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No flash photography: Chira the tiger is on anti-seizure medication

Local animal hospital treated the big cat
Veterinarians prepare a sedated Chira for her MRI.
Posted at 2:24 PM, Jul 12, 2019

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden staff ask visitors to keep an eye out for their tiger Chira. She’s one of fewer than 500 Malayan tigers left in the world, and she’s currently on seizure medication.

Last month, the zoo sent Chira to get an MRI at the MedVet Cincinnati animal hospital on Red Bank Road. Chira has suffered from periodic seizures for a few months.

Mark Campbell, DMV, the veterinary director at the Cincinnati Zoo, said the zoo needed the MRI to figure out if a “physical abnormality” in Chira’s brain was causing the seizures.

“MedVet agreed to provide equipment and highly trained personnel to help us achieve this goal,” Campbell said. “We don’t have… an MRI suite, because the frequency of use on animals at the Zoo wouldn’t justify the expense.”

Campbell said the zoo usually uses local healthcare providers to treat its animals. In the most well-known example of this, nurses from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital rushed to the zoo to put an IV in a premature Fiona the hippo.

MORE: Cincinnati Children's team gives Fiona life-saving IV

Chira was the largest cat to ever be treated at MedVet. She is two years old and already weighs about 240 pounds.

MedVet was able to keep Chira sedated and put her head and neck in the MRI machine. Her scans showed no obvious physical cause of her seizures.

Veterinarians decided to put Chira on medication. She still has occasional seizures, so visitors are asked to tell staff if they see Chira exhibiting any strange behavior, and to refrain from using any flash photography that could trigger a seizure.

Zookeepers said Chira’s environment is now monitored all the time with video cameras. Staff have removed anything she could hurt herself with during a seizure.

Zookeepers also said Chira has been separated from her two siblings, who may react unpredictably if Chira had a seizure around them.