Our bear keepers at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility don’t just have the exceptionally important job of caring for our rescued bears, they are also required to use their proximity and wonderfully friendly relationship with the bears they care for to observe these amazing animals and report any discrepancies in behaviour or physical condition to our expert team of veterinarians. In one such instance, bear keeper Rakesh noticed that one of the bears assigned to him, a beautiful fourteen year old male sloth bear named Aleem, had recently begun behaving abnormally.
Rescued from the abusive dancing bear trade, Aleem was just four years old when he first came into our care in 2006. His muzzle had been crudely pierced, and his teeth shattered by his former owners. He was timid and nervous and ate very little, apprehensive of both people and the other bears. Soon enough however, with the help of our fantastic team of vets and keepers, Aleem gradually got out of his shell and began mingling with the other bears, slowly developing a fondness for a few of his furry companions, his keeper, hours of playing and climbing trees – and food!
Aleem is generally quite the foodie and gobbles down his porridge and fruit with relish, which is why we were so concerned when, off late, he seemed wholly disinterested in his food. Rakesh informed the vets immediately, and further observation revealed a swelling near his chin that mandated closer examination. Rakesh called to Aleem, bribing him to approach the vets using a gooey mixture of his favourite treats – dates and honey – giving the vets a chance to conduct a physical examination of the lump, which felt hard and warm on palpitation. The vets were certain it was a peri-apical abscess – a painful pus filled swelling at the base of a tooth, caused by an infection. Dental issues like this can be troublesome and painful for the bears, and the constant discomfort causes them to eat less, play less and feel generally miserable, as the pain supersedes everything else!
Despite painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication, Aleem’s discomfort seemed unceasing, and the vets decided to investigate further and possibly conduct surgery as a permanent solution to ease the stress on this poor bear. Aleem was taken in for an in-depth radiographic examination that confirmed the suspicions of the peri-apical abscess, and solidified the vets’ resolve to intervene surgically.
With all the vets on hand, Aleem underwent a three hour long surgery to extract the affected tooth and treat the infection that had developed. The surgery was a stupendous success and Aleem was back to his enclosure and his regular life soon enough, albeit on a prescribed dosage of painkillers and antibiotics to help him deal with post-operative pain, and a diet of warm porridge and fruit pulp bereft of all solid food.
A week later, Aleem was completely back to normal. Evidently no longer in pain, he was playing cheerfully with the other bears in his enclosure and vociferously wolfing down all the food available to him. The keepers are thrilled to see him happy and enjoying himself, and we’re all relieved to have him healthy and fully recovered from his rather awful toothache!