Thursday, November 3, 2011

Harley's Day With The Dentist

On Tuesday night, Vicky, Stacy (volunteer and former In-Sync Exotics intern), Andrea (volunteer) ,Craig (In-Sync Exotics intern)   and Harley traveled to Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicines, so Harley could be checked out by an animal dentist.

Why did Harley need to go see the dentist?  Well, several months ago, the staff noticed that Harley’s nose started to swell, indicating he may have infected teeth or gums. Harley was seen by two different veterinarians in the hopes of resolving this swelling nose condition.  Unfortunately all attempts to correct the problem failed.

So at 9:00am Wednesday morning, Harley was anesthetized and examined by the dentist.  The exam identified a problem, so Harley was kept under sedation for 4 ½ hours while he was CAT scanned and prepared for surgery. 

It took about an hour to remove all of Harley’s upper right teeth, except his canine which was cleaned and filled.  Fortunately, the canine root was not infected, so he did not undergo a canine root canal.  Before the gums were sutured up, a synthetic bone powder, which promotes bone growth, and a blood clotting powder was added to Harley’s gums.  For the next hour, the vet staff and Vicky alternated in putting pressure on Harley’s gums to stop the bleeding.

Sadly, the teeth had to be removed due to either a fungal, bacterial (or both) infection to his teeth and gums.  The vet told Vicky that several years ago, Harley’s upper back molar cracked and split causing the gum tissue to grow up and around the broken molar.  His front canine was also damaged prior to his arrival at In-Sync Exotics, which may have contributed to Harley’s current health challenges.  There is just no way to know what triggered the infection, and the vet will not know for two weeks whether or not this is a fungal infection, or a combination of fungal and bacterial. 

So, as a preventative, the vet placed Harley on medication that will fight off the fungal infection as it takes about two weeks to take effect and he was placed on an antibiotic medicine to fight the bacterial infection.   Normally, it would only take about five days for his gum tissues to heal, but since his tissues were so badly infected, the vet believes it will take twice as long for his gums to heal completely.

Harley is home now, resting, as the vet gave In-Sync Exotics’ staff strict instructions that Harley was to be kept calm and relaxed for the next 10-14 days.  That means Harley cannot eat regular food—all his meals must be puréed—it also means no bones or regular meat chunks until the vet gives the staff the “green light.”  But that’s not all.  Harley cannot play on the playground for the next two days, plus he is not allowed any enrichment or toys for the duration of his convalescence. 

Infections of this nature can be very dangerous to a big cat or even a small domestic feline.  It is not uncommon for a veterinarian to diagnosis a domestic cat with teeth and gum infections; however, to diagnosis a big cat with this type of problem, without anesthesia, is very difficult and could go undiagnosed for years.  If the staff had not noticed the swelling of the tiger’s nose, the infection could have continued to spread to Harley’s brain resulting in death.  Fortunately, Harley’s infection was discovered and treated in time.  Now we wait for the healing to begin.

Needless to say, the cost to treat this type of dental problem is very expensive.  The medicine to treat the fungal infection cost $1600 for a two week supply.  This does not include the antibiotics, exam, and surgery costs! 

We need your help to continue treating Harley and the other animals that require medical care.  Please consider making a generous end-of-year contribution so we can continue our mission of caring for big cats (and small), like Harley!  We cannot save one tiger at a time without your help!  Thank you!

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