Monday, February 25, 2008

Now it's up to Josie
Today was a very exciting (and busy!) day. We undertook our artificial insemination attempt with Raja and Josie.

Both cats were anesthetized for the procedure. Fortunately this is a very low-key experience for them due to their training. Raja walks quietly into a kennel to receive his injection. We hand inject Josie with her medication and then she kennels up as well. Both cats were taken up to our Health Care facility. First, Point Defiance General Curator and reproductive specialist Dr. Karen Goodrowe Beck collected semen from Raja through electroejaculation as seen in the photo below.

Collection went very well. Raja produced a great sample with both high sperm volume and motility (for a clouded leopard, a species notorious for poor quality sperm). If you ever wanted to see clouded leopard semen, here you go:

Meanwhile, Josie was being prepped for surgery. This included intubating her so that she could be given gas anesthesia and cleansing the incision site.

Next, as Raja was safely back in his kennel waking up from anesthesia, Josie was moved into the surgery room, hooked up to the gas and readied for the procedure.

Surgery was fairly quick. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium veterinarians Dr. Holly Reed and Dr. Kathy Larson performed the surgery while Dr. Allison Case managed Josie's anesthesia. Dr. Holly made a small incision in Josie's abdomen and gently coaxed out one uterine horn and ovary at a time. She inserted a small catheter into the uterus and injected the semen sample. (The uterus can be seen at lower right.)

Dr. Karen evaluated Josie's ovaries and did a happy dance (sorry, I missed that photo) when she saw fresh ovulation sites. That indicates that we achieved our exact objective in timing the ovulation (by administering the hormone on Monday) to coincide with our insemination procedure. In other words, the eggs had already been released from the ovaries and were cruising around the uterus, waiting to meet up with the injected sperm. Here's one of the ovaries (the lumpy bit on top) and a uterine horn:

So now it is a waiting game. We will ultrasound Josie in a month or so as our first step in diagnosing pregnancy. We will also evaluate her fecal hormones, but because gestation is so short (about 85 days) by the time we can accurately assess her hormonal profile she would be nearly due. We will also watch her for behavioral changes. She became extremely affectionate during her last pregnancy so we'll be watching for that. I'll share any information as we get it. Mind you, it is still a long shot that this will work, but so far everything looks favorable. Here's hoping!

A huge thank you to the wonderful team of vet staff, keepers, and especially Dr. Karen Goodrowe Beck for a job well done!


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