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Two snow leopard cubs get eyelid surgery, third is euthanized because of heart defects

Woodland Park Zoo euthanized one of three 6-week-old snow leopard cubs because it was born with severe heart defects and its health was declining.

A veterinary ophthalmologist performed eyelid surgery on the other two cubs. The 4-1/2-pound female cubs remain out of public sight with their mother as they continue to bond.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto, courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo.

Their brother suffered from early heart failure because of multiple heart defects.

“(I)t is very rare to encounter disease concerns in the zoo’s newborn animals that are too severe for modern medicine to overcome, but in this case, there are no surgical or drug treatment options,” according to a zoo press release.

All three cubs were born with eyelid defects called colobomas.

Dr. Tom Sullivan, the zoo’s volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist with the Animal Eye Clinic (Seattle), has performed the first of multiple minor procedures to the eyelids, which involved tightening the loose and folding eyelid tissue with sutures. The congenital defect has left one of the cubs with only one functioning eye.

The father was born with colobomas but his first litter of two cubs with the same mother was born healthy and normal. The condition has been seen in snow leopards at other zoos.

Since snow leopards are solitary animals in the wild, the father has been separated and is on public view in the snow leopard exhibit adjacent to Australasia.