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Michigan State University

Jaws of Life

Potter Park Zoo vets take care of a sedated lioness

Jaws of Life

And you thought you had a toothache

Ever had a root canal? Ulana feels your pain. Root canals are never fun, but always necessary. And humans aren’t the only mammals that need them.

Animals often hide painful symptoms of diseases that can develop into serious illnesses. That’s why health and dental check-ups are commonplace at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing—home to more than 500 animals.  Some 40 Spartans help care for them.

Dr. Ronan Eustace, the zoo’s director of animal health, routinely ensures that all animals from mandrills to snakes are healthy and vibrant.

The zoo’s Veterinary Department is equipped to handle most dental issues, but Dr. Colleen Turner’s expertise was needed when Dr. Eustace noticed a more complicated issue with Ulana, a female African lion.

Turner is an MSU alumna and veterinary dentist with the College of Veterinary Medicine. She’s a regular zoo volunteer. She performed a safe and successful root canal on Ulana on a snowy January day.

The zoo hopes to raise enough funds to purchase new x-ray equipment that will perform digital dental radiographs on such critters as the big cats. It would enable early prevention and detection of dental disorders—because let’s face it, two-and four-legged animals just hate root canals.

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