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While many people dread a trip to the dentist, on this occasion, the dentist had more reason to be wary of the patient, a 193kg Amur Tiger at Knowsley Safari.
A highly trained team of 13 professionals including two specialist veterinary dentists, a veterinary anaesthetist, dental nurse, radiographer and eight experienced carnivore keepers came together to perform a complex root canal procedure on the world’s largest species of cat.
Kuzma, a 10 year old male Amur Tiger, underwent the four and a half hour procedure to repair and save his canine teeth and prevent any infection or pain in the future.
Jen Quayle, the vet at Knowsley Safari, explains: “Kuzma arrived at the Safari last summer and we’re hopeful he’ll breed with female Amur Tigers as part of conservation efforts. We’re regularly checking on his health and welfare and a routine examination revealed the need for treatment on his teeth.
“The procedure involved a lot of preparation. The anaesthetic keeps Kuzma comfortable and meant the treatment could be carried out safely. Amur Tigers can live in temperatures as low as -40°C, but the process of anaesthesia naturally stops Kuzma regulating his temperature. We created bubble wrap mittens and used duvets to keep Kuzma warm.”
During the procedure a portable dental x-ray was used to assess all of Kuzma’s teeth, which revealed he had a broken root in one of his cheek teeth. This wasn’t apparent on visual examination and was removed to prevent any further pain. The whole process followed similar techniques used for human dental surgery but was scaled up for the big cat.
Jen Quayle concludes: “Tiger’s teeth are a bit like icebergs. The tooth that you see above the gum is just part of the story. The canine tooth’s root runs much deeper into the gum and in a tiger, as much as two thirds of the tooth is hidden inside the jawbone. The total length of the canines is nearly 10cm – about five times as long as a human’s canine root canal. The procedure meant we didn’t have to resort to more intrusive surgery, while relieving Kuzma of any pain and making it much more comfortable for him during mealtimes.
“Kuzma has responded really well and quickly tucked into his tea not long after the procedure.”
Kuzma is one of three Amur Tigers which can be found on Knowsley Safari’s unique Tiger Trail, a 10,000 square metre, Russian inspired natural reserve.
The Tiger Trail provides people with the chance to see and learn about Amur Tigers close up and helps support global Wildcat Conservation Alliance projects to protect and preserve these endangered big cats. There are around 500 Amur Tigers left living in the wild, with numbers sent into decline by poaching and deforestation.
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