Staff at a wildlife park have said they “breathed a huge sigh of relief” when their 12-year-old tiger Vladimir woke up unscathed from a risky medical procedure.

The Amur tiger, known as Vlad, came round from general anaesthetic following an X-ray on his spine, looking “annoyed, but alert” according to Kim Wilkins, carnivore team leader at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

She described the procedure as a “heart-in-the-throat” situation, which could cause the tiger to hallucinate or stop breathing, but is essential to check any changes to his back condition.

A procedure was recommended due to staff at the park in Doncaster, South Yorkshire noticing a curve in Vlad’s spine around two years ago.

York Press: Vlad the tiger sedated during the procedure (Danny Lawson/PA)Vlad the tiger sedated during the procedure (Danny Lawson/PA)

It was causing him discomfort and gave him an “odd” gait when he walked.

He was prescribed painkillers, which helped his movement, and now his keepers observe his mobility and behaviour every day and he has weekly observations by vets.

As a result of his condition Vlad has to undergo an X-ray on his back and hips to check it has not worsened, as well as blood tests to make sure his painkillers are not affecting his liver or kidney function.

Ms Wilkins, speaking to the PA News Agency, said initial indications from Wednesday’s procedure are that there was no major change to Vlad’s condition and he is recovering well from the anaesthetic – known as a “knock-down”.

She said: “We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when he sat up, looking mildly annoyed but alert.”

“Tiger knock-downs are always heart-in-the-throat situations anyway, because they don’t always respond very well to the knock-down drugs so they can hallucinate or stop breathing.

York Press: Vlad the tiger sedated (Danny Lawson/PA)Vlad the tiger sedated (Danny Lawson/PA)

“So we were all very, very relieved to get through that with him fine and us intact as well.”

“It can be really dodgy but they have to make that welfare call that we absolutely need to know what’s happening with his spine, so we know that he’s not in compromised welfare. But knock-downs don’t come without risk,” she added.

Ms Wilkins said they do not know what caused Vlad’s condition but his cubs are being observed in case they develop the same issues as they get older.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park has three Amur tigers – male Vlad, who has been at the park for around 10 years, and two females, Sayan and Tschuna.

Ms Wilkins said: “Vlad is an absolutely lovely boy, he’s very nice to his ladies and he’s a proud grandad now.

York Press: A specialist checks for signs of consciousness in Vlad (Danny Lawson/PA)A specialist checks for signs of consciousness in Vlad (Danny Lawson/PA)

“He fathered cubs here at the park about six years ago and they’ve gone on to have babies, so he’s actually a grandad, believe it or not.

“He’s fabulous and he’s a definite favourite with the team, a beautiful, beautiful boy.”

Ms Wilkins said they will give Vlad a treat once the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off.

She said: “We’ll leave him to this evening, let his stomach rest and then we’ll give him a nice, big feed tomorrow.

“He might get a horse leg if he’s lucky.”