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09 / 06 / 2021
Arthritic hogs receive ground-breaking K-Laser therapy
Red River hogs at Wild Place Project are receiving a revolutionary treatment to reduce lameness and stiffness in their joints. 

Our eight-year-old brothers, Mito and Ekundu, have been suffering with osteoarthritis -- a common disease in the species. X-rays showed that both brothers had evidence of osteoarthritis in their wrist joints. 

For the past few months their keepers have been administering K-Laser therapy treatments to the siblings every few days, in the hope that the non-invasive treatment could allow a reduction in their usual pain-relieving medication.

In-house vets at the multi-award-winning zoo decided to trial the K-Laser treatment, which penetrates deep into the tissues, reducing inflammation and pain around the affected joints.

The K-Laser, was hired from Shropshire-based VBS Direct, who offer innovative veterinary technologies and products to UK and Ireland veterinary practices.

Teresa Horspool, a Vet Nurse at Bristol Zoological Society, which owns and runs Wild Place Project, explained: “We’re always looking for non-invasive methods to treat our animals and thought that because the red river hogs are so intelligent and can be trained to stay still for the treatment, they might benefit from regular laser therapy.

“It’s clear that the regular sessions have helped the brothers by reducing discomfort and improving their mobility.

“Sadly, like in humans, there is no cure for Mito and Ekundo’s osteoarthritis but there are several ways in which we can manage their symptoms, alongside the laser therapy. These include dietary management, keeping them as active as possible, and keeping them on softer ground with lots of bedding in their stable to reduce impact on their joints.”

“The benefits of K-Laser therapy are huge,” explained Wild Place Project Animal Supervisor, Ellie Adams.

“Working with the animal’s first-hand on a daily basis means I get to see the changes in their behaviour. The red river hogs are more active, which is lovely to see.”

Mito and Ekundu are easily recognisable for their bright red fur. They have black legs, a tufted white stripe along their spines and white ‘spectacles’ around their eyes.

They love digging in the earth and can often be seen searching for food, using their large wedge-shaped head to quickly root up tough vegetation. They will also greet each other by blowing their breath on one another.

The species is highly adaptable, and can be found in forests, savannah woodland and even cultivated areas in Western and Central Africa, where they are often viewed as agricultural pests.

Hogs weigh an average of 45 to 120kg and stand at 0.55 to 0.80 metres tall.

Wild Place Project holds the European Endangered species Programme (EEP) for Red River Hogs. The EEP is a population management programme for animals of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). It is one of the worldwide assembly of such regional breeding programmes for threatened species in zoos.

Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens are run by Bristol Zoological Society which is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at both zoos, but also its vital education and community outreach programme.

In March last year the Society launched the BZS Appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’ following the temporary closure of both its sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As school groups can now be welcomed back, donations from the appeal fund will support the Education Bursary Fund to ensure schools and youth groups in disadvantaged areas are able to benefit from visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project.‚Äč

Click here to find out more or to make a donation.
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