Florida panther kittens rescued after mother succumbs to neurological disorder

November 19, 2019
dvm360, dvm360 January 2020, Volume 51, Issue 1

Team of veterinary experts works collaboratively to investigate and rehabilitate endangered feline species.

All images are courtesy of Blue PearlA team of veterinary and wildlife experts led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is caring for a pair of endangered Florida panther kittens orphaned after their mother suffered from an unknown neurological disorder affecting panthers and bobcats. The kittens are being cared for at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, a facility that is heavily involved in the rehabilitation of this endangered Florida species, according to a release from the zoo.

“We appreciate the support of the public and their concern for these kittens, who just received their latest examinations in a series of checkups,” says Lara Cusack, DVM, veterinarian at FWC's Research Institute, in the release. “While veterinarians cannot predict to what degree the kittens may become affected, they are currently active, playful and healthy overall.”

In July, Florida FWC trail cameras in Collier County caught sight of the kittens' mother, a radio-collared panther, struggling to walk. With her young kittens unlikely to survive in the wild, FWC removed them for observation and testing. Their mother's health deteriorated and she was humanely euthanized. Experts hope the mother's necropsy results and extensive diagnostic testing will help experts determine what's causing the condition.

The kittens were first cared for by Marc Havig, DVM, DACVS-SA, CCRP, and Ashley Ayoob, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC, veterinarians with Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida, a BluePearl facility in Naples, Florida. “These vets initially cared for the kittens when they were first picked up by FWC,” says BluePearl representative Laura Laura Fourniotis. 

The kittens are now being housed at ZooTampa's Catherine Lowry Straz Veterinary Hospital. Once they're out of quarantine and receive health clearance from the medical team, the zoo plans to place them on public view where they can serve as ambassadors for their species. The kittens will remain at ZooTampa until a permanent home is identified.

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