Rare white tiger undergoes successful CT and surgery at OSU

Nora at OSU

A team of veterinarians at Oregon State University’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine treated an unusual patient Friday: a rare white Bengal tiger in need of a diagnostic CT scan and emergency surgery.

The 17-year-old tiger named Nora, who resides at the WildCat Ridge Sanctuary in Scotts Mills south of Molalla, had been under the weather for a few weeks. The symptoms weren’t pointing to a specific diagnosis, said Cheryl Tuller, the sanctuary’s executive director.

“She just wasn’t herself. I was in a panic,” Tuller said. “I had to make sure she was OK.”

Tuller and her team first took Nora to their veterinarian’s office in Lake Oswego but an ultrasound was inconclusive. The veterinarian, Cherie Connolly of Compass Veterinary Clinic, suggested Tuller reach out to OSU’s Lois Bates Acheson Teaching Hospital.

Nora was brought to the teaching hospital Friday. The medical team, led by Dr. Marianne Pan, the case manager and an internal medicine resident; veterinary surgeon Dr. Katy Townsend; anesthesiologist Dr. Ronald Mandsager and surgery resident Dr. Lea Mehrkens, got to work.

Exotic animals such as Nora are rare patients at the teaching hospital. Townsend’s previous experience with cats was domestic felines and one cougar, though large cats have similar anatomy and respond to treatment much the same way as a house cat would.

“The biggest thing for us is logistics,” said Townsend, who typically works on small animals. “Can we sedate her safely? Can she fit into the CT machine? It’s a matter of ensuring Nora’s safety and all of our safety as well.”

The medical team, which included several veterinary students, residents and a reproductive specialist, successfully anesthetized the tiger and conducted the scan. They determined Nora had pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus, which can occur in 5 to 17 percent of captive large felines, Townsend said.

If the infected organs aren’t removed in time, they can rupture and cause sepsis. While Nora was still anesthetized, Townsend performed an ovariohysterectomy, removing all of the tiger’s reproductive organs.

Nora was transported back to the sanctuary that evening, where she is recovering rapidly from her ordeal, Tuller said.

“Dr. Townsend was fantastic,” Tuller said. “Nora seems to be doing fine. We’re keeping a close eye on her.”

To learn more about Nora and her recovery, visit: http://bit.ly/2G9bkYj. The sanctuary also has launched a fundraising campaign to cover the costs associated with her medical care.    

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