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Annual Penguin Physicals

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Animal Updates | Penguins

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In Focus

Penguin and stethoscope - popup

Just like many of us, the penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific receive annual physical exams to check their vitals and make sure they are in good health. Dr. Greg Scott, one of our veterinarians, shares a play-by-play of how a penguin physical is performed.

Every year we schedule all of our penguins for their annual check-ups in the Molina Animal Care Center. These are performed at the start of each year, since they are busy the rest of the year molting, courting, breeding, and nesting.

Checking for foreign objects

First things first, the penguins go through an extensive security checkpoint just like you would at the airport. I’m kidding! We actually use a metal detector to check their bodies for any foreign objects they may have ingested, like pennies or other items that guests have accidentally dropped into the June Keyes Penguin Habitat because they could be lethal.

Once they’ve passed this test, a number of exams are performed to check their height, weight, eyes, mouth, and other parts of their bodies.

Robbie's wing is good to go!

Our penguin caretakers, like Sara Mandel, are a huge help during exams. They know the personality of each bird and help keep them calm. For instance, Henry tends be a bit of a grump, but he’s usually in a better mood when Sara is around.

Most of the other penguins are well-behaved, especially the babies who were born here at the Aquarium. They remain still during their entire exam and look cute throughout the process. Sometimes they remind me of the penguin plush toys we have in the gift store!

Examining Kate's mouth for coloration

At this moment, Sara was helping me check Kate’s mouth to make sure it had a healthy pink coloration (a white or pale-looking mouth could be a sign of anemia). Good news! Her mouth looked very healthy and reflected normal levels of proper hydration.

Checking for signs of bumblefoot

It’s also important that we check our penguins for bumblefoot, an infection found in birds that causes an inflammation on the bottom of their feet. Though Roxy had contracted a severe case before she arrived at the Aquarium, we’re happy to report that her treatment has gone well and the infection has subsided greatly. This year we didn’t find any signs of bumblefoot in the other penguins.

Checklist for penguin physicals

Once all of the exams are performed, the veterinarian team enters the information into our database, and the data is reviewed to make sure there aren’t any anomalies compared to prior years. I’m happy to report that almost all of the penguin physicals resulted in a clean bill of health.

Avery’s exam showed that he had a slight respiratory fungal infection. As a result, we’ve put him on a month-long anti-fungal course of treatment, and he should be back to normal within the next few weeks.

As they say, it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. Actually, performing yearly penguin physicals isn’t all that hard and I’m proud to be part of the process. It’s just another way that we provide top-notch animal care for our penguin family.