Meet the Patient: Suntil

Name: Suntil

Sex: Female

Species: sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)

Age: 18 years old

Weight: 51 kg (112 lb.)

Reason for Visit: Routine physical + dental exam

Suntil has been showing signs of potential issues with her teeth, so the Virginia Zoo Veterinary team invited Dr. Colleen Fox, a veterinarian from the Center of Veterinary Expertise (COVE) with a special interest in dentistry, to assist in Suntil’s exam.

At the beginning of the exam, radiographs of her skull and teeth were performed and showed an area of infection in her gum line where a canine tooth had been previously removed. Dr. Fox helped to clean up that area and sutured it closed to prevent further infection. The rest of her teeth look very stable on x-rays.

To see images from the dental procedure, please see the end of the blog.

To allow that area of her gums to heal, Suntil will be offered a softened diet for about 2-3 weeks. Our commissary keeper, Chef Yohn, steams her veggies and the Asia Zoo Keepers add a little water to her specially formulated biscuits to soften them as well.

Upon completion of the dental exam, Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Vet, continued to examine Suntil for her routine exam. Radiographs of her chest and abdomen, bloodwork and a urinalysis did not reveal any significant findings at this time, however a small mass was noted under the skin on Suntil’s belly and a few cells were collected from this area to check for any underlying issues. Results are pending and full removal has been planned, which will also be when staff check on her healing gums.

Suntil also received a rabies vaccine and a tetanus vaccine, and had her nails trimmed. Suntil has returned to her normal routine post-exam, with the exception of her temporarily softened diet. She can be seen napping, exploring and playing with enrichment with her mate, Palu, in their exhibit in Asia – Trail of the Tiger.

As a precaution, some of the following images contain graphic content which may not be suitable for all viewers.