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Oklahoma City Zoo ducks will undergo cataract surgery

OKLAHOMA CITY — The veterinary team from the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden will be transporting two 8-year-old pintail ducks to BluePearl Veterinary Partners on Wednesday, March 8 for a medical treatment that is familiar to many humans – cataract surgery.

“Our goal is to greatly improve their eyesight so they can function properly in their environment along with the other animals at the Zoo,” said Dr. Kevin Donnelly, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at BluePearl. “The ducks are in good health, but their vision and quality of life will be much improved after the surgery.”

duck swimming

Pintail duck at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Gillian Lang

The Zoo has partnered with Donnelly because of his expertise in veterinary eye care and surgery. “Our veterinary staff provides expert care for more than 1,500 animals,” said Dr. Gretchen Cole, Zoo associate veterinarian. “But occasionally we collaborate with outside specialists, such as those at BluePearl, that have specific equipment or skill sets.”

Like many animals, ducks sometimes develop cataracts as they age, Donnelly said. Cataract surgery for ducks is very similar to the operation performed on humans. The ducks will be given anesthesia. Donnelly will make a small incision in each cornea and insert a needle to remove the cloudy lens material inside.

Donnelly performed cataract surgery on two other pintail ducks from the Zoo last year. The ducks have recovered and are in good health today.

“I enjoy treating animals from the Zoo,” said Donnelly, “partly because I grew up in Oklahoma City and have many fond memories of seeing all the animals. But, by partnering with the Zoo, I can contribute to keeping these amazing animals healthy and thriving for many years to come.”

“The vet team appreciates Dr. Donnelly’s assistance in helping us leverage local expertise and resources,” said Cole. “Working together with leading institutions is a vital component of the Zoo’s comprehensive animal health care.”

The Zoo is home to several pintail ducks that can be viewed in the Oklahoma Trails aviary and at the waterfowl exhibit located near the front entrance. Northern pintail ducks are not classified as endangered but their worldwide population has declined more than 30% in the last 10 years due to avian diseases and loss of habitat.