In the spirit of giving this holiday season, and just in time for the New Year, a group of dedicated veterinary professionals donated their time and expertise to perform a five-hour surgery on Tocho, an 8-year-old mountain lion at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. He is recovering well following the complex procedure.
Three weeks ago, animal keepers discovered Tocho was having trouble putting weight on his rear right leg, which was repaired several years ago after being broken. Zoo veterinarians visually assessed him and prescribed medication for inflammation and pain relief. They monitored him throughout the week, but his lameness did not improve.
Zoo veterinarians called on Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology for assistance. Both sets of medical professionals volunteered to assist with an exam, at no cost to the Zoo. On the morning of December 11, Tocho received a physical exam and x-rays that showed his prognosis wasn’t as good as the team had hoped.
“We initially thought that the cold weather was causing the stiffness in the previously injured leg and that once the weather warmed up, Tocho would improve,” Dr. Liza Dadone, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo veterinarian, said. “Unfortunately, Tocho had a torn cruciate ligament. He needed surgery to repair it, and he would also need the two bone plates that were previously used to repair his broken leg replaced.”
Medical teams from CSU, CAVT and the Zoo began plans to coordinate the surgery for Dec. 26.
“Even during the holidays, Tocho was a priority for all of us,” Dadone said. “Thirteen medical professionals, seven of whom were doctors, came together for his surgery.”
Team members donated their time and provided needed medical equipment and supplies to support the procedure that otherwise would not have been possible.
“CSU brought with them an entire high-tech surgery suite; it included hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical equipment,” Dadone said. “CAVT provided medical supplies, and a local medical supply company donated the two bone plates.”
As a nonprofit that doesn’t receive any tax funding and relies on admissions and donations to operate, the Zoo is extremely grateful for the collaboration with CSU and CAVT.
“The collaboration is essential for us, but also mutually beneficial,” Dadone said. “Together we provide high-quality care, while also giving both schools’ students hands-on learning experiences with exotic animals.”
The groups have collaborated on diagnostic, surgical, therapeutic and other procedures for a variety of other animals at the Zoo.
“We also work together on writing medical papers to educate and inform the greater zoo community,” Dadone said. “Our collaborative medical efforts are not only benefiting animals at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but also at other Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions.”
As for Tocho, the collaborative surgery appears to have been successful. He will be recovering in an off-exhibit area for the next few months before he is given access to his brothers and sister in the main exhibit.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo extends sincere thanks to the team that assisted with Tocho’s surgery – from CSU, Drs. Clara Goh, Matthew Johnston, Ross Palmer, Dana Ruehlman, two veterinary technicians and one vet-tech student. CAVT’s surgical team included veterinarian Dr. Dave Rubenstein and a vet-tech student. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s medical team included veterinarians Dr. Liza Dadone and Dr. Eric Klaphake, hospital manager and vet tech DeeAnn Wilfong, and veterinary technician Harley Thompson. The two bone plates were donated by DePuy Synthes.
To view photos of Tocho and his surgery, visit: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iyok0h20qbrkyjw/KCSyDgs-Tl.