Try pulling tiger teeth for a living

Try pulling tiger teeth for a living

By Mal Holland
From: The Daily Telegraph
September 11, 2009 4:59PM

A TIGER with a toothache is not a happy cat. So Taronga Zoo vets decided to act quickly before Satu the Sumatran tiger started showing signs of pain from a broken tooth.

The four-year-old was put in the expert hands of veterinary dentist Dr David Clarke for the tooth repair, which included dreaded root canal therapy.

But Satu wouldn’t have felt a thing – he was fully anaesthetised – by hand, not dart gun.

This ensured the animal remained comfortable, calm and stress-free, zoo senior vet Larry Vogelnest said.

“Adult tigers have 30 teeth, with some of them very large – their canine teeth can be several centimetres long,” Dr Vogelnest said.

“Their teeth are specially adapted for tearing flesh, acting like a pair of scissors when they chew, which makes for a very interesting dental patient.

“Although Satu was not showing any outward signs of pain, we called on the expertise of Dr Clarke to take a closer look at the broken tooth and perform root canal therapy to safeguard against any infection.”

Dr Clarke is one of a small number of specialist veterinary dentists in Australia and is vital to the oral health of Taronga animals as diverse as sun bears, lions, tigers and meerkats. Many of his dental instruments are specially designed and adapted for treatment of exotic animal patients.

Satu, which means “One” in Indonesian, is expected to be eating meat off the bone within a week.

Taronga is part of an international breeding program for Sumatran tigers, which are on the brink of extinction, with about 600 remaining in the wild.

Their main threats include habitat destruction and poaching.

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