Lab results say blood clot killed zoo’s tiger

By Jack King

Sabre, the white Bengal tiger who died at Hillcrest Zoo in December, died of a blood clot in a kidney brought on by high blood pressure, according to lab results received this week.
Sabre was found dead in his cage Dec. 4. A necropsy was performed the same day and parts of organs were sent to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Diagnostic Services in Albuquerque and a unit of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory System in Amarillo, zoo director Hershel Arnold said.
The tissue examined by both labs came from the heart, lung and kidneys, according to the labs’ reports.
According to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory report, “The histologic findings in the kidney are indicative (of) a vascular accident resulting in ischemic necrosis of a large area of the kidney.”
The New Mexico Veterinary Diagnostic Services report says, “Renal architecture is markedly altered by increased deposition of fibrous connective in the interstitium.”
Kristine Weaver, one of two Clovis veterinaries who examined Sabre prior to his death, said Wednesday the reports mean Sabre died from a blood clot in a kidney brought on by high blood pressure.
High blood pressure results in increased turbulence in the blood, increasing the chances of blood clotting. “Necrosis” means tissue in the kidney was dying because of decreased blood flow, she said.
“I don’t see anything (zoo keepers or veterinaries) could have done to change the final outcome,” she said. “We had suspected kidney failure because of a number of symptoms, but couldn’t confirm it without blood work. Because of his fractiousness, the only way to get a blood sample was to put the tiger under a general anesthesia. But, general anesthesia was an extreme risk, because the drugs involved put more strain on the kidney,” she said.
High blood pressure in cats can be caused by a number of factors, but she couldn’t be sure what caused Sabre’s, Weaver said.
“In domestic cats, the prime reason is hyperthyroidism; however, I’m unsure with big cats if that’s highest on the differential,” she said.
She said Sabre had been treated for salmonella, as reported in December, but added that he could have caught salmonella because his resistance was low due to failing kidneys.
Assistant City Manager Joe Thomas said Wednesday the city is considering getting another big cat to replace Sabre.
“We’re exploring the possibility of another tiger, or a lion or jaguar. Whatever we do it will be later in the spring, to give the cat a chance to get acclimated better,” he said.