virginia zoo lion root canal

Zoo MedicineZola Gets a Root Canal

July 9, 2015

During a routine annual exam several weeks ago, the Zoo veterinary team discovered that female lion Zola had a broken tooth with exposed pulp cavity. The pulp cavity is the inside part of the tooth where the nerves and blood supply are, and if it becomes exposed it can be very painful and susceptible to infection. If the tooth becomes infected or dies it needs to be extracted, so in order to save it the vet team had to act fast.

A root canal was in order!

The Zoo reached out to Dr. West of West Animal Clinic in Norfolk who has assisted with dental procedures in the past. Dr. West and his team arrived on the day of the root canal as Zola was being anesthetized.

The procedure took place inside the lion night house to eliminate some of the risk inherent with moving large animals like Zola. Nearly all of the Zoo’s medical equipment is portable and can be moved to anywhere in the Zoo.

The root canal took nearly four hours. Zola stayed anesthetized throughout the entire procedure and was closely monitored for signs of stress, dehydration, or other complications. Throughout the procedure, multiple x-rays were taken to assess the tooth and check for any other abnormalities and to make sure the entire pulp cavity was cleaned out and that it was being filled properly (the Zoo’s portable digital x-ray unit came in very handy for this!).

Once both Dr. Guthrie and Dr. West were satisfied that the tooth was clean, it was filled and then sealed with a material that will help keep it strong.

Zola recovered very well. She never indicated any pain at all and has finished all of her antibiotics. This is a testament to how important preventive care and routine exams are. Animal care staff would never have known that Zola’s tooth was broken and susceptible to becoming infected and painful if a routine wellness exam had not been performed.

The Zoo would like to thank Dr. West and his team for assisting with this important procedure.