The heart defect constricts the baby giraffe's esophagus. This makes it almost impossible for her to eat. Without the surgery, there is “zero chance of survival.”
The baby giraffe will undergo heart surgery early next week. That surgery will take place at Oklahoma State University's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. The OSU veterinary school is located in Stillwater. Stillwater is about an hour from the Greater Oklahoma City Metro Area, where the Oklahoma City Zoo is located.
According to Gretchen Cole, one of the Oklahoma City Zoo's associate veterinarians, the baby giraffe's chest will have to be opened for the heart surgery. Once that is done, the procedure if “fairly straight forward.”
This type of heart surgery is fairly common for small animals, such as dogs. However, it is not as common for a baby giraffe and there are increased risks. This is complicated by the fact that the baby giraffe will have to travel so far to have the heart surgery.
Because of this heart surgery, the Oklahoma City Zoo is building a hospital. This will make surgeries of this kind possible to be on-site. It will also make it possible for visitors to observe veterinary procedures. The Oklahoma City Zoo plans to open their veterinary hospital later this year.