Eighth Big Cat Dies From Canine Distemper at Wylie Sanctuary

Iona InSync
In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue

An eighth exotic cat has died after a canine distemper outbreak at a Dallas-area wildlife sanctuary.

Officials with In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center in Wylie said an 11-year-old female tiger named Iona died Thursday.

The sanctuary lost seven big cats during July and August 2013 from the same virus and workers there hoped they were done with the virus.

Tests for Iona had all come back negative, but neurological damage had already been done and workers say her health declined rapidly.

The following message was posted on the group's Facebook page on March 20:

It is with very heavy hearts that we announce that we will be putting our beautiful Iona to sleep tonight. If you remember from last summer, Iona was one of the cats who was hit by some neurological symptoms from CDV (Canine Distemper Virus). She did eventually beat the virus, and her tests showed she was clear of the virus. We were told that the slight "tic" or twitch in her front paw would be a permanent result of the nerve damage that the virus caused, but that it likely would not progress any further. However, very little is known about how this virus affects big cats and in the last month her twitch has worsened significantly, until the almost-constant convulsions now severely affect her life. Just in the last week, she is no longer able to walk without falling, she can't control her body, and the constant muscle spasms almost certainly cause her considerable discomfort. We consulted with experts all over the globe, and took her in for an MRI and spinal tap yesterday. Results showed that the neurological damage from the virus is severe, and irreversible. Tonight we will give Iona the only peace that we can offer her. This has been particularly difficult for me (Chemyn), so please understand if I do not respond as quickly as usual to any FB posts or questions.

Iona had been at the sanctuary since she was 17 months old.

Very little is known about the canine distemper virus in big cats so they are hoping Iona’s death will get researchers one step closer to understanding this disease.

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