A tiger at a zoo in Devon has undergone a lengthy root canal procedure – performed by a brave veterinary dentist.
Fabi, who is 11 years old and lives at Paignton Zoo, weighs more than 100kg (220lbs) and has 30 teeth including four very long canines.
He required a complete root canal after fracturing his lower canine teeth – measuring 8cm (3.15in) from crown to root – and beginning to develop abscesses.
Jo Reynard, a vet at the zoo, said: “Life in the Paignton Zoo veterinary department is always interesting, but a bilateral tiger root canal treatment is a challenging procedure.
“The fact it went so incredibly smoothly reflects the great team spirit among vets, keepers, curatorial staff and outside experts.”
Vets and keepers created a makeshift operating theatre in the largest tiger den the day before the procedure, making a table out of hay bales and tarpaulin.
Matthew Oxford, a veterinary dentist, brought specialist surgical kit and hand-held radiographic apparatus to carry out the two-and-a-half hour procedure on December 18.
He was accompanied by three vets, three vet nurses, two big cat keepers and senior animal staff – including one armed with a shotgun as part of safety protocols.
Jo Reynard administered anaesthetic to Fabi through the steel mesh of the den wall, with the calm tiger lying down for the injection.
He then received similar care to human patients including a breathing tube to deliver anaesthetic gases, and carefully-administered fluids and pain relief.
Fabi was kept warm throughout the procedure by an electric blanket and a duvet, with his paws wrapped in bubble wrap to ensure his extremities did not become cold.
Mr Oxford took x-rays and found Fabi’s lower canine teeth were fractured, the pulp had died and tooth root abscesses had started to develop.
His canines measured 8cm from crown to root. Human teeth are usually between 2-2.5cm (0.7-1n), with the largest domestic dog teeth about 4-4.5cm (1.5-1.7in) long.
The root canal procedure removed the bacteria and pulp from the chamber in the centre of the tooth and filled it with inert material.
After the procedure was completed, Fabi was carried to his pen where he was sitting up within about 15 minutes.
He received one-on-one observation during his recovery and seemed back to normal by the following day.
Nic Dunn, curator of mammals at the zoo, said: “Fabi is getting on now and it is not uncommon to see signs of wear and tear in an older cat.
“For tigers, the teeth and claws are very important pieces of equipment and so we need to make sure they are well looked after.
“While Matthew was performing the dental work it also gave us the chance to give Fabi a full health check and we were pleased to see that he was in great health.”