Long-Term Management of Dystocia, Retained Fetus, and Surgical Intervention in an African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Wm. Kirk Suedmeyer, DVM, DACZM
A 31-year-old female African elephant (Loxodonta africana) was documented as being pregnant in late 1999 through observation of natural breeding, serum progestin levels, transrectal and transabdominal ultrasound.1,2 The elephant failed to give birth to a full-term fetus during the onset of natural labor. The elephant was managed as a clinical dystocia with a retained fetus by observing clinical abnormalities, monitoring complete blood counts, select sera chemistries and routine progestin levels. Rotational analgesics and antibiotics were administered for 8 months after the onset and discontinuance of labor. Analgesics were administered during times of perceived pain occurring during subsequent estrous cycles.
Five years later, the female demonstrated the onset of naturally induced labor but failed to pass the retained calf beyond the horizontal portion of the vestibule. A vestibulotomy was performed and produced a mummified but headless bull calf. Despite four surgical procedures to close the vestibulotomy site, the incision dehisced, and the elephant is currently managed with a urinary fistula. She is otherwise clinically normal and on exhibit.
1. Hildebrandt, T.B., Göritz, F., Pratt, N.C., et al. 1997. Assessment of health and reproductive status in African and Asian elephants by transrectal ultrasonography. Proc. Am. Assoc. Zoo Vet. Pp. 207–211.
2. Suedmeyer, W.K. 2002. Transabdominal ultrasonic gestational monitoring in an African elephant (Loxodonta africana). JEMA. 12 (2): 88–91.