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African Wild Dogs are amongst the most effective hunters on their native continent, moving together in packs to wear down their prey.
They are equipped with very powerful sets of teeth, but as is the case with all animals their teeth are subject to wear and tear.
And they have more in common with household pets than you might think!
African Wild Dog Garry is relatively old at nine, so his teeth are showing signs of wear, with some small fractures to the enamel, and damage to one of his canine teeth which required dental treatment.
Zoo Vet Dr. Meg Curnick explains that "this is normal and natural wear and tear for a dog of his age eating an appropriate diet as he would in the wild, of meat and bones with skin, hair, and feathers."
Melbourne Zoo is fortunate to have the longstanding support of specialist consultant Dr. Steve Coles of Greencross, a veterinarian with postgraduate veterinary dentistry qualifications.
Dr. Coles has been donating his expertise to the Zoo for more than 20 years, treating a wide range of species during that time, beginning with an African Lion, Tsavo.
Dr. Coles has now carried out a root canal procedure on Garry's upper right canine, which involved cleaning out the root canal and filling it with three layers of filling: first an anti-bacterial layer, then a biological seal layer, and a metal amalgam layer on top for strength.
Dr. Coles said that the Zoo's carnivores naturally show wear and tear tooth damage as they age, but that the majority of pet dental patients arrive at his surgery due to periodontal disease rather than problems with their teeth.
Zoo carnivores are fed very natural diets, whereas many pets eat soft foods that allow the buildup of plaque, leading to gum disease, which can be treated but can never be cured and often leads to tooth loss.
Plaque buildup can also cause pets to suffer from kidney and heart disease, so brushing their teeth, giving them dental chews, and providing special diets designed to prevent plaque are all options for keeping pets healthy.
August is National Pet Dental Health Month, so now is a good time to highlight the importance of taking care of the teeth of pet dogs and cats, including getting a dental health check every six months.