Clinicians at the University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center routinely perform spay and neuter procedures on dogs and cats, but when the patient is a full-grown Bengal tiger, the work day is anything but ordinary. On Wednesday, Feb. 7, Zahara, a 7-year-old tiger from a Missouri animal park, was brought to the VHC to be spayed.
Upon Zahara’s arrival at the VHC, Assistant Professor Alex Bukoski, DVM, PhD, DACVAA, and anesthesia resident Kelsey Fisher, DVM, anesthetized the big cat and placed a breathing tube to administer oxygen and anesthetic during the surgery. Assistant Teaching Professor of Small Animal Surgery Jill Luther, DVM, MS, DACVS, performed the spay, assisted by third-year surgical resident Brenna Barger, DVM, and a team of students, interns and technicians.
The VHC has three board-certified anesthesiologists and seven board-certified small animal surgeons, as well as six fully equipped surgery suites, to ensure superior care is provided to all surgical patients, regardless of size.
“The anatomy of a tiger is not all that different from a large dog,” Luther said. “The biggest consideration when performing the surgery was making sure we were as efficient as possible to minimize anesthesia time. Our anesthesia team most certainly had the more challenging job, and they were stellar!”
As part of their curriculum at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, students who are pursuing a doctor of veterinary medicine spend nearly two years gaining hands-on clinical experience, much of it completed at the VHC. They undertake required and elective rotations in core services and specialties. For the six students who had just begun their soft tissue surgery rotation, and two students from those in the anesthesia rotation, the opportunity to assist with the tiger surgery was a rare experience among most veterinary students.
“The students were so excited to find the first day of their rotation would be spent with a Bengal tiger,” Luther said. “All of the students handled themselves in a professional manner and worked together well to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Luther has been in contact with the park’s owner and reports that Zahara is recovering well.