Paradise Park

Wildlife Sanctuary • Cornwall

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Red Panda Suri undergoes surgery

September 2021 - Vet Blog by Paul Hall

The panda keepers reported that Suri, one of our red pandas (Ailurus fulgens fulgens) was squinting with her left eye and seemed irritated by it.

We therefore needed to examine the eye and, thankfully, the red pandas at Paradise Park have been trained using positive reinforcement so are comfortable to come close to me when I go in with a keeper. That makes a visual veterinary exam simple to perform.

Red Panda Suri Squinting
You can see in the image above that her left eye isn’t held as open as her right eye.

Keeper Becky Waite training Red Panda Suri
Keeper Becky Waite training Suri

Suri is the shyest of the three red pandas at the Park, but her training allowed us a close look at her eye. We could see that the left eye was redder than the other one suggesting inflammation and there was some tear overflow as well. Her training also allowed a keeper to place a dye into the eye so we could check for ulcers. If an ulcer was present the dye would stick to the exposed underlying tissue and show as a green mark.

No ulcers were found so it was assumed that a conjunctivitis was the most likely problem causing the inflammation and tear overflow. Further options for diagnosing the problem included looking under the eyelids for foreign bodies and using an ophthalmoscope to check inside the eye. These would require that we performed some form of anaesthetic which we wanted to avoid unless absolutely necessary, so the first option was eye drops that would be applied to the eye twice daily by the keepers and an anti-inflammatory pain killer to be given with food so she was comfortable.

Initially it appeared that the medications were working but the eye only improved slightly and by the end of the medication course it had not fully resolved. It was decided that we now had no choice but to examine the eye more closely under an anaesthetic.

Whenever we perform a procedure, we always try to minimise stress for the animal and if we had had to chase Suri around her enclosure or try to get her out of the trees, we would run the risk of hurting either her or ourselves. Thankfully, the training that the keepers do with the pandas includes them learning to enter a travelling box voluntarily, so capture was not a problem.

Once she was anaesthetised, we could examine her eye more closely. There was still no ulcer, and no foreign body was found. However, on close inspection it could be seen that her lower eyelid was rolling inwards, and the hairs of the lid were rubbing on the front of the eye. She had entropion.

Suri Immediately after being anaesthetised. Vet Blog.
Suri immediately after being anaesthetised.

Entropion can be corrected by removing a wedge of skin from below the eyelid margin and stitching the skin to close the deficit so that the eyelid skin is tighter and can no longer roll inwards.

Appearance of the Red Panda eye post-surgery. Vet Blog.
Appearance of the eye post-surgery. The three blue marks are her stitches. The green/yellow around her eye is a dye used to check for ulcers.

The surgery went well, and Suri was back in her tree by mid-afternoon. We monitored her closely in case she rubbed at the stitches but by her 14-day post op check-up her eye was fully open, no discharge was present, she no longer looked irritated, and she had finished all medication.

Red Panda Suri pleased to be back home. Vet Blog.
Suri, pleased to be back home.

Read more about our Red Pandas HERE

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