March 2004
Crikey! Aialik Gets A Triple Whammy! A Root Canel, A Toe Amputation And Visit From The "Crocodile Hunter!"

Click article to enlarge

Water Lines Spring/Summer 2005



News Source: Waterlines, page 3, Spring/Summer 2005

Aialik, one of the Oregon coast Aquarium’s beloved sea otters, underwent unique surgery in December. The six year-old sea otter, one of four at the aquarium, got a root canal on an upper canine tooth and a toe joint amputation at the same time! The combination of surgeries was so unusual that animal Planet’s Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, filmed the procedures for an upcoming segment. The program is about unusual animal procedures from institutions around the world.

Anesthesia is usually the most dangerous part of any medical procedure for animals. Because of this, our veterinarian, Dr. Steve Brown, recommended we do both procedures at the same time. Dr. Brown has a great deal of experience with sea otter anesthesia and the dangers associated with anesthetizing animals.

The toe surgery was to repair a damaged joint, the result of some fighting between the other male sea otters. Aialik sustained what appeared to be a small bite on the toe of his right rear flipper. At first, the bite appeared to be nothing to be concerned about; the bite was small, not infected or swollen. Dr. Brown, looked at it and agreed that it would heal on its own with out help form us or medications. Later, however, we changed our minds.

At the same time, we noticed a discolororation of Aialik’s upper left canine tooth. Aialik, of course, was totally uncooperative for the visual tooth exam, refusing to allow his lip to he lifted for a better look. Dr. Brown could tell the tooth was discolored and he recommended a root canal.

Meanwhile, down at the flipper, we noticed absolutely nothing was happened. No swelling, no imflammation, but – NO HEALING! The skin split open and we could see that the tips of the joint were darkened and the ligaments had dissolved. The joint had come apart for and was dying. Surgery was needed.

Dr. Brown recuited Heidi Romney, DMD, a local and much loved human dentist, to do the root canal while he did the joint amputation. Dr. Romney did a wonderful job on the root canal and put “bling bling” back in Aialik’s smile. Dr. Brown did his usual superb job as well. He didn't remove Aialik’s toe as originally planned. Instead, he left the toe sheath intact, removing only the ends of the two bones at the joint. Aialik’s flipper looks perfectly normal and he has only a tiny limp for the missing joint.

The next day, Aialik met Steve Irwin (Animal Planet’s Crocodile Hunter) for a short filming session which will be included in an upcoming Animal Planet segment. Aialik and the mammal staff were impressed with the crew, not to mention their wonderful Australian accents!