On May 2, a male yearling Black Bear was admitted to the Center from Alleghany County. The bear had been seen wandering around for several days; he appeared weak and lethargic.
Dr. Ingrid examined the bear upon admission; the bear was extremely thin and virtually non-resistant to handling for the exam. The bear’s heart rate was very low and irregular; Dr. Ingrid administered atropine to increase the bear’s heart rate. Radiographs showed a concave sternum, with subsequent displacement of the bear’s trachea, esophagus, heart, and major blood vessels. The irregular shape could be due to a congenital issue or may have been caused by an early trauma in the bear’s life. There was also a fracture in the bear’s C1 vertebrae which appeared to be a recent injury. Blood work confirmed that the bear was anemic and emaciated; he weighed just 5.40 kg.
The bear was given fluids and oral electrolytes; Dr. Ingrid also placed an IV catheter in the bear’s front leg to deliver additional fluid support. Dr. Ingrid created a re-feeding plan to slowly introduce food back into the bear’s digestive system; re-feeding syndrome is a serious concern when re-introducing nutrients to a severely emaciated patient. In the week following the bear’s admission, the team offered a gradually increasing amount of a specialized nutritional support diet for animals recovering from severe injury.
The bear is eating well and appears brighter, but is not as active and feisty as a yearling bear should be. The catheter was removed on May 6. The veterinary team will continue to monitor the bear’s heart rate; the team hopes that this significant issue will improve with treatment and time, though could be a permanent defect that would prevent the bear’s recovery.