"Tora the Tiger" and TCVM

-by Larry McCaskill, DVM, CVA

Author: Chi Institute/Friday, April 1, 2011/Categories: Student Case Reports, TCVM Newsletter, 2011 Spring Issue

 I was contacted by the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo veterinarian to evaluate and consider a TCVM treatment plan for Tora, a 19 year old male white tiger. Primary complaints were neurological signs of ataxia, crossing of both front and rear limb while walking and CP deficits. No other specific problems were noted.



Tora had just been transferred 2 months earlier from the New Orleans Zoo to the Baton Rouge Zoo. Just before this move, the beginning signs of his ambulatory problems were first observed. Previous medical history did not reveal any other significant medical problems. For a 19 year old tiger with an average life span of 15 years, Tora was considered to be doing quite well except for the above described abnormal signs.

Tora's signs and symptoms for western medical rule-outs were: chronic osteoarthritis, spondylosis, and/or IVDD or possible tumor in the cervical spine or brain. He was presently receiving oral medications of prednisone and gabapentin. After 2 weeks of receiving these medications, Tora had shown no significant clinical improvements.

Being a companion animal practitioner (primarily small animals) most of my veterinary career, this would have been a very challenging case. This magnificent animal was a tiger and extreme caution was needed at all times in dealing with him.

My plan was to first visit Tora, observe his behavior and gather as much history/ information about him as possible from his animal keepers.

The following week he was scheduled for a trip to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for diagnostic work-up to include survey radiographs, MRI, CSF tap, and complete blood work. While he was under sedation I planned to perform an acupuncture treatment. I only had about 30 minutes to perform acupuncture, therefore I planned to use only aquapuncture with vitamin B-12 and sterile water. My follow-up treatment plan would be to initiate herbal formula therapy and weekly visits to monitor his progress.


TCVM Exam:

My first visit and visual evaluation of Tora revealed an earth constitution cat, (animal keepers all thought him to be an easy going cat) alert, with good Shen and bright eyes. His hair coat appeared normal with no obvious signs of muscle atrophy. Visual exam of his tongue revealed it to be pink and dry. When enticed to move for food he exhibited definite front limb CP posturing problems with occasional cross stepping of his front limbs. He did have difficulty in getting up with some rear end weakness and mild ataxia. When he would eat from ground level he would have to spread his front limbs wide apart and lower his head with neck extended.


Tora was thought to be cool seeking. His intake of water appeared normal and he had a good appetite. His urine and bowel functions also appeared to be normal. Daytime sleeping habits appeared normal and night time activity unobserved. His diet consisted of Large Cat Mix and Horse meat.


My TCVM Diagnosis was Wei and Tan Huan Syndromes, Pattern: Kidney Qi / Yin deficiency and Cervical Spine Qi and Blood Stagnation . Survey radiographs revealed prominent osteoarthritis and spondylosis from C1 to T1, and L1 to L3. MRI revealed prominent osteoarthritis in the cervical spine area and prominent narrowing / impingement of the C1 spinal cord. No brain or spinal tumors were observed.


With the above information, I performed aquapuncture to address the cervical spine Qi and Blood stagnation excesses and Kidney element deficiencies.


The following points were used: GB-20, GB-21, GV-14, BL-10, BL-11, LI-10, LI-4, LIV-3, C-1 to T-1 Jing Jia Ji, BL-23, ST-36, GB-34, KID-3, SP-6, BL-60, and SI-3 & BL-65 opposite side unilateral and TH-3 & GB-41 opposite side unilateral. Acupuncturing this " "353 pound feline" was no problem because all the acupoints were easily located. His CSF tap results were normal. Blood work was basically normal except increased BUN value of 65 and creatinine of 3.0.

Herbal Formulas: Double P II ( Da Huo Luo Dan) and Cervical Formula.

Tora handled both of these herbal formulas well and within a month he was able to move and walk better. His abnormal neurological signs decreased and he did not appear to be in any pain. He was weaned off all his western medications.His quality of life had improved. He was observed one day lying on his back relaxed with all 4 paws in the air acting like a normal cat. This event really excited his animal keepers. The next problem to address was Kidney Qi deficiency and suspected Yin deficiency. Rehmannia 11 herbal formula was now added to address these issues. Double P II was discontinued and Body Sore formula was added for pain, Qi-Blood stagnation and Kidney Qi deficiency.Tora had another good month, but after that his Shen and Qi started to decrease. I suspect he now was starting to have some significant renal insufficiency problems and was going into renal failure. All involved in Tora's care and those that had known him for years felt that this magnificent animal who had lived a very long life should not have to experience anymore undue suffering.



TCVM was able to help Tora and improve his quality of life, even if for only about two months. I always wonder how he would have benefited from TCVM if he was treated by the integrative approach earlier in his life.

I want to thank Drs. Huisheng Xie, Ronald Koh, Carolina Medina, Bruce Ferguson and Skip Hightman for their consultations and recommendations during my TCVM treatment of "Tora the Tiger".

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