Eye-dentifying a Solution: 19-year-old Lioness Undergoes Eye Surgery

When it comes to animal health concerns – there is no ‘lion’ around at the Oklahoma City Zoo. 

During a morning body check in March, the Zoo’s carnivore care team observed a prominent squint in the left eye of 19-year-old lioness, Tia. Upon noticing this change in her health, Tia’s care team took immediate action and contacted the Zoo’s veterinary team to arrange an evaluation.

Tia the Lion in surgery

Zoo veterinarians evaluated Tia’s left eye and concluded that the lens had shifted forward, causing her discomfort. After the initial health exam, Dr. Gretchen Cole, Zoo associate veterinarian, consulted with Dr. Jonathan Pucket, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists in Tulsa. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the Zoo’s veterinary team determined that Tia would undergo eye surgery to correct the issue and prevent future complications. The primary goals of the surgery were to ensure comfortability and help Tia retain her vision.

Tia the Lion in surgery

In special cases like Tia’s, collaborating with medical specialists, including dentists, ophthalmologists and cardiologists, is a common practice for the Zoo’s veterinary team to ensure that the best possible care is being provided. Because Dr. Pucket had an extensive background in performing eye surgeries on animals of all sizes, he offered his services to prepare and provide Tia with efficient treatment. The Zoo’s veterinary team has a long-standing partnership with Dr. Pucket who performed the first surgery at the Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital when it first opened in 2013 - an American bison eye surgery.

Tia the Lion in surgery

On March 22, Tia was transported to the Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital. Her surgery took approximately 30 minutes from beginning to end and included the successful removal of the lens in Tia’s left eye. 

Tia the Lion in surgery

Following her surgery, Tia was monitored daily by her caretakers and received weekly re-checks from the veterinary team. While the vision in her left eye is ‘foggy’ without a lens to focus, it was quickly evident to her care team that her health and comfort levels had improved as a direct result of the procedure. At the beginning of May, Tia received her last evaluation.

Today, Tia’s eye is completely healed and she is continuing to spend time with the Zoo’s 7-year-old male lion, Hubert, in their outdoor habitat at Lion Overlook.

Dr. Gretchen Cole, associate veterinarian

-Dr. Gretchen Cole, Zoo associate veterinarian

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