International vet team in Korabiewice - help for bears

On Friday, June 15, 2012, an international team of specialists visited the former dog shelter in Korabiewice (ca. 50 km on the west from Warsaw). The purpose of this veterinary examination founded by Vier Pfoten was dental treatment and assessing the health status of bears in the former shelter. Dental problems were noted in all three brown bears living there, and one of them, Vanya, has been showing symptoms of a toothache for already a long time. Additionally, two castrations were carried out and the bears micro-chipped.

Bears were chemically immobilized, and then moved from the cages to field “dental – surgical room” especially prepared. Due to the wind and the morning chill, all treatments were carried out in a loading platform of the truck. All
 medical facilities were located at approximately 40 meters from cages. The distance between bear cages and working place was very important - stress is not only decreasing an animal's comfort, but also might cause the need of using more drugs for the anesthesia. The body mass of each bear was measured on the way between cage and “surgical room”. Then it was placed on a special table, with the head towards the entrance. There a dentist and his assistant were working. In the depth of the loading platform the remaining team of vets and biologists was performing castration, taking samples for lab tests, making body measurements and monitoring vital signs during anesthesia. Boris (259.5 kg) was the first "on the table", then Vanya (209.5 kg) and Misha (211.5 kg). Boris teeth were assessed as in the best condition, only one tooth had been removed. It had been also found that the bear is already castrated. The distribution of the fat tissue on his body (only on the abdominal part) suggests that it had underwent an episode of rapid weight loss. Vanya should have had 5 teeth removed, but due to long process under anestesia while removing three (including lower left canine), the team decided to leave the other two for the next check. The removal of such a big tooth as the canine is a big effort. After 3 hours it was decided not to prolong the anesthesia. The teeth treatment will substantially improve the quality of Vanya's life. Misha had two teeth removed. The health status of all bears will be evaluated in details when all laboratory tests are completed. All procedures, the immobilization and others, went through without problems.

Experts have also assessed the health status of Balbina, about 40 years old Asiatic black bear female living in the shelter. Immobilization of a bear at this age is risky and so detailed examination was impossible to conduct. Dental condition was assessed as satisfactory as for her advanced age, but she suffers from degenerative joints disease (DJD) and thus mobility problems. The DJD might be typical with ageing or other aetiology may be involved. The pain she suffers causes her highly decreased activity. An obesity is the consequence and so her claws are also not being worn out properly with decreased movement. Balbina is partially bald, which is the most probably the result of hormonal imbalance. Anelgesics and anti-iflammatory treatment has been introduced, which should improve the quality of her life.

The vet team - prof. Djuro Huber from the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Zagreb, the dentist - dr. Marc Loose from Hamburg, dr. Tomasz Piasecki from the University of Environmental and Life Sciences, and Paweł Botko DVM from Poznań zoo - with an assistance of dr. Agnieszka Sergiel was performing the procedures. The organization of the action was conducted in cooperation: the Vier Pfoten Fundation dealt with accommodation, dentist, transport, and equipment, and we dealt with coordination of the Polish-Croatian team, transport, equipment, monitoring of immobilization and sampling. Costs were covered by Vier Pfoten. We have covered some additional costs (including equipment for immobilization and equipment transportation) with our project funds and the funds collected by volunteers who were working and helping bears in Korabiewice during winter. Big thank you goes to Inga Lechowska and volunteers for donating this money for this purpose. And many thanks also to employees and volunteers in the shelter for all their efforts in great preparation of the site for the vet check action. 

The former shelter in Korabiewice is now managed by the Viva Foundation. Bears are to be placed in large bear enclosures that Vier Pfoten foundation will build in one of the zoos in Poland which we have recommended. On the weekend after the examinations two bears (Misha and Vanya) were released to the fenced enclosure on a soil and grass and with trees, which is located next to the cages. Even short daily access to this kind of enclosure is very important to their welfare.

After the arrival to Korabiewice. Unloading has started

Preparations of the  "field dentist office"

After the effectiveness of immobilization is confirmed and the bear is sleeping deeply, prof. Huber and Patrick Boncourt from Vier Pfoten enter the cage. The bear was placed in a hadle and moved for examinations

Proper position on the table is very important

Many people are needed to handle the bear

Inspection of the ears. Dr. Tomasz Piasecki also took a swab to test for bacteria and fungi

Prof. Djuro Huber and Dr. Agnieszka Sergiel perform bear body measurements. All bears were measured in details

Protocols are very important. Paweł Botko DVM (Poznań Zoo),  Dr. Agnieszka Sergiel (University of Wroclaw) and Dr. Tomasz Piasecki DVM (University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Wroclaw)

Eye drops prevent the cornea from drying at the time of sedation when the bear can not moisturize it itself by winking

Boris after immobilization

Anesthesia has to be deep for surgical and dental treatment, bears recover slowly

Boris is moving very carefully when recovered from anestesia

Misha and Vanya after surgery, but still recovering from anestesia

Balbina's cage

Treatment should improve the quality of her life

Braniewo - workshop "Feeding enrichment" and meeting with the mayor - next »
« previous - Zamość - new enclosure for bears


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