Elmwood Park Zoo’s adult female jaguar, Inka, recently underwent dental surgery to help remove a badly damaged canine tooth. Elmwood Park Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Michele Goodman recruited the help of veterinary dental specialist Dr. John Lewis of NorthStar Vets, veterinary anesthesiologist Dr. Andrea Caniglia of Veterinary Dental Specialists, and Brandywine Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Erica Miller to help with Inka’s procedure. The zoo was also fortunate to have the support of Jeff Scharff, District Sales Manager of Planmed, Inc., who provided the Verity® Cone Beam Computed Tomography Scanner to evaluate Inka’s teeth, and Dr. Elizabeth McMurtrie of Spring House Animal Hospital, who loaned the zoo a portable blood analyzer so that Inka could be carefully monitored while under anesthesia.

Inka's surgery team post-procedure

Thanks to training administered by Elmwood Park Zoo Animal Keeper Kate Olsen and Assistant Curator Laura Fournier, Inka voluntarily received an injection of sedative.  Within 10 minutes of the injection, Inka was ready for her procedure. Her head was placed inside the scanner and images were obtained of her skull and mouth. After reviewing the scans, the veterinary team confirmed that Inka’s upper right canine tooth was beyond repair and needed to be removed to protect her health.

With the scans complete, general anesthesia was induced. Inka was intubated and hooked up to monitoring equipment. In addition to routine monitoring equipment, Dr. Caniglia placed an arterial catheter to continuously monitor Inka’s blood pressure. Inka also received intravenous fluids and supplemental medications throughout the procedure. Spring House Animal Hospital used their portable blood analyzer to sample Inka’s electrolyte and blood gas levels every 30 minutes to ensure that the big cat was doing well under anesthesia. While assisting with anesthetic monitoring, Elmwood Park Zoo Veterinary Technicians Holly Brown and Kourtney Conti collected blood samples for routine evaluation of liver, kidney and heart function.

Dental extractions are no easy feat; they require doctors to employ both skill and patience to preserve the tissues and structures around the extracted tooth. Elmwood Park Zoo recently obtained a state-of-the-art dental machine that Dr. Lewis used for the procedure. Following the successful extraction of the damaged canine tooth, Dr. Lewis sutured the soft tissues over the extraction site. Another essential part of dental extractions is managing the patient’s pain. Dr. Lewis used a series of nerve blocks to alleviate pain at the extraction site and he placed Inka on two pain medications to maintain her comfort following surgery. 

Overall Inka’s exam and dental surgery took just under five hours. Thanks to the diligent patient care and monitoring that Inka received by the talented group of experts who assembled for her procedure, she is doing extremely well. The surgical site is expected to heal over the next two to three weeks, after which Inka will be able to return to her normal diet.