Dental health is as important for animals as it is for humans.
This week, the furry and fanged residents of Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, also known as Zoo Miami, went to the dentist.
A variety of procedures were performed during Dental Week, from cleanings to root canals, and patients included a lion, gorilla, chimpanzee, tapir, aardvark and otters.
The most common issue was removing accumulated tarter, as well as cracked or broken teeth that had to be repaired or extracted.
All the animals were fully sedated, both for their comfort and the dentist’s safety.
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‘We have never had an animal wake up during a procedure,’ said zoo ambassador Ron Magill. ‘They are carefully monitored by an anesthesia team and if they show any sign of awakening, they are administered additional anesthesia to keep them fully sedated.’
Because animals generally don’t complain about dental pain, veterinarians often refer to it as ‘silent suffering.’
By the time anything is discovered, the disease or infection may be so far along that it’s debilitating – or even fatal.
General dental exams are performed on animals during regular health examinations.
If an issue is diagnosed, the zoo’s veterinarians will either resolve it themselves or, depending on its severity, enlist a veterinary dental specialist.
‘Dental health is a key component of the Animal Health Department’s preventative medicine program at Zoo Miami,’ said Magill, who snapped photos of the unusual proceedings. ‘A variety of issues ranging from gum disease to broken teeth can lead to critical care issues that may result in serious infection and even death without treatment.’
This week, veterinary dentist Jamie Berning and her veterinary technician, Jill Bates, traveled to Miami from Columbus, Ohio, to perform procedures on a variety of animals.
Barney, the zoo’s 27-year-old gorilla, Hondo, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, and Kashifa, a 10-year-old lioness all had to have teeth extracted.
The procedures, which took between two and seven hours, were spread out over three days.
Sedation lasts about three to eight hours, with the dosage depending on the size and age of the animal.
Dr. Berning was able to treat two to three animals a day.