Alfredito the Hippo Had a Tooth Ache

Once upon a time there was a hippo called Alfredito who had a tooth ache. Luckily for Alfredito, he lived in a zoo and one day the zoo’s vet noticed Alfredito’s dull, quiet behavior and discovered the hippo’s infected tusk. But the Central American vet did not know how to sedate the three-thousand pound animal; nor did he know how to treat the incisor. So the vet called another vet who lived in the U.S. She called all her colleagues to ask if anyone knew how to do a root canal on a hippo, but no one did. So she plotted a course of action, packed her medical bags, and headed to the National Zoo of El Salvador.

In case you were wondering, it’s very difficult to anesthetize a hippo. It’s paramount that the hippo land on his sternum when it succumbs to the drug in order to keep his breathing passages open. Further, he cannot be allowed to enter the water after being darted for fear of drowning. After all, hippos are very heavy and difficult to move.

Alfredito was a friendly hippo whose keeper daily entered the exhibit with him and placed heads of cabbage directly into his mouth, an unusual arrangement for this often temperamental species. He was very popular at the zoo.

The American vet darted Alfredito three times before he sunk into sleep. The dental technician started work on the tooth while the two vets monitored the hippo’s respiration and heartbeat. After a dramatic moment when Alfredito stopped breathing and was injected with a respiratory stimulant and a reversal agent, the work was done. Alfredito was closely observed for the next day but recovered well. Soon he was back in his starring role as head hippo.

This is a true story that appeared in “The Rhino with Glue-on Shoes and other surprising true stories of zoo vets and their patients” edited by Lucy H. Spelman and Ted Y. Mashima.

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One response to “Alfredito the Hippo Had a Tooth Ache”

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  1. Dr. Lucy says:

    Hello Hippomojo Blog,
    I just wanted to say thank you for the great review. So glad you enjoyed RHINO.

    I’ve just updated my website
    with a bunch of reviews, including several from bloggers. It’s very cool to see people from all over enjoying a book about taking care of wild animals. Of course, that’s what we were hoping for!

    Thanks again,