Hospital for Small Animals

Snow leopard’s eye saved by novel surgical procedure

Dick Vet ophthalmologists treat corneal ulcer to save the sight of giant cat.

images of snow leopards eye before and after surgery
Images of Wolfgang's eye before and after surgery and now, completed recovered. Image credit: Cumbria Zoo Company

Veterinary specialists have saved the sight of a rare snow leopard by operating to heal a large ulcer in its eye. 

A team from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies was called on to treat Wolfgang the snow leopard at Cumbria Zoo Company, when he failed to respond to early interventions for the condition. 

Painful ulcer 

Keepers at the Cumbria Zoo Company noticed that one of their snow leopard’s eyes had become red an

d inflamed.  

Their veterinary team examined Wolfgang, or Wolfie as he is affectionately known, under anaesthetic and found that had a large ulcer in the centre of his eye that was close to rupturing. 

Also, the soft tissues of his eyelid and part of his conjunctiva – the clear membrane on the upper and lower eyelids – were inflamed and swollen.  

Given the severity of the ulcer, surgery was required. Veterinary surgeons from the International Zoo Veterinary Group performed a procedure to remove the dead tissue and encourage the cornea to heal.  

After a week, Wolfie’s eye wasn’t showing any signs of improvement and he was at significant risk of losing his eye. The veterinary team asked Claudia Hartley from the R(D)SVS, one of the world’s leading veterinary ophthalmologists, for help.  

Complex surgery 

Dr Hartley and Kris Houston, an Ophthalmology Resident at the R(D)SVS, examined Wolfie under anaesthetic, before conducting a conjunctival graft – an intricate procedure in which a piece of healthy membrane is taken from the eye, placed over the ulcer, and held in place using dissolvable stitches. 

Within days of the operation, Wolfie’s eye was much improved. Under the continued supervision and care of the veterinary team at Cumbria Zoo Company, he is now back to full health.  

Wolfie had a particularly nasty deep corneal ulcer which, if left untreated, would have undoubtedly led to him losing his sight and his eye. I was delighted to work with the excellent veterinary team at Cumbria Zoo Company and the International Zoo Veterinary Group and am pleased that Wolfie has made a full recovery.”  

Claudia HartleySenior Lecturer in Veterinary Ophthalmology

A massive thank you to Claudia and the team for their treatment of Wolfgang's eye issue. We, and Wolfgang, are so lucky to have been able to draw on Claudia and the team’s expertise, when faced with such an unusual and worrying situation which could have resulted in Wolfie losing his eye should treatment have not been available.  We were thrilled to see Wolfie’s eye recovering within days of the second procedure and happy to report he is now back to his lovely self! 

Sam BrewerEvents and Marketing Manager at Cumbria Zoo Company

About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies  

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.  

The School comprises:  

The Roslin Institute  

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems  

The Roslin Innovation Centre  

The Hospital for Small Animals  

Equine Veterinary Services  

Farm Animal Services  

Easter Bush Pathology  

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education  

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.