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“She’d come to think the pain from her rotten teeth was normal”

25 February 2016

For bears rescued from bile farms – extensive vet care is usually required for their poor damaged teeth.

It’s not uncommon for bears to literally try to chew their way out of cages – in Sam’s case it was also poor diet and a lack of care that meant many of her teeth had all but rotted away.

Sam was rescued alongside fellow moon bear Simon - from a small island just off Vietnam’s Halong Bay. While Simon passed away a few months later, vets were confident that Sam would finally make it out into the sunlight. However, to make that big step out into the sunshine – she also needed extensive veterinary care.

Stacked towels had to support Sam's lower half so she wouldn’t wake up from her health check with back pain

During a recent health check – staff found that her spine was so badly curved that she couldn’t lie straight down on the exam table. Stacked towels had to support her lower half so she wouldn’t wake up from her health check with back pain.

While she was under anaesthetic – an Animals Asia vet removed six of her molars, further taking away the pain that she must have lived with for many years.

Six of Sam's molars were removed while she was under anaesthetics

Also of concern was Sam’s vision which was worse than had been thought. She’s almost completely blind in her right eye. Later this year, when an eye specialist comes to visit the Vietnam sanctuary, she’ll check Sam and see if any restorative surgery is possible.

While Sam healed she was fed a diet of blended food as well as antibiotics and pain medication. She’s also set for a follow-up check to be scheduled in four-to-six weeks to see how her gums are healing, and to assess two more  molars that may need extractions.

Sam was fed a diet of blended food as well as antibiotics and pain medication while she healed

Animals Asia Senior Vet Mandala Hunter-Ishikawa said:

“It’s very lucky we saw Sam when we did – her diseased teeth must have been causing her a lot of pain. It hurts to think of how much pain she’s experienced in her life. She’d initially shown little sign of it and had probably come to think that the pain from her rotten teeth was normal.

“Thankfully, her liver and gall bladder look comparatively healthy, and she is finally beginning to adjust to her new life at the sanctuary. It’s been so hard for her – but what’s ahead for her is the life she has always deserved to live.”

There remain over 1,200 bears caged and farmed for their bile in Vietnam. There are over 10,000 more in China where bear bile farming remains legal.

Bear bile is used in traditional medicine.

Sam is excited about foraging 1