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Hogle Zoo leopard to undergo root canal

SALT LAKE CITY — The new L.S. Skaggs Animal Health Center had already helped revolutionize animal care at Hogle Zoo, but now the new animal hospital is improving some of the zoo's biggest smiles.

Hogle Zoo's male Amur leopard will undergo dental surgery Saturday morning for a root canal in one of the first major procedures to be performed in the new veterinary facility.

Zookeepers first discovered the cat's tooth troubles through regular training, when his "open mouth behavior" indicated that his tooth was cracked and partially missing.

Because the tooth was still partly intact, the veterinary staff determined that a root canal was a better solution than extraction, which would leave a meat-eating leopard without a canine tooth.

To help assess the exact placement of the canine tooth fracture and roots, veterinary dentist Dr. John F. Huff III will utilize a handheld X-ray machine donated by Aribex, a company based in Orem.

During the procedure, the leopard will be anesthetized and the location of the tooth fracture determined using the X-ray machine to view the root tip in the leopard's gumline.

After the root canal is completed, the leopard will receive a filling that will not restore the length of his tooth but will allow him to retain a working canine and prevent a painful extraction.

There are fewer than 40 Amur leopards left in the wild, and just over 70 in accredited, North American zoos. The male leopard came to Hogle Zoo in 2006 from the Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania, where he was born in 2004.

Dr. Nancy Carpenter, the zoo's associate director of animal health, and associate veterinarian Dr. Erika Travis will monitor the animal's anesthesia levels and vital signs throughout the surgery.