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How do you treat a lion with toothache? Very carefully...

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 19, 2013

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

  • Dr Peter Kertesz performing dental surgery on Indu the lion at Paignton Zoo.

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This is the moment one of the world's only specialist zoo dentists removed a troublesome canine - from the mouth of a lion.

Indu, a 10-year-old Asiatic lion, was anaesthetised by her keepers before a team of eight medics got to work operating on her.

The hefty cat then had a four-inch canine and pre-molar extracted by veterinary dentist Dr Peter Kertesz.

Zookeepers believed Indu, who was born at Paignton Zoo in Devon in 2003, had chipped her teeth while biting on something hard.

Dr Kertesz is one of the world's leading veterinary dentists and regularly travels the globe treating large and difficult animals.

His first experience of animal dentistry was in 1978 and he has since worked with a range of exotic animals including pandas, elephants, whales and gorillas.

Dr Kertesz travelled down from his dental practice in London to work alongside seven other vets, dental nurses and mammal keepers at Paignton Zoo on the two hour op.

He said: "Animals or people, it's all the same - they need treatment, they get treatment. The scale and the location is what varies.

"People ask if this is just a bit of fun, but it is a very serious business. The health and sometimes the life of a rare creature is in your hands.

"Indu had an abscess in her mouth and so needed to be operated on. I've operated on lion's many times, it was a standard procedure but I would never call it routine as there are always risks involved which you need to be fully prepared for.

"The operation itself took around 40 minutes and she recovered well - she was sitting up around 15 minutes after."

Neil Bemment, the zoo's director of operations and curator of mammals, said: "We think she chipped some teeth when biting on something that was unexpectedly hard.

"As tooth-ache can be painful we wanted to give her a once-over in case they were becoming infected. We were very pleased that Peter was able to come and carry out this specialist operation."

An adult Asiatic lion weighs around 20 stone and has up to 30 teeth - including canines that can be many inches in length.

Dr Kertesz owns a huge range of portable unique dental tools that he has designed and had built especially for him by precision engineers.

He says he takes the same rigorous approach whether his patient is animal or human.

He said: "It is about preparation, anticipation and decision making. I have invested a lot of time and thought in working with animals.

"I've travelled to many places providing dental treatment to rare animals - last month I was in the Ukraine treating a walrus."

Dr Kertesz found Zoodent International in 1985 - a specialist zoo and wildlife dental service. He is also dental consultant to the Zoological Society of London and the International Zoo Veterinary Group.

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