Cougar cub recovering after surgery to correct birth defect

August 18, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

NEW – 4:15 p.m. Aug. 18, 2011

After undergoing special surgery at a clinic in Kirkland, Tasha, a 3-month old cougar cub is scheduled to be back home soon at the Cougar Mountain Zoo and is reportedly doing fine.

Tasha underwent the surgery to repair a congenital defect that was preventing her from eating solid foods.

“There were no complications during surgery,” said Michael Mison, who led the surgery team at Seattle Veterinary Specialists. “I’m happy to report that Tasha is recovering nicely. We expect her to have a long and healthy life.”

SVS veterinarians diagnosed Tasha with what’s termed a vascular ring anomaly or defect on Aug. 10.

According to information released by the clinic, vascular ring anomalies form before an animal is born when embryonic blood vessels develop abnormally.

Instead of disappearing as they normally would, in some cases, the defective blood vessels persist after birth as a tough band of tissue. SVS reports that is what happened in Tasha’s case. The ring of vessels can entrap important structures, often near the base of the heart.

“One structure commonly affected by vascular ring defects is the esophagus, which is soft and collapsible,” Mison said. “This means that when Tasha started to eat solid foods, the food was not able to pass normally into the stomach due to the encircling band of tissue.”

Tasha started to regurgitate constantly and lose weight, becoming smaller than other animals her age, Mison added.

In what was called a group effort by the SVS medical team, an inflatable balloon was inserted into Tasha’s esophagus via her mouth and inflated. The balloon helped Mison identify the band of troublesome tissue that was causing all of Tasha’s troubles.

Once he located the problem area, Mison lifted the tissue from around the heart and esophagus and tied it with surgical string. He then cut away the offending tissue completely. The surgical team continued to dilate Tasha’s esophagus with a balloon to help stretch out the area that had been entrapped since the cougar’s birth.

After spending the night at the Kirkland clinic for observation, Tasha was expected to be returned to Cougar Mountain Zoo on Thursday.

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