The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium recently put their new CAT scanner to the test during a scan of a different kind of cat – an African lion.
The Columbus Zoo is one of just six zoos in the U.S. with computerized axial tomography (CAT, also known as CT) technology on site. In anticipation of joining this small number of zoos, the Columbus Zoo prepared for an eventual CAT scan unit installation during the recent renovation and expansion of the Mel Dodge and Dr. C. Joseph Cross Animal Health Center, which officially opened in August 2017.
“The ability to add CAT technology to our diagnostic services keeps us on the cutting edge of zoo medicine, gives us critical diagnostic capabilities for our zoo patients, and enables us to provide state-of-the-art training for our residents,” said Dr. Randy Junge, vice president of Animal Health at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “This machine will play an absolutely critical role in identifying potential or unseen health concerns within the animals in our care.”
The unit is a refurbished GE LightSpeed 16-slice CAT scanner purchased with funds from a generous donor. Dr. Junge describes the CAT imaging as a “cross section,” as opposed to a 2-D snapshot captured from an x-ray. The CAT scanner will play an integral role in understanding the interior of any animal with a hard exterior (i.e. a shell, spine or plates) or anything surrounded by a hard structure, like nasal sinuses or chest cavities.
Last Thursday’s CAT scan of lion, Tomo, focused on identifying the extent of an infection within his gums, which would not be impossible to examine without the use of CAT imaging. During the procedure, zoo veterinary staff said they found that the infection within Tomo’s gums was localized and will resolve with two months of oral antifungal medication. The staff expects Tomo to make a full recovery after undergoing this treatment.
Tomo is a 14-year-old African lion who came to the Columbus Zoo in May 2006 from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding recommendation from the African Lion Species Survival Plan. Since his arrival in Central Ohio, Tomo has fathered three litters, including the most recent two litters totaling five cubs born in 2015.
Before the installation of the CAT scan unit earlier last month, the zoo would transport animals to The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine or MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets in Worthington, which was a more complicated process. With this technology available on site, zoo veterinarians are now able to perform CAT scans on large animals, like lions or gorillas, quickly and safely at the Zoo.
The new CAT imaging suite is just one element of the 17,000-square-foot renovation and expansion that was unveiled at the Zoo in August 2017. The renovation was primarily focused on upgrading current systems and increasing the volume of critical treatment and procedural space but included a specially-outfitted room adjacent to the large treatment room that would one day house the CAT scan machine. Having a designated room is a critical first step in acquiring a CAT scanner, as the technology requires special shielding, power sources, electrical services and design, and retrofitting such a space can be costly. By designing and equipping this room from the start of the renovation process, the unit was able to be identified, purchased, installed and up and running in about a month.
“With the addition of CAT imaging and space expansions for improved workflow efficiency, the Columbus Zoo is proud to continue being considered among the best-equipped zoo hospitals in the country for diagnostic technology and animal health care,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf.
Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.