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Little Rock Zoo uses innovative human procedure to save big cat



Little Rock, Arkansas – It’s been a long road to recovery for one large cat, an out-of-state specialist, and a neighborhood vet.

The Little Rock Zoo claims to be an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facility, allowing them access to a network of specialists to care for their animals. In this instance, everyone had never done it before, even the animal.

A serval named Akida at the Little Rock Zoo recently received treatment from a Missouri expert who usually helps people with kidney stones.

Dr. Sarah Stoneburg, the veterinarian at the Little Rock Zoo, has a lot of animals to care for, but earlier this year, one huge cat need a little special attention.

“What we noticed in Akida actually had some kidney stones,” Stoneburg said.

Akida is a 16-year-old male serval who weighs about 28 pounds, according to Stoneburg. She adds that he is one of the zoo’s older cats, and Stoneburg claimed that he required a specialist because of his kidney stones. As a result, they began working with Don Wilson, a Missouri specialist in lithotripsy.

“It [the phone call] was a surprise, it was something I always dreamed of,” Wilson said.

Stoneburg claimed that they are constantly seeking novel methods to treat their animals and that the one Wilson suggested was something they had never done before.

“There are no scopes involved with what I do, there are no lasers, there is no cutting. I just focus and send shock waves and 90 percent of the time it crushes the stone,” Wilson said.

Although he typically cares for human patients, Wilson claims that before they phoned him, he had never performed the treatment on an animal.

“I’ve treated well over 8000 human patients, so it was nice to treat a furry critter that I loved snuggling,” Wilson said.

Wilson claimed that in order to properly cure Akida, he had to alter some of his treatment techniques, including cutting off some of the furs. Also, he claimed that Akida had two sizable kidney stones for which a two-part operation began on January 25.

Wilson continues by stating that the subsequent surgery took place on February 16. He claimed he feels convinced that his procedure succeeded after finishing that one.

“My job was to crush that stone into small enough fragments that he would pass it in his urine,” Wilson said.

Although they still have a long way to go in terms of rehabilitation, Stoneburg said that she also believes the treatment was successful.

“Our keepers are keeping on top of him making sure he is drinking plenty and urinating every day so we don’t have any complications after the procedure,” Stoneburg said.

Stoneburg expressed her desire for Akida to resume his regular activities and reunite with Louise, his serval female partner.

“He actually has been paired with Louise so hopefully maybe in the future we will have baby servals,” Stoneburg said.

Although Stoneburg acknowledged that it would take a few days before visitors to the zoo can anticipate seeing Akida in their serval attractions, it will be a sight to behold.

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