Real Life Doctor Doolittle Saves Fresno's Tiger

June 5, 2009 10:33:04 PM PDT
One of the tigers at "The Fresno Chaffee Zoo" is recovering, after a major surgery that saved her life.The male tiger at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is spending his days alone ... while he and the zoo wait for the return of the female, big cat ... named Kiri.

The zoo had hoped love would bloom between the male and the female ... and maybe little cubs would result ... but the male wasn't interested.

So Kiri tried to relieve the stress of her disappointing love life.

Stephen O. Davis, MD said, "She was in a depression. She just in a funk and what they did ... they gave her a piece of rawhide like a chew toy."

Fresno Gastroenterologist, Dr Stephen Davis says that piece of rawhide got stuck in the tiger's esophagus back in March ... causing her to vomit, become dehydrated and lose weight over five days.

After Kiri was taken to UC Davis' Veterinary School where doctors removed the rawhide ... Dr Davis ... along with Chaffee Zoo, Veterinarian, Dr. Lewis Wright ... operated on Kiri to try to solve a stricture or narrowing of her esophagus that may have been the result of the stuck rawhide.

"What I did was what we do with humans. We stretched or dilate that with a balloon. It's the same principle as angioplasty in a vessel. We put the balloon un-inflated into area that's narrow we blow the balloon up and it stretches it out to make it larger," said Dr Davis.

The real life scene resembled the movie ... Dr. Doolittle.

Dr Davis says he's been called Dr Doolittle, plenty of times because he's had a previous, four legged patient ... a Chaffee Zoo Grizzly Bear he operated on, four years ago.

The doctor says the tiger surgery was a collaborative effort with Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno and some if its staff members volunteering their time and techniques to the surgery.

The team ended up putting two stents into Kiri's esophagus, in two separate operations ... Making it a ground-breaking procedure for such a large animal.

Zoo Education Director Adrienne Castro said, "It has been done in dogs and cats but this is the first known case for tigers and currently she's doing well. Just an amazing treatment, she's doing well, she's eating has a full diet. She's doing good."

Dr. Davis says it was a rewarding experience to use his skills in the animal world.

He hopes when Kiri has fully recovered ... she'll be able to convince the male tiger to start some family planning.

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