Brody has always been a “special needs” bear. You may remember that he was brought to us by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in February after he was found abandoned at an estimated three weeks of age with severe respiratory issues and a weak suckling response.
Once we nursed Brody back to health, he had to be fed every four hours around the clock. Keepers still spend several hours with Brody every day to ensure he gets the exercise and socialization he needs.
In May, the underside of Brody’s abdomen became sensitive to the touch, and he was repeatedly observed licking this area of his body.
We anesthetized Brody for a diagnostic exam and discovered evidence of a condition similar to hip dysplasia in dogs. It is not clear if he was born with this condition or if it is the result of trauma sustained at a very young age. If left untreated, it could have caused severe pain and arthritis as Brody matured.
Last week, Brody underwent a surgery known as juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS), which involves fusing a growth plate to encourage a widening of the hip’s sockets, leading to better coverage of the femoral heads. We believe he is the first-ever bear to receive JPS.
The procedure was led by local veterinary surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Christiansen of Superior Veterinary Surgical Solutions, who has performed JPS on puppies to great success. Although bears and dogs are obviously different animals, their hips are similar from a skeletal perspective.
Dr. Christiansen also collected some of Brody’s fat, which will be sent to a laboratory that will extract stem cells from the sample for use in injections that promote healing.
Brody is recovering under close supervision at the L3Harris Animal Care Center. For the first five days after the surgery, we stayed overnight with Brody to keep him safe and comfortable. He was medicated to keep his activity levels down, giving the incision a better chance to heal. Animal care staff are using a harness and leash to take Brody on daily “walks” for fresh air and exercise.
Brody is doing exceptionally well, and we expect he will soon be able to return to the behind-the-scenes bear habitat where he was living prior to the surgery. We will continue to monitor his hips as he grows, and we are optimistic about his future.
This procedure cost about $7,500 between labor, drugs and other supplies. If you’d like to help cover these expenses, please contact individual giving manager Sherri Law at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-254-9453, ext. 234.