Thursday, April 16, 2015

#Jaguar at Akron Zoo has dental procedure under anesthesia

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

How does one treat a 120-pound predator with a really bad toothache? “Very carefully,” quipped David Barnhardt, director of marketing and guest services at the Akron Zoo.

Anesthesia is an absolute necessity while performing a root canal on a very large cat, said zoo veterinarian Dr. Kim Cook, who assisted local dentists Dr. Lisa Petrov and her father, Dr. Nelson M. Petrov, in the surgery on the zoo’s male jaguar, Chack.

The common dental procedure that is so dreaded by most humans has only been performed one other time on an Akron Zoo animal, and it was the first on a non-domestic animal for Cook.

Chack wasn’t even grumpy while dealing with the cracked canine tooth, said Cook. “He’s a tough guy. He was still carrying around his big enrichment items like 55-gallon barrels,” she said.

Chack, a crowd favorite at the zoo, has fathered two litters of cubs with the zoo’s female jaguar Noam — one in 2005 and one in 2009 — producing six offspring.

Born at the Zoologico Jungal in Guatemala in 2000, Chack came to Akron in 2003.

Animal keepers noticed Chack’s tooth was cracked during a daily routine medical check, said Cook.
The zoo’s big cats are trained to assist in their own health care. They willingly back up to a wall of a cage for an inoculation, lie down to allow keepers to hook their tails and pull them out of the cage for blood draws, and open their mouths to show their pearly whites, said Cook. “One of the great things about our keepers is they have trained Chack and our other big cats to show us their teeth,” she said.

By using hand signs, a verbal command and a treat of chicken, beef or liver, keepers avoid stressing the animals with too much human involvement and limit the amount of anesthesia that would be necessary to do common medical tests and treatments.

During surgery, the tooth was filled with an inert material, which eliminated pain while allowing him to keep the tooth and help prevent future infections.

While the dental procedure lasted only about 40 minutes, Cook said she took advantage of the opportunity to examine the 15-year-old cat to make sure he is otherwise healthy.

Chack was back to his normal self by evening the day of the surgery. “He came right out of it and ate dinner that night,” Cook said.


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