Hi everyone! We thought we’d take this chance to give you a little insider information about one of the more interesting vet cases we have at the zoo right now. Beliza is our 14 year-old female jaguar, and since she’s been living at the zoo since February 2007, she’s pretty much a fan favorite. So you can imagine how saddened we all were when she was diagnosed with cancer last year.
We found out that Beliza had this disease because she didn’t get pregnant after being introduced to our male, Cuxtal, on two separate occasions. Since they’ve had cubs before (more about that in a later post), this was concerning. When we examined her to look for a cause, we found a large tumor, so we had to spay Beliza in July 2019. While we were doing that procedure, we noticed she had a lot of tiny cysts throughout her abdomen. We sent some of these off for biopsy, and confirmed that they were cancerous.
Since most pet cats get spayed at a young age, this isn’t a type of cancer that has been studied very much. And definitely not in jaguars! A veterinary oncologist with MedVet in Cincinnati advised us on several treatment options we could try. For about a year now, Beliza has been receiving oral medication three times a week to try to keep the cancer at bay, and we’re thrilled to report that she is doing great! This experimental treatment seems to be working so far – during her last exam, we were able to see that her tumors haven’t grown any further. When she was diagnosed I said, “I’ll be surprised if she makes it a year after surgery”, and I have never been so happy to be wrong in my life!
I think we all know someone (person or animal) in our lives that has been through a battle with cancer. In Beliza’s case, although we know we can’t cure this problem (there are too many tiny tumors to remove them all surgically), we can try to make the time she has left the best it possibly can be. We want to include you all in her journey so that you can learn more about her personality and spunk, how we take care of the medical needs of animals at the zoo, and so that as many people as possible can be rooting for her as she continues her fight. Stayed tuned over the coming weeks as we tell you more about Beliza and the role she’s played as an ambassador for her species over the years.