Erysipelothrix in a Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010

Erica Wilson1, DVM; Michael Garner2, DVM, DACVP

1Dickerson Park Zoo, Springfield, MO, USA; 2Northwest ZooPath, Everson, WA, USA


Erysipelothrix infections have been seen in captive macropods held in the UK, Australia, and Europe. Cases have occurred sporadically and after periods of heavy rainfall.1 Typical clinical signs are similar to swine: urticarial or necrotic skin lesions on the limbs or trunk, gingivitis, oral mucosal lesions and acute death.2 This disease is diagnosed typically at necropsy by culture collected from major organs. If initiated early, therapy with penicillins, potentiated sulfonamides and tetracyclines may be curative.1 In 2009, a case of Erysipelothrix occurred in Missouri after a period of heavy rainfall. At morning check, a 4-yr-old female red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) presented with lethargy and was isolating from the group. By early afternoon, she was found unresponsive and seizuring several hours later. Based on physical exam findings of ascites on radiographs/ultrasound and edema of the extremities, a presumptive diagnosis of disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) was made. A toxemic etiology was suspected, due to concurrent evening events being held on zoo grounds. During treatment, this animal went into cardiac arrest and was ultimately humanely euthanatized. Blood was collected from the heart following euthanasia. Necropsy revealed a dark purple to black heart, petechiation of the kidneys, mucous membranes, mesentery and intestines, and moderately congested lungs. Histopathology confirmed DIC with acute septic gram-negative rods present in the intestinal villi. Blood was submitted for aerobic culture and staining. Blood smear stains were negative, but Erysipelothrix spp. was successfully isolated from whole blood. To our knowledge, this is the first of two occurrences to be reported in the United States of this disease entity.


The author would like to thank the staff at Northwest Zoopath and Missouri State University – Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory for answering all of my questions.

Literature Cited

1.  Vogelnest, Larry and Tim Portas. 2008. In: Medicine of Australian Mammals. “Macropods – Diseases.” CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood Vic 3066, Australia. 167, 189.

2.  Swindle, M. M., A.C. Smith, K. L. Laber, J. A. Goodrich and S. A. Bingel. 2003. In: Laboratory Animal Medicine and Management, Reuter, J.D. and Suckow M.A. (Eds.). “Biology and Medicine of Swine.” International Veterinary Information Service, Ithaca NY (, Last updated; 7-Nov-2003; B2511.1103.



Speaker Information
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Erica Wilson, DVM
Dickerson Park Zoo
Springfield, MO, USA

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