Tiger Undergoes Laparoscopic Spaying

Two-year-old white Bengal recovering well after procedure.

A 2-year-old white Bengal tiger named Taja is recovering well following a minimally invasive spaying procedure at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, Mass. The 180-pound white tiger, a resident of Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, Mass., was the second tiger to have the routine procedure done laparoscopically at the Cummings School’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals.

The Cummings School recently began performing spays laparoscopically to reduce postoperative pain and collateral tissue damage. The method has been shown in clinical literature to reduce complications. Unlike the open-surgical approach to spays, this procedure involved only removal of the animal’s ovaries, not the uterus, as well. Clinicians at the Foster Hospital have recently begun offering the minimally invasive procedure to large dogs.
Taja’s surgery — led by Clinical Associate Professors Robert McCarthy and Joerg Mayer and third-year surgical resident Jennifer Weh — took just over one hour. The tiger is expected to make a better-than-typical recovery, thanks to the fact that each of the two small holes in her abdomen required only one suture — eliminating the need to anesthetize her again to remove sutures once the wound heals.
“Anyone who’s ever had laparoscopy is very aware of how little pain they experienced following the procedure, and this less-invasive method is a wonderful way to decrease pain for animals following the surgery,” said McCarthy. 

Tigers, which are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are primarily found in India and Bangladesh, although they have been found in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and southern Tibet. About 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund. White tigers are produced through extensive inbreeding and, as such, zoo industry groups do not recommend they be bred.
Named for the late Dr. Henry Foster L. Foster and his wife, Lois, the Foster Hospital for Small Animals treated more than 26,000 animals in Fiscal Year 2009 (July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009), and ranks in the top five veterinary teaching hospitals in the nation. More than 80 percent of the hospital’s cases are dogs and cats, but Cummings School clinicians have recently treated a goose with osteosarcoma, a mule with an irregular heartbeat, and a baby giraffe deprived of her mother’s milk.

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