Posted by John Cameron on Oct 05, 2018

Steve Holmstrom, DVM, DAVDC | Lions, Tigers and Bears. Oh, my!

Today we heard a fascinating talk by Steve Holstrom, DUM, DAVOC, on his career caring for the dental requirements of the animal world.  He is also an excellent sailor, having sailed with his young family including a baby to Hawaii prior to GPS.  This is in addition to being an accomplished fisherman, a sailing judge for the America’s Cup and a scuba dive instructor.
His practice was centered up in the Bay Area and he had patients at the Monterey & Moss Landing Aquariums plus two others.  He also worked with zoos and practiced dentistry on lions, tigers, bears, and hyenas.  And the list goes on.
Safety was very important and for some patients there were even armed guards present in the operating room.  The anesthesia used on large animals, done by injection, is lethal to humans so has to be handled with much care.  
The number one rule for the dentist is to attempt to save the problem tooth at all costs.  The reason is that it is so hard to extract a tooth from large animals since their teeth can easily be four times larger than a human’s tooth.  Saving a tooth is most often done by performing a root canal, which can take up to 1½ hours.  The dentist uses a much larger portable X-Ray machine and larger and hardened portable X-Ray plates.  At times, Steve had to make his own tools so he could successfully work on a tooth.
In operating on an animal, they only have two hours to have the surgery.  Animals do not do well with anymore anesthesia.  Sea lions have been able to be operated on under local anesthesia.  Steve commented that sea otters are nasty guys who have bad periodontal problems due to teeth grinding.  Dolphin exams are easy but spotted hyenas are vicious and smell terrible.  Steve has also performed dental surgery on a Bengal tiger that was used as a guard animal for a meth lab operation.
Steve is a fellow Rotarian from the San Pedro Club.  This was his second visit to our club and he really entertained us with his fascinating stories.