Healing Houdini, the bearded dragon

Published June 15, 2009

There’s no such thing as a “typical day” for the Aquarium’s veterinary staff. With bearded dragon 021dolphins that can weigh up to 500 pounds to frogs that weigh as much as a paper clip, our vets face different challenges every day. Some procedures require special skills, which is when the Aquarium turns to outside experts. Last week, the Aquarium medical team faced a special challenge: “Houdini” is a four year old bearded dragon that is part of our animal programs team. If you’ve been at the Aquarium for one of our daily Animal Encounters in the Overlook, you may have met her! In April, Houdini became very ill with fluid building up in her body and under her skin. Through weeks of intensive medical management, vets were able to get her back to normal behavior and appetite, but still weren’t able to determine the underlying cause. The diagnostic options were an exploratory surgery or endoscopy – both invasive- or advanced imaging of the soft tissues using a non-invasive MRI. An MRI would let vets look at Houdini’s ovaries, liver, kidneys and other organs without requiring surgery – the best option. Our vets turned to the special skills and equipment of the team at the IAMS Pet Imaging Center in Vienna, VA. The IAMS center is a dedicated veterinary MRI facility – they only work on animals, using machines that have been adapted to function well for animals and their particular needs. And though their patients are mostly pets, “we like doing the out of the ordinary patients on occasion!” says Dr. Julie Smith, medical director and chief of anesthesia at the IAMS center. With the help of the skilled team at the IAMS center, Houdini had an MRI and vets were able to get a look inside. She did very well through the anesthetic and the scans and is now back at the Aquarium. It will take several days for the scans to be evaluated in full. The Aquarium would like to thank the IAMS Pet Imaging Center for generously donating the MRI test, especially Dr. Smith, MRI tech Dennis Daniels, office manager Sharon Cornelius, and Pat Gavin, the radiologist reviewing the films. Check out the IAMS Pet Imaging Center to see photos of the team in action at http://www.iamspetimaging.com/index.htm. Thank you, IAMS team!
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