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article imageAlaska dentist performs root canal on 300-pound tiger Kunali

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Oct 23, 2011 in Health
Dr. Doug Luiten an endodontist from Anchorage, performed a root canal on a 300-pound Siberian tiger. Kunali the tiger measures nearly 7 feet from his backside to his nose.
The surgery was deemed necessary due to a fracture of the tooth when it was thought he hit a metal post 4 or 5 years ago. Even though Kunali didn't appear to be bothered by the fractured tooth Dr. Luiten felt the root canal would give the tiger long- term protection from infection.
The Alaska Zoo's veterinarian, Dr. Riley Wilson said, "They're not chewing on things that break their teeth easily, but they're wrestling around. It takes some trauma to chip that big of a tooth." reports
The zoo had to order special instruments due to the large tooth which was a more than three-inch (8 centimeter) canine. They also had to modify the instruments during the procedure. reports Dr. Luiten said, “It’s the longest tooth I’ve ever worked on.”
Dr. David Brunson, a veterinarian from Madison, Wis. administered the anesthesia. Kunali was not restrained and never woke up during the one-hour procedure.
Dr. Brunson said, "He was a good boy, he handled things well." reports
There have been root canals performed at the zoo on a polar bear, another tiger at the zoo, a wolverine, a wolf and and two on a snow leopard.
The root canal on Kunali was the first procedure done in a recently opened operating room. The new veterinary table has a hydraulic lift and fold-out leafs to accommodate limbs and tails.
The Alaska Zoo Executive Director Pat Lampi said, "Before the new operating room opened, procedures were conducted inside the animal's exhibits. "We were on our knees in dens."
The zoo's veterinarian, Dr. Riley Wilson, said going into the animal's habitat was much harder because of the poor lighting and there wasn't enough room for all those who needed to assist with any procedure and it was also much colder.
The new table was made locally and was donated to the zoo. It is worth about $9,000.
Limpi said hours after the surgery 7-year-old Kunali was doing fine.
Dr. Wilson said, “It couldn’t have gone any better today, it was perfect."
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