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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium says one of their California sea lions is recovering well after receiving treatment for an aggressive form of cancer.
According to zoo officials, 23-year-old Zoey was diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma.
Zookeepers first noticed something wasn’t right a few months ago when they found Zoey had a small red lesion on the roof of her mouth while trying to feed her. They also said her eating habits had become erratic.
Zoo officials say they started giving her medications, but the lesion continued to grow and progress. During an exam, officials say they found that tissue loss had extended up into Zoey’s nasal cavity.
But thanks to a new type of treatment, zoo officials say Zoey is getting back to her old self.
Last month, Zoey was taken to the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty Emergency Center, and after a CT scan, she was give stereotactic radiation.
Zoo officials say the treatment “attacks cancerous tissue with unprecedented precision, destroying it with minimal damage to surrounding organs.”
Veterinarians with PVSEC and PetCure Oncology treated Zoey.
They say the treatment is given in only one to three sessions.
In a press release, Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium Director of Animal Health Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, said: “When performing diagnostics and administering treatments in Zoo medicine, we are oftentimes constrained by the size of the animal, the need for anesthesia to ensure safe handling for both the staff and the patient, and the animal’s need to return quickly to their group – all the while keeping the animal’s best interests in mind. With this cutting edge therapy, we were presented with a treatment that could satisfy all of those factors and give us a chance to save Zoey’s life.”
Since her treatment, zoo officials say Zoey has been getting back to her old self. She’s been eating her full diet and going through daily training sessions with the other sea lions.
Zookeepers will continue to watch Zoey closely to ensure her chances for a healthy life.