Tiger surgeries at UT vet school are surprisingly common

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A 280 pound tiger named Sadie came in for surgery at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine Tuesday.

While seeing a large animal like this one on the operating table may seem out of the ordinary, it's pretty common at UT.

Dr. Ed Ramsay says they operate on a tiger a week.

"This was an elective spay, just like you would do with your own cat," he says.

But when the cat has teeth this big the surgery is anything but routine.
They give her a shot through the cage to knock her out, pump her with anesthesia and watch her closely for the tiniest twitch.

If she wakes up, they clear the room and put her back in the cage.

"We've done enough that we're very comfortable with our safety procedures," Ramsay says.

Most lions and tigers are from Tiger Haven in Roane County. But they also work with animals from the Knoxville Zoo. Altogether they treat more than 3,000 exotic animals a year.

Ramsey says UT has more exotic animal doctors than any other clinic in the world.

"I think I can safely say there are very few people in the world that have done as many large cat anesthesia as we've done in this practice," he says.

They've published more than 20 papers on how to treat these big cats.

"We're using the cases that have happened, we describe those to help other people and help cats all over the world," he says.

Doctors also make quite a few house calls out to Tiger Haven and the zoo for treatments that don't need surgery. They bring an animal from the zoo in to the clinic about once every two or three months.