U of M conducts MRI on penguin, 'a first' for veterinarians

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A middle-aged penguin at the Minnesota Zoo is waddling again thanks to a procedure not typical for penguins conducted at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center.

In late June, zoo keepers noticed "Fluffy," an 18-year-old male penguin, was having difficulty keeping his balance.

"He was having trouble when he was preening, tipping over and it seemed to be more to the right and his tail was a little tucked to the left," veterinarian Micky Trent, DVM, said in a video produced by the university's Academic Health Center.

The penguin was taken to the Raptor Center for tests, which didn't turn up a cause of Fluffy's condition. Trent said the next step was to conduct an MRI.

"We have never done an MRI on a penguin and as far as I could find, there were no MRIs of penguins in the literature," Trent said. "So, this was a first."

Before the MRI was performed, Fluffy was unable to walk or stand. The results of the test showed an inflammation of the brain, or encephalitis, likely caused by infection.

After prescribing antibiotics, Fluffy began improving within 24 hours.

"His balance is so much better now that he can get in and out of the pool and work around the rocks pretty well," Trent said. "So, I think his prognosis is quite good."

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