For Kangaroo Health, WesternU Springs Into Action

Two kangaroos used in film and TV productions were neutered at the Western University of Health Sciences veterinary clinic.

A red kangaroo rests in an operating room at the WesternU Pet Wellness Center.

Jeff Malet/Western University

It’s not every day that a kangaroo shows up at a Southern California veterinary clinic.

Western University of Health Sciences admitted two marsupials Oct. 8 upon the request of alumnus Brad Ahrens, DVM, who works part time for an animal talent agency.

The two red kangaroos, named Lenny and Captain, required neuter surgery for safety reasons. Male red kangaroos can reach 200 pounds in the wild.

“You need to neuter them while they’re still young,” Dr. Ahrens said. “Otherwise they grow up to be really big and can become aggressive.”

Lenny and Captain, ages 2 and 3, came from Birds & Animals Unlimited, an Acton, Calif., company that supplies animals for film and television work and for shows at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The company lacks a surgery suite, so Ahrens used his connections to get Lenny and Captain into the WesternU Pet Wellness Center in Pomona.

The surgeries were conducted by Professor Maria Fahie, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, with help from Ahrens and associate professor David Clark, DVM.

Veterinary students used to handling dogs and cats were introduced to a totally different animal.

“Getting faculty and students engaged in learning on species they wouldn’t normally see while providing cutting-edge veterinary care to the animals is a great situation,” Ahrens said.

Peering through a viewing window, students could watch the surgeries and the use of an endotracheal tube.

“Someday down the road, if they ever encounter a kangaroo in practice, they might say, ‘Oh, I remember these guys need an endoscope to intubate,’” Ahrens said.

The kangaroos provided more than an educational moment for Western veterinarians and students. The animals also left a gift: testicles.

“This tissue donation provides us with a unique opportunity to perform a comprehensive histological study of the testis and its adjacent structures,” said Professor Josep Rutllant, DVM, Ph.D.

Dr. Rutllant and Professor Wael Khamas, BVMS, MS, Ph.D., are interested in red kangaroo testes because the organs possess unique adaptations to temperature, the university reported.

“Some of these mechanisms are not yet fully understood, and failure in these physiological systems can result in infertility,” Dr. Khamas said.

Ahrens, who teaches interprofessional education at Western while working on his Ph.D. in biological sciences at City of Hope National Medical Center, plans to return with other exotic species.

“It’s nice to collaborate and have the students learn from this,” he said.

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