Dental vet rescue

A VETERINARY surgeon from Sudbury, who is more accustomed to fixing teeth in cats and rabbits, has been on an overseas mission to help alleviate the pain of endangered wild animals with severe dental problems.

Gerhard Putter, 52, who has run Mulberry Court Veterinary Surgery in the town for the past eight years, has just spent two weeks in Java working on slow lorises with the charity International Animal Rescue.

He is one of just two vets from the UK to be chosen to make the trip, because of his specialist training in animal dentistry.

Due to the slow loris’s cute looks, the small nocturnal primates which weigh about 700grammes and are on the critically endangered list, are often captured and sold as part of an illegal pet trade.

Mr Putter said: “The people who capture them in the rain forest and the market traders who sell them on cut out some of the lorises’ teeth because they can cause wounds which don’t heal.

“The problem is that many wild animals in captivity and especially those that are received from the illegal pet trade end up with teeth problems that have a major effect on their wellbeing.

“Primates’ mouths are very similar to humans in terms of the nerve supply, so their dental pain is the same.

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“The purpose of our trip was to give the lorises root canal treatments and other procedures to alleviate the pain and hopefully enable them to be released back into the wilds again.”

Mr Putter was born in South Africa, where he lived until 1984, so he has some previous experience of working with exotic animals. However, he said he only made the decision to specialise about six years ago, adding: “Veterinary dentistry is not a common speciality and root canal surgery is not something that a GP vet could do.

“I jumped at the chance to join the team in Java because although I am unlikely to ever see a slow loris in Sudbury, the experience will help with my day-to-day clinical work and the main thing is that we have been able to help animals that would otherwise have been left in agony.”

With fellow veterinary dental surgeon, Lisa Milella, who accompanied him on the trip, Mr Putter will return to Java in six months to check if their work has been successful enough for the lorises to be returned to the wilds. He has also been asked to carry out dental work on orangutans in Borneo.

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