In order to try and help Klein, CCF contacted experts around the globe since the problem developed. We consulted with zoo veterinarians, veterinary pathologists, veterinarians who specifically work with cheetahs in the wild and in captivity, and numerous pharmacologists, virologists and specialists from both human and veterinary medicine. We tried all of the therapies that have been recommended, and over the years had varied success in improving the lesions on his legs. With more intensive therapy, the lesions improve; when we try to “leave him be” and not anesthetise him for treatments, the lesions worsen.
With the help and input of all these experts, and with the unfaltering dedication of the CCF medical and husbandry team, Klein has been handled with expertise and compassion. He has received every treatment that has been recommended, often multiple times. He improves and then he worsens. Unfortunately, his ongoing skin problem was caused by a virus that his immune system could not beat; a virus that has showed itself to be challenging (to say the least) to manage, a virus that led to ulcerated lesions on the skin of his left legs that came and went depending on the intensity of treatment.
Starting in October 2011 the CCF’s vet team started very intensive treatment of Klein, in hopes of once and for all healing the skin lesion so he could have some time to be a “normal” cheetah. He was 12 years old, suffering also from chronic kidney disease, and diagnosed with a suspected cancer of the left anal gland. We anesthetised him every 4 to 10 days for cryotherapy, bandage changes, and intensive supportive care. His skin lesions improved, and everyone was encouraged despite the fact that we were not happy having to anesthetise him so often. We were hopeful that once we got things under control, we could stop his frequent treatments and he would have some time to live a normal life without Herpes skin disease. However, as soon as this intensive treatment stopped, new, aggressive, spreading skin wounds reappeared.
Yesterday, 17 February 2012, Klein was anesthetised for another cryotherapy treatment of new, ulcerated skin lesions on his left front and hind legs. We collected his urine and it was dark and bloody, indicating decreased kidney function. His anal gland was was thickened and enlarged, consistent with progression of the cancer. New lesions were found on his legs --no matter how hard we were chasing this disease, the Herpes was winning the race.
Everyone at CCF loved Klein with all their hearts, which is why the decision to euthanise him was so difficult and heart-wrenching. We want to think that he has gone to a better place, to run in the African bushveld in the sky, where there are plenty of antelope to eat, where there is no Herpes, and where there is no pain and suffering. Klein will live forever in our hearts, as he himself had the strongest heart, fighting his disease bravely until the end. We did not want him to feel any more pain, and we wish him all the best on his onward journey to another life.
Goodbye Klein, we love you.
Gaby and all the CCF staff