WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital helps diagnose grizzly bear's puzzling condition

In a rare and unusual visit, Condi, a 4-year-old grizzly bear from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana, received specialized care at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital in late October.

The reason for her visit was a puzzling condition that emerged the previous winter, causing intermittent lameness in her limbs, according to WSU News.

Specialists at WSU diagnosed Condi with wobbler syndrome, a neurological condition that affects the spinal cord. Dr. Lynne Nelson, the lead cardiologist at WSU, said, "We believe it results from rapid growth in large animals, often those with a well-nourished diet, creating hypertrophy and thickening of the spaces in the cord, narrowing the spinal cord."

Condi's impingement location ruled out the possibility of surgery. Her long-term prognosis remains guarded, and if her symptoms resurface, Condi will receive corticosteroid treatment to manage inflammation and swelling in the affected area.

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  (Ted Warren/College of Veterinary Medicine)

Condi's symptoms first appeared during the past winter, starting with a right forelimb lameness that would come and go. Even though she showed no troubling signs throughout the summer, her caregivers decided to bring her to WSU for a more comprehensive assessment.

During her visit to WSU, Condi underwent diagnostic tests, including an MRI that revealed the narrowing of her spinal cord at the junction of her four limbs, which was causing her symptoms.

Tut Fuentevilla, education director at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, explained that Condi and her sister, Seeley, were captured after following their mother into a residential neighborhood in northern Montana due to unsecured food.

While the diagnosis was not as positive as hoped, the center's goal remains to provide Condi with the best possible quality of life, with WSU continuing to be a partner in her care.

The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a nonprofit wildlife park and educational facility that is home to bears, wolves, and other animals that can no longer live in the wild.