“Cyclic” Regimen of Low-Dose Doxycycline to Treat Periodontal Disease in a Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri), Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens), and Bat-Eared Foxes (Otocyon megalotis megalotis)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2008
Elizabeth J. Bicknese1, DVM, MPVM; David A. Fagan2, DDS; Nadine Lamberski3, DVM, DACZM
1Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA, USA; 2The Colyer Institute, San Diego, CA, USA; 3Zoological Society of San Diego, Wild Animal Park, Escondido, CA, USA


Doxycycline at sub-antimicrobial doses has effectively treated human and non-human primate periodontal disease.1-3 Oral bacteria can damage periodontal tissue, but it is the host immune response that triggers the inflammatory cascade leading to periodontal disease. Inflammation causes ongoing periodontal ligament loss and bone resorption eventually leading to tooth loss. Low-dose doxycycline inhibits this inflammatory cascade without inducing microbial resistance.4 This regimen is generally well-accepted by the animal and inexpensive.

A “cyclic” low-dose doxycycline regimen was used to treat periodontal disease in three widely different species: a chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri), three red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) and two bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis megalotis). Each animal had received standard dental cleanings without periodontitis resolution. Low-dose doxycycline (0.3 mg/kg PO BID) was then administered, in a pulsatile manner (30 days on, 30 days off; 1–8 cycles). Improvement following the low-dose doxycyline regimen included decreased or resolved clinical signs of periodontitis, gingival pocket formation and tartar accumulation (Table1).

The experiences with these animals and multiple non-human primate species have demonstrated that it is essential to perform a detailed dental examination, including periodontal pocket assessment, prophylaxis, and systemic antibiotics when indicated. After the teeth are cleaned and initial infection treated, the low-dose doxycycline will slow or stop the progression of periodontal disease. It is important to stop the dental disease early before substantial gum retraction and bone resorption occur; hence, early intervention and repeat oral examinations as needed are justified.

Table 1. Number of cycles used to resolve periodontal disease


Number of cycles

Current status

Bat eared fox



Bat eared Fox


Died with resolution of periodontal disease



Periodontitis resolveda

Red panda


Periodontitis resolveda

Red panda


Periodontitis resolveda

Red panda


Periodontitis resolveda

aOngoing cycles as part of preventive medicine plan.

Literature Cited

1.  Bicknese, E.J., and D.A. Fagan. 2002. Presentation of low dose doxycycline treatment to control periodontal disease in multiple primate species—a preliminary report. Zoo Animal Dental Symposium/American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 2002. Pp.5–8.

2.  Bicknese, E.J., and D.A. Fagan. 2005. Chronic low-dose doxycycline as a treatment for periodontal disease in primates: 2005. Proceedings of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Annual Meeting. Pp. 156.

3.  Golub L.M., M.E. Ryan, and R.C. Williams. 1998. Modulation of the host response in the treatment of periodontitis. Dentistry Today 17 (10): 102–109.

4.  Thomas, J., C. Walker, and M. Bradshaw. 2000. Long-term use of subantimicrobial dose doxycycline does not lead to antimicrobial susceptibility. Journal of Periodontalogy. 71 (9):1472–1483.


Speaker Information
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Elizabeth J. Bicknese, DVM, MPVM
Zoological Society of San Diego
San Diego Zoo
San Diego, CA, USA

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