Dental Conditions of Captive Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010
Janet C. Beagley1, DVM, MS; Michael Q. Lowder1, DVM, MS; Jennifer N. Langan2,3, DVM, DACZM; Scott B. Citino4, DVM, DACZM
1Department of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA; 2Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA; 3Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL, USA; 4White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, FL, USA


Dental disease is an important cause of morbidity in a variety of captive non-domestic species.2,3 However, little is known about dental conditions of captive non-domestic browsing herbivores. As several unique disease syndromes have been associated with black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in captivity,1 careful husbandry and management of these animals is considered particularly important. Evidence of dental disease was consistently present in skull specimens from captive adult black rhinos (Citino pers. comm.).

This report summarizes the dental conditions of eight black rhinos aged between 8 and over 30 years. Only three of these individuals were exhibiting clinical signs of dental disease. All animals had sharp points on the buccal surface of the maxillary cheek teeth and lingual surface of the mandibular cheek teeth. Rhinos older than 8 years (n=7) had some degree of dental calculus. Rhinos older than 11 years (n=4) had multiple loose teeth and associated purulent gingivitis. Sharp points were filed smooth in all rhinos and calculus removed where indicated. Premolar extractions were performed in two rhinos with dental abscesses.

These results indicate that complete oral examinations should be performed on black rhinos regularly, regardless of the absence of clinical signs. Furthermore, black rhinos may benefit from preventive dental care. Dietary considerations, management, and genetics should be considered as potential reasons for the frequent occurrence of dental disease in captive black rhinos.


The authors would like to thank the staff of White Oak Conservation Center and The Brookfield Zoo for assistance with these cases.

Literature Cited

1.  Dennis PM, Funk JA, Rajala-Schultz PJ, Blumer ES, Miller RE, Wittum TE, Saville WJA. A review of some of the health issues of captive black rhinoceroses (Diceros bicornus). J Zoo Wildl Med. 2007;38:509–517.

2.  Kazimiroff J, Cook RA. Trends in oral pathology of captive wildlife. In: Proceedings of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. Dental Meet. 1991:24–26.

3.  Jurado OM, Clauss M, Streich J, Hatt J-M. Irregular tooth wear and longevity in captive wild ruminants: a pilot survey of necropsy reports. J Wildl Dis. 2008;39:69–75.


Speaker Information
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Janet C. Beagley, DVM, MS
Department of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Georgia
Athens, GA, USA

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