UPDATE: Potter Park Zoo moose loses cancer fight

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UPDATE (July 11) – Potter Park Zoo’s Alaskan moose Meeko lost his battle with cancer after his health took a sudden decline Wednesday night.

“Meeko’s conditioned worsened and although all possible treatments were attempted Meeko did not respond the treatments and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him ,” said Dr. Ronan Eustace, Potter Park Zoo’s Director of Animal Health.

A cancerous mass had been found on one of the legs of the five-year-old Meeko. He was being treated with an innovative procedure and he seemed to be showing signs of recovery.

“I am proud of our team and their heroic efforts to provide a different outcome for Meeko,” said Potter Park Zoo Director Cynthia Wagner.  “The zoo team is devastated by this loss and we thank everyone for their support.”

Meeko first came to Potter Park Zoo in 2014 after being orphaned in Alaska.

ORIGINAL STORY: Meeko the Moose is recovering after a new, innovative cancer treatment by veterinarians.

The moose, a Potter Park Zoo favorite, was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer that developed on the back of one of his legs.

Dr. Ronan Eustace, Potter Park Zoo’s Director of Animal Health, contacted veterinary specialists’ large animal surgeon, Dr. Ann Rashmir, and veterinary oncologist, Dr. Paulo Vilar Saavedra, both from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU-CVM) to inquire about electrochemotherapy.

“Initially the electrochemotherapy machine at MSU-CVM was undergoing repair; so, Dr. Rashmir worked with staff at RXVET BIOTECH to personally drive a loaner machine to Potter Park Zoo. The Zoo is really indebted to Dr. Rashmir and RXVET BIOTECH for going above and beyond to help Meeko,” says Dr. Eustace.

According to a statement from Potter Park Zoo, the electrochemotherapy treatment involves the use of small doses of intralesional chemotherapy followed by electric pulses applied to the tumor. In contrast to traditional chemotherapy, where doses of chemotherapy drugs are administered systemically and can have effects on non-cancer tissues, electrochemotherapy works by directly injecting chemotherapy drugs into the tumor. Then the electrochemotherapy unit gives electric pulses, which causes the pores of the cancer cells to open and allows for higher doses of chemotherapy to be absorbed into the cancer cells resulting in a more efficient response to therapy.

So far, Meeko is doing well and staff are hopeful he has beaten this cancer. However, very little information is known about how soft tissue sarcomas behave in moose. After the procedure, he developed a local infection in the area that resolved after multiple antibacterial treatments. Meeko appears to be almost fully recovered and zoo staff expects he will be on exhibit in the next few weeks.

Photos: Potter Park Zoo

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