‘I love it’: ZooTampa vets treat everything from tiny birds to giant giraffes

The ZooTampa staff at the Catherine Lowry Straz Veterinary Hospital cares for all of the animals on-site whether they weigh less than 9 ounces or more than 900 pounds.

Melissa Nau the Director of Animal Health at ZooTampa shared, "We take care of every single animal that you see here at ZooTampa."

If the size and weight extremes aren't enough of a challenge, there's always the "wild" card.

"Here at the zoo we kind of have another layer of challenge because the animals that we work with are, you know, they're wild animals, they have a little bit of diversion to our presence and a little bit of that white coat syndrome," admitted Nau.

That wild behavior dictates the care that they give to those animals.

"If we need to, we can also anesthetize the animals and that keeps things very stress-free, very relaxed for the animal and safe for the people working with them," commented Nau.

So when a tiny lorikeet needs an exam, the anesthesiologist can help prevent that bird from injuring itself trying to escape from the medical team.

"We do want to reduce the stress on that bird," said Nau.

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But the team has to transition on the spot from the small to the medium-sized animals in their caregiving day.

"In the exact same day, we go from this tiny little bird that needs an exam, to we have a litter of red wolf pups," shared Nau. "These guys are again wild animals, we don't what them to be tame."

So the pups are treated like the wolves that they will be, even though they appear cute and cuddly like exotic puppies.

The vets transition again from medium to large patients and that means making a house call.

"From wolves, we go to the manatees, they are huge," said Nau.

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Huge is an understatement as a full-grown manatee can weigh up to 1000 pounds.

"These guys are really powerful so we have to be safe in the way we handle them," said Nau. "One of them is a newer patient, who still is undergoing a lot of treatments."

And those treatments are given at the manatee habitat and hospital on-site there at ZooTampa.

The medical team works together to not only provide the care for the patient but also to help prevent injury to the patient and the staff during the exam.

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Just because the medical work is done, it doesn't mean the job is over either.

Nau explained, "The part that comes after the actual with the animal is now we have to look at all of this information that we've gathered."

It's in the interpretation of those exams and tests that they come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient whether big or small.

"It's a lot of fun working here at the zoo and being a zoo veterinarian. I love it," admitted Nau with a smile.

LINK: Click here to learn more about ZooTampa.