A team of eight veterinary professionals from Powers Pet Emergency and Specialty gathered in the veterinary hospital at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on Thursday. They were eager to help remove a foreign object from the stomach of a nine-month-old female mountain lion and donate their time to save her life.
They cleared their schedules at the practice to help Adira, who has had a tough start to her life. She was orphaned in the wild at just six weeks old, along with her sister Sequoia and brother Sitka. Although they were fortunate to find a safe home at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, their misfortune continued when Adira’s sister, Sequoia, passed away unexpectedly Sunday night while recovering from a spay surgery. Because Adira received the same surgery, the CMZoo veterinary team, led by Dr. Jon Romano, CMZoo head veterinarian, conducted an additional post-op exam on her and found something unexpected. While doing an x-ray on her, they saw a foreign object in her stomach, which was completely unrelated to her previous surgery. That unintended discovery likely helped to save her life.
The Zoo’s internal veterinary team immediately sprang into action to secure the professional assistance needed to help Adira. Dr. Brianna Backlund, a veterinary internal medicine specialist and skilled endoscopist, and Dr. Brandy Cichocki, veterinary surgeon, answered the call with their expert support teams and specialized equipment.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is relieved to report that Dr. Backlund’s team successfully removed a 19”-long rubber-coated electrical cord from Adira’s stomach. Although Dr. Cichocki’s surgical team was thankfully not needed, they were on hand in CMZoo’s vet hospital in case there were any complications with the endoscopy procedure.
“When I walked into the hospital, I was impressed with the medical team assembled in front of me,” said Bob Chastain, president and CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “Watching them work with the scope and getting to see the actual removal of the cord was fascinating. I am so appreciative that partners in our community care enough about an individual mountain lion that they would devote their entire day to saving her.”
Adira’s care team traced the cord back to a scale they used to ensure the cubs were gaining weight appropriately when they were about six months old. The scale is a heavy, industrial model, and was kept in the cubs’ den with the cord secured under a fence and out of reach of the cubs – or so they thought. One night in October, the scale became a toy for the cubs, and after they dragged the approximately 40-pound scale away from the fence, they attacked the cord and ripped it apart. In the morning, keepers scoured the area and were convinced they had recovered all of the cord, but Adira obviously had one piece stashed away where they couldn’t find it. As any parent of a young child or any pet owner can attest, children and animals are prone to investigating and ingesting things they shouldn’t. When things happen that aren’t supposed to happen, we’re fortunate to have generous community partners, like the professionals at Powers Pet Emergency and Specialty, to donate their time and expertise to help.
“Dr. Backlund’s expertise in driving an endoscope allowed us to avoid a more invasive procedure for Adira,” said Dr. Romano. “It wasn’t a simple removal because the cord was quite firm and inflexible. Dr. Cichocki’s team was on standby to perform emergency surgery if needed, which would have been especially risky because Adira’s body was already trying to heal from the spay surgery. We’re grateful we could remove the cord without taking more extreme measures.”
After the cord was removed, Adira’s care team took x-rays to confirm there weren’t any additional pieces of cord left behind. They also used the scope camera to check Adira’s stomach for ulcers or lesions, which can sometimes form in the stomach after the presence of a foreign object.
“We did see some very mild ulcers, which we believe are a reaction to the presence of the cord,” said Dr. Romano. “We gave her antacids and anti-nausea medication that should clear up those minor lesions. A bit of good news is that while she was under general anesthesia, we gave her spay surgical site another inspection, and it appears to be almost completely healed.”
Adira has returned to her den in Rocky Mountain Wild and was reunited with her brother, Sitka. Keepers say Adira is calmer when Sitka is with her. Vet and keeper staff will continue to monitor Adira as she recovers from both procedures.
To see a portion of the scope video from Adira’s endoscopy, click here.
About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s mountain Zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. In 2019, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was voted #6 Best Zoo in North America and CMZoo’s Rocky Mountain Wild was named #5 Best Zoo Exhibit in North America by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s goal to help guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Of the 233 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just a few operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues, special event attendance and donations for funding.
About Powers Pet Emergency & Specialty
As greater Colorado Springs’ leading 24/7 veterinary emergency and specialty hospital, Powers Pet Emergency & Specialty provides a standard of care you simply won’t find anyplace else in the region. With emergency and critical care services available 24 hours a day, plus advanced care by board-certified specialists in surgery, internal medicine, neurology/neurosurgery, cardiology, rehabilitation, radioiodine therapy and diagnostic imaging, Powers is a trusted one-stop partner to pet parents and the region’s primary care veterinarians. You can find Powers Pet Emergency at 5886 Tutt Blvd., Colorado Springs, Colo., 80923. For more information, call 719-473-0482 or visit powerspetemergency.com.