A Retrospective Study of End-Stage Renal Disease in Captive Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2013
Elise E.B. LaDouceur1, DVM; Michael M. Garner2, DVM, DACVP; Barbara Davis3, DVM, PhD, DACVP; Flo Tseng4, DVM
1Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, USA; 2Northwest ZooPath, Monroe, WA, USA; 3Nemucore Medical Innovations, Worcester, MA, USA; 4Wildlife Clinic, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA, USA


Eleven cases of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) were identified in captive polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from eight zoological institutions across the United States and Canada. The index case was identified by submission of a polar bear to Tufts Pathology Service for necropsy, and the remaining cases by searching two databases: annual reports of the Species Survival Plan Taxon Advisory Group and necropsy records from a private diagnostic institution. Ten bears were female, one was male, and the mean age at the time of death was 24 years. The most common clinical signs were lethargy, inappetence, and polyuria/polydipsia. Biochemical findings included azotemia, anemia, hyperphosphatemia, and isosthenuria. Histological examination commonly showed glomerulonephropathies and interstitial fibrosis.

The prevalence of ESRD in captive polar bears in the United States was estimated by searching the database of a private diagnostic institution for all polar bears that were submitted for cause of death determination between 1995 and 2011. Thirty-four polar bears were identified, seven of which died from ESRD. ESRD was the most common cause of death or reason for euthanasia with an estimated prevalence of over 20%. Further research is needed to discern the etiology of this apparently common disease of captive polar bears.


Speaker Information
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Elise E.B. LaDouceur, DVM
Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California-Davis
Davis, CA, USA

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