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Help for the bears that tried to chew their way out of bile farms

21 November 2013

Rescued bears need special dental assistance

After decades spent literally trying to chew their way out of cages in China’s bear bile farms, rescued bears are left with a legacy of painful toothache and on-going dental issues needing special treatment.

To this end, a dental team from the China Agriculture University (CAU) in Beijing recently visited Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Chengdu to help treat five bears rescued from the cruel industry as part of an ongoing collaboration.

Each of the sanctuary’s 143 bears undergoes a health check every two years and teeth are always inspected. Many of the bears suffer from broken teeth and unnatural wear and tear from “bar-biting”, inadequate nutrition and having had their teeth cut back by bile farmers.

Animals Asia’s veterinary team have been fortunate to be involved in an on-going collaboration with Jin Yi Peng DVM PhD, Associate Professor and head of the teaching and research section in the Veterinary Teaching Department at China Agriculture University.

Animals Asia China Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field explains:

“Our vets have found that the bar biting causes enamel wear in rescued bears which is irreversible. When the enamel goes there is more sensitivity and it weakens the whole tooth, making it susceptible to fracture. A fractured tooth is painful and is a huge risk of infection.

“Years of poor diet on bear bile farms also plays its part, so the bears’ teeth are more prone to fracturing with normal bear activity. Even playing, wrestling, chewing or foraging can cause more damage.”

More than 10,000 bears are still kept on bile farms in China with around 2,400 more in Vietnam. The bears suffer regular draining of their bile which is not only used in traditional medicine but even in a number of household products.

Three CAU post-graduate students Cecilia Cheng, Zhang XinKe and Qiao Yan Chao worked alongside Animals Asia’s own veterinary team. Working under mentor Dr Jin, the CAU team was able to call on their dentistry knowledge of animals large and small from companion animals to China’s iconic pandas.

Animals Asia’s founder Jill Robinson added:

“In most cases, as a result of time spent on bear bile farms, these are essentially bears that have their own special needs as compared to their counterparts in the wild.  Alongside the damage to internal organs that they previously suffered due to regular bile extractions, their teeth are always an area that need treatment. Taking away pain is so much of what we do. From initial surgery after they arrive to on-going veterinary care. Only once they are pain free can they start to mentally rehabilitate.  

“We are so grateful to Dr Jin and his team. We have learned so much and the bears have benefitted and will continue to do so. Their kindness and dedication to animals does them great credit.”