Meet the PatientCase-a-Dillo

December 21, 2020

Name: Olivia

Sex: Female

Species: Screaming hairy armadillo

Age: 6 years, 3 months

Weight: 968 g (2.13 lb)

Reason for Visit: Full physical examination and second focused cardiology exam

In October, Olivia visited the Animal Wellness Campus for a thorough physical examination that included bloodwork, radiographs and an ultrasound, to investigate a recent increase in her activity level and weight loss. The results from her exam were mostly normal, except for an intermittent arrhythmia, which is an abnormal heart rhythm that comes and goes. This can be a normal finding during an examination, but it can also be caused by an underlying heart disease. A visit from a board-certified veterinary cardiologist was scheduled to ensure Olivia’s heart was healthy and to rule out any potential cardiac conditions. During Olivia’s most recent exam in November with Virginia Zoo Vet Dr. Tara Reilly and the cardiologist, no indications of primary heart disease were found, and no other underlying health conditions were found that would explain her increased activity or weight loss.

To treat Olivia’s special case, her diet was increased and Keepers continued to track her activity level. As a result, Olivia has been gaining weight and her activity level has started to decrease with the arrival of winter.

So why is it important to monitor an armadillo’s weight and activity level? Armadillos are prone to obesity because they have a very low metabolism compared to other mammals. When an animal that is otherwise prone to obesity is losing weight, it’s time for a routine health checkup with the veterinarian. Once medical conditions that are common for this species were ruled out, the Zoo’s vet determined Olivia’s weight loss was likely directly linked to her increased activity level. While Olivia’s case is still ongoing, staff are hopeful that she is on the right track.

Olivia lives behind- the-scenes in the Program Animal Building and voluntarily participates as a Zoo Program Animal Ambassador. Keepers will continue to monitor her and track her activity, weight and body condition over time. Dr. Tara will schedule a check-up with Olivia in the future, but for now, Olivia is back in her exhibit where she can sleep, eat, play with enrichment and voluntarily interact with her Keepers during training sessions!