BEYOND THE BANKS: The itchiest of monkeys is hoping for a little relief

BEYOND THE BANKS: The itchiest of monkeys is hoping for a little relief

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Chances are you know someone who suffers from fall allergies. But, chances are you don’t know a monkey with fall allergies.

But we do.

Sierra is a Diana monkey. She’s one of several living at Riverbanks Zoo. But, unlike her counterparts, she has a specific problem: she’s incredibly itchy.

“Sierra has had some itchiness for quite a while,” said Riverbanks staff veterinarian, Paige Brock. “Much like humans, all of our primates and animals can actually develop allergies.”

Sierra’s seasonal allergies quickly turned to year-round allergies. Vets put her on steroids, but realized they needed a better permanent solution. That’s when they brought in the only veterinary dermatologist in the Midlands, Jacqueline Watson.

“The main thing that were looking at are seasonal allergens… like trees, weeds, pollens,” said Watson. “We also look at year-round allergens like house dust, house dust mites and insects like mosquitoes, moths and fire ant is a big one for this area.”

After Riverbanks keepers and staff successfully anesthetized Sierra and transported her to the zoo’s on-site hospital, Watson and her team performed allergy testing by injecting the surface of sierra’s skin with allergens to see if she reacted.

“She actually reacted to a lot of common ones we see,” said Watson. “So, I believe the house dust mites popped up for her. I think a couple insects – mosquitoes - so I wasn’t too surprised by her test results.”

Now, Watson’s team will develop a serum for Sierra that can be administered to help her fight the itch. It’ll be given orally vs. with a shot, because as Brock told WIS – Sierra is not a fan of needle pricks.

“She doesn’t enjoy having that sort of training performed and she’s never really responded for needle training,” Dr. Brock said with a smile. “So, I think for her we have to look at each individual animal and what will work best for them and in her case, we strongly felt that the oral formulation would be the best choice.”

The goal now is to formulate that serum that the vets can administer to her in her natural habitat, turning the itch Sierra can’t scratch, into an itch she won’t have to scratch.

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