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Seventh large cat dies of canine distemper at Wylie animal rescue center
Tacoma is the seventh big cat to die of canine distemper at the rescue center (In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Educational Center )
A popular Siberian tiger is the seventh big cat to die of canine distemper at a Wylie rescue center.
Tacoma, 14, lived at In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center since he was 9 months old. He had been rescued from a breeder trying to produce white tiger cubs and quickly became one of the most popular cats at the center. He died Sunday night.
As an aging tiger, Tacoma had developed degenerative arthritis in his hip, which was treated with agroundbreaking surgery in March. But his recovery was slowed after he was diagnosed with canine distemper.
“He was starting to get better and stronger, and then this hit. He was just never able to completely bounce back from either one,” said Lisa Williams, media director for In-Sync.
Twenty-two big cats have been diagnosed with canine distemper at the center. Officials believe it was spread through the population by raccoons. There is no vaccination against canine distemper for large cats.
Tacoma was the sixth tiger to die of the disease and fourth of six siblings. A lioness has also died from canine distemper. His death has struck volunteers at the center especially hard. He was known to have a close relationship with founder Vicky Keahey.
“Each of these losses has been devastating to us, but Tacoma is extremely special to Vicky, our founder and president,” the center posted on its Facebook site Monday morning. “She is going to need good thoughts and prayers from every one of us to make it through this.”
Tacoma’s enclosure is at the front of the center, and he was known to ham it up for visitors, often snorting bubbles while he swam in his pool. “Tacoma is the soul” of the center, Williams said.
Though there is no cure for canine distemper among the big cats, volunteers and veterinarians have been gathering blood and tissue samples from the diseased cats to send to researchers, Williams said.
The cats have been quarantined, treated with antibiotics and vitamins, but there is no guarantee that any of them will return to normal health.
“They’re these big, beautiful animals that should be able to overcome anything,” Williams said. “It’s been a rough summer to say the least.”