Illinois tiger gets a brand-new hip after complex surgery

Brookfield, Illinois - A tiger may not be able to change its stripes, but it can get a new hip! This 10-year-old female's successful hip replacement surgery could end up being a real life-saver.

Tigers and other big cats can suffer from stiff joints as they age (stock image).
Tigers and other big cats can suffer from stiff joints as they age (stock image).  © 123rf/rebius

Tigers are active animals that love to run and jump, but as they get older, all the wear and tear can start to affect their joints . And like humans, the big cats can also suffer from degenerative joint ailments like arthritis.

According to The Associated Press, a CT scan showed that the female Amur tiger was suffering from hip arthritis. Staff at Brookfield Zoo, outside of Chicago, could no longer help her manage without surgery.

On Wednesday, the tiger named Malena was put under and then fitted with a new artificial custom-made joint. Dr. James Cook, who led the surgery team, said that the surgery was successful but challenging, and that it took longer than expected – over 6 hours.

Zoo keepers will have to keep the tiger calm

At the end of surgery the big cat seemed to have full range of motion in her hip joint. But now it's all about rehabilitation.

Dr. Michael Adkesson of the Chicago Zoological Society told the AP that the real challenge will be keeping Melena calm: "Obviously, from a therapy standpoint, we’re not able to get in with the tiger the same way we might do physical therapy on a dog or a domestic cat. But our care staff have a wonderful relationship with these animals, and they’ll be able to get her up and kind of moving around by asking her to come to different areas of the enclosure."

After all it's not like the zookeepers can give the wild animal a soothing pet behind the ears! Hopefully the ten-year-old queen of the jungle will be up and running around in no time.

Cover photo: 123rf/rebius

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