East Texas Eye Doctor Gives Tiger Eye Exam - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/7/07-Smith County

East Texas Eye Doctor Gives Tiger Eye Exam

For more than a year now, a local wildlife refuge has been worried about one of their cats.  Not the kind many of you probably have sleeping on your couch right now, but a 500 pound tiger named Simon.  Simon's been a little depressed lately because he's having trouble seeing.  That's why Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Hawkins decided to call in some help.

Looking into Simon's eyes, it's easy to see something's just not right.  The 500 pound, 13 year old Bengal Tiger seems to be healthy, but with old age comes problems and for Simon it's his eyesight.  

"He was kind of getting grumpy and didn't really want to explore his cage as much, so we started watching his eyes a little bit," said Tiger Creek's Terry Werner.  "When everything else seemed normal, we watched his eyes and they were dilated all the time, so we knew something was going on."  When Simon's eyesight only seemed to get worse, Werner decided to call in an expert, and Doctor Tom DeHaven, of DeHaven Eye Clinic answered.

"I thought, are you sure?," said DeHaven.  "They were, and they were serious, and I thought sure because it's not everyday you have the opportunity to try to help a tiger."  Just like humans, DeHaven says the first step is an eye exam, just this one involved a patient with a mouth full of teeth big enough to fit around his head.  A couple of shots later, Simon fell asleep making it safe for DeHaven to step in and perform the exam.

"I've got a clear view of the retina," said DeHaven as he laid on the ground looking into Simon's eyes.  "I'd say his pupils are about 25 mm."  

"Their eyes are huge compared to our eyes," said DeHaven.  "When you look at it under a microscope it's just amazing how much bigger it is.  The front of the eye is easily twice the size of our eyes."  At first, Tiger Creek thought Simon might have cataracts, which would require surgery.  DeHaven and his office had already offered to do that.

"When you have a real dense cataract you won't have the view of the back of the eye, and in this case you could see the back of the eye really well," said DeHaven.  DeHaven now knows it may be something worse, a possible brain tumor that's causing Simon to feel depressed, but only after Simon gets an MRI will they know for sure.

"We were real excited and thought it would be neat to do the eye surgery on this tiger, but at this point it's not possible," said DeHaven. 

"You know, you got to do what you can for these guys, and you know leave something untreated or undiagnosed could lead to other problems," said Werner.  DeHaven and his office say they will help pay to send Simon to Fort Worth for an MRI, hoping in the end, when you look into Simon's eyes, all you see is the eye of the tiger.

Right now, no date is set for Simon to get an MRI.  Tiger Creek says Simon is an older tiger and is not used to traveling, so it may be difficult to get him to Fort Worth.  Simon is doing well, however.  For more information on Tiger Creek go to our homepage and click on the Know More on 7 link.  There you will find Tiger Creek.

Molly Reuter, Reporting. mreuter@kltv.com


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