A 17-year-old tiger is recovering well at the Isle of Wight Zoo after complicated root canal work to repair a number of broken teeth.

Sussex-based veterinary dentist Rachel Perry was recently asked to help with the dental treatment of a rather unusual patient – a poorly tiger named Zia at the Isle of Wight Zoo in Sandown.

Rachel – whose normal patients include more familiar pet-sized dogs, cats and rabbits – was contacted by her friend and fellow veterinary dentist Lisa Milella, and asked to help treat the tigress who was suffering with a number of broken teeth.

After being successfully tranquilized using a blow-dart, 17-year-old Zia was transferred to the dental treatment room and kept anaesthetised by placing a tube down her wind-pipe and connecting her up to a machine providing a mixture of oxygen and anaesthetic gas.

Both Lisa and Rachel had examined Zia’s mouth and identified a number of broken teeth showing exposed nerves inside the ultra-sensitive pulp cavity, which required urgent treatment.

Rachel, resident dental referral vet at Grove Lodge Vets 24hr Veterinary Hospital in Worthing, said: “Not only is this painful, but it allows bacteria in, which can cause 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 removing dead and infected pulp using special files – similar to files used in human dentistry but obviously much longer as the roots of Zia’s teeth were nearly 6cm (2.5 inches) long! Like in a human root canal treatment, pulp space is also disinfected and once clean, the tooth is filled with material that forms a solid seal preventing further bacteria entering. Finally, a filling is placed on the top of the tooth.”

After completion of successful dental treatment Zia was transported back to her bed to quietly recover. She made a smooth and quick recovery and was ready for dinner in no time.

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