The Museum’s Animal Department staff is charged daily with the responsibilities of meeting the nutritional, behavioral, and medical needs of 51 species and 140 individual animals, as well as their safety and security. Occasionally, during our staff and vet’s routine caregiving, they run into unique medical challenges that require creative and cutting edge solutions.
Several years ago, the Museum’s male Florida Panther was exhibiting pain from pre-existing arthritis in his right elbow and a greenstick fracture that occurred when he was one-year-old. Seeking to provide relief to our cat, one of our vets, Dr. Norm Griggs a performed a revolutionary stem cell transplant on him in September of 2011. This was the first stem cell transplant on a big cat in the United States!
Two ounces of fat was extracted from his belly and sent to a company in California and approximately 33 million stem cells were isolated and saved. Around 8 million of these stem cells were then carefully injected by Griggs into our cat’s injured elbow joint. The goal was to re-grow cartilage in his elbow. Almost immediately, improvements were seen and the cat was able to re-grow cartilage in his elbow and has been running and playing at full speed for years.
More recently, the animal care team has started using another promising new medical technology — laser therapy — on some of our other injured animals. Dr. Jennell Appel, a local vet who has been providing support and care for another cat at the Museum connected the Museum’s animal team with Respond Systems Inc., which is a company that produces state of the art therapy equipment for animals.
Respond Systems Inc. generously donated a three -month trial of their therapy laser system, which safely stimulates cells and energizes natural cellular processes. The Museum has been using the laser on the panther’s elbow weekly to decrease inflammation, pain and increase circulation to the area. As a result, we have seen the valuable benefits of this laser on our panther, as well as our other animals, such as our deer and cougar cub. The Museum realized it could be a valuable tool in providing quality care to many of our animals experiencing inflamation or suffering from other joint issues and injuries. However, the cost was a major concern and the Museum’s annual operating budget could not afford the expense.
Fortunately, the presence of generous donors allows the Museum to accomplish things that our annual operating budget often cannot. Because we are a non-profit, Respond Systems Inc. donated a portion of the cost of their therapy laser system! The balance of the system’s purchase cost was generously provided by long-time Museum friends and donors to the Museum… The Cat Life Foundation, Billy and Dianna Norwood, and Carol Allen.
We are so very thankful to the Cat Life Foundation for their continued support of our feline friends, to Respond Systems Inc., Billy and Dianna Norwood, and Carol Allen for their donations, and to all of the veterinarians who have been taking such excellent care of our animals over the years!
For more information on how laser therapy works, check out: