Today’s Solutions: May 23, 2022

Did you know that porcupine pufferfish teeth, which are known as beaks, never stop growing throughout the fish’s life? “They’re usually kept short naturally, as they’re worn down on their regular diet of hard-shelled foods,” explains veterinary surgeon Daniel Calvo Carrasco, a specialist in caring for exotic pets.

This means that wild porcupine pufferfish don’t need to worry about their teeth, however, porcupine pufferfish owner Mark Byatt, 64, noticed that his beloved fish Goldie was losing weight because her long teeth were preventing her from eating properly.

Like any good fish owner, Byatt rushed Goldie to the vets at the Sandhole Veterinary Centre in Snodland, Kent, who confirmed that his five-year-old pufferfish would have to get her teeth sawed down.

According to Carrasco, Goldie is probably “not as forthcoming in eating [food] as her other tankmates,” and, “As a result, her upper beak grew to the point where it was hindering her ability to eat effectively.”

Remarkably, they were able to sedate Goldie using a water bowl filled with a mild anesthetic solution and remove an entire inch from her teeth. The water was also kept well oxygenated, which “meant she was still breathing nicely throughout but was able to be held for brief periods out of the water without becoming too stressed,” says Carrasco.

Veterinary nurse Debbie Addison had the all-important task of holding Goldie in a damp towel so that the fish wouldn’t dry out—and as a precautionary layer of protection in case Goldie ended up feeling distressed or threatened, and “puffed-up” defensively as a result.

While Goldie was being held out of the anesthetic water, Carrasco was able to use a dental bur (a tool often made from diamonds for cutting bone or teeth) to saw off the protruding part of Goldie’s upper beak.

The procedure took an hour, and once it was all said and done, Goldie recovered in another large bowl filled with water from her home tank.

“She responded well and there was no stress at all,” Carrasco reports. “Within five minutes, she was able to stay upright in the water and within 10 minutes she was back to happily swimming around. Goldie was back home and eating well within two hours.”

As for Byatt, he says that they’re “just thrilled to have Goldie back home. She is thriving back in her tank and none the worse for her visit to the dentist.”

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