Injured Vet Talks About Tiger Bite

By: Tracy Madden Email
By: Tracy Madden Email

A veterinarian bitten by a tiger at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo last week spoke Sunday about the scary incident.

When it comes to big cats Dr. Doug Armstrong is an expert, but in his 23 years at the Omaha zoo, he never had a day like last Wednesday. "I was just going to have someone drive me to the hospital. That's when it was kind of like, oh this isn't good."

Dr. Armstrong described the bite from the 200-pound Malaysian tiger that happened when the tiger was anesthetized for an exam. "One of the keepers had a hold of the back of his neck and I reached for his front legs and apparently stimulated him and it was just instantaneous."

An ambulance rushed Dr. Armstrong to Creighton University Medical Center. Not only did the tiger bite down three times, but when Dr. Armstrong pulled his arm away the skin tore.

Doctors actually made more cuts to help reduce the swelling. A vacuum system on Dr. Armstrong's arm removed all the fluids and infectious materials. Considering that tigers can crush bone, Dr. Armstrong knows it could have been worse.

"The major nerves, major arteries and bone was just fine. I'm sure it will make me more safety conscious, but we'll see the first time I'm working on a tiger again. If it twitches a little bit, if I jump, I probably will."

The zoo is using a new protocol on big cats. It will be re-examined.


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