The aim of this investigation is to describe the potential contributing nutritional factors involved in the development of ophthalmic and dermatologic changes in four tiger (Panthera tigris) cubs fed an artificial milk formula. The affected animals were compared with two other tiger cubs that had been nursed from their dam naturally. After the first clinical signs appeared, the tiger cubs underwent ophthalmic evaluation. Severe symmetric generalized alopecia over the trunk, sparing the head and distal portion of the front and rear limbs, bilateral cataracts and strabismus were noticed. Milk and blood from the mother, as well as blood from the healthy and affected cubs were collected in order to evaluate complete blood counts, serum chemistry values, and amino acid levels. The amino acid concentrations in the artificial formula were also evaluated for comparison to the milk from the dam. The concentration of taurine, arginine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and histidine were very low in the artificial formulas as compared to the dam´s milk. The tiger cubs that received the artificial formula had lower levels of the amino acids listed previously as compared to those that nursed from the dam naturally. Taurine, as well as arginine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and histidine deficiency appeared to be possible causes of the development of skin problems, cataracts and strabismus in the tiger cubs fed with these particular artificial milk replacers. In the future, special attention should be given in order to make sure that adequate levels of these amino acids are present in artificial milk for tiger cubs.
Key words: Amino acids, nutritional deficiency, taurine, arginine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, histidine, cataracts, strabismus, alopecia, wild felid