Miami-Dade County

How do you give a lion a root canal? With big tools, a big team and a big sedative

Turns out even the Lion King can require a root canal.

“It’s not terribly uncommon for all carnivores,” explained Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s communications director.

Large carnivores like lions can often damage their canine teeth in the wild during fights with each other. And when they bite down on bones, they can break that canine tooth and expose the nerve. If that happens, the king of beasts can feel great pain, get an infection, even die.

Kwame, a 9½-year-old, 410-pound male lion at Zoo Miami, was taken to the zoo’s hospital Wednesday to receive a root canal on a lower left canine tooth.

“At Zoo Miami we really have a good dental plan,” Magill said.

Zoo veterinarians Drs. Gwen Myers, Marisa Bezjian and Gaby Flacka assisted Dr. Jan Bellows from All Pets Dental, who performed the procedure, along with Dr. Elizabeth McMorran, a fourth-year dental resident.

For the protection of everyone, the lion was completely put under.

They “did a great job sealing the tooth up and Kwami is up already at his exhibit,” Magill said. “Dr. Bellows is pleased.”

Apparently, so is the patient.

Kwame also was treated to a pedicure from the vet team. Gotta look good for his return to his place of pride — “his nails are a little longer than most,” Magill said.

There’s a practical reason, too. Nails are trimmed, with large clippers and filed down with a Dremmel tool, to reduce the potential of the claws growing into the big cat’s paws.

One bit of concern: A small mole was discovered and removed by Myers and sent for a biopsy to check for skin cancer. The results will probably take a week, Magill said.

Otherwise, the surgery went well, the zoo reports, and Kwame is feeling no pain in the repaired tooth.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen