2.9 Animal Health

Zoos have an ethical and legal obligation to manage the health of animals in their care. Diagnosis and treatment of health problems should always be led by a qualified veterinarian, however zookeepers also have an important role to play in ensuring the health of zoo animals. Much of a zookeeper’s role in animal health is preventative and covered in other topics in Area 2 and 3: providing species appropriate exhibits, social groups, nutrition and enrichment will all help zoo animals remain physically and mentally healthy. Even with a high level of care animals may still become ill or injured, and require short or long-term additional care. In these circumstances, zookeepers play a vital role in communicating with veterinarians and zookeepers are expected to demonstrate competence in the following areas:

  • Health Observations: zookeepers know the animals they work with, and can take appropriate action when they identify health concerns (relates to topics 2.1 and 2.2).
  • Administering Treatments: zookeepers can assist veterinary staff in administering a range of treatments in different circumstances.
  • Medical Procedures: zookeepers may attend and be able to assist during medical procedures carried out by vets.
Zookeepers working at Competent level can: Zookeepers working at Proficient level can: Zookeepers working at Expert level can:
2.9.1 Health Observations Perform frequent daily observations of animals they are working with
Identify visual signs of poor health (can be physical: e.g. feather loss, visible wounds or behavioural: e.g. lethargy, reduced feeding)
Monitor waste output and report any unusual changes (e.g. loose faeces)
Report any signs of poor health to a supervisor, giving a detailed description of their observations
List common indicators of poor health in species they work with
Monitor changes in health of individuals with pre-identified health issues and report their findings to a supervisor or veterinarian
Assess the severity of a health problem and share their assessment with a supervisor or veterinarian in a timely manner
Compile records of observations over time and across individuals
Evaluate observation data and identify trends in health observations
Collaborate with colleagues to plan effective solutions if trends in poor health are identified
2.9.2 Administering Treatments Assist in administering simple and routine treatments as part of preventative care or management of chronic health issues (e.g. adding medication to food or water)
Comply with any recommended husbandry changes required for treatment (e.g. provision of dust free bedding)
Record details of any treatment administered
Assist in administering more complex treatment after appropriate training from a veterinarian (e.g. direct administration of medication to an individual) Collaborate with veterinarians to develop a treatment plan
Support team members in implementing a treatment plan
2.9.3 Medical Procedures Comply with instructions from veterinary staff Attend and observe medical procedures carried out on their animals (if invited by veterinary staff)
Follow agreed procedure to minimise risks to animal or human health (relates to topic 3.2)
Assist in medical procedures by monitoring vital signs (e.g. temperature, heart rate)
Assist in medical procedures by managing animals using appropriate techniques (relates to topic 2.6)


Paths to fulfilment

Last updated: 05/01/2018