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Giant anteater diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at UK zoo

A giant anteater called Nala has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland.

With the help of a glucose monitor, vets and keepers at the Royal Zoological Society (RZSS) can now manage Nala’s diabetes remotely using an app.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body can no longer produce enough insulin to regulate the glucose or sugar in the blood. The excess glucose damages nerves and organs within the body and can prove fatal if the condition is left unmanaged.

After she exhibited the same symptoms of type 1 diabetes as humans pre-diagnosis, Nala was put under general anaesthetic so a full health check could be undertaken.

Dr Stephanie Mota, resident veterinary surgeon at RZSS, said, “Keepers first discovered something was wrong when Nala was losing weight despite eating the same amount, or sometimes even more, than usual.

“We carried out a full health check under general anaesthetic, running lots of tests and found that Nala has type 1 diabetes.”

Although the disease is often thought only to affect humans, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can develop in domesticated cats and dogs, and requires the same treatment using insulin injections to regulate blood glucose levels.

Cases of diabetes have also been identified in wild tamandua (a genus of anteater), but this is the first time it has been reported in giant anteaters.

Stephanie continued, “Our keepers did an amazing job quickly training Nala to take an insulin injection every day but the challenge for us was how to continuously monitor her blood glucose levels to ensure she was receiving the perfect dose.

“Taking bloods daily was not an option, and we did initially start monitoring the levels through urine samples but we decided to contact some companies who produced human glucose monitors to try and streamline the process, and find a way which would be the least invasive for Nala.

Dexcom, leading providers of this technology, kindly donated the monitor to our charity and we were able to apply it during one of her training sessions, which now allows us to check her blood glucose levels through an app remotely. Due to her lovely personality, Nala is the ideal candidate for this technology which helps us, and her amazing team of keepers, manage her condition in the best possible way.” 

The RZSS team’s hard work in managing Nala’s condition has not gone unrecognised, as they were recently given a bronze award by the British Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) awards for their efforts in animal husbandry, care and breeding.

 

 

 

 

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