The other day, caregivers noticed a small area of swelling on one of her ankles. She was not favoring it or acting like she was uncomfortable, but we brought her in to take a closer look. Superficially, it didn’t look like much so we were keeping an eye on it. The next day, when palpating it, it felt a little warm and she seemed less comfortable. Although we felt it was probably a soft tissue injury, we decided to bring her in and take some radiographs and thermal images. With Rana being at least 64 years old, we wanted to take extra precautions just in case it was more than just “grandma joints” making themselves known.
As usual, Rana was a rockstar. She is very tolerant of just about everything we ask from her. Caregiver Nicole was there to observe and Dr. Trish is visiting – so she and veterinarian Mateus worked together on imaging. Mateus knows how to work the x-ray machine and Trish has significant knowledge of elephant anatomy, so the two of them compliment each other well. Kat had the preferred job of getting Rana into position and then holding her nose, while Scott was the x-ray plate holder, putting him closest to her sore joint.
It can sometimes be challenging to get consistent x-rays using protected contact, but it’s not impossible. You are trying to get an elephant to position her foot at a perfect angle on both sides, so that you can have a comparison of what one foot looks like versus another – all while needing to avoid all of the bars that create a safe protected contact environment. Rana changed positions and angles multiple times, whenever it was requested. Although at one point she wanted to offer her usual positioning, she was able to calm her brain down and figure out what was being asked versus what she’s used to doing by routine.
After good comparative films were obtained, we gave her a break and put some food down in the barn while we worked on thermal imaging. As with the x-ray, you also have to get pictures of both sides for comparative purposes. To allow her to be as relaxed as possible, we fed half of her meal on one side to get those shots. Then we put the rest of her food down on the other side of the barn, to get the other views.
Afterward, Rana immediately went out through Yard 1 and into Yard 5 where Mara, Bambi, Maia, and Guille were. Bambi met her near the gate between Yard 5 and the smaller yards and the two went from there to meet the others.
As for Rana’s ankle, there weren’t any significant acute injuries that showed on radiographs, but images were suggestive of a strain/sprain. It should be something that passes relatively quickly with some topical treatments and compresses but since her joints look like that of an elephant her age, but her blood work has always looked good, we will most likely put her on a low dose of medication and monitor her for any discomfort. She still doesn’t appear to be in pain when she walks, and is continuing to venture throughout the habitat, so we will consider her tests piece of mind.
Photo is an image of Rana’s thermal imaging scan.
P.S.: Did you choose correctly on Saturday’s post? The elephant you should have identified was sweet Lady Bug!