UF veterinary, dental specialists implant metal prosthesis in cat's mouth


'Unadoptable' feline gets special attention for oral palate problem, finds new home.

Dr. Fong Wong, right, a prosthodontic specialist and faculty member in the University of Florida's College of Dentistry, collaborated with Dr. Amy Stone, center, from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, to affix a metal prosthesis to the inside of Darryl's mouth. Photo courtesy of University of Florida.A Siamese-mix cat's ability to eat was restored after a team of veterinary and human dentistry specialists closed a hole between his oral and nasal cavities.

After being unable to eat for more than a year, Darryl received a metal prosthesis in his mouth. The palate injury surgery, which was performed at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital last fall, attached the device to the roof of Darryl's mouth.

Fong Wong, DDS, an associate professor of prosthodontics and maxillofacial prosthetics in UF's College of Dentistry, performed the procedure with Amy Stone, DVM, PhD, a clinical assistant professor in UF's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Wong performs the procedure in human patients suffering from cleft palates or following their oral cancer surgeries.

The patient's unique situation presented challenges, Stone says.

“This was a different approach than has ever been done before,” she says in a university release. “We have not had an exact procedure for palate issues that is entirely successful for every species, and Darryl's problem was one likely caused, or at least exacerbated, by injury.”

Darryl's surgery reversed a standard trend.

“Usually medical procedures are first tried in animals, and then, when successful, used in human patients,” Wong says. “In this case, it was the animal that benefited from a procedure that is routine in humans but has not been part of routine veterinary medicine.”

Darryl was rescued from Alachua County Animal Services, where he had been slated for euthanasia. Despite the gaping hole in his hard palate, his friendly nature made him a staff favorite, says Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, a professor of shelter medicine at UF who fostered Darryl and later adopted him.

“Despite struggling to eat and being extremely messy with his food, he was always affectionate and craved attention from staff and volunteers,” Levy says in the release.

But his condition made adoption impossible, so Darryl became a long-term resident of the humane society. Meanwhile, Levy sought solutions to his health issue. The cat was transferred to the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at UF.

Katherine Polak, DVM, a former UF shelter medicine resident, examined him. Nick Bacon, VetMB, an associate professor of small animal oncology, biopsied an oral lesion to rule out cancer. A feeding tube helped Darryl gain weight without suffering.

Levy took Darryl into her home as her foster pet in order to provide the intensive care he needed. Soon after, Levy contacted UF's College of Dentistry seeking assistance, Wong got involved and proposed a prosthodontic solution. She made a cast of the cat's mouth and built a custom acrylic prosthesis, and it was sutured to cover the hole.

The surgery was a success. Darryl's feeding tube was removed two days later, and he was able to eat normally for the first time in more than a year.

“He is doing great,” Levy says in the release. “Many thanks to the entire team who pitched in to help this lovely cat.”

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