Reindeer Treated at Tufts’ Cummings School Back Safely at the Zoo

Clinicians Say Female Reindeer Recovering Well From Knee Surgery
December 15, 2012

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GRAFTON, Mass. —Just in time for the holiday season, faculty clinicians at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals (FHSA) at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University report that Willow, a one-and-a-half-year-old reindeer, is in stable condition after undergoing knee surgery on Thursday, December 13. 

The young female reindeer is now back home for the holidays and is resting comfortably in the onsite zoo hospital at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. She was transported from Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass., where she resides with two other reindeer, to the Cummings School after suffering from a luxating patella. A luxating patella is a condition caused when a kneecap dislocates or moves out of its normal location.

The Cummings School’s surgical team, led by Clinical Associate Professor Robert McCarthy, a veterinary surgeon specializing in orthopedic and soft tissue surgery, performed the procedure in just over one hour and said that the reindeer is doing quite well.  He anticipates a full recovery with no limp on the affected leg.

“We are very grateful for the generosity of the entire team at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, especially to Dr. Robert McCarthy and anesthesiologist Dr. Emily McCobb for the wonderful care they provided to Willow. We always strive to provide the highest level of care for our animals and I knew a procedure like this would require the expertise of someone like Dr. McCarthy. Today, Willow is looking comfortable and already recuperating well,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Director of Veterinary Services.

Back at Franklin Park Zoo, Willow is being housed in an off-exhibit space where she will be monitored closely and kept comfortable during her recovery. Her recovery will take approximately six to eight weeks. Zoo staff is hopeful that visitors will be able to see her back on exhibit at Stone Zoo in February.

While Willow will be resting this holiday, visitors at Stone Zoo can still get into the spirit of the season by coming to ZooLights, the zoo’s holiday celebration where guests have the chance to meet the zoo’s other reindeer, a male named Cornelius and a female named Holly.

A video detailing the procedure, featuring interviews with surgeon Robert McCarthy, as well as Zoo New England’s Director of Veterinary Services Eric Baitchman, is available on YouTube. High-resolution photos and videos of the reindeer are available by request.

Named for the late Dr. Henry L. Foster and his wife, Lois, the Foster Hospital for Small Animals provides 24-hour care for pets 365 days of the year. While most of the caseloads at the Foster Hospital are cats and dogs-with over 26,000 cases a year—clinicians have treated animals as diverse as a mule with an irregular heartbeat, a baby giraffe deprived of her mother's milk, and a white Bengal tiger that needed a minimally invasive spaying procedure.

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About the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; three hospitals and two clinics that combined log more than 80,000 animal cases each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, public, and environmental health. 

About Zoo New England
Zoo New England manages Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham.  Both are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Zoo New England's mission is to inspire people to protect and sustain the natural world for future generations by creating fun and engaging experiences that integrate wildlife and conservation programs, research, and education.