Since arriving at the Isle of Wight Zoo our five amazing ex-circus tigers have been settling in and making themselves at home. Many of you have visited and those who have will have noticed however that almost all of our beautiful tigers have varying levels of lameness.

Making the decision to anaesthetise an animal is huge; there are serious risks involved and we wouldn’t want to take this risk unless we considered our animals were in a condition strong enough to endure the stress. We have therefore focused to date on building up their strength in order to allow us to have a medical when the time was right.

Last week, we made the decision to anesthetise Girona for a full medical. Girona just turned 16 (old for tiger years with the majority of wild tigers only living to 13 in the wild) and shares an enclosure with Mondo, another large male who he has spent his entire life with and is inseparable from. Girona has been lame with an obvious sore paw/toe since his arrival in June and his increased lameness and submissive behaviour towards his house mate Mondo led us to consider Girona as a priority.

We knew little about Girona’s health before this week; it was evident that he had been declawed, he had a swollen paw/toe, and he was lame. Recent weeks have seen some tension between the two tigers and we felt this could be as a result of Girona’s failing health/pain levels – we wanted to know more.

We anaesthetised him on Tuesday to do a full investigation. He didn’t take well to one of drugs we used and we had to reverse it as well as give him CPR; stressful times for our animal carers and vets! Once he stabilised, we continued with the procedure taking blood, x-raying his foot and back and doing an ultrasound of his kidneys. Girona took a long time to recover and was on bed rest for the following few days in order to give him the time he needed regain his strength.

The toe was bad! There was a bad dislocation with a broken toe and infected bone; due to the bones regrowth it was evident that this was a very old injury (see x-ray), and most likely to have had occurred during the declawing process. Also, you can make out fragment of bone/claw in another toe and this may have also come about when he was declawed.

It also became clear that Girona’s spine has arthritis and the degeneration has seen his spine crumble. He has grown new bone under his spine to compensate for the crumbling bone. In addition, Girona’s kidneys are not in great shape, but at same time blood results do not show anything alarming for the time being.

We are pleased to say that Girona is nearly back to his normal self after his check-up this week. He will remain on antibiotics until we get the biopsy results back, which were taken in order to determine what infection we are dealing with. He now has the correct pain killers he needs to make him more comfortable. He is eating well.

Unfortunately, Girona will need another anaesthetic in order to allow us to amputate the toe that is causing a lot of his pain right now. This is not an easy decision to make now that we know that Girona responds so badly to anaesthetic, but we have some of the best vets around to help us with this and we now know which medications he responds to well and which he does not.

We will keep you posted on Girona’s next stage of rehabilitation.

We appreciate all the support we have had so far with the funds you have raised for our tigers, and ongoing if you are wondering how you can help – you can adopt Girona and our other ‘famous five‘ either online or whilst visiting them at the zoo, in our zootique shop.