EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Twelve-year-old tiger, BB King, was recently diagnosed with lingual hemangiosarcoma following a routine veterinary exam at his home at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.
Lingual hemangiosarcoma is a rare form of cancer generally diagnosed in domestic cats and dogs, and there are no recorded cases of the disease presenting itself in a tiger, until now.
Pathology also shows the cancer is localized to BB King’s tongue even though it typically presents in larger organs, such as the heart, in domestic animals, according to a press release.
When the rare tumor on BB King’s tongue was diagnosed, TCWR veterinarian Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, consulted with Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine faculty members, Dr. Sara Gardhouse and Dr. Sam Hocker.
After the consultation, Dr. Sweeley then performed multiple radiographs and ultrasounds to ensure there were no tumors elsewhere in BB King’s body. When results confirmed that the cancer had not metastasized and that BB King was in otherwise perfect health, the team decided to pursue Intravenous Chemotherapy treatment.
BB King will receive the chemotherapy drug, Doxorubicin, every three weeks for about five doses.
By applying the medication intravenously, the TCWR animal care team feels that the odds are in BB King’s favor to beat lingual hemangiosarcoma. However, to date, there are no records of a sanctuary ever treating a tiger with IV chemo.
If BB King has a negative reaction at any point during treatment, the TCWR said it will discontinue the process in favor of palliative care which, unfortunately, may ultimately result in having to make a quality of life decision for the beloved tiger.
Treatment will take place in the Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital at TCWR.
BB King and his brother, Mack, have temporarily been relocated to an adjacent area known as Rescue Ridge, the release said.
The release said the minimum cost of BB King’s initial medication is projected to be $2,000 and ongoing care costs are certain to follow.
The TCWR team said it will be updating BB King’s progress on their social media platforms and it intends to host exclusive, paid live stream content on Facebook during his treatment days, which may start as early as Sunday, July 19.
The release said the proceeds from the paid live videos will go towards the tiger’s treatment costs, as well as other animal health-related initiatives at the nonprofit sanctuary.