General Question

syz's avatar

Any ideas for a dental mouth gag for a tiger?

Asked by syz (33290 points ) August 2nd, 2012

In veterinary medicine, we use a dental gag to hold the mouth open while we work inside the oral cavity. We’re doing surgery on a tiger next week (she has an abscess on her tongue, probably some sort of foreign body in there that we need to find), and I need to come up with something on the fly. I’m thinking that I could cut some lengths of PVC pipe (an upper canine would fit into one end, and a lower canine tooth in the other, propping the mouth open), but because this is a geriatric cat, I’m worried that her teeth will be too worn down (or even broken off) to securely seat in the PVC opening. (Yes, the cat will be anesthetized during the procedure.)

Any creative ideas, guys?

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51 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

PVC sounds a liitle harsh. If they’re not broken I’m guessing it might be rough on the gums. Could you cushion it with something softer?

syz's avatar

I could probably pad the edges with gauze sponges and medical tape. But their heads are so heavy, it’s still going to be a lot of pressure.

Coloma's avatar

Hmmmm. the pvc piping is a good idea, but it has sharp edges, it would need to be padded somehow to not harm the gums as @Adirondackwannabe mentioned.
Yes…gauze or some sort of padding.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

How about some rubber washers?

syz's avatar

Ohhhh, I like it!

Coloma's avatar

I wonder if you could buy a couple of Kongs and cut the ends off. Hard rubber, no sharp edges?

syz's avatar

Hmmm. Kongs have openings on both ends, right? But I don’t think they’re big/long enough – I need the mouth wide enough for my surgeon to get his hands in her mouth.

jrpowell's avatar

Maybe some pvc pipe filled with skateboard bushings. They are cheap and are actually soft enough I doubt it would hurt the teeth.

augustlan's avatar

I wonder if you could just use some sort of wedge-shaped hard-ish rubber. That way it wouldn’t put stress on any individual teeth, they would share the load. As long as you could get it far enough in to reach the surgical site, and not so far in as to block the airway…

Also, you have the coolest job ever.

gailcalled's avatar

This is why I love Fluther.

zigmund's avatar

Cut several lengths in ¼” increments. You don’t want to be stuck having to saw a bit off at the last minute.

zensky's avatar

Pics or it never happened @syz Good luck you go girl!

rooeytoo's avatar

I was thinking handlebar grips from a bike or cycle. They have holes in the ends for teeth and could be reinforced on the interior with something rigid but would still be soft on the gums.

AlaskaTundrea's avatar

I don’t have the info myself but would swear I remember something about the Anchorage (Alaska) Zoo having some surgery done on a tiger (or maybe it was a bear) that involved teeth. You might want to contact them and ask. I’m not going to post their contact info here but if you do a search for Alaska Zoo, I’m pretty sure there’s a phone number given. Patrick Lampi is the one in charge of the zoo as a whole. Not sure what his title is, sorry.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I shared office space with an animal doctor at one time. They used ordinary rubber hose and pvc pipe. This is given that the animals were intraveneously aenesthetized. It creeped me out when I went in there to drop off instruments to be sterilised but what the hell right.

thorninmud's avatar

I wonder if you could use two bar clamps in “spreader” configuration.

Home Depot sells one-hand ratcheting bar clamps like this. The part with the handle slides along the metal rail, so it can open up quite wide; then squeezing the grip will advance the clamp incrementally along the rail toward the stop mounted on the end. That’s how it works in “clamp” mode. But you can also take the end-stop off and mount it on the other end of the rail so that the handle moves away from the end stop; that’s “spreader” mode. This allows you to exert pressure to keep things apart. They would have the advantage of being infinitely adjustable. The pressure is then quick-released by pulling the little metal trigger.

I could see maybe using double-stick carpet tape (Home Depot again) to attach @johnpowell ‘s skateboard bushings to the faces of the yellow clamp jaws.

codette's avatar

I liked the idea of Kong toys—they come in very large sizes—but now I think the adjustability and sturdiness of the clamp (with padding) is a great idea. And I second the “pics or it didn’t happen!” :)

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

thorninmud's avatar

It is a fantastic question!

Response moderated (Spam)
gailcalled's avatar

Ancillary topic; What’s a good body armor and gauntlets for @syz?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@gailcalled Chainmail at the least.

zensky's avatar

We want pics! We want pics! We want pics!

syz's avatar

The surgery is Friday – I’ll be back next weekend with some pics.

zensky's avatar

Bon chance babes.

josie's avatar

Why not use a wooden dowel about an inch thick. Drill quarter or half inch holes in either end for the canines. Bevel off the corners on the ends with a file or sand paper. Pad it with gauze.
I hope you get back and tell us about your solution. I would really like to hear about it.

syz's avatar

Here’s a picture of the teeth in question. You can see the mass that we’ll be removing in the middle of the tongue. (She’s a small tiger, what the pet trade likes to call a “mini-tiger”. Bullshit, of course. Damn pet trade.)

gailcalled's avatar

Holy Toledo. Is that your finger? Is it still attach├ęd to your hand? Have you named the tiger?

(This is why I love fluther.)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

God what a beautiful cat.

syz's avatar

And if you’re interested, this is a pic of the necrotic mass that we’ll be taking off of the chin of a lioness on the same day. I’ll be sweating it, since they’re both geriatric, and the tiger is obese, both of which makes the anesthesia that much more iffy.

syz's avatar

A better view of the mass.

augustlan's avatar

She’s beautiful, @syz. I’m sure both animals will be in good hands.

Bellatrix's avatar

Thank you for the photos @syz! You have a fabulous job and they are lucky cats to have such caring people looking after them.

syz's avatar

Well, it turns out the doctor decided that the tiger’s mass should be monitored for a while – it may not need to be removed. But we did remove the necrotic mass on the chin of the lioness. Pictures here She recovered beautifully and is doing well.

gailcalled's avatar

What an extraordinary experience for the lioness, you and us vicariously.

(Is there a way I can tried this at home to cut Milo’s nails?)

syz's avatar

@gailcalled You’d have to get one of these, attach it to a pole, and use some of this

gailcalled's avatar

@syz: Thanks. That looks pretty straightforward. Will my local pushers have ketamine in stock? Should I jab a little into me, in order to relax?

rooeytoo's avatar

You can purchase the ketamine here.

Always good to have some on hand.

@syz, good job!

zensky's avatar

I love Fluther.

syz's avatar

Update: Lab results on the tissue submitted from the mass on the chin of Sadie the lioness shows an aggressive, highly metastatic carcinoma. She seems to be feeling fine for the moment (if anemic), but it’s a very bad prognosis.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That’s not good news. Good luck.

rooeytoo's avatar

@syz, what will you do now? Treat it aggressively?

syz's avatar

No, she’s not exactly a candidate for chemotherapy. She’ll just be spoiled until a quality of life decision has to be made.

gailcalled's avatar

@syz: What’s involved in spoiling a lion? Room service and being able to have the whole bed to herself?

I feel sad.

syz's avatar

New toys, treats, lots of visitors to entertain her (from outside the enclosure).

rooeytoo's avatar

@syz – I think that is wonderful, probably because that is what I believe in for my animals. If a human makes a decision to fight a disease aggressively, that is their decision. I don’t think animals understand all that and would rather simply live well until they die.

Off the soapbox now. and hugs to the lioness. I would send her some roo meat to feast on if I could!

augustlan's avatar

Ah, that’s sad. I’m sure you will all take wonderful care of her until the time comes.

syz's avatar

Hey, guys, just an update: Sadie: was euthanized this month. She stopped eating and seemed painful, so the decision was made to end her suffering.

gailcalled's avatar

So sad and yet part of the cycle of life, I guess. She had a really noble face.

augustlan's avatar

Aw, I’m sorry @syz. She was beautiful.

zensky's avatar

@syz Best thread ever.

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