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Sprinkles The Drooling Koala Gets Lifesaving Surgery

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Sprinkles the Koala, following her lifesaving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia, Aug. 9, 2011. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, Sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth. | EPA / Landov

Australian vets are helping a 2-year-old koala have a better "koala-ty" of life by using radiation to stop its excessive drooling.

The slobbering koala, "Sprinkles," ordinarily, lives at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in Queensland, Australia, near the city of Beerwah.

However, Sprinkles suffers from sialosis, a rare disease that causes excessive drooling, and according to Dr. Rod Straw, a vet at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, it's quite a serious problem.

"The saliva drools out of her mouth, leaves wet skin, bacteria breed in it and it causes inflammation of the skin and that's been a real problem for her," he told News.com.au.

The condition also stops her from eating normally, requiring zookeepers to be constantly vigilant.

"She needs help to maintain her weight, they've got to be very careful of what she gets fed and what leaves she eats and so on," Dr. Straw said.

Officials at the Australia Zoo were so concerned for Sprinkles that they consulted Straw about their options to help the ailing marsupial.

The first course of attack was radiation, which is also used to treat the condition in humans, and Dr. Straw is keeping his fingers crossed that Sprinkles will make a full recovery.

"The side-effects for the short-term are virtually zero. What we don't know are the late effects," he told CourierMail.com.au. "What we hope is that she does have a rapid improvement, that she'll grow and breed and go back to the environment."

According to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital veterinarian Dr. Amber Gillett, Sprinkles has been raised at the wildlife hospital since she was admitted as a joey almost a year ago following a car accident that killed her mother.

She hopes that the pioneering technique works for Sprinkles because she's known two cases of koalas who excessively drooled and both had to be euthanized.

"This treatment is very important for Sprinkles," the doctor said. "Even though she is an otherwise very healthy little girl, she would not survive in the wild with this sort of condition."

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Filed by David Moye