methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Big Dental Care

In the early 1960’s, I practiced as a veterinary surgeon in a very small Canadian town in the very large province of Alberta, which is twice the size of Texas. It was a practice a bit more rustic than the one described by James Herriot in his book “All Creatures Great and Small.”

Some Albertans still farmed using large draft horses, which had all the medical problems that smaller horses have.

One morning I was called out to look at a Percheron horse with a swollen face. The poor two-thousand-pound fellow had an abscessed molar, which I clearly could not split to remove. I decided that the only procedure that would work would be to expel the tooth from the top. This entailed a trephine hole through the muzzle above the base of the tooth.

By the time the hole was ready, the farmer was getting pretty white, so I was left to hold this huge horse’s head and place the punch through the hole to drive the tooth downward, pounding with a mallet. The molar was about three and a half inches long so it required quite a bit of work.

The severely sedated horse twitched a bit but hopefully experienced minimal pain. I gave him antibiotics and used medicated packs to clean out the vacated area. He recovered quite well.

And so the northern adventures continued.

Methow Valley resident Denny O’Callaghan, DVM, is a retired large-animal veterinarian. He has written stories of his veterinary experiences to the north.


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