Kristin Habegger, a fourth-year veterinary student, spent her last month before graduation as a veterinary preceptee in the Fossil Rim Animal Health Department. She discussed one of her most memorable experiences during her time at Fossil Rim.
“One of the cheetahs was due for her routine health examination,” Habegger said. “Cheetahs have always been one of my favorite animals, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to assist during her exam.”
How do you perform a routine health examination on a cheetah?
“The exams are performed under general anesthesia, so the cheetah is completely asleep throughout the whole procedure,” she said. “This is really important for the safety of both the Fossil Rim Staff and the animal. Once she was asleep, she was carefully moved to the veterinary clinic for the exam.”
What do you do during a routine health examination?
“First, we start with a complete physical exam,” Habegger said. “We look at everything from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail. While someone is performing the exam, someone else cleans her teeth. Then, we move onto diagnostic imaging.
“Radiographs and ultrasound images help us visualize everything on the inside of the animal. Finally, we take blood and urine samples for routine screening. We also use this time to update the cheetah’s vaccinations if needed.”
What do cheetahs get vaccinated for?
“The cheetahs at Fossil Rim get vaccinated against some of the same diseases that your domestic housecats do,” Habegger explained. “One of the vaccines they receive is the rabies vaccine. It is very important to vaccinate them for rabies since this disease can also affect humans. The second vaccine will protect them against three different diseases that can be seen in feline species.”
Why are regular health examinations so important?
“Just like you take your dog or cat to the vet for an annual checkup, the cheetahs require these exams periodically throughout their lifetime to ensure that they remain healthy,” she said. “Our animal care staff are great at monitoring the animals for any signs of illness, but these exams allow us to have a closer look and take preventative measures against potential causes of disease.”
Habegger will be graduating from the Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine in Tennessee in May.
“I will be so sad to leave Fossil Rim, but I am excited for the next chapter in my veterinary career,” Habegger said. “I will be starting a one-year internship at a veterinary hospital in Florida this summer. I hope to take the things I learned at Fossil Rim and apply them to my exotic and wildlife patients this year.
“Whether as a guest or a student, I highly recommend visiting Fossil Rim and learning about all it has to offer. It is a beautiful institution that works hard to contribute to the conservation of some really amazing animals!”