Ophthalmologist Dr Léart Petrick spends most of his working hours treating eye conditions in human patients. But earlier this month, the Namibian eye specialist put his skills to work on a slightly different case: a four-year-old cheetah with a chronic eye problem.

Image: Cheetah Conservation Fund

Khayjay has been an ambassador cheetah for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) since arriving at the organisation's research and education centre in Otjiwarongo, Namibia as a tiny cub. CCF staff reached out to Dr Petrick for specialist help after their attempts to treat Khayjay's chronic eye irritation failed.

“Khayjay’s left eye was creating excessive amounts of discharge, causing him discomfort and interfering with his vision,” said CCF veterinarian Dr Mari-Ann DaSilva.

After the cheetah's eye was thoroughly examined under anaesthesia, the team agreed that surgery was the best option for treating the problem and preserving Khayjay’s vision. The procedure took just 45 minutes and has been deemed a success. During the surgery, Khayjay’s third eyelid was sutured shut to act as a natural bandage. It will remain closed for a few weeks to allow the eye to heal. “The sutures are absorbable and will dissolve on their own. At that time, his eye should be well into the healing process and function normally,” said Dr Da Silva.

“Khayjay’s problem is the result of long-term inflammation and the procedure I performed is fairly simple,” Dr Petrick added. “Khayjay seemed to respond well to the surgery. We anticipate he will make a quick recovery and have full use of the eye.”

Top header image: Ferdinand Svehla, Flickr