Currency/Firearms-Sniffing Dog Back in Action after Root Canal

On March 18, 2013, Dr. William Rosenblad, head of the Dentistry service at Angell Animal Medical Center, treated seven-year-old yellow Labrador “Rolf’s” fractured tooth.  On its surface such a visit seems routine.  But Rolf is no ordinary dog.  Rolf is a “currency/firearms-sniffing” dog who patrols international ports of entry for U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security.

 
 Rolf is back in action after his root canal surgery at Angell Animal Medical Center (credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security)

A Fractured Tooth Sends Rolf to the Hospital

It was not known how Rolf fractured his tooth, but if an infection developed, it could impair his sense of smell, which is essential to his ability to keep the public safe.  Dr. Rosenblad, who leads the four-person Dentistry service at Angell, examined Rolf and confirmed that the broken tooth had exposed the dog’s “pulp canal”—the spaced occupied by the nerves, blood and lymphatic vessels underneath the tooth—and an active infection had begun.  Wasting no time he booked a root canal surgery to save Rolf’s tooth and eliminate the infection that, if left untreated, could end Rolf’s career.  

Dr. Rosenblad carefully removed all of the tissue and debris from Rolf’s pulp canal, sterilized the inside and sealed it so it would no longer be a source of infection.  

Dr. Rosenblad also extracted one badly infected tooth—the removal of which would have no impact on Rolf’s ability to perform his duties.  “Root canals are very serious for all dogs, but especially for working dogs as optimum oral health is key to their effectiveness,” said Dr. Rosenblad, who performs anywhere from three to six root canal procedures every year, mostly on working dogs.  “Rolf’s handler’s quick thinking, combined with the highly specialized dentistry care we’re able to provide at Angell, means Rolf will be back on the job in no time.”

 Dr. Rosenblad performing the root canal on Rolf.


Dr. Rosenblad estimated that Rolf would need about a week before he would be able to resume inspections at ports of entry such as Logan International Airport and the International Cargo Port in Boston Harbor.

Pet Dentistry: Closing the Human/Animal Medicine Divide
Because animals are living longer and developing many of the chronic degenerative diseases that affect humans, modern veterinary medicine has evolved to treat conditions that even one or two decades ago may have been fatal.  In the case of dentistry, Angell—and other leading veterinary hospitals—can now perform almost every diagnostic and treatment procedure, from routine dental exams and cleanings to extractions and advanced oral surgery, that for decades were only available to human patients.

For more information about Angell's Dentistry service, please visit www.angell.org/dentistry, email dentistry@angell.org, or call 617-524-5643.