Zoo asks neighbor to help sniff out root of aardvark’s health issue

aliaardvarkCincinnati, OH (July 15, 2015)— “Ali” the aardvark received special attention from neighbor Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) last week.  The 11-year-old female aardvark from the Cincinnati Zoo was transported to Cincinnati Children’s for computerized axial tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to get a closer look at what might be causing persistent ocular drainage.

Radiographs of her head taken at the Zoo’s hospital in early June showed signs of lysis, or breakdown of the bone, just below her right eye. Zoo veterinarians were able to rule out some possible causes for Ali’s symptoms and administered several therapy treatments that produced little or no improvement in her condition.

aliaardvark2Sophisticated Imaging

The Cincinnati Zoo determined that a more in-depth look at the areas surrounding her eye was necessary to determine the source of the drainage, extent of the bone damage, and to establish the best treatment plan moving forward.

“Standard x-rays don’t provide 3-dimensional images of bone.  We needed the more advanced imaging capabilities that CT and MRI scans produce in order to see what’s really going on in Ali’s head”, said Cincinnati Zoo Veterinary Director Mark Campbell, DVM.

The Zoo asked next-door neighbor Cincinnati Children’s to help with the 110-pound aardvark’s diagnosis, and, intrigued by the unusual request, the hospital agreed. Ali was anesthetized by Zoo vets who then transported her to Cincinnati Children’s, where they were met by a team of radiologists ready to perform scans in an area of the hospital separate from where human patients are treated.

See #AliTheAardvark tweets posted on scan day

aliaardvark3Scan Results & Next Steps

 “After injecting contrast material into a small cavity below Ali’s eye, a pocket of infection, or abscess, around the root of one of Ali’s upper right teeth became more visible,” said Dr. John Racadio, Chief of Interventional Radiology at Cincinnati Children’s. “Both the CT and MRI scans revealed a chronic inflammatory process associated with the back two upper molars and an accompanying destruction of bone in that area.”

Zoo vets and Cincinnati Children’s radiologists reviewed the scans and identified a tooth infection as the source of Ali’s problem.  The Zoo is grateful to its good neighbor for providing the personnel, time and equipment that produced a concrete diagnosis for Ali. Thanks to the collaborative effort between neighboring institutions, the Zoo can move forward with a treatment plan for Ali that specifically addresses the underlying infection.

About Aardvarks

Aardvarks are snouted mammals native to central and southern Africa. Specialized to eat ants and termites, they sweep their snouts from side to side to sniff out insects and lick them up with their long, sticky tongues. Aardvarks can live up to 23 years in zoos and typically weigh between 88 and 145 pounds. With long ears they are able to listen for signs of predators, like lions and leopards, while foraging for their own food.

Cincinnati Zoo’s aardvarks can be found in the Night Hunters exhibit.