Meet the world’s bravest dentist...

Root canal work is carried out on Alonya.
Root canal work is carried out on Alonya.
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When an 18st tiger needs root canal treatment it requires more than a simple visit from the vet dentist!

A specialist team of 10 was called upon to treat Blackpool Zoo’s Amur Tiger, Alyona, in a successful two-stage operation to treat and repair her four damaged canine teeth.

Root canal work is carried out on Alonya.

Root canal work is carried out on Alonya.

Veterinary dentist, dual qualified veterinary surgeon and human dental surgeon Dr Alex Smithson, two experienced zoo vets, who were assisted by a resident from Leahurst, The University of Liverpool Animal Teaching Hospital, three expert zoo-keepers and three registered veterinary nurses all worked together to perform the operations at the Big Cat House at Blackpool Zoo.

Root canal treatment for two of Alyona’s canine teeth was carried out on the mother-of-two in September 2015.

The second stage, completing treatment of all four teeth, was carried out in June this year.

Alyona’s canines measured up to 130mm long, compared to approximately 23mm in humans.

Everyone was fantastic to work with; enthusiastic, friendly and professional, committed to prioritising Alyona’s health and welfare

Dr Smithson said: “Everyone was fantastic to work with; enthusiastic, friendly and professional, committed to prioritising Alyona’s health and welfare.”

Zoo vets Karen Archer and Andrew Moore of Lancashire-based Oakhill Veterinary Centre worked alongside Dr Smithson, Stefania Scarabelli from Leahurst and three registered veterinary nurses Karen Kenning, Claire Bloor and Rachel Wager.

Blackpool Zoo’s head keeper, Luke Minns, and the section head of large mammals, Adam Kenyon, were helped by mammal keeper Lauren Ogden.

Zoo vet Karen Archer said: “Planning not one, but two, dental surgeries on the largest of the big cat species is no mean feat!

Alonya in full health

Alonya in full health

“It was also an opportunity for us to administer vaccinations and perform a general health check including 
taking routine blood samples and checking claws – something that would be extremely dangerous if a tiger was awake!”

Adam Kenyon, Section Head of Large Mammals, added: “We are delighted with the results of the two procedures and Alyona has made a full recovery.

“Our sincere thanks go to everyone involved.”

Number of Amur tigers rising

Alonya in full health

Alonya in full health

Alyona, who turned eight on June 2, arrived at Blackpool Zoo in 2012 from her birthplace at Safaripark Beekse Bergen in the Netherlands.

In 2014 she gave birth to two male cubs, Barney and Radzi, the first cubs to arrive at Blackpool Zoo in more than 18 years. Barney and Radzi’s father is Alyona’s mate, Zambar.

According to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Amur Tiger now occurs primarily in Russia. In the 1930s the population here fell to 20-30 animals, but numbers have increased dramatically since.

A comprehensive 2005 population census (Miquelle et al. 2007) resulted in the current population being estimated at 360, which led to a revision of the Amur Tiger’s Red List category from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2007.