Shoe Application and Its Effects on Resolution of Hoof Problems in a Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2013

Rebecca A. Bloch1, DVM; Lisa Stephens2, DVM; Holly Haefele1, DVM

1Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Glen Rose, TX, USA; 2Lipan, TX, USA


The need for hoof care and maintenance in captive giraffe is well-known.1 A variety of farriery techniques are used in domestic animals3,4 and have the potential for application in exotics. While mention is made of using blocks in giraffe,2 little mention is made of the use of shoes or more aggressive interventions.

A 2-yr-old Rothschild/reticulated giraffe hybrid (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi/reticulata) was immobilized for hoof trim of overgrown hind feet. Over the course of the next 2 mo, her hind feet continued to overgrow and the distal extent of the lateral toe of the right hind foot became elevated off the ground. This animal was immobilized for repeat hoof trim. Radiographs showed rotation of the third phalanx (P3) in the lateral toe of the right hind foot with bony lysis medially and a lucency at the distal extent of P3. Ultrasound showed fiber disruption in the deep digital flexor tendon with a probable tear on the lateral aspect. The hooves were trimmed but it was not possible to fully correct the lateral claw on the right hind foot.

Just over 11 weeks later, this animal was immobilized for additional trimming. Radiographs showed rotation of P3 in both hind feet and the right front foot, with the right hind being the most affected. After trimming all four feet, an aluminum shoe was glued in place on the right hind foot and a steel band was placed across both claws, attached with screws, and sealed with a glue layer to aid in support of the foot and encourage equal hoof growth. Despite concern for possible complications, this animal showed only one mild, isolated period of lameness that resolved without intervention.

Immobilization for hoof trim almost 8 weeks later showed radiographic improvement of all feet. The aluminum shoe and steel band were removed and wooden shoes were placed on both hind feet. The shoe on the right hind foot was wedged to relieve DDF tension, while the shoe for the left hind foot was level. Both shoes were attached to the feet by screws in the wood that gripped but did not penetrate the edges of the hoof wall. Cast material (3M Scotchcast Plus casting tape, 3M, St. Paul, MN, USA) coated with an acrylic glue (Equi-Thane Superfast, Vettec Hoof Care, Oxnard, CA, USA) was wrapped around the hoof wall and shoes to help secure the wood in place. The left shoe fell off 11 days later, the right stayed on for a total of 3 weeks. At the end of this time period, all digits were in contact with the ground and the hooves on the hind feet were more normally shaped.

Nine months later when this animal was immobilized for hoof trimming, radiographs showed slight rotation in P3 but it was possible to trim the hooves into a normal shape. The holes, originally 2 cm from the coronary band for metal band application, were completely trimmed away in this immobilization.

In conclusion, more advanced farriery techniques can be used successfully in the case of captive wildlife despite lack of behavioral training and in the absence of a controlled environment.

Literature Cited

1.  Bush, M. 2003. Giraffidae. In: Fowler, M. E. and R. E. Miller (eds.). Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. 5th Edition. St. Louis, Missouri. 625–633.

2.  James, S. B., K. Kross, J. Harper, and J. Martin. 2000. Diagnosis and treatment of a fractured third phalanx in a Masai giraffe (Giraffe camelopardalis tippelskirchi). J. Zoo Wildl. Med. 31:400–403.

3.  Jann, H. W. and R. R. Steckel. 1989. Treatment of lacerated flexor tendons in a dairy cow, using specialized farriery. J. Am.Vet. Med. Assoc. 195:772–774.

4.  Shearer, J. K. and S. R. van Amstel. 2001. Functional and corrective claw trimming. Vet. Clin. North Am. Food Anim. Pract. 17:53–72.


Speaker Information
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Rebecca A. Bloch, DVM
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Glen Rose, TX, USA

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