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Clipboard Has a Toothache


Clipboard, one of many sea lion pups rescued in Southern California earlier this year, received some special dental care.

 May 24, 2013

Clipboard swims in his pool post-surgery. Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.


When Clipboard first arrived at our hospital at the end of March, he was emaciated, had a fractured jaw, was not able to eat on his own, and had a bad case of penumonia. The young male sea lion pup was one of over 1,300 pups that stranded along Southern California beaches earlier this year during one of the biggest stranding events for the species in recent years. With limited resources, many rescue centers in the region turned to help from colleagues, including The Marine Mammal Center, to take in the overflow of patients that were coming through their doors. Clipboard was among the patients the Center took in from the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center.

After a few weeks with us, it was clear that Clipboard had some serious medical issues related to the jaw fracture. On May 24, our veterinary team assisted Dr. Judy Force (a dentist who runs a private dentistry practice for animals in Aptos, CA) in a tricky surgery in order to improve the sea lion pup's health. They extracted a tooth because the bone around it was badly infected. While Dr. Force has over 10 years of experience working on a variety of animals, including tigers, horses, sheep, and dogs and cats, she had never worked on a sea lion before.

"Sea lions have conical-shaped teeth compared to dogs and cats;" explained Dr. Force. "You have to stabilize the bone around the tooth of the sea lion first instead of splintering, and that is more of a challenge."

Once Clipboard was under anesthesia, the veterinary team began the process of taking radiographs and came up with a game plan on how to remove the tooth. After an hour-long procedure, Dr. Force was able to extract the tooth and close the open wound. Remarkably, the next day Clipboard was seen eating fish on his own - apparently his mouth was feeling much better now that the toothache was gone!




Learn more about California sea lions!

Learn about our Leave Seals Be campaign!

Read about the mass strandings of sea lion pups


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