Asiatic Lion from London Zoo Gets Specialist Scan Treatment
Vets treating 12-year-old Asiatic lion Bhanu brought the CT scanner to the conservation zoo to thoroughly investigate his troublesome left ear canal, following repeated attempts to resolve the issue; including specialist ear examinations and cleaning under general anaesthetic, as well as regular ear drops.
ZSL London Zoo Senior Veterinary Officer Taina Strike said: “We wanted to devise the best long-term treatment plan for Bhanu, but we first had to find out what was causing the problem and urgently rule out any worst-case scenarios, such as a tumour or a deep-seated infection, which would show up on a CAT scan immediately.
“Bhanu is an important member of the European-wide breeding programme for Endangered Asiatic lions and deserves the very best care, so we arranged the full VIP treatment; bringing a CAT scanner to a big cat for the first time, so we could see deeper into his ear without him needing to travel.”
Bhanu was anaesthetised in his cosy back dens before being carefully transported to the mobile CAT scanner on the back of a flatbed truck – accompanied by both vets and zookeepers. From there, it took six members of ZSL’s team to gently lift the 180kg lion into the correct position on the scanner.
Technology-enabled Global Collaboration
The collaborative diagnostics also involved experts from across the globe. “We were grateful to have veterinary radiologist, David Reese from VetCT, on hand to analyse the scans in real-time, who quickly informed us there was nothing serious to worry about – but that Bhanu had a very narrow left ear canal, which was more prone to blockages and infections.
David, who has experience imaging big cats, was analysing the scans from VetCT's office in Western Australia. “Our main concern was disease involving the middle ear, an area of the ear normally filled with gas, surrounded by bone and separated from the ear canal by the ear drum," says David. "With the scan, we can detect fluid or abnormal soft tissue material in the middle ear, as well as changes in the bone structure, but thankfully we were able to give Bhanu the all clear."
How to Give a Lion Ear Drops
“ZSL’s zookeepers have worked closely with Bhanu to make sure he is completely at ease having ear drops, but the naturally long length of a lion’s ear canal, combined with Bhanu’s being narrower than usual, meant that the treatment wasn't reaching far enough to be effective - now that we understand the issue, we can work to get Bhanu back to tip-top health,” explained Taina.
Vets took the opportunity to give Bhanu’s ear a thorough clean and treatment, before taking the big cat back to his Land of the Lions home to wake up.
The team have since formed a long-term treatment plan for his care; instead of ear drops, the important feline will receive regular oral medication to reduce inflammation in his ear canal, anti-fungals to manage any infection and a comprehensive ear clean during his annual health check.