Snow Leopard Cub to Undergo 2nd Eyelid Surgery

Philadelphia Zoo and University of Pennsylvania School
of Veterinary Medicine to perform minor eye surgery.

(October 25, 2011) - On October 12, the Philadelphia Zoo’s two snow leopard cubs had minor surgery to correct eyelid abnormalities. This week one of the cubs will have a second surgery to further correct the condition called upper eyelid coloboma. In this condition a portion of the upper eyelid fails to develop properly, leaving a gap at the edge of the eyelid which can lead to eye irritation. The cause of this is not well understood, but it occurs in a variety of animals and in humans, and appears to be more common in snow leopards than in other species.

After the first surgery, Zoo veterinary staff noticed that the cornea on the right eye of one of the cubs was still irritated. They took photos, examined them and detected a few hairs touching the surface of the cat’s eye. Dr. Keith Hinshaw, the Zoo’s senior veterinarian and Director of Animal Health, conferred with the Penn Vet ophthalmologists that performed the first surgery and all agreed that the cub needed an additional surgical procedure.

The second procedure, called the Hotz-Celsus procedure, will be performed on the right upper eyelid of one cub and involves removing a very thin elliptical strip of the outer eyelid skin and suturing the edges of the incision together which will evert the edge of the eyelid so that any hairs that are irritating the eye will be redirected away from the eye. This is a common procedure in animals that have hair at the edge of the eyelid irritating the eye.

"Since this eyelid was the most affected initially, it is not surprising that a second procedure is necessary to fully correct the problem. However, this surgery is less involved than the first, so we expect healing to be fairly rapid," says Dr. Hinshaw.

Zoo veterinarians and Penn Vet ophthalmologists were aware that more than one procedure to fully correct the congenital defect might be necessary. Dr. William Crumley, Penn Vet ophthalmologist, will be performing the surgery. Expected healing time is approximately 14 days. The procedure is relatively short, requiring only approximately 30 minutes.

The cubs are otherwise developing well, running and jumping normally. The Zoo looks forward to their public debut in November.

Snow leopards, native to the high mountains of Central Asia, are endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction, conflict with humans, and poaching. The Zoo supports snow leopard conservation through contribution to the Snow Leopard Trust.

To learn more about the snow leopard cubs, click here.