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Big cat toothache

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Shoshone, an 8 yr old mountain lion, is prepped for dental surgery at the VMTH.

It’s not every day that residents in the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service get the chance to operate on a mountain lion, but as veterinary dentist Boaz Arzi explains, the experience provides a valuable learning opportunity for residents and students alike. 

“The mountain lion’s teeth are identical to those of a domestic cat, just bigger,” Arzi says. “It’s good for the residents and students to learn comparative aspects between wildlife and domestic animals and the corresponding similarities and differences between treatments.” 

He added that some of the residents may go on to work in fairly remote places and if they are called on to deal with a wild animal, these experiences will help them know what to do.

About every month or two, Arzi says, the residents of the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service have the opportunity to work on wildlife species—either at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) or at locations such as the Oakland or Sacramento Zoo—through a partnership with the zoological medicine service.

In this case, Shoshone, an eight-year-old mountain lion, was brought to the VMTH by her owners at Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund. She was born and raised in captivity and serves as an animal ambassador for her species. She needed to have her upper canine teeth removed due to fractures and tooth-root abscess as shown in a CT scan combined with a dental radiograph. Drs. Amy Fulton (third-year resident) and Suanúa Serrano-Garcia (first-year resident) performed the surgery under Arzi’s supervision.

Rob and Barbara Dicely, founders of the wildcat educational organization, work with 20 different cats (all under 100 pounds and captive born) including leopards, cheetahs, bobcats, lynx, servals, caracals, ocelots and a Geoffrey’s cat, to promote conservation of threatened species. They rely on the expertise of the staff and faculty at the VMTH as well as their on-call mobile veterinarian Jackie Gai, who received her DVM from UC Davis in 2001 and specializes in zoo and exotic animals.

“It’s great to work with Jackie because she stays in touch with the vets here and we like coming here because we get to know more about what’s going on,” Barbara Dicely said.

For Gai, coming back to the VMTH always teaches her something new and it’s important for her to maintain her relationships here as she performs follow-up exams and is presented with new challenges from her exotic animal clients that need specialized treatment. 

The Dicelys are happy to report that Shoshone bounced back quickly from her surgery and is doing well.

Visit our FB page to view a slideshow of the dental surgery


Trina Wood

Communications officer

tjwood@ucdavis.edu; 530-752-5257