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Cardiologist Dr. Borde performs ultrasound on Agave the coatimundi

Veterinary cardiologist Dr. Borde checks out Agave’s heart.

Thanks to the hard work and quick action of our animal care team, 10-month-old white-nosed coatimundi Agave received a diagnosis and treatment plan following collapsing episodes. After a visit to a veterinary cardiologist last week, it was determined that Agave has a congenital heart defect, something that we will manage for the rest of her life.

Agave is one of our three young coati kits who arrived last year as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ White-Nosed Coati Species Survival Plan. In September 2021, during a routine exam, we noticed that Agave had a heart murmur. At this point, it was not appearing to affect her, so we continued to monitor her closely and routinely rechecked this condition.

She did not show any signs of distress until March 7, when keepers found her collapsed in her Rainforest Revealed habitat. Agave was immediately taken to our on-site hospital, where she was stabilized. The next day, she had another collapsing episode. After she recovered, we collected radiographs, bloodwork and urine and sent them to be evaluated. We suspected these episodes were related to cardiac issues and gave Agave medication to minimize her symptoms.

Over the past week, Agave has stayed in her holding space for monitoring. To decrease her stress while in this environment, her roommates, Romi and Tito, stayed behind the scenes with her during this time.

X-rays of Agave’s chest were sent to a radiologist, who did not see any significant findings. Our next step was to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist to diagnose her condition so we could better manage it.

Cardiologist Dr. Borde performs ultrasound on Agave the coatimundi

Last Thursday, a group of veterinary and animal care staff transported Agave to Animal Specialty & Emergency Center to meet with Dr. Davin Borde, a board-certified veterinary cardiologist. Dr. Borde performed an exam and ultrasound on Agave, who was anesthetized. Dr. Borde ultimately diagnosed our young coati with subaortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect. This means that her aorta (the large vessel that supplies blood to the body) is smaller than it should be, which prevents the normal outflow of blood and can cause heart failure. Because of this condition, it takes more effort for Agave’s heart to pump blood to her body, which is why we could hear a murmur.

While we cannot reverse or cure this genetic heart defect, it can be managed under human care. Unfortunately, it also means we can expect that Agave will not have a normal coati lifespan. Despite this diagnosis, our animal care team is committed to providing her with the best quality of life possible during her time with us. She will be on daily medications to help control her heart rate and rhythm and reduce fluid development in her lungs.

Because we now have a treatment plan and know what to watch for, Agave has been medically cleared to return back to her habitat in Rainforest Revealed.

Receiving these types of diagnoses for our animals is never easy, but we rest assured knowing that we are providing the best possible care for each of our animal residents. A special thank you to Dr. Borde and his team for their help throughout this process.