The Uberaba Veterinary Hospital, in Minas Gerais, performed what may be the first cataract surgery in a puma in the country. The procedure considered unprecedented took place at the end of last month.
The feline Kiara, 31 kg and 11 months old, spent about 50 minutes on the operating table. As this is a highly complex procedure, around ten veterinarians participated in the anesthesia and surgery work.
The puma arrived at the Cetras (Wild Animal Screening and Rehabilitation Center) in Patos de Minas (MG) at the end of 2020 when it is about 15 days old.
Kiara had a neurological picture of seizures and other symptoms caused by head trauma. The animal received medical care and recovered well over 11 months, but was diagnosed with progressive cataract in both eyes.
In addition to the sequelae of head trauma, eye exams showed that the jaguar had a congenital predisposition to the development of eye damage.
According to Cetras veterinarian Rafael Ferraz de Barros, without performing the surgery, Kiara would not be able to return to nature.
“A cataract is basically an opacity in the lens of the eye that prevents the animal from seeing normally and, therefore, also prevents its return to nature. With surgery, the expectation is that the jaguar can be rehabilitated”, he says.
Responsible for the surgery, veterinarian Glauber Tasso reports that initially both eyes of the animal would be operated at once, but the clinical picture did not allow it.
“The procedure had to be done only in the left eye. Posterior lens dislocation was detected in the right eye, which made the surgical procedure for that eye unfeasible. The left eye had anterior subluxation and microphachia, which made the procedure extremely challenging”, account.
The “patient” is now recovering at Cetras. After a first ocular evaluation, the surgery was found to be successful. The puma will not even need to operate the other eye.
According to information from the center’s staff, the period for recovery from the surgery is estimated at three months, but Kiara can stay up to a year being monitored in captivity.
The animal will also undergo a behavioral reassessment. Only later will it be possible to determine if it will be able to be released back into the wild.
The clinical manager of the Uberaba Veterinary Hospital, Cláudio Yudi, says that he expects to transfer the acquired experience to other animal care centers.
“We are happy to help the jaguar regain his sight and pass on knowledge so that other professionals can perform surgery on other large felids in screening centers and zoos,” he said.
The ophthalmologist-veterinarian Gabriela Madruga participated in the pre-surgical eye exams on the animal and followed the operation outside the operating room. She was responsible for explaining to the students, during the transmission, the step by step of what was being done.
Despite not having entered the operating room, the professional claims that the experience was also a unique opportunity for her career.
“Following the jaguar’s surgery was challenging, even for those who were not directly involved in the operation,” said the doctor. “The jaguar’s cornea is harder than a cat’s, for example, and the eye has a lot of rods, which allows it to see very well in the dark. I haven’t seen anything like it before.”