Most dentistry work on livestock needs to be performed either by a veterinarian or an equine dentist. There are two exceptions (in the states that I work in): filing down of alpaca incisors and fighting teeth, and trimming of pig tusks.
Many alpacas (and occasionally llamas) require regular maintenance done on their teeth. The most common procedures done are:
- minor trimming of the lower front incisors
- dulling/grinding down of the canine (fighting) teeth
Both of these are services performed either by a veterinarian (normally under sedation) or by a shearer during the shearing process, not under sedation. I will also make a special trip to work just on teeth, to reduce the stress on your animal. If you believe you will need sedation and/or extractions, you may wish to coordinate my visit with your veterinarian. Please note that my services are not veterinary but mechanical only.
Additional services sometimes needed are floating (evening out the sharp edges) of molars and extractions. Extractions and any procedure requiring sedation and/or local anaesthesia must be performed by a veterinarian.
I offer incisor trimming and fighting tooth trimming. I use a dremel for grinding and smoothing front and fighting teeth. Ordinarily the safest way to perform these tasks is while the animal is restrained during shearing (or restrained using the shearing ropes). If I find any unusual tooth growth patterns, retained juvenile teeth, loose molars or abscesses, I will alert you to these and advise you to involve your veterinarian in resolving these medical issues.
Why camelid dental work?
Camelid incisors grow continuously and can, depending on environment and genetics, become so long as to prevent the animal from being able to eat efficiently. They use their front teeth to grab hay or grass, which they then pass back to the molars for grinding. Molars with sharp edges or spurs can cause pain in the grinding process and thus the animal is discouraged from eating comfortably.
Canine or fighting teeth are part of the normal male equipment and are designed to aid them in fighting for dominance. In a domestic, farm situation, these are a liability and can cause great injury to other animals in the flock. Therefore, we grind these down to ensure they cannot be used as weapons.
Sometimes owners want to have their potbellied pig’s tusks trimmed both for safety of their other animals, and in the event that the tusk turns around and pokes into the pig’s face. This is done with a diamond wire and/or a diamond wheel, and then smoothed out with a dremel. I do this without sedation and usually trim hooves at the same time. Your veterinarian can also perform this task; very likely he/she will want to sedate your pig.
Camelid Dentistry by Stephen R. Purdy, DVM
Surgical Management of Dental Disorders in Llamas and Alpacas by Andrew Niehaus, DVM, MS, DACVS
Periapical tooth root infections in South American camelids by David E Anderson, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS