A review of 108 necropsy reports of captive meerkats (Suricata suricatta) from multiple institutions revealed 38 individuals with cardiovascular pathology. The majority of these cases (82%) reported myocardial disease. The most frequent histologic changes observed were cardiomyopathy consisting of multifocal myodegeneration with interstitial fibrosis (30 cases). These lesions occurred in both ventricular free walls and the interventricular septum. Gross and/or histologic lesions of cardiac insufficiency were noted in half of these cases. The age of affected animals ranged from 3–13 years of age with a mean of 8.3 years and both sexes were equally represented.
The typical presentation of these cases was as an acute illness or sudden death without premonitory signs and there was often little opportunity for treatment. Based on the high prevalence of myocardial disease, evaluation of myocardial function in early adulthood is recommended so that treatment of affected animals may begin at an earlier stage of the disease.
Although cardiomyopathy appears to be a common disease in meerkats, there is only one previously reported case in the literature.1 A single case of Ebstein anomaly, a malformation the tricuspid valve, is the only other cardiac disease reported in this species.2 In domestic species possible etiologies for cardiomyopathy include familial, nutritional deficiencies (taurine, L- carnitine, vitamin E), infectious/postinfectious or idiopathic.3 The risk factors for the condition in this species is not identified and further research is needed.
We would like to acknowledge the following institutions for providing information on clinical cases: Buffalo Zoo, Capron Park Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Miami Metrozoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo and Toledo Zoo.
1. Sladky, K.K., F.G. Dalldorf, H. Steinburg, J.F. Wright, and M.R. Loomis. 2000. Cholesterol granulomas in three meerkats Suricata suricatta. Vet. Pathol. 37: 684–686.
2. Chai, N., V.C. Chetboul, C. Carlos, A. Nicolle, J. Pouchelon, and M. C. Bomsel. 2004. Ebstein anomaly in a meerkat Suricata suricatta. J. Zoo Wildl. Med. 35: 546–548.
3. Ware, W.A. 2003. Myocardial diseases of the dog and myocardial diseases of the cat. In: Nelson, R.W. and C.G. Couto (eds.). Small Animal Internal Medicine, 3rd ed. Mosby, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri. Pp. 106–134.