Team of ten tackle tiger toothache

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When an 18 stone tiger needs root canal treatment it requires more than a simple visit from the vet dentist!

A specialist team of ten was called upon to treat Amur Tiger, Alyona, in a successful two-stage operation to treat and repair her four damaged canine (fang) teeth.
Veterinary Dentist, dual qualified veterinary surgeon and human dental surgeon Dr Alex Smithson, two experienced zoo vets, who were assisted by a resident from Leahurst, The University of Liverpool Animal Teaching Hospital, three expert zoo-keepers and three registered veterinary nurses all worked together to perform the operations at the Big Cat House.
Root canal treatment for two of Alyona’s canine teeth was carried out on the mother-of-two in September 2015. The second stage, completing treatment of all four teeth, was carried out in June this year. Alyona’s canines measured up to 130mm long, compared to approximately 23mm in humans.
Dr Smithson said: “With a procedure like this there’s a lot of work involved, with days of organisation, planning, equipment preparation and then operating in testing conditions, so it is essential the team functions together well.”
“Everyone was fantastic to work with; enthusiastic, friendly and professional. The net result is a synergistic combination of diverse skills and knowledge, committed to prioritising Alyona's health and welfare.”

Zoo vets Karen Archer and Andrew Moore of Lancashire based Oakhill Veterinary Centre worked alongside Dr Smithson, Stefania Scarabelli from Leahurst and three registered veterinary nurses Karen Kenning, Claire Bloor and Rachel Wager.
Our Head Keeper, Luke Minns, and the Section Head of Large Mammals, Adam Kenyon, were helped by mammal keeper Lauren Ogden.

High specification dental x-ray equipment, along with an air-driven dental unit for the root canal procedure, was kindly provided free of charge by Processing Imaging Equipment Services in Yorkshire.

Zoo vet Karen Archer said: “Planning not one, but two, dental surgeries on the largest of the big cat species is no mean feat!
“Myself and my colleague Andrew Moore, along with Stefania Scarabelli from Leahurst, anaesthetised Alyona and monitored her throughout the operation, enabling Dr Alex Smithson to safely perform the complex dental procedures.
“It was also an opportunity for us to administer vaccinations and perform a general health check including taking routine blood samples and checking claws - something that would be extremely dangerous if a tiger was awake!"

Stuart Thornton, Managing Director of Processing Imaging Equipment Services said “As a family run business we were delighted to be able to support Blackpool Zoo with the care of Alyona.”
Adam Kenyon, Section Head of Large Mammals, added: “We are delighted with the results of the two procedures and Alyona has made a full recovery.
“Our sincere thanks go to everyone involved - the welfare of our beloved animals is our top priority and only the best will do when it comes to performing such complex operations.”


The health of our zoo family, which includes our visitors, staff and animals, is our top priority. In light of the most recent advice from Public Health England and the government, we have closed Blackpool Zoo at until further notice.

Please be assured that our dedicated keeper team will continue to provide the best care for our animals during the closure.

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We’ll keep you informed through our website and social media channels. We apologise for any disappointment and thank you for your patience.

We really look forward to welcoming you back to Blackpool Zoo when we re-open.

Stay safe everyone.