Tools of the trade: Alligator forceps

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alligator forceps

by Dr Alison Thomas, Katherine Vet Care, NT

Our clinic is located in a rural setting, so we see a lot of dogs with grass seeded abscesses or grass seeds stuck in their ears. That’s when I reach for the alligator forceps. I have no preference for a specific brand; they’re just a very useful tool to have close by.

What’s good about it

Alligator forceps are the perfect instrument for sticking down ears to grab grass seeds. They’re an efficient and relatively painless instrument. We get such a high number of dogs with grass seeds stuck in their ears that I associate them with that procedure but I’ve also used them with horses.

Sometimes a dog will stick its head in something it shouldn’t and end up with a foreign body stuck in its nose. In that situation, alligator forceps are nice and slender and a lot less traumatic than normal hemostats.

If a dog will tolerate an ear exam, it will usually tolerate the alligator forceps. After all, they’re smaller than an otoscope. When I need to get close to the eardrum, I’ll sedate the dog as I don’t want any sudden movements. I always keep alligator forceps in the consult room.

When we’re doing a dental on a dog, I’ll take the opportunity to check its ears. It’s surprising how many dogs have grass seeds in their ears without displaying the typical head shaking. They just seem to tolerate it. 

Alligator forceps are a simple little instrument but it’s very satisfying when you pull grass seeds from an ear and immediately resolve the problem.

What’s not so good

They’re not a very strong instrument and the hinge can be easily damaged. When that happens, they won’t close properly and it’s impossible to grasp fine little hairs. You have to look after them; you can’t throw them around.

Where did you get it

Available from all major veterinary suppliers

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