Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Clinical examination of an anaesthetised or unconscious tiger

In order to detect the presence and severity of injuries or illness not apparent from distant observation a physical examination will be necessary. However, a thorough, hands-on clinical examination of any tiger will usually require anaesthesia. Even juveniles can be dangerous to a handler, and although a very young individual can be restrained without sedatives or anaesthetics, it is unlikely that a useful clinical examination can be conducted due to its struggling against the restraint. It is also extremely stressful for any wild animal to be physically restrained by humans and as modern anaesthetics are generally safe the better option is to anaesthetise.

Even in the case of a tiger that appears unconscious – perhaps due to a road traffic accident, poisoning, severe illness or debility – a decision must be made whether to anaesthetise or not. EXTREME CARE is necessary to determine whether the individual is totally nonreactive and unable to cause injury to people around it when physically handled. Many injured tigers may appear to be unconscious – until handled!! See Assessment and monitoring during anaesthesia for details of how to evaluate consciousness and reactivity.


General condition

Examination of head and neck

Examination of the chest

Examination of the abdomen

Examination of the inguinal, genital and anal region

Examination of the musculo-skeletal system

Examination of the skin and fur