Health check for Hubert: OKC Zoo gives lion annual check-up

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OKLAHOMA CITY - January is cat month, and while it may be tempting to mark it by pulling out the lint roller and getting all that cat hair off your clothes, it’s actually serious business for Hubert, the lion, who lives at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

That’s because he headed to the vet, but this check-up was open to anyone who wanted to drop by and see it.

Zookeepers gave Hubert some anesthetics at the zoo and made sure he was completely out before taking him to the exam room at the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.

“He’s under anesthesia of course,” Jennifer D’Agostino, the Director of Veterinary Services at the animal hospital, said. “We don’t work with any of our dangerous carnivores while they’re awake.”

It was a good thing was knocked out: He probably wouldn’t like what he would have to go through if he were awake.

So, what was in store today?

A full feline exam that lets the vet and the zoo know exactly what’s going on with this huge cat. It’s a big deal for Hubert’s health.

“It’s really important so that we can catch things early,” D’Agostino said, “so that if there is a problem we can treat it before it becomes a life-threatening condition.”

So, where do you start when you have to check out everything?

It turns out, the tail. That’s where vets got the exam underway, drawing blood from a large vein Hubert has under all that fur.

That tail blood sample will give vets an idea of what’s going on inside the rest of Hubert’s body.

Then it’s on to the teeth.

This part of the exam is incredibly important since they don’t make dentures for lions. Hubert has to take extra care.

“We wanna make sure that their teeth stay healthy so they can eat really well,” D’Agostino explained. “His teeth look great. He did have a little bit of tartar and calculus that we did take off and they’re getting polished up and they’re gonna be super shiny and in perfect condition.”

Vets also took a look at Hubert’s tongue.

They can actually get a lot of good information from it using equipment that analyzes blood flow.

But first, they had to roll it out.

Hubert’s tongue is incredibly long, and since he doesn’t brush his teeth every day, it needs some cleaning first.

All of this happened right in front of a live audience.

The Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital was built with a beautiful, state-of-the-art viewing room where people can watch procedures happen.

“We were really excited when we opened the Joan Kirkpatrick Hospital four years ago,” D’Agostino said. “We really were able to bring what we do out into the community. Now we have the opportunity to show how we provide state of the art car for every animal here at the zoo.”

The exam continues. Blood pressure, check. X-ray, check. Selfie with the vet, check. So far, so good.

“His health exam is going perfect,” D’Agostino explained. “We haven’t seen anything abnormal. He's in purrfect health.”

Hubert needs to get a full exam like this from time to time.

He’s seven years old, which puts him right in the middle of the average fourteen- to twenty-year life span for a lion.

Hubert has already headed home to his den at the zoo.

Vets say he’ll probably sleep off the anesthetics and be up, albeit a little slow, later tonight.

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