Quincy vet trains Busch Gardens staff with laser surgery on kangaroo, duck and flamingo

Quincy veterinarian Joanne Klingele uses a laser to perform surgery on a kangaroo at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla. Klingele trained Busch Gardens staff on how to use a surgical laser with procedures on a kangaroo, a duck and a flamingo. (Submitted photo)
Posted: Mar. 9, 2013 5:39 pm Updated: Mar. 23, 2013 7:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A trip last fall to Florida was no vacation for Quincy veterinarian Joanne Klingele.

She spent the time training staff at Busch Gardens on the use of a surgical laser by neutering a kangaroo, treating bumblefoot in a Chilean duck and amputating the wing of a flamingo.

Training work with surgical and therapy lasers through Cutting Edge Laser Products has taken Klingele to veterinary practices across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. She's cut back on her travel, but when the company called in November about an opportunity at Busch Gardens, home to more than 12,000 animals, Klingele jumped at the chance.

"It was the most wonderful experience, something I never expected to be asked to do," Klingele said. "It ended up being so much fun."

Despite the exotic animals and location, the surgical procedures were the same she's used in her own practice since 1999 and taught to other practices over the past seven years.

"We'd done surgery with the laser on a bird," she said. A flamingo "is a little bigger than what I'm used to -- we don't have anything that big come to our practice -- but it's not any different than what we'd do."

Neutering the kangaroo required the same procedure used on pets in Quincy, and the process to treat the duck was similar to vaporizing a wart on a pet. The duck was diagnosed with bumblefoot, a common disease in captive birds.

"Their feet get these dead areas of tissue from being on surfaces they're not used to being on. It's usually a thumb-sized area, but it can get worse," Klingele said. "We don't see any bumblefoot in our small captive birds which are used to perches."

Klingele and the Busch Gardens veterinarians developed a plan to remove the dead tissue.

"It takes a thought process to figure out what we need to do, take from what we do all the time and use that knowledge to try something new," she said. "We vaporized it, got rid of that tissue, and were able to close the skin over. It ended up turning out really well."

So did the training for the Busch Gardens staff, who had never even touched a surgical laser until Klingele set it up at the facility.

"I just go in, spend a day or two with a clinic," she said. "They bring in surgeries. I teach them how to do it. My goal is for them to be comfortable doing this on their own."

Surgery done with a laser is very clean and dry, which is a key factor with kangaroos.

"Kangaroos just bleed. They tend for several days to have drainage or bleeding, but the laser seals smaller blood vessels so there's not a lot of leakage. It was a totally dry procedure. We didn't use one sponge," she said. "They never had surgery on a kangaroo that didn't have blood or bleeding post-op."

Only about 5-10 percent of vet clinics have surgical lasers because of the cost and training involved, but Klingele sees plenty of benefits, including offering surgeries that general practices like hers usually have to refer to specialty practices.

Some veterinary practices also incorporate therapy lasers, which use different wavelengths of light to spur healing in animals.

"It cuts down inflammation, helps with edema, increases blood flow to the area," Klingele said.

Klingele provides training on both lasers, but prefers the surgical sessions because of the potential positive impact.

Visiting around 500 veterinary practices for training sessions has boosted Klingele's own practice.

"I glean information from each one that I can use in my own practice," she said. "It's a very positive experience."