo.
Apr 15, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

Ever wondered what it's like to work at a zoo? For one day, the dvm360 editors accompanied the veterinarian at the Kansas City Zoo and his team while they anesthetized a 5-year-old lioness named Zuri for a wellness exam.

Check out the videos and photo galleries listed below.

Immobilization and exam for Zuri the lion

Video: An ounce of prevention — examining a lion
Preventing animals from becoming ill is the essence of a zoo veterinarian's role, says Kirk Suedmeyer, DVM, DACZM, Director of Animal Health at the Kansas City Zoo. Here he walks us through a routine examination of a lion named Zuri.

Photo galleries of Zuri and her caretakers:
   > Meet Zuri, a 5-year-old lioness
   > Zuri's immobilization
   > Procedures performed on Zuri
   > The technicians' day
   > Dr. Meredith Wainstein's first patient as a resident

A typical day for two zoo veterinarians

Video: A typical day at the zoo hospital
Different though a zoo hospital may be, the daily routine may sound familiar to the staff of any clinic. Certain procedures and tasks are planned ... and then something unexpected blows up the schedule. Dr. Suedmeyer explains.

Photo gallery: Tour the zoo hospital
See behind-the-scenes as you visit the Kansas City Zoo hospital's isolation area, treatment room, and surgical suite.

Video: Gorillas and goats — all in a day's work
It was a hectic, diverse, and rewarding first day on the job for Dr. Meredith Wainstein. Recently dvm360 Senior Editor Brendan Howard was able to chat with the Kansas City Zoo's veterinary resident following a full slate of appointments with animals ranging from a goat to a gorilla.

Practicing high-quality medicine

Video: Preventive medicine at the zoo
Treating a sick animal is a primary function of any veterinary hospital. But by following a regimen of routine exams throughout the zoo population, Dr. Suedmeyer and his staff uphold a mantra of illness prevention.

Video: Technical innovations benefit zoo animals
The diagnosis and treatment of exotic animals is inherently difficult, from the sheer size of many patients to the vast amount of medical information that is still unknown. Here Dr. Suedmeyer discusses a very beneficial new piece of equipment, a thermography unit.

Challenges at the zoo

Video: The challenges of practicing veterinary medicine in a zoo
Have you seen a lion exam table in the veterinary supply catalog? The myriad physiologies of exotic animals are not the only difference from typical veterinary practice—the shapes and sizes of the patients make for some incredible challenges.

Video: The most difficult animal
While each animal at the zoo presents its own challenges, Dr. Suedmeyer says there's one that poses the most problems. Can you guess which one it is?

All animals treated equally

Video: Chicken vs. elephant
Though the rare and larger-than-life animals may be more exciting to most than the inhabitants of the petting zoo, all of the zoo's residents are important. Here Dr. Suedmeyer explains that it's equal treatment for all on his watch.

Video: Not playing favorites
"This is my vacation," says Dr. Suedmeyer, referring to his position as the Kansas City Zoo's Director of Animal Health. As a devoted steward of the zoo population, he treats—and values—all animal equally.

Video: Special patients
Though he doesn't have a favorite species, Dr. Suedmeyer does have patients with whom he's developed special relationships. Here he describes the persistent process through which he earned the trust of a gorilla.

Communication strategies

Video: Easy team communication — take a cue from this zoo tech
The term "team communication" may conjure up images of dull e-mails and stuffy memos. But there can be more to it. Here the Kansas City Zoo’s Andrea Lowery, RVT, shares a fun and informal way in which she and the rest of the team communicate.

Video: Communication and zookeepers as clients
Just as clients at a small animal practice report problems with their pets, the Kansas City Zoo's curators and zookeepers refer concerns about animals over which they have sway to the zoo hospital. Dr. Suedmeyer says he relies on them to be his day-to-day eyes and ears.

The economy's effects
Dr. Suedmeyer

Video: Effects of the Great Recession on the zoo
Though the slow economy has negatively affected people's leisure habits, it may have had a positive effect on the Kansas City Zoo. Dr. Suedmeyer says the fact that such an excellent and affordable experience is right at home for a large metropolitan population hasn't gone unnoticed.

Video: Fundraising for the zoo
Having the latest, fanciest equipment isn't a priority for Dr. Suedmeyer—exhibiting animals as they'd be seen in the wild is. That equipment, however, is essential to his goal. Here Dr. Suedmeyer discusses working with people to raise money for the betterment of the zoo.