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Vets cut hippo's teeth to size

Written by: Staff

Chennai, Mar 16: For the first time in India, a team of Veterinary surgeons have successfully performed a dental surgery on an hippopotamus here.

Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences (TANUVAS) Vice-Chancellor N Balaraman told reporters here today that the surgery was a mammoth task given the fact the 30-year-old hippo, weighing more than 2,500 kg, had been administered the correct dosage of anaesthesia to ensure the one-hour surgery, during which overgrown canines were cut to enable the animal to masticate properly, went off successfully.

''It was quite a risky proposition as we had take all aspects into consideration. The added problem is the herbivore has cataract in both the eyes, leading to complete blindness in one and partial vision in the other, '' he said.

Raja, the male Nile hippo, belonging to Jumbo Circus, had overgrown canines around ten inches. It was fed only on bread and gruel as the canines penetrated the upper gum on both the sides and the animal could not chew properly.

At least five to six veterinary colleges refused to take up the surgery due to the risk factor and when the circus owner approached TANUVAS, ''We took up the challenge,'' Dr Balaraman said.

The animal was kept on a fast for 24 hours prior to surgery and the sedation drug was injected near the anal sphincter.

After complete sedation, the overgrown canine tusks were trimmed by about two inches size using wire saw on the both lower dental arcades. The upper canines were also partially trimmed and the wound on the upper gums cleaned and dressed.

The water level in the pond was reduced to 15 mm before the hippo was safely let into it.

Replying to questions, Dr Balaraman said that the TANUVAS was chalking out a plan on performing cataract surgery on the eye which had no vision.


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