Radiation Used to Treat Koala With Excessive Drool

Photo: sporkist / cc

Sprinkles, a two-year-old koala in Brisbane, Australia, has a drooling problem -- and it's no laughing matter. So much of the stuff drips from the animal's mouth that it makes it difficult for her to eat, leaving her drool-soaked fur a breeding ground for bacteria. Veterinarians say that the excessive salivating caused by a rare condition called 'sialosis', and that without intervention, the koala would likely die in the wild. But now, thanks to the generosity of medical staff at a local wildlife treatment center, Sprinkles is undergoing groundbreaking radiation treatment which just might save her life.Officials from the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital have been caring for Sprinkles ever since the young koala's mother was killed by a car, and the hope is that one day she will be able to return to the wild -- but, because of her excessive drooling, Sprinkles is susceptible to diseases that would limit her chances of survival.

"The saliva drools out of her mouth, leaves wet skin, bacteria breed in it, and it causes inflammation of the skin and that's been a real problem for her," says veteranarian Dr. Rod Straw, to News.com.au. "It gets in the way of her day-to-day life and the dermatitis is getting worse and worse so without treatment and intervention from humans she would probably succumb in the wild. This is serious enough that if we can't fix it then she's not a candidate to be released."

With that in mind, Dr. Straw, who operates the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, has volunteered his expertise in an attempt to offer Sprinkles a new lease on life. Considering that radiation treatment, like those administered to cancer patients, has been proven to improve sialosis in humans, Dr. Straw believes that it could help treat koalas as well.

Recently, Sprinkles underwent her first dose of radiation aimed at reducing the size of her salivary glands and stunting her excessive drooling. She is scheduled to receive another dose next week -- which is expected to be all that's required to offer her relief.

Once Sprinkles has recovered, if the unprecedented treatment has proven successful, Dr. Straw tells the Courier Mail he hopes that "she'll grow and breed and go back to the environment."

But more than hoping for a Sprinkles full recovery and reintroduction to the wild, Dr. Straw is betting on it. He's paying for the $2,500 procedure himself.

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Tags: Animals | Australia

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