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Last week Mendel, one of our male cheetahs, had a big operation. He had a foreign body removed from his stomach.
The foreign body was first felt in his stomach at his annual exam, and again when he was anesthetized to have his VHF collar removed. We took an x-ray and could see bone and food material in his stomach. We were very concerned about how long the material had been in his stomach and worried that it might cause the stomach to rupture, which would make him very ill. Surgery was the only way that we could remove the foreign material.
Axel, the vet, and I performed the surgery at the local vet in Otjiwarongo. The anesthesia was monitored by Rosie, our vet nurse, and Juliette, our head cheetah keeper, who assisted throughout. The surgery went well with no complications. When we removed the mass of bone and foreign material from the stomach we noticed that part of the stomach (the pylorus) was thickened, which meant that there was only a very small opening for food to enter the intestines. It was this reduction in size that was causing food and bone to get stuck in the stomach. We performed a procedure called a pylorotomy, which widens the pylorus to allow food to pass through properly.
Post surgery Mendel has done very well. He had to spend the first few days eating only lean mince (ground beef) and now is eating cut up meat. He is in a smaller camp with one of his brothers Darwin to keep him company. He is looking forward to being able to eat meat off a bone like he normally does and to getting back to his normal big 5-hectare camp with his other brothers!
An x-Ray showing the mass in Mendel's stomach
Vet nurse Rosie preps Mendel for surgery