Two years ago, Darryl was waiting to be euthanized. A large hole rested in the roof of the stray cat’s mouth, making it difficult to eat and drink but easy to contract infections.

On Wednesday, the 8-year-old Siamese mix had a metal plate implanted surgically into Darryl’s mouth — something that had never been done before by UF.

It was the first type of procedure that combined the UF College of Dentistry and College of Veterinary Medicine.

Darryl was on the euthanization list when UF veterinarian Dr. Julie Levy found him during one of her volunteer shifts at the Alachua County Humane Society.

“When I met Darryl, I started thinking of how we might be able to help him at the vet school,” Levy said.   

Some cats are born with a small hole in their mouths, but it’s a mystery to how Darryl received his injury. His defect was so severe, it needed to be treated with surgery.  

“We suspect he had some kind of trauma to his skull that we’ll never know about,” Levy said.

She needed to find a way to cover the hole in Darryl’s mouth. Levy decided to contact UF Health Shands Hospital’s dental surgeon and prosthodontist Dr. Fong Wong.

Wong then made Darryl an acrylic cast for the roof of his mouth.

For two months, the acrylic cast enabled Darryl to eat, drink and groom normally, but it was only temporary. For a more permanent solution, Wong made a metal prosthesis for Darryl. 

Within hours, his anesthesia wore off, and Darryl was eating food and grooming himself again.

The surgery was a success for both colleges, Levy said.

“This was groundbreaking, and I’m hopeful that other animals that could not have this opportunity in the past can be saved now,” Levy said.

Wong said she enjoyed the challenge of creating a metal plate for Darryl, and she was glad to help.

“With this approach, it will improve the quality of life, and they will have better life outcome,” Wong said.

Hopefully, in the future, the two colleges will collaborate again for surgeries like Darryl, Wong said.  

Darryl will now have a permanent home with Levy and her three cats.  

“His behavior suggests that he is happy and doing well,” Wong said.

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 11/1/2014]

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