Wildlife & Zoo Dentistry

Veterinary Dentists are expert specialists and often are called in to diagnose and treat veterinary dental disease and injuries in wildlife and zoo animals. Dental conditions in wild or exotic animals is actually quite common and just like in humans and our pets, dental disease and injuries are quite painful and can negatively impact the overall health of the animal.

As board certified veterinary dentists, we are very proud to be able to offer our time and skills to wildlife rescues, sanctuaries and zoos who have animals in need of care.

New Smiles for Shelter Pets!

Thanks to a group of veterinarians led by board-certified veterinary dental specialist Dr. Brook A. Niemiec, DVM, DAVDC of Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery, dogs and cats from Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Utah received important dental care that not only relieves painful dental conditions, but also greatly improves an animals chance of being adopted. Continue reading “New Smiles for Shelter Pets!” »

Charlie the Sea Otter Gets a Visit from the Dentist

Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery Team at Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific

Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery Team at Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific

Charlie is a sea otter at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Aquarium staff noticed his a decreased appetite and he was showing signs of oral pain. A sedated exam by the aquarium veterinarian revealed food entrapment between the mandibular fourth premolars and first molars, which was causing gum recession and inflammation. So, the aquarium made the call to Dr. Brook Niemiec and his team at Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery. Continue reading “Charlie the Sea Otter Gets a Visit from the Dentist” »

Jaguar Root Canal

Jaguar Gets Root CanalJunior, a 16 year old male jaguar at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle was noted to have a broken right maxillary canine tooth.  In the wilde, the maxillary canine tooth is important for the jaguar to be able to grab and hold prey. Although Junior does not have to catch his dinner, this tooth is still important for him and his health.

Dr. Matson, a board certified veterinary dentist at Eastside Veterinary Dentistry in the Seattle area was consulted for the best treatment for Junior’s tooth. Examination of the tooth showed that although part of the tooth was missing, the rest of the tooth could be saved through root canal therapy.

Jaguar Root Canal - Dr. Matson

On the initial visit, the inside of Junior’s tooth was instrumented and disinfected. In addition, since the fracture was new, there was some persistent bleeding at the tip of the canal. Dr Matson placed a medicament called calcium hydroxide to cauterize the vessels and placed a temporary restoration.

Jaguar Root Canal at Woodland Park Zoo

On the second visit, three months later, Junior’s tooth was re-treated with removal of the calcium hydroxide and a permanent filling was placed in the canal.  The opening in the tooth was restored with a permanent restoration.

Junior recovered well and is very happy to have all of his teeth!

Tiger's fractured tooth before root canal treatment.

Tiger Tooth in the Zoo Pool, Means a Call to the Vet Dentist

Tiger at Phoenix Zoo

Orion is a Bengal Tiger who had a broken tooth needing veterinary dental treatment.

Recently veterinary dentists from Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists were called on by a zoo in Phoenix to examine a four year old male Bengal Tiger.  Zoo keepers were worried when they found a tooth floating in the swimming pool inside his enclosure. A missing tooth, may not seem like a big problem for a big cat, but zoo keepers know the importance of oral health for all animals, and left untreated, a missing or broken tooth could result in more complex oral health issues for the tiger later.

Closer examination by the zoo veterinarian confirmed the tiger had broken the crown of his upper canine tooth off near the gumline. Doctors and staff from Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists were called in to perform a root canal on the remaining tooth to relieve his pain and prevent infection in the tooth and root.

Under general anesthesia, root canal treatment was performed. The length of the remaining tooth and root was nearly three inches long. Performing the root canal treatment allowed the tiger’s remaining tooth structure to be preserved instead of having a major surgical extraction.

By the next day he was back to himself playing in his pool. The doctors advised him to be more careful jumping in an out of his pool from now on. You can see more great zoo dentistry cases from Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists here.



Probe demonstrates wolf Drainage tract

Veterinary Dental X-Rays Determine Cause of Wolf’s Condition

wolf dental treatment

Dr. Woodward with McKinley, a gray wolf at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.

Board Certified Veterinary Dentist, Dr. Tony Woodward of Montana Pet Dentistry & Oral Surgery, traveled to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana to provide veterinary dental care to a gray wolf with chronic drainage under his right jaw.

This type of drainage can be a sign of a more severe infection and it was important the animal be examined to determine a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.



Upon Dr. Woodward’s initial oral examination the right tooth looked normal. However, in veterinary dentistry, radiographs are vital to get a more clear picture of what is happening below an animal’s gumline. In this case, the wolf’s tooth was dead and that there was a large area of root and bone damage around this tooth, which was the source of the drainage tract.

X-ray of Wolf Tooth Infection

Veterinary Dental Radiographs reveal bone and root damage.

Due to extensive damage, this tooth could not be treated with root canal therapy, and Dr. Woodward extracted the tooth. This wolf is now recovered and in much better overall health thanks to veterinary dental radiographs and the expert treatment of a board certified veterinary dentist.

Root Canals Enable Bobcat to Keep Vital Teeth

reggiemain_300Reggie was brought to Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery in California for evaluation of a recurrent left facial swelling with abscess formation. Reggie is a bobcat who is cared for by Fund For Animals Wildlife Center, who had been keeping an eye on the condition had persisted for about two years. In the past, the swelling responded to antibiotic administration, however it after the condition continued to persist, it was clear that Reggie needed a more thorough veterinary specialist evaluation.

Bobcat Root Canal - Veterinary DentistryAfter being safely anesthetized, a thorough evaluation and veterinary dental x-rays, revealed that three of his canine teeth had exposed pulp secondary to dental attrition (wear). The pulp exposure allowed bacteria from the mouth to infect the endodontic system of Reggie’s teeth. Once the pulp is infected and it becomes necrotic there is no way for the animal’s immune system to combat this infection, which leads to the constant release of bacteria from the bottom of the tooth’s root. The constant release of bacteria leads to abscess formation causing Reggie’s recurrent facial swelling.

The priority for veterinary dentists is always to save an animal’s teeth when possible. In wildlife cases, even those at animal sanctuaries, the animal often relies on heavily on certain teeth, in Reggie’s case the canines. Each of the three infected teeth were treated with root canal therapy, which in typically will last through the rest of the animal’s life.

Reggie is now in far less pain and with a healthy mouth that will allow him to roam and enjoy life at the sanctuary.

veterinary dentist treats grizzly bear tooth

Veterinary Dentist Cares for Animals at Animal Sanctuary in Yellowstone

Dr. Tony Woodward, board certified veterinary dentist in Colorado and Montana, has a love of wildlife and often donates his time and expertise to treat painful veterinary dental disease and conditions. He recently went to Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, in West Yellowstone Montana to evaluate and treat some of the wolves and grizzly bears in need of dental care.

veterinary dentist treats grizzly bear tooth

Dr. Woodward examines broken grizzly bear tooth and prepares for extraction.

Roosevelt the Grizzly Bear

Upon examination, Dr. Woodward found that had a broken, infected upper incisor. The tooth required extraction, not only to alleviate a painful condition, but to prevent the infection from developing into severe periodontal disease which would further compromise the adjacent teeth and jaw structures.




Veterinary Dentist Treats Wolf Tooth Infection

Infection from dead tooth causes severe damage and drainage from wolf’s jaw.

McKinley the Gray Wolf

McKinley, needed a veterinary dental evaluation from Dr. Woodward to determine the cause of a chronic draining tract under the right side of his jaw. In all cases, a veterinary dentist utilizes veterinary dental radiographs to diagnose conditions and plan the appropriate treatment. In McKinley’s case the radiographs revealed a dead tooth, with a large area of root and bone damage that was the source of the drainage tract. The damage was so severe, the drainage was coming out under his lower jaw. This tooth was extracted, preventing further infection which was compromising the wolf’s health.


Learn more about Dr. Woodward’s veterinary dental practice and see more cases of successfully treating wildlife dental disease.

Veterinary Dentist Treats Zoo Animals

What does an Asian Sun Bear, Otter and Meerkat have in common? Other than the fact that they are all residents of the Pueblo Zoo, they all are susceptible to painful dental disease that can affect their overall health. This is why Dr. Woodward from Montana Pet Dentistry & Oral Surgery shares his time and skills with zoo animals in need of important oral health care.

Enjoy some of the interesting images below, documenting veterinary dental diagnosis and treatment.