Saturday, April 18, 2015

Veterinary Care

Yesterday, Dr. Larry Baker and his team from Northgate Pet Clinic in Decatur, Illinois, came out to the Kelly Miller Circus for some veterinary work with the tigers, including neutering the two nine month old males Zeus and Diego. We invited a group of pre-vet students from Illinois State University to observe the procedures and learn how I incorporate the tigers' training into their daily husbandry and care.

During the procedures, four veterinarians were present as well as an assistant to ensure all went well and smoothly. One veterinarian was responsible solely monitoring the heart rate and respiration rate during the anesthesia. Once initially sedated with a dose of intramuscular drugs, the tigers were put on oxygen and gas anesthesia for both their safety and the safety of those involved.

The boys were neutered to prevent breeding and fighting amongst themselves and the females once they sexually mature in several years. The procedure itself was quick and simple. Dr. Baker walked me through the steps as he performed them, both to ease my apprehension and for my own education. His professionalism and understanding are always greatly appreciated.

We performed a thorough wellness check, including checking their teeth and claws. We also drew blood for testing their overall health. Because of the increasing regulation at the federal, state and local levels, I decided to preemptively microchip the boys for identification. I had hoped to also chip the young females as well without sedation, but it is not as simple a procedure as drawing blood from an active and alert tiger. The boys are at the beginning stages of  their husbandry training so that we will be able do these wellness checks daily without the dangers or complications of sedation with a veterinarian. The younger females are well adapted to these procedures, making it much easier to provide them a healthy, comfortable life.

Also, while the boys were sedated, we made paw print impressions to remember the day and as a measure for when they are full grown. The paw prints we make with seven year old Zeya are very calm and controlled. The boys do not have that level of training ( or the attention span ) yet, making it difficult to produce a nice product while keeping myself safe and the boys stress-free. I did note it is more difficult to evenly apply the paint with a completely limp foot than one with which the tiger maintains control.

Diego slowly waking up ! Some of the anesthesia drugs are reversible while others have to process through the animals' system. By late last night the boys were still pretty groggy.

This morning they were running around playing with each other as if nothing had happened. They will be kept separate from the females for a short time while they fully recover. Likewise, they will receive a few days off from training and performances as well. It is disappointing - they have been doing so well the past several days with target training, sitting and laying down in the performance arena.

In conclusion, today happens to be World Circus Day. I always joke that I don't like the circus, I just like animals. Today I am very grateful for the circus which has enabled me the life I could never have imagined with my tigers, which I cannot imagine a life without.

Thanks for having us down for veterinary care.  As usual, you are doing an excellent job of handing, treating, and training your tigers.  They all seem to enjoy their relaxation at your station.
Good luck this summer. You have an excellent assistant in Elisa. Both of you work well together and have good command of your work.
Larry Baker, DVM, FAVD, Diplomate, AVDC
Northgate Pet Clinic & Veterinary Dentistry"

"Thank you to all those who came out yesterday. To those at Northgate Pet Clinic, thank you for all your help, effort and professionalism in making sure my boys were safe and comfortable during this stressful time for me. To those from ISU, I hope you enjoyed the experience and learned from this opportunity Dr. Baker provided you. I try to be very open regarding the care, husbandry and training of my animals. They mean the world to me - they are my world. Thank you all for taking the time to listen and observe. If you have an opportunity, come see my animals perform with the Kelly Miller Circus. The tour schedule is posted on the show's website. Remember to judge everyone on their own merits, not based on the lies and propaganda distributed on the internet by animal rights extremists."

Ryan Holder
Tiger Trainer
Kelly Miller Circus

Here is a great news article by Emily Steele of Decatur's Herald-Review.