On 15th January, our keeper team noticed that Zaya, our female snow leopard cub was squinting her eyes and would often have her left eye closed. Our team carefully monitored Zaya to try and catch glimpses of her eye to determine the cause.
When she had her eye open, keepers noticed it was very discoloured and took daily pictures to monitor its condition. After a veterinary examination, Zaya was put on pain relief medication, antibiotics and eye drops six times a day. This initial treatment seemed effective but unfortunately, it’s condition worsened.
With help from The Big Cat Sanctuary’s amazing vets, specialist help was sought. On the 26th of January, Opti Vet Referrals examined Zaya’s eye. Zaya was anesthetised and taken to our vet room in the Animal Resource Centre, where Robert Lowe, BVSc DVOphthal MRCVS oversaw the procedure.
Upon closer inspection, Robert found a significant amount of infection in Zaya’s left cornea. All layers of the cornea were infected with the infection penetrating the middle of the eye. This could threaten Zaya’s eyesight.
After consultation with the team, it was decided there was a chance to save the eye and preserve her sight. The team proceeded with surgical intervention to remove all diseased tissue.
Robert began by creating a graft from a healthy area of the cornea adjacent to the infected area, which would be used to patch the eye. He then removed the infected tissue, primarily from the front half of the cornea, which exposed a deeper infection to the middle of Zaya’s eye. After removing all infected tissue, Robert patched the eye with the healthy corneal graft and secured it with approximately 40 stitches, ensuring it was watertight and sealed.
Samples of the infection were taken for testing, with medical professionals suspecting it may be a fungal disease, which can be problematic post-surgery. Zaya will now receive intense medication and eye drops to aid the healing process and hopefully to preserve her vision.
Michael Twiby, Head Keeper at The Big Cat Sanctuary – “Zaya recovered from her anaesthetic really well and was back to her usual self in no time. We’re very pleased with her progress so far post-surgery and we’ll continue to update the vets daily. Zaya is an amazing character and is fantastic for her treatment, so we hope to see more improvement over the coming weeks.”
If you are visiting the Sanctuary soon and see Zaya, she will not look completely normal but please do not be alarmed. Although some scarring may occur, this should not affect Zaya’s well-being in the long term. Since the surgery she has been seen playing with Attan, exploring her enclosure and spending time cuddling Laila. The team at The Big Cat Sanctuary will closely monitor Zaya and will provide her with the best possible care during her recovery.
Thank you for your continued support,
The Big Cat Sanctuary