Zoo Animal Medicine

Red Pandas

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare refers to an animal’s collective physical, mental, and social well-being over a period of time and is measured from good to poor. Animal welfare should be assessed at the individual level if possible, but group and species levels may be necessary for certain species and populations. To have good animal welfare, the animal must be given opportunities to thrive. This includes proper diet, comfortable shelter, good physical health, opportunity to perform natural behaviour, and appropriate levels of stress.  


Elelphant Painting

Animal Enrichment

Environmental enrichment allows zoo animals to demonstrate their natural behaviour and gives them the ability to exercise control or choice over their environment. It is used by zoos to promote mental wellness and enhance overall well-being. Forms of animal enrichment can include physically or mentally stimulating toys, various activities, and novel environments. It can be argued that enrichment is as important to zoo animal welfare as a proper diet and adequate veterinary care. 


Habitat Enrichment

Tiger Tunnels

Tiger Tunnels

Elaborate tunnel systems at the Philadelphia Zoo allow the tigers to explore and watch the visitors.

Polar Bears & Snow

Polar Bears & Snow

These polar bears love Calgary in the winter! Their enclosure has a natural hill that they love to climb and survey the surrounding land.

Warthogs & Mulch Pile

Warthogs & Mulch Pile

These warthogs enjoy a good mulch pile. They like to burrow in it with their noses.


Food Enrichment

Lion Eating

Lions Eating

It’s important to provide lions with food that stimulates their natural behaviours, as well as with the health benefits of chewing directly off of a hide.

Meerkat & Snow

Meerkat & Snow

Meerkats love digging their food out of a snow pile! The zookeepers will bring snow into their enclosure in the winter and stuff food in it.

Elk with a Hay Bale

Elk with a Hay Bale

Here an elk was given a bale of hay to eat and destroy (and apparently sit in).


Environmental Enrichment Devices

Giraffe Door Knocker

Giraffe Playing with Door Knocker

Food can’t always be used for enrichment, or else the animals might become obese, resulting in decreased health. Here, the giraffe uses its lips to play with some door knockers.

Octopus Playing with Mr. Potatohead

Octopus Playing with Mr. Potatohead

This octopus loves to take Mr. Potatohead apart!

A Lizard & His Ball

A Lizard & His Ball

Something as simple as a golf ball can provide novelty to this lizard’s environment, providing mental enrichment.


Tiger Behavioural Training

Behavioural Training

Behavioural training allows zoo animals to participate in their own health care and results in less stress during treatment. Zoo animals aren’t being trained for obedience, like you might train your dog, but instead learn how to cooperate with the zookeepers as a part of their daily routine, and how to participate voluntarily in their own veterinary care. Modern zoos have chosen voluntary, reward-based training methods that can make training sessions a form of enrichment for the animal. 


Snow Leopard Ultrasound

Snow Leopard Ultrasound

Dr. Whiteside performs an ultrasound on one of the snow leopards at the Calgary Zoo. The assistant feeds the snow leopard during the procedure so that in future she will know that this interaction is a positive experience.

Polar Bear Blood Collection

Polar Bear Blood Collection

A polar bear at the Toronto Zoo is being trained for blood collection. The assistant feeds him during the procedure so that he will have a positive association with blood collection in the future. This is a form of enrichment for the polar bear.

Lion Injection Training

Lion Injection Training

Dr. Whiteside performs an injection on Baruti the lion at the Calgary Zoo. The assistant feeds Baruti evaporated milk – his favourite! This ensures that Baruti associates receiving any sort of injection as a positive experience, reducing the amount of stress he endures.