Potter Park Zoo’s aging African lion Saida was transported to Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine for an MRI Wednesday after animal care staff noticed she was reluctant to move and appeared to be in pain. At 17 years of age, Saida is now a geriatric lion and on her last examination, veterinary staff noted multiple areas of age-related arthritis in her joints.
“Saida was noted to have muscle loss in her hind legs and appeared to have weakness when walking and occasionally stumbled,” said Dr. Ronan Eustace, Potter Park Zoo’s director of animal health and adjunct professor at the College. Eustace started Saida on medications to address her pain and Saida was placed under strict rest.
Eustace reached out to his veterinary colleagues at the College to inquire if he could bring Saida to the hospital for an MRI of her spine.
“Taking a lion away from the zoo is not without some challenges and significant planning and coordination was done to minimize the risk to Saida and to maximize the safety of zoo staff and the staff at MSU Veterinary Medical Center. As an adjunct MSU CVM faculty, I work frequently with the staff at the Hospital to collaborate on complicated zoo cases to provide world class veterinary care to animals at the zoo,” said Dr. Eustace.
With assistance from Hospital staff, including Dr. Kathryn Winger, a veterinary neurologist and Dr. Chris Thibault, an anesthesiologist and the radiology staff, the Potter Park Zoo veterinary team brought Saida to the Hospital for the MRI. Based on the MRI findings, Saida has a slipped disc in her lower back causing compression of her spinal nerves. All possible treatment options are being explored, but her prognosis for recovery is guarded. Saida is currently recovering from the procedure back at the zoo. Potter Park will post updates on Saida’s condition as information becomes available.