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Polar bear twins Astra and Laerke, both 3-years-old, received wellness exams in March (on different days). The exams were the first time the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium veterinarians and keepers could examine the sisters under anesthesia since they first arrived in June 2023. The bears were anesthetized in their behind-the-scenes bedrooms and then carefully moved to the zoo’s animal hospital, where the healthcare team could perform thorough physical exams.

While the bears were under anesthesia, their vitals were monitored continuously, including heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and temperature, along with other more advanced measurements to ensure they were doing well throughout the procedure. As part of their exam, radiographs were taken, and blood was drawn to assess their overall status. Both bears received vaccine boosters and had mani-pedis and a dental cleaning.

Head Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf with Astra the polar bear.
Associate Veterinarian Dr. Cassidy Soehnlein checks Laerke’s ears.
Dr. Wolf examines Laerke’s teeth.
Laerke gets her teeth cleaned.
Astra’s paw
Veterinarians, keepers, and operations staff work together to roll over the nearly 600 pound bear.

Meanwhile, consulting veterinary dermatologists Dr. Danielle Wyatt and Dr. Danielle Tulloss of Dermatology Clinic for Animals in Lacey, WA, volunteered their time and tested Astra for allergies. Keepers noticed Astra had been extra itchy recently. The testing revealed that Astra is sensitive to a number of common environmental allergens and she will be started on specialized immunotherapy.

Allergy testing on Astra

After their exams, the bears recovered in their dens, watched closely by veterinarians and keepers until they were fully awake and doing well.

Dr. Karen Wolf, head veterinarian, says both bears are in good health.