KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WVLT) -- It is common to see cats and dogs being treated at the UT Vet School, but big cats?
UT Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Ed Ramsey says, "We actually see a lion here in the clinic once a week."
And, tigers too.
Two large cats were brought in Thursday morning from Tiger Haven in Roane County.
Sohan (a tiger) came for a checkup on a heart condition.
But Tsavo's procedure is the main event.
Dr. Nathan Lee, UT Veterinary Radiation Oncologist says, "It is a very unique case. It's unique that this type of melanoma is not usual in cats. Never mind a lion. We think this is the first report case of this kind of melanoma in a lion."
The 12 year old, 350 pound cat has skin cancer, a tumor on his upper lip.
Dr. Ramsey says, "This form occurs in domestic cats, especially white ones on the ears. And is probably solar induced. In Tsavo we're not really sure how it cropped up. It's not in the right location for sun induced tumor."
He's undergoing his third round of radiation.
Debbie Wilkins of Tiger Haven says, "When we take them in, we promise to give them the best life we can, and if we can let them live a happy a life, we do. We made that promise when we took them, and we keep our word to them."
The team of vets used tranquilizer darts to make Tsavo sleepy.
The final test to know that he is asleep is an ear twitch.
Dr. Ramsey says they use a rod and you tickle the hair on the inside of the ears.
Under heavy sedation the vets move the lion from a rolling cage onto a gurney to prep him for treatment.
"Under the beam itself, it's only a couple of minutes. So actually 80 percent of time is involved in getting him to go to sleep and transporting him and bringing him back out, " according to Ramsey.
The radiation appears to be working, melting the tumor timely.
Lee says, "The first treatment, it (the tumor) was 10 by 12 cm, today it is 6.5 by 4 cm, so pretty impressive response."
In case you're wondering- no he hasn't lost any hair.
Ramsey comments on his coat, "He has a heck of a mane. He has some serious dreadlocks."
And once he wakes from his cat nap- Tsavo will be back in tiger haven - where he will be treated like a king, again.
Wilkins says, "We will fix him a sick boy pan, it's got special meats and cuts, he's pampered."
He has another round of radiation next week.
Once the tumor shrinks enough, the vets may perform surgery to remove the rest.
Tsavo's treatments are costly.
You can help donate to his treatment or the care of all at Tiger Haven of Roane County by grabbing a link.