Normal Serum Vitamin E Values in Giant Anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2009
Sally A. Nofs1, DVM; Ellen S. Dierenfeld2, PhD; Lisa A. Leuchner3, MS, RD

1Veterinary Services, Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, TN, USA; 2Novus International, Inc., St. Charles, MO, USA; 3Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA


Baseline serum α-tocopherol (α-toc) values in captive giant anteaters have not previously been defined. Cats and dogs are typical models for carnivore nutritional physiology and may prove useful for evaluating vitamin E (vit E) nutrition in zoo carnivores. The objective of this study was to determine serum α-toc as a measure of vit E status in captive anteaters, for comparison with reported norms.

Twenty-one blood samples were opportunistically collected from 16 individuals, and fresh or frozen serum was analyzed for α-toc using high-pressure liquid chromatography. Clinically normal animals averaged 2.58±1.37 µg/ml. Three severely compromised animals had values of 0.29, 0.31, and 0.46 µg/ml. By comparison, serum vit E levels of free-ranging adult giant anteaters in apparent good health from Parque Nacional de Serra da Canastra (Brazil) were 1.0 µg/ml (n=4), and 3.0 µg/ml (n=1).1 Normal values for dogs range from 2.7 to 12.4 µg/ml and range from 3 to 11 µg/ml for cats.2 Thus, anteaters display values at, or below, the ranges that are considered to be normal for domestic carnivores. Oxidative stress, and/or dietary deficiencies have been shown to decrease circulating vit E concentrations.2 Anteaters have been reported to have cardiomyopathies associated with taurine deficiency3,4 and this condition has been linked to low vit E status in other carnivores5. Thus, vit E deficiency should not be discounted as a possible contributor to cardiomyopathy in giant anteaters. Additional samples, and correlation of data with health status and diet evaluations from multiple animals/collections will further our understanding of vit E nutrition in giant anteaters.


  • Dawn Rouse—Giant anteater keeper at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
  • Super vet techs of the Nashville Zoo—Rita Buice, BS, LVT, and Melissa Julien, LVT
  • Dr. Thomas Herdt and the nutrition section of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, East Lansing, MI

Literature Cited

1.  Gillespie, Don. Personal communication.

2.  Dierenfeld, E.S., and M.G. Traber. 1992. Vitamin E status of exotic animals compared with livestock and domestics. In: Packer, L. and J. Fuchs (eds.). Vitamin E in Health and Disease. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York. Pp. 345–360.

3.  Aguilar, R.F., F. Dunker, and M.N. Garner. 2002. Dilated cardiomyapathy in two giant anteaters (Myremecophaga tridactyla). Proc. Amer. Assoc. Zoo Vets.:169–172. Kirk-Baer, C., (ed). Milwaukee, WI.

4.  Wilson, E.D., F. Dunker, M.N. Garner, and R.F. Aguilar. 2003. Taurine deficiency associated with dilated cardiomyopathy in giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla): Preliminary results and diagnostics. Proc. Amer. Assoc. Zoo Vets.:155–159. Kirk-Baer, C., (ed). Minneapolis, MN.

5.  Hayes, K.C., J.E. Rousseau, Jr., and D.M. Hegsted. 1970. Plasma tocopherol concentrations and vitamin E deficiency in dogs. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 157:64–71.


Speaker Information
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Sally A. Nofs, DVM
Veterinary Services
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Nashville, TN, USA

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