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Furry physical: Tiger, grizzly pass physical exams
new slt zoo malone secondary pic use
Dr. Malone cleans the tiger's teeth, using a portable dental cart. - photo by Susan Thacker


Sunny, the yellow tiger at Brit Spaugh Zoo, received a clean bill of health during its annual physical on Wednesday, Great Bend Zoo Director Scott Gregory said. Dr. Mike Malone, the zoo’s veterinarian, and his associate, Dr. Jackie Corbett, conducted the physical, cleaned the tiger’s teeth and trimmed its claws. Last week they performed a similar procedure on Max, the male grizzly bear.

The animals slept through their physicals, anesthetized with isoflurane gas, Zoo Curator Marge Bowen said. The exam procedure is virtually the same as when a big dog is worked on at a veterinarian’s office.

"The tiger physical was great," Gregory reported in the afternoon. "He had two small incisor teeth removed. He received his rabies shot, and blood was taken for lab work. He looked extremely healthy and there seemed to be no problems."

The tiger weighed in at 315 pounds, Gregory said, adding it will take a few days for lab results, but no problems are foreseen. At 13 years old, Sunny would be an old tiger in the wild, but in captivity he can easily live another decade or longer, Gregory said.

The bear’s physical last Wednesday had similar results. Malone removed a fractured tooth. Mayor Mike Allison, who is also a dentist, was on hand for that procedure.

"I enjoyed it," Allison said. "It was very, very interesting." Malone’s portable dental cart is similar to Allison’s, with its sonic scaler, water polisher and drill, he said. Allison had hoped to return to help with the tiger, but found himself in the office, working on a human’s teeth.

The bear’s weight was around 675 pounds. The two grizzly bears are now preparing to go through a semi-hibernation which should last a couple of months.

The female grizzly and the white tiger — their respective names are Maggie and Spirit — underwent physicals earlier this year. Spirit had been vomiting at the time, which caused concern, but lab results were inconclusive. However, during the physical exam, Malone discovered an abscessed tooth and an acid buildup in the back of its throat, caused by the vomiting. Once the tooth was extracted, Spirit, who is also 13 years old, returned to good health.

The zoo has completed exams of most of its largest animals this year, Gregory said. "We’ve still got the lions and black bears, and some smaller animals," he said, including the porcupines.