Thermography Evaluation of Trunk Paralysis in an Asian Elephant (Elaphus maximus) Using Digital Thermography
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2000
Gregory J. Fleming, DVM; Ramiro Isaza, DVM, MS, DACZM
Department of Clinical Sciences, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA


A 45-year-old female Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) was examined for a 5-year history of decreased trunk use. When compared to other elephants in the herd, there was a significant decrease in trunk diameter and some atrophy of the facial muscles associated with the trunk. Other physical exam findings, including a complete blood count and serum chemistry panel, were unremarkable. Thermographic images of the trunk were obtained using the Inframetrics hand-held, high resolution (65,000 pixels) thermography camera PM280 (Inframetrics PM 280 Thermography Camera, FLIR Systems, N. Billerica, MA 01862-2598). These images were obtained to ascertain if there was a difference between this elephant’s thermal signature and that of other elephants with clinically normal trunks.

The trunk of the affected animal was cooler, both on the cranial and caudal surfaces, than contemporary herd mates. Thermal changes in the trunk may be due to a combination of reasons, including muscle atrophy or neurologic problems due to trauma, toxins, mineral deficiencies, or hereditary defects.1-10

Trunk paralysis has been reported in both Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants.9,10 Anecdotal cases of chronic muscle wasting of the trunk and inability to extend the trunk have been reported in captive Asian elephants.9 This syndrome appears to differ from African elephant trunk paralysis in that the paralysis happens slowly over a number of years and does not appear progressive. Multiple theories for the syndrome have been proposed, such as nerve damage attributed to trauma, parasitic migration, bacterial infection, and neoplasia involving motor nerves.9 To date, no published reports have described histologic findings.

Literature Cited

1.  Purohit, R.C. and M.D. McCoy. 1980. Thermography in the diagnosis of inflammatory processes in the horse. Am. J. Vet. Res. 41:1167–1174.

2.  Purohit, R.C., W.A. Bergfeld, M.D. McCoy, W.M. Thompson, and R.S. Sharman. 1977. Value of clinical thermography in veterinary medicine. Auburn Vet. 33:104–108.

3.  Spire, M.F., J.S. Drouillared, and J.C. Galland. 1999. Use of infrared thermography to detect inflammation caused by contaminated growth-promotant ear implants in cattle. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 215:1320–1324.

4.  Hamilton, B.L. 1986. An overview of proposed mechanisms underlying thermal dysfunction. In: Abernathy, M., and S. Uematsu (eds.). Medical Thermography. American Academy of Thermology, Washington D.C. Pp. 6–18.

5.  Barnes, R.B. 1967. Determination of body temperature by infared emission. J. Appl. Physiol. 22:1143–1146.

6.  Stuttgen, G. and U. Flesch. 1985. Dermatological Thermography. Weinheim, Germany: VCH Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, D-6940, Pp. 13–31.

7.  Stuttgen, G. and T.A. Turner. 1991. Thermography as an aid to clinical lameness evaluation. Vet. Clin. N. Am. Eq. Pract. 7:311–337.

8.  Dowling, P., J.W. Tyler, and D.F. Wolfe. 1991. Thermographic and electromyographic evaluation of a lumbosacral spinal injury in a cow. Prog. Vet. Neurol. 2: 73–76.

9.  Kock, N.D., S.A. Goedegebuure, E.P. Lane, V. Lucke, D. Tyrrell, and M.D. Kock. 1994. Flaccid truck paralysis in free-ranging elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Zimbabwe. J. Wildl. Dis. 30: 432–435.

10.  Schmidtt, M. Elephants (Proboscidea). In: Fowler, M.E. (ed.). Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, 3rd ed. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pp. 912.


Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Ramiro Isaza, DVM, MS, DACZM
Department of Clinical Sciences
Veterinary Teaching Hospital
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS, USA

MAIN : All : Thermography Evaluation of Elephant Trunk Paralysis
Powered By VIN