A veterinary surgeon in the UK has performed the first-ever corneal operation on a tiger, saving the big cat’s eye.
As reported by the BBC, staff at the Shepreth Wildlife Park near Cambridge noticed that the left eye of a 17-year-old Sumatran tiger, named Ratna, was deteriorating after a previous surgery that removed a cataract. A specialist eye vet then diagnosed a corneal ulcer.
The feline had a cataract removed from her left eye two years ago before she and her daughter were moved to the wildlife park in 2019. Staff had been closely monitoring the tiger’s eye, since she needed daily eye drops, and noticed that the eye’s condition was getting worse. Particularly, her conjunctiva — the mucous membrane that covers the eye — was deteriorating.
Soon after, Surgeon Dr. David Williams, together with colleague Steve Philip, performed what is believed to be a world-first operation on a big cat. The hood graft procedure involved securing a flap of conjunctiva over the cornea, allowing the cornea to heal itself.
Corneal surgery is not uncommon in domestic cats and dogs. “It’s like we might do with any domestic cat – but with a lot more anesthetic,” Dr. Williams told the BBC. “But I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before in this species.”
Williams added that Ratna’s eyesight “wasn’t fantastic” after her initial cataract surgery, but the idea of the corneal surgery was to save the eye itself. “We have stopped the problem giving her any pain,” he said. Ratna’s eye has now fully recovered since the operation.
Image source: Shepreth Wildlife Park