An important message about Burrito

June 15th, 2012 by J.B.

The Cle Elum Seven are fortunate to have a huge family of supporters from around the world. We are touched by how much you have grown to care about each of them, so we want to share with you some news about Burrito’s health.

We have recently started treating Burrito for congestive heart disease. In basic terms, his heart is not working as efficiently as it once did and as a result, his body has begun to accumulate fluids. While this sounds frightening, don’t be alarmed. Congestive heart disease is a chronic condition and with proper care it can often be managed quite successfully. We believe that we have caught it early, so that will be an advantage in his treatment.

CSNW has an amazing team of veterinarians overseeing Burrito’s care and we are working closely with other chimpanzee veterinarians with experience in treating this condition, so he is in great hands. I can assure you that at this point, Burrito is as happy and full of energy as he has ever been. We will of course do all we can to make sure he stays that way.

Below you will find a list of questions and answers to help explain things in more detail. If you have any questions that are not answered here, please feel free to leave a comment on this post or send us an email and we will do our best to answer it for you.

Thank you for being such an important part of Burrito’s family.

What is congestive heart disease?

Congestive heart disease is a condition in which the heart can not pump
blood efficiently enough to take care of the body’s needs. In response,
the body has difficulty expelling fluid and becomes “congested,”
particularly in the extremities.

What are the symptoms of congestive heart disease?

In chimpanzees, the most common initial symptom is swelling (edema). In
Burrito’s case, the first and at this point only sign of visible
swelling was in the scrotum. Other symptoms may include shortness of
breath, weakness, fatigue, and coughing due to fluid in the lungs.

Why do chimpanzees get heart disease?

In chimpanzees, heart disease includes both congestive heart disease and
idiopathic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged,
fibrous, or rigid. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in
captive chimpanzees. One study found that 68% of all chimpanzees
examined during necropsy at a large laboratory in the United States
showed evidence of heart disease. No one can say definitively at this
point why the prevalence of heart disease is so great in chimpanzees,
but it is most likely influenced by a combination of genetics, diet,
inactivity, and chronic stress.

What is CSNW doing to treat Burrito’s illness?

As is the case with humans, the best treatment for heart disease
includes a combination of medication, diet, and exercise. Burrito is
currently on medications that will help to improve his heart function
and eliminate excess fluid. The chimps at CSNW have always been on a
no-salt diet due to the general risk of heart disease in chimpanzees,
and that will continue. And with the opening of Young’s Hill last fall,
Burrito’s activity levels have increased even further since his days in
a laboratory cage.

What is Burrito’s prognosis?

Burrito’s care is being discussed and overseen by many of the world’s
best great ape veterinarians. We believe that we have caught Burrito’s
illness in its early stages. This, combined with medication, proper
diet, and exercise, should allow Burrito to enjoy many more years at
Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.

Does Burrito’s illness cause him any pain or stress?

At this point, Burrito is not showing any signs of illness besides
swelling. In fact, he is happier and more playful now than he has been
in many months.

26 Responses to “An important message about Burrito”

  1. Angela Derriso says:

    One more reason to be glad he is in the care of good people.

    Is heart disease more prominent n captive chimps? I did see in one old documentary about Flo, of Jane Goodal’s chimp group, that she seemed to die of this. It seems to be a death sentence in the wild.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the captive population experiences it more, since many captive conditions aren’t what hey should be, and add to stress. Not to mention that some people like to feed junk food.

    It does make you wonder though about our species respective diets. Wild chimps usually stick to natural and unprocessed things, while we manufacture/process tons of things and don’t consume enough of the natural. That seems to be one of the root causes for our own health issues at the moment.

    Wouldn’t be a ad idea to take a few pointers from wild chimps as far as diet goes. Our early ancestors also had something there, too. Okay, enough of the tangent. 🙂

    I wish Burrito good health and happiness, and I hope his sweet face will be with you all for many years to come.

    • J.B. says:

      From what I understand, we don’t know enough about disease in wild populations to make any informed comparisons with captive chimps. We have data on longevity in the wild, and sometimes a cause of death is readily apparent, but without data from necropsies it can be difficult. There are a couple of groups working on collecting more information to help give us a better understanding.

  2. Libby says:

    Love and Prayers Burrito!

    SNW, thank you for making us aware and up to date on progress.

  3. Jen in NH says:

    Ohh, this is scary because it immediately reminds me of the adult chimps that Chimp Eden has lost to heart disease. I’ll be keeping Burrito in my prayers. Love you Mr B.

  4. marie says:

    Thank you so very much for passing on this info about our wonderful Mr B , I feel ok as I know he has had and will continue to have the best medical care to keep him healthy comfortable and painfree , above all he will continue to be loved and cherished every day of his life , I thank you for giving Buritto the wonderful life he enjoys so much xxx

  5. Stefanie and Rhiannon says:

    All our love to Buritto and his care givers, we send love and long life to him!!!

  6. Gita Devi says:

    Wishing Burrito all the best. He’s in the best possible hands (and hearts).

  7. Jody M says:

    Prayers from me and lots of play time for you!

  8. Carissa says:

    I’m so glad he’s in good hands 🙂 Love my Burrito (I call him mine even though I know he’s yours. I hope you don’t mind haha)

    • Carissa says:

      Er, not “mine” in terms of ownership, rather in terms of the right to love him 🙂 I consider all the chimps at your sanctuary mine in that sense and it’s all because you post these wonderful blog entries and I feel like I know them <3

  9. Please take care of my boyfriend!!! I know he is well loved by everyone at your sanctuary and by everyone who has been following the Cle Elum Seven. (But I love him the most!!!) 😀 Play your cares away Burrito. Everyone is sending you love and prayers!

  10. Amy G. says:

    I am in tears. I know my Burrito man is in the best possible hands but I am still scared. Please know that he is in my thoughts and prayers and always in my heart. xoxo I am also happy knowing that he is able to be more active than ever before which is excellent for his care. Love to all of you that care for him daily.

  11. Marcia Douthwaite says:

    I send my best wishes to Burrito and everyone at CSNW. He is getting the best care possible and the best enriching environment. Thank you for your devotion to the 7.

  12. Tina Habib says:

    Alaska sends their best to Burrito for a speedy recovery.

  13. kim says:

    Prayer said for Burrito’s condition to remain manageable and for him (and his friends:) to live a long healthy life!

  14. Jeani Goodrich says:

    Oh my goodness! What a tough pill to swallow. It is hard to believe one of our own is having to deal with something like this. It is a relief to know he is in such good hands and I know everyone is doing their best to help Burrito. Thank you J.B. for explaining it all to us and keeping us in the loop.

    I am curious if there has been more congestive heart disease in lab chimps because of what they have been through vs. just captive chimps such as those in zoos?

    My thoughts are with everyone at CSNW during this tough time.

    • J.B. says:

      Heart disease seems to be prevalent in all captive chimpanzees. I’m not sure if rates are higher in lab chimps than in zoo chimps but hopefully we will know more soon.

  15. Rita Stevenson says:

    Thanks for informing us about Burrito and for the excellent explanations. It is comfrting to know though, Burrito is in the best hands possible. I will keep Birrito in my thoughts and prayers. This must be hard on all who work in caring for Burrito. I know CSNW will and is doing EVERYTHING possible for him, to ensure he is comfortable and givien the best care adn treatments available .

  16. Connie says:

    Just out of curiosity…how in the heck do you diagnose congestive heart failure in a chimp? Sonogram with blood work? How do you get compliance with the chimps? They are aging and things WILL happen as they age. How can this all be accomplished…keeping them safe AND caring for their needs?

    • J.B. says:

      Very good questions. In Burrito’s case, the diagnosis was made (1) based on his observable symptoms and (2) based on his positive response to medication, which ruled out at least one competing diagnosis. A more definitive and detailed diagnosis could be made via cardiac ultrasound. However, for chimpanzees this typically requires chemical anesthesia, which presents an increased risk when heart disease is present (and can also distort heart rate and other important indicators). There are ways to gather this data noninvasively (e.g., “awake ultrasounds”) and we can and will pursue these options as our veterinarians find the need for them.

  17. Brenna says:

    Oh, my little man. Only you could make me cry at 2am. I’m so worried about you. I know your friends there will take excellent care of you so don’t worry. You just keep being the Burrito that we all love and let them take care of you sweetie. You are my joy.

    Thank you caregivers and everyone involved with treating our special friend. My father and one brother had the same thing but they didn’t take care of themselves.

    Loads of love to all.

  18. Mike B says:

    Although startling upon first reading about Burrito’s condition. The devotion that the staff at CSNW exhibits and demonstrates on a daily basis to insure not only that Burrito and all the chimps are healthy, but also very happy…….is certainly comforting to me. For that I thank you.

    Very much looking forward to next weekend..:):):)


  19. Sara Lissabet, Fairfax says:

    I’m very appreciative of the notice and of the excellent communication in terms of the symptoms, diagnosis and care. I know Burrito is in the best care and love the fact that he is reported as being happy and active.

    The good thing about this is Burrito doesn’t know about his illness, will not stress about it, and cannot set up negative thought patterns regarding its outcome. His excellent care, love from all, and now his freedom in the wilds of Youngs Hill says to me that he’ll continue to have a happy life at CSNW.

  20. Nancy Parisi says:

    Dear Mr B, this note is sent with all of my love and good wishes.I am so sad to learn of your problem, but i know that you are surrounded with tons of love and the best care that you can have.With all the love being sent your way, i know that you will be around for quite awhile yet. Have fun and enjoy your great life. Thanks to everyone who makes the chimps lives really great.

  21. diane says:

    Would it be feasible to put Burrito on a treadmill?