Animals Video

By Mollie Mansfield

How do you help a rhino with a blocked nose? With great difficulty, it appears – but a team of vets have released a series of images charting this enormous rhino’s difficult journey to breathing easily.

Layla, an eight-year-old eastern black rhinoceros, was struggling to breathe, and vets at the Chicago Zoological Society were determined to discover the cause of her blocked nose.

But finding out what causes a rhino’s blocked nose is not easy – and a team of vets managed to perform a groundbreaking CAT scan on 164 stone, 12 foot long Layla- the first ever performed on a rhinoceros.

The zoo is one of the only ones in the world to have it’s own CAT scanner – but staff faced difficulties when they realised Layla was too large to be moved inside the zoo’s animal hospital.

Instead, vets planned to bring in a portable scanner to the zoo’s pachyderm house – where 40 members of staff went about transporting Layla to the scanner.

Images revealed that Layla had an impacted, unerupted molar that was causing a nasal obstruction.

As rhinos have difficulty breathing through their mouths, an obstruction in their nose would have proved fatal in the wild.

Alongside finding the source of her problem, the CAT scan also allowed the team to establish the extent of the infection which helped determine the best surgical approach for removing the infected tissue.

The surgery, which was carried out by veterinary staff and three doctors, saw the removal of the molar from Layla’s mouth.

Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo, said: “Their heads are so incredibly massive and their bones are so thick that our traditional X-rays are just not able to penetrate through the skull to provide a clear picture.

“To our knowledge, this type of surgery has never been performed on an adult rhinoceros before.

“We are very encouraged by how well Layla has tolerated the procedure.

“In the wild, this condition would have proved fatal, but we are very hopeful that with our advanced medical care we will be able to save Layla’s life.

“We are extremely grateful for our partnerships with everyone who has assisted with the surgery and CT scan to help create an optimal outcome for Layla.”