Veterinary Care: Water Monitor Exam

Dr. Ann Duncan is the Chief Veterinarian for the Detroit Zoological Society.

We recently performed an examination on our new water monitor. He is a 5-year-old adult male, weighs 30 pounds and is approximately 6 feet long. Water monitors are native to parts of southeast Asia. They are not an endangered species, but are known to be exploited in the pet trade. We rescued him from a local rescue organization that recently lost its funding, and he is currently in quarantine to ensure he is free from health problems before he is moved to the Holden Reptile Conservation Center.

All animals new to the Detroit Zoo undergo a quarantine period; this is a very important practice that allows close observation, acclimation to new diets and caretakers, and ensures we do not transfer any contagious diseases to the rest of the resident animals.

Many of our snakes and lizards can be held by trained zookeepers while we examine them thoroughly and collect blood and other samples for testing. They can often even be radiographed while resting quietly on an X-ray plate. Our new water monitor is a very large lizard, and we knew it would not be possible to hold him safely for his exam. Water MonitorDr. Wynona Shellabarger created a plan for the monitor’s examination, and then went to his holding area to administer a sedative to allow for a safe and calm trip to the hospital. Once there, he was given gas anesthesia through a facemask until he was sedated enough that we could position him for radiographs and safely examine him. We palpated his abdomen, muscles and joints, listened to his heart and lungs, and examined him from head to toe, including the inside of his mouth. We also performed an ultrasound exam of his heart and other abdominal organs.

He appears healthy and in good condition. We will continue to “monitor” him until his quarantine period has ended and his new habitat at the Holden Reptile Conservation Center is ready for him.

– Dr. Ann Duncan

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