Vets have earned their stripes in Sacramento after completing a physical examination of the city zoo’s Sumatran tiger that has cancer.

A year from his lymphoma diagnosis and nearly five months after surgery to place a ureteral stent, tiger Castro continues to improve.

During the exam, Castro underwent extensive diagnostic testing to evaluate the status of his cancer and renal disease and a team of seven vets, two technicians, one hospital assistant and many skilled keepers from the zoo’s Murray E Fowler Veterinary Hospital and the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) were involved in the the examination.

It found Castro’s weight has improved to 120 kilograms compared to 102 kilograms and he is in good condition with no new abnormalities.

In looking at his lymphoma (cancer), ultrasound examination of his abdomen did not find any tumours in his liver, and found his spleen remains normal size. Aspirates of his liver and spleen still showed tumour cells in his spleen, but the disease has not spread to his liver or lymph nodes.

Radiographs and ultrasound of his kidneys and bladder show Castro’s ureteral stent is still in place with no grossly visible complications.

In fact, the ureter around the stent has returned to normal size. Blood work shows his chronic renal failure has progressed slightly, but is not severe.

“We are very pleased with the results of this exam,” said Bill Culp, a soft tissue surgeon and interventional radiologist at the VMTH, who placed the stent. “His stent is still located in the correct position, and Castro seems to have responded well to the treatment.”

Castro continues to receive chemotherapy, as well as medications to support his liver function and prevent gastric ulcers. He remains a picky eater and receives an appetite stimulant twice a week.

Ray Wack, head veterinarian at the zoo and chief of the VMTH’s zoological medicine service, added: “The Sacramento Zoo’s team has done an extraordinary job getting him to take his medications and to eat properly, witnessed by his gaining of 40 pounds in the past year.”

“The fact Castro is doing well a year after his diagnosis is a testament to the great care he is receiving from everyone.”

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