Go deeper with our vets and see inside rescued moon bear Isabella

19 September 2020

Our sweet little Isabella has been a bit unwell. Her bear carers noticed that she began being sick and was unable to keep any food or water down. When she didn’t appear to be getting better our vet team decided to bring her into the bear hospital at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre for an emergency health-check.

They discovered that she had a fibrous object stuck in her oesophagus which was causing an obstruction and preventing any food or water passing by. The team relieved the obstruction by moving the object down into the stomach in the hope that it could either be digested or passed.

It’s possible that Isabella swallowed a seed that had blown in from the national park in which our sanctuary is based. She recovered well from her anaesthetic and having spent a few days in the hospital for close monitoring she was bright, eating well and passing faeces normally.

Senior Veterinary Shaun Thomson said:

“We were so relieved when after the procedure we saw Isabella return to her happy, playful hungry self. It must have been very uncomfortable for her and we were delighted to see her return to her enclosure all better.

“Isabella was doing very well following the procedure and the team caring for her kept a close eye on any signs of lethargy or vomiting. Six months later, with no reports of ill health,  we decided to bring Isabella back to the bear hospital for a follow-up health check to see if the foreign object that was pushed into her stomach was still present. We know that these foreign objects can cause issues if they are not digested, if they become stuck in the small intestines.”

If Isabella hadn't digested the object within those months the team planned to surgically remove it. Once Isabella was under anaesthetic the team were able to check her oesophagus and stomach clearly with an endoscope camera. Fortunately, the foreign object was nowhere to be seen! Isabella must have digested it and therefore she did not require surgery which was a relief.

The health check did find that Isabella had fractured both of her upper canine teeth since her last health check. The good news is by identifying the problem Isabella could be started on daily pain relief medication before receiving root canal treatment on these teeth the next time she can be seen by a veterinary dental specialist, hopefully later this year.

The team also noted possible symptoms of hypertension (high blood pressure) and they have sent her x-ray and ultrasound images of her heart to a veterinary cardiology specialist to review.

Shaun added:

“Isabella is such a lucky bear to have so many people all over the world helping to provide the best possible care for her now, something she would never have experienced when she was held on a farm as a bile-making machine. Isabella spent years on the second floor of a building in isolation, by herself in a two by two-metre cage. Her rescue, rehabilitation and procedures like this are only possible because of supporters around the world donating to help put kindness in action.”Many people around the world are now experiencing for the first time what forced isolation is like and the importance of quality health care. Before her rescue, isolation in a two-metre by two-metre cage was all Isabella knew, and instead of healthcare she had an unnecessary invasive procedure performed on her regularly.

We need your support to maintain this world-class standard of care for the hundreds of bears in our award-winning sanctuaries and we need even more funds to end the isolation of the remaining bears on bile farms in Vietnam and bring them home.

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Isabella’s rescue in 2015 when she was known as Hatu: Rescued from bile farms - the "lucky 13" bears start rehabilitation
The conditions Isabella (then known as Hatu) was rescued from:
Hatu being rescued from a cage within a cage