Puma's gum problems solved by visit to the dentist

A DENTIST got more than he bargained for when treating a new patient - a puma with gum disease. Shepreth Wildlife Park s resident puma, Demelza, has been undergoing treatment for gum problems over the last couple of months. After initial courses of tre

A DENTIST got more than he bargained for when treating a new patient - a puma with gum disease.

Shepreth Wildlife Park's resident puma, Demelza, has been undergoing treatment for gum problems over the last couple of months.

After initial courses of treatment failed, she was taken to the Cambridge Vet School to be operated on by the school's David Williams, and Peter Fordyce, an experienced feline dentist.

Mr Fordyce said: "It was fascinating to do dental work on a puma, as I normally work with ordinary domestic cats. It was remarkable how similar the structure of the mouth is between a domestic cat and a puma, and how similar the puma's problems were to those seen in people's pets. The biggest difference was the sheer size of the teeth."


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Twelve year old Demelza, who has been at the park since 2001, was sedated and taken to theatre by the Shepreth animal team, who were met at the theatre by an array of interested parties, including local residents, all eager to learn from this unique dental experience.

Two hours later, and five teeth down, Demelza was escorted back to her enclosure at the wildlife park seemingly unaware of her trip to the operating theatre.

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"It is still early days, but we have already seen a significant improvement in Demelza's feeding behaviour since her trip to the dentist," said Rebecca Willers, animal manager at Shepreth.

"We hope that the removal of five teeth will have a dramatic, positive effect on her gum condition, and we are all very grateful to our vet and everyone at the vet school who have played an important role in Demelza's treatment."

The puma is now having her meat chopped into tiny bite-sized pieces while her mouth is in recovery. Zoo vet, Peter Aylmer, plans to examine her mouth again on his next visit.

Demelza can be found in the Carnivore Section at Shepreth, acting as an ambassador for wild pumas. Keepers at the park use this species to highlight the crucial conservation work being conducted through the Nevada Puma Project, which the park currently supports.

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