North Carolina

Sometimes lions have to go to the dentist too. NC Zoo shows how to pull a lion’s tooth

The teeth of a lion have a certain reputation.

“What do you think they do all day? They chew, and they chew on bones,” said Jb Minter, director of animal heath for the North Carolina Zoo. So sometimes a lion can break a tooth.

That happened recently to Reilly, a 20-year-old male lion at the zoo in Asheboro.

The zoo shared a video this week of how they managed to pull Reilly’s tooth, get him patched up and back out in the park chewing on bones.

“So some unique challenges doing dental work on an animal of this size, honestly the first thing is the size,” Minter said. It’s dangerous primarily for one obvious reason: the lion. If Reilly woke up, Minter said, the problem is, he “could eat you.”

The last time the zoo sedated Reilly for an annual exam, Minter said the lion got cold. So this time they gave him heated blankets and put socks on his massive paws to keep him warm.

Minter called in a dental team from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“That team does dental procedures multiple times a day,” he said, so they’re able to get the tooth out much faster than the zoo’s vets.

The vets pulled the giant, troublesome tooth for Reilly and the zoo says he’s back out in his habitat and recovered well from the surgery.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.