What does the veterinary team at the Oakland Zoo do when we determine an animal needs a special procedure out of the normal scope of the zoo’s hospital? We get creative!
Throughout the years, our dama gazelle, Bhoke, has been treated successfully at the zoo for multiple dental infections, which are not uncommon for this species. Unfortunately, this summer a tooth root infection in the molars at the back of his lower jaw became unresponsive to our therapy. After consulting with dental specialists at the UC Davis Veterinary School, we determined that Bhoke needed oral surgery.
Oakland Zoo Vet team transports gazelle for surgery.
Easier said than done. The jaws of a ruminant like Bhoke only open a few inches, making it impossible to reach the back teeth except from the outside of the face. Unfortunately, this approach to surgery is complicated by anatomy – we have to navigate around all those wonderful nerves and vessels that make Bhoke’s face and jaw function. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a roadmap of the area?
With today’s medical technology, just such a roadmap is available – in the form of a CT scan. While it is not practical for the zoo to own and operate our own CT scanner, the veterinary school has this technology. Sounds perfect, right? Easier said than done (again). For the two-hour trip to UC Davis, the procedure, and the trip back to the zoo, Bhoke would need to be under anesthesia. By a conservative estimate, Bhoke’s anesthesia time would be at least 6 hours…not to mention if we ran into rush hour Bay Area traffic!
Preparing for CT Scan
Luckily, a closer alternative did exist. Our colleagues at Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital generously donated their CT scanner, technician and veterinary time, and surgical space. So, on Nov 8, the Oakland Zoo veterinary staff, Bhoke the gazelle and the UC Davis dentistry staff became quite possibly the most exotic animals that the Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital staff has ever seen!
The CT scan revealed the extent of Bhoke’s dental disease and unfortunately, revealed a second abscess in his nose of which we were not previously aware. His last molar on the left side of his lower jaw was determined to be too diseased to save and the dentists were able to extract this tooth. We drained the infection from his nose and now have a better idea of the overall health of his teeth.
Since his surgery, Bhoke is making a wonderful recovery. He is back at the zoo, patrolling his exhibit and eating his favorite foods! You may see the evidence of his surgery by the shaved fur on the side of his face. While we know he still has dental problems, we are happy with his progress and hope to successfully manage his teeth for a long time to come!
Dental surgery on gazelle.
About Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital:
Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital is a well-established, full-service, small animal veterinary hospital providing comprehensive medical, surgical and dental care. We provide a broad spectrum of diagnostic procedures through in-house testing and the use of external laboratories. We also work closely with local practices when special diagnostic procedures are required. The facility includes a well-stocked pharmacy, in-hospital surgery suite, in-house x-ray capabilities, a closely supervised hospitalization area, and indoor boarding kennels with outdoor walking areas.
At Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital we strive to offer not only sound advice, but also optimal veterinary care, thus allowing you the enjoyment of your companion for a maximum number of years. Our job is not only to treat your pet when he or she isn’t feeling well, but also to help you learn how to keep your best friend happy and healthy. We are proud of what we are doing today, and equally proud of the rich history of over a century of helping animals in Berkeley.