Sub-Total Glossectomy in a Reticulated Giraffe
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2008
Michael J. Richard1, DVM; Edward J. Gentz1, DVM, DACZM; Timothy J. Hanosh2, DVM
1Albuquerque Biological Park, Albuquerque, NM, USA; 2Rio Bravo Veterinary Hospital, Albuquerque, NM, USA


A 29-year-old female Reticulated Giraffe presented with an acutely swollen tongue. This animal habitually allowed a majority of the tongue to hang out of the right side of its mouth but on presentation, the tongue was markedly swollen with dried hay and debris adherent to the surface due to oozing of serous fluid. After placement in a restraint chute, the giraffe was immobilized with 200 mg xylazine (Lloyd Laboratories, Shenandoah, IA, USA) followed by 4.0 mg etorphine (Zoopharm, Fort Collins, CO, USA) for exam. The distal two-thirds of the tongue was obviously devitalized, hard, and malodorous and a glossectomy was deemed the only salvage procedure possible. Towel forceps were placed in the tongue, allowing it to be extended until healthy tissue could be identified. A series of closely spaced vertical mattress sutures was placed across the width of the tongue for hemostasis. Approximately 29 cm of tongue was amputated, near the rostral edge of the frenulum, leaving an unknown length of tongue remaining. A V-shaped incision into the muscular layer of the tongue facilitated apposition of the cut edges. By the third day post-surgery, the giraffe was noted to be picking up feed and trying to manipulate it with its mouth, tipping the nose vertically upward to allow feed to fall into the back of the mouth. Switching to larger alfalfa cubes and leafy browse allowed better prehension of the feed and the giraffe was able to maintain or gain weight over the next 10 months. At that time progressive, severe lameness due to chronic osteoarthritis of the left front fetlock developed and humane euthanasia was elected. At necropsy, there was approximately 7.5 cm of healthy appearing tongue remaining.


Speaker Information
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Michael J. Richard, DVM
Albuquerque Biological Park
Albuquerque, NM, USA

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