Your Cat magazine blog
"A brave lady inserting needles in a lion's foot", it sounds like something out of a Greek myth, but this is really happening in Devon!
Lucifer, Paignton Zoo’s 11-year-old Asiatic lion, is currently undergoing acupuncture after an old wound, caused when he had a tumour removed from his right hind foot, failed to heal properly. This is the first time that acupuncture has been used on any animal at Paignton Zoo.
In the lion’s den are vet Nicki Grint, a specialist in veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia and veterinary surgeon Ross Doust, both from Cave Veterinary Specialists in Somerset, along with Paignton Zoo Veterinary Associate Jo Reynard and one of the Zoo’s vet nurses, Celine Campana.
Although she has used it on dogs, this is Nicki’s first cat – and weighing in at 190kg, he's a big one.
Nicki explains: “We are using acupuncture to decrease pain and improve blood flow to the site, helping the healing process.” Needles are inserted at 2.5cm intervals around the wound – the Chinese call this “ringing the dragon” - and the needles are in Lucifer’s foot for about 15 minutes.
Acupuncture is not commonly used in zoo animals; the procedure requires the animal to stay still, so they need to be under a general anaesthetic, which is only done when absolutely necessary.
Jo adds: “We’re using gas anaesthesia and all the usual medical painkillers. The acupuncture is simply being used opportunistically, as an adjunct to conventional therapy in the hope that it might help the wound heal.”
Paignton Zoo Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment said: “We are grateful to Nicki and Ross for giving up their time in order to share their expertise. All the initial signs are that Lucifer will make a swift recovery.”
Lucifer, who got his name because his number in the computerised Animal Record Keeping System is 666, has recently arrived in Devon to join two females, mother and daughter Indu and Maliya.