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Eye doctor saves cat’s eye

A Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) volunteer ogles the medical procedure on a distressed cheetah done by Dr Léart Petrick, a Windhoek eye specialist. Assisting Dr Petrick are CCF’s veterinarian, Dr. Mari-ann Da Silva (left) and CCF’s Executive Director, Dr. Laurie Marker (right). Notice the absence of infection control except for the latex gloves. The cheetah operation was not Dr Petrick’s first work on an animal as he sometime assist veterinary surgeon with problem cases.

A Windhoek ophthalmologist who normally operates only on human eyes, recently helped save a young cheetah at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in the Otjiwarongo district, from losing one of its eyes.
Dr. Léart Petrick, a Windhoek eye specialist with a medical practice for human patients, early in January went to Otjiwarongo to do an operation on a live cheetah at the CCF’s veterinary facility. Khayjay, a four-and-a-half-year-old cheetah that has lived at the CCF since he was three weeks old successfully underwent a 45-minute surgery to address a chronic, debilitating eye problem.

“Khayjay’s left eye was creating excessive amounts of discharge, causing him discomfort and interfering with his vision”, said CCF veterinarian Dr. Mari-Ann DaSilva.
“When Khayjay was not responding to our initial treatment, we decided to examine him thoroughly under anaesthesia”. Dr. Da Silva consulted Dr. Petrick, who agreed that surgery was the best option. The operation was performed at the CCF on 6 January, with Dr. Petrick bringing his own special ophthalmology tools. Dr. Petrick has practised in Windhoek for approximately 10 years and occasionally makes his services available to assist veterinarians with domestic animals. Khayjay’s surgery marks the first time he has operated on a cheetah.
“Khayjay’s problem is the result of long-term inflammation, and the procedure I performed is fairly simple”, said Dr. Petrick. “Khayjay seemed to respond well to the surgery. We anticipate he will make a quick recovery and have full use of the eye”.
During the surgery, Khayjay’s third eyelid was sutured shut to act as a natural bandage.
It will remain closed for a few weeks to allow the eye to heal. Eye ointment is being applied five times a day. “The sutures are absorbable and will dissolve on their own. At that time, his eye should be well into the healing process and function normally”, said Dr. Da Silva. “We are so pleased to have a resource like Dr. Petrick in the community who is willing to step outside of his normal practise and donate his services to help us with one of our orphan cheetahs”, said Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of the CCF. “We don’t have many veterinarian specialists in the country, so having an interested human specialist is wonderful. Having healthy eyes and clear vision is just as important to cheetahs as it is for people.”

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