Dental day with PEIVDF

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“Dental Day” for Wild Animals:

Wildlife Waystation & Peter Emily Foundation

On Saturday, April 21, Wildlife Waystation welcomed the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation (PEIVDF) for “Dental Day.” A team of more than one dozen veterinary dentists, veterinary technicians, dentists to humans and students in the field were on site to perform dental procedures on some of our animals.

The Peter Emily Foundation treats wild animals in sanctuaries and facilities throughout the country at no cost. When PEIVDF began its missions in 2008, its first stop was at the Wildlife Waystation. “The quality of the operatories and level of care given to their animals made the Waystation the perfect candidate for PEIVDF's veterinary dental services,” as stated Dr. Steve Holmstrom, veterinary dentist, who oversees missions for PEIVDF. During the last decade, PEIVDF has treated numerous animals at Wildlife Waystation including multiple tigers, chimpanzees, leopards, wolves, hyenas, bobcats and even ferrets.

The teams arrived in the early morning for preparations and safety briefings.Team members had traveled from locations across the country including Washington, DC, Miami, Santa Fe, Colorado Springs, Virginia, Boston, and South Dakota. The dentists were organized into two teams with oversight management by three Wildlife Waystation veterinarians and four staff veterinary technicians.

Radiographs were taken for Brett, an American black bear. The team assessed that he needed to be treated for two root canals in upper canines. Two dentists – Dr. Bradley LeValley and Dr. Steve Spitz – each worked on a different tooth simultaneously. “Brett has recovered beautifully,” said Dr. Rebecca Richard, Chief Veterinarian at Wildlife Waystation.

Most of the dental team members have done dozens of missions sporting bright patches on green vests showing off the sanctuaries they served through the years. “Knowing we can help when animals can’t ask for help is what motivates me,” said Kris Bannon who served as Quarter Master on the team working on Brett.Bannon continued, “…when an animal doesn’t have to live in pain, and we can create a better quality of life, you can see the difference after the procedure.”

The students who join the dental missions are a mixture of human and animal dentists. Holstrom explained “veterinary dental students join dentists who have decades of experience working on humans.” When asked about the difference of working on small animals, such as dogs and cats, humans or large animals the responses were inevitably the same – nothing. “There is nothing different,” said Ruth Ward, a new member of the team. “Once you get past the ‘awe factor’ of working on a large animal because it is something you don’t do every day, the teeth are the same; it’s just the size that’s different.”

The Peter Emily Foundation was founded in 2005 by Dr. Peter Emily, an accomplished human and veterinary dentist with a career spanning over 40 years. The mission of PEIVDF is to provide advanced veterinary dental services for the benefit of captive exotic animals. They have treated more than 400 animals at 20 sanctuaries during 74 missions at no cost to the sanctuaries. “If we can help animals, and teach students how to help animals, then we’ve done our job,” said Holstrom.

In Gypsy’s Memory

One of our lionesses, Gypsy, the mother of the three lion cubs born last September, was also treated during “Dental Day.” To our great regret and enormous sorrow, she died despite aggressive efforts to revive her.Gypsy had three damaged canines with exposed pulp that necessitated a root canal. The injuries were sustained during the emergency evacuation for the Creek Fire in December 2017. One of the teeth was fractured through the gum line and without repair this tooth could have led to infection in the bones in her face creating a life-threatening and painful condition.

One of the most dangerous aspects of any elective procedure is the risks of anesthesia. Management for animals under anesthesia is no different than management for humans with reactions varying. “We never undertake general anesthesia without careful forethought, and we are just devastated,” said Richard. Planned procedures on other animals for the day were cancelled.

Gypsy gave birth to three cubs – two girls and one boy -- in September 2017 with her mate Tangassi. The three lion cubs were named Jala Gypsy (Jala means “special one” and Gypsy in honor of her mother), Nombie (meaning “Beauty”) and Tafari (“He who inspires awe”) were weaned some time ago. They have already been taking short walks with our professional animal handlers during the last weeks. Additional resources will be invested to intensify their enrichment program. Sponsorships at all levels are requested for the cubs to help support their ongoing care and well-being. While we already seek sponsorships for all animals at Wildlife Waystation, we are seeking to raise $10,000 for each cub to cover costs of food and health care during the coming year.
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How to co-exist with Native Wildlife

  • Do not leave pet food and water outdoors, especially overnight.
  • Do not leave small pets and children unattended - even if fenced - in an active wildlife area.
  • Quickly harvest ripe or fallen fruit. Rodents who eat the fruit ultimately attract predators such as coyotes, bobcats and foxes.
  • Trim all trees and bushes within 4 feet of a house so that animals cannot reach the roof.
  • Make sure that compost piles are kept in secure, closed containers.
  • Place trash cans away from structures and secure lids with bungee cords. Deposit smelly refuse in trash shortly before pickup.
  • Cover all access openings to a house with mesh securely attached to house and install chimney caps.
  • Put woodpiles on raised platforms at least 18” high to discourage nesting by rodents and other animals.
  • Make sure you clean up under bird feeders so that discarded seeds are not attracting rats, mice, squirrels, etc.
  • If you have a water source like a pool, fountain or fish pond, be sure the water is being circulated to avoid providing a mosquito nesting ground.