Round Rock clinic performs rare arthritis procedure on Komodo dragon

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ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The oldest Komodo dragon in North America recently visited a Round Rock clinic to receive treatment for arthritis. The dragon, named Bubba, is 27 years old, eight feet long, weighs 175 pounds and lives at the San Antonio Zoo.

“He was very much awake,” said Dr. Jaime Sage, CEO and Chief Radiologist with SAGE Veterinary Imaging. “He was mildly sedated … so he wouldn’t move very much for the procedure.”

Bubba’s knees are very arthritic, which can be very painful. New bone formed around the ends of his joints, called osteoarthritis. Sage performed a procedure using SenovetinOA, a radioactive chemical that targets Synovial fluid, the fluid that lubricates your joints and reduces pain.

Dr. Jaime Sage performed a rare procedure on a 27-year old Komodo Dragon (Photo by KXAN)

SenovetinOA has been used on humans for decades, mainly in Europe, but it is currently approved for use on dogs in the United States.

SAGE Imaging has been performing the procedure on dogs for over a year. They’re one of four clinics in Texas that perform the procedure.

Dogs vs. Komodo dragons

Sage says performing the procedure on Bubba was far more complicated than performing it on a dog. For one, a Komodo dragon’s joint is about the size of a human joint.

Another issue is its scales. “A Komodo dragon has scales and then they have osteoderms underneath their skin,” Sage said.

Osteoderms appear as little white dots on an X-ray and they serve as a layer of armor beneath the dragon’s scales.

Sage said they had to guide the injection between the scales and then between the osteoderms.

On a dog, the procedure takes minutes. On Bubba, it took nearly two hours.

Bubba is back home at San Antonio Zoo, and he’s already moving better. Before the procedure, Sage said he only walked when he needed food.

Sage said Bubba isn’t radioactive but will remain in isolation for several weeks as an added precaution. It will be several months before he feels the full impact of the procedure. He will need to receive the treatment every 12 months.

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