Zia the tigress has several broken teeth!

I was very fortunate recently to be asked to help with the dental treatment of a tiger at the Isle of Wight Zoo (http://www.isleofwightzoo.com/). My good friend and veterinary dentist Lisa Milella BVSc, DipEVDC, MRCVS (http://www.vetdentalreferrals.co.uk/) asked me to come along and help treat a tigress with a number of broken teeth. Zia is 17 years old and was hand-reared as a cub! Her 'Mum' Charlotte was understandably concerned about the anaesthetic for Zia. After being anaesthetised with a blow-dart, Zia was transferred to the dental treatment room. She was then kept anaesthetised by placing a tube in her wind-pipe and connecting her to an anaesthetic machine providing oxygen and anaesthetic gases. Just like we use in dogs and cats (and humans!). Once Lisa and I examined Zia's mouth, we could see she had a number of broken teeth which had exposed the nerves on the inside (pulp tissue). Not only is this painful, but it allows bacteria in and causes a chronic infection in the mouth. Because Zia had broken two of her important fang teeth (canines) it was better to preserve these than extract them. Lisa and I worked on Zia's teeth together and performed root canal therapy on them both. This removes the dead and infected pulp. with special files. They are similar to ones used in human dentistry but obviously much longer! The roots of Zia's teeth were nearly 6cm long!The pulp space is also disinfected and once it is clean, the tooth is filled with a material that forms a solid seal to prevent further bacteria entering. Finally, a filling is placed in the top of the tooth.

Zia the 17 year old Tigress is anaesthetised so that she can receive the dental treatment she needs.


Zia about to have a dental Xray taken. The broken tooth can be seen in her left lower jaw.

High five!

After the dental treatment was completed, Zia was transported back to her bed to recover quietly. She made a smooth and quick recovery and was ready for dinner in no time!

Many people are often concerned about anaesthetising older pets. At 17 years, Zia is considered old as tigers live to about the same age as domestic cats in captivity. However, the only way that animals can receive the treatment they require is to have a general anaesthetic. The risks with modern anaesthetic drugs and procedures are thankfully very low. Zia is going to be much more comfortable and more healthy as a result. A big thank you to all at the Isle of Wight Zoo. Definitely worth a trip the next time you visit!


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