War Eagle VII Sidelined for the 2017 Football Season

Auburn’s beloved icon, Nova, War Eagle VII, will not fly during pre-game events during Auburn’s 2017 football season after College of Veterinary Medicine faculty diagnosed the 18-year-old Golden Eagle with cardiomyopathy. 

Nova, who outwardly looks and acts no differently, will continue to make appearances; and Spirit, a Bald Eagle, will be available for pre-game flight duties during the season, said Southeastern Raptor Center Director Dr. Jamie Bellah. 

Veterinarians discovered the heart condition after follow-up tests to determine why the eagle had an abnormal heart rhythm. Faculty from the Cardiology Service in the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital were consulted and performed a CT angiography and other tests. 

“Nova’s diagnosis of cardiomyopathy was determined by an enlarged left ventricle, decreased systolic function, and supraventricular premature complexes (arrhythmia),” said Dr. Seth Oster, an avian veterinarian at the college. 

A CT angiogram showed areas of significant constriction of his right brachiocephalic trunk as the cause of cardiomyopathy and arrhythmia. 

Nova was started on a combination of medications to prevent his condition from worsening. He is being monitored by SRC staff and will receive examinations by Cardiology Service veterinarians. 

“Thankfully, miraculously, Nova has responded to cardiac medication so wonderfully,” said Dr. Seung-Woo Jung, an assistant professor of cardiology. “We have seen significant improvement with the medications. That’s why we talk about the use of Nova for exhibition and showing Nova to kids, things that will be tolerable to his cardiac condition. 

“Vessels that are constricted, like those that are seen in Nova’s scan, can have dangerous complications when put under increased stress from exercise,” Dr. Jung said, “including aneurysm or clot formation that could lead to vascular rupture, stroke, aortic thromboembolism, or heart attack.” 

Because of the risk of medical complications, veterinary medical staff decided that Nova should not be placed in situations that cause his heart to work harder than usual, including flying in the stadium before each game. Nova will rest comfortably in his enclosure at the Southeastern Raptor Center, attend educational functions, and receive the best medical care.