Veno-Occlusive Disease in Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) Revisited: A Multidisciplinary Perspective at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Ilse H. Stalis1*, DVM, DACVP; Lauren L. Howard2, DVM, DACZM; Rebecca E. Papendick1, DVM, DACVP; Carmel Witte1, MS, PhD candidate; Meredith M. Clancy2, DVM, MPH, DACZM; Matthew E. Kinney2, DVM, DACZM; Nadine Lamberski2, DVM, DACZM, DECZM (ZHM); Andrea L. Fidgett3, MSc, PhD; Bruce A. Rideout1, DVM, PhD, DACVP
1San Diego Zoo Global, Institute for Conservation Research, Disease Investigations, San Diego, CA, USA; 2San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Department of Veterinary Services, Escondido, CA, USA; 3San Diego Zoo Global, Nutritional Services, San Diego, CA, USA


Veno-occlusive disease (sinusoidal obstruction syndrome) is a recognized condition in cheetahs,1,2 but the cause remains unknown. Between 2013 and 2017, 10 cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) from a population of 55 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (SDZSP) were diagnosed with liver disease characterized by predominantly centrilobular necrosis, loss of hepatocytes, and fibrosis, lesions consistent with veno-occlusive disease. Seven cases were identified post-mortem, 3 ante-mortem. Age at diagnosis was 5 to 15 years, there were 6 females and 4 males. Four deceased animals had chylous abdominal effusion. Previous reports in cheetahs have stressed the more chronic lesions in the disease. In our case series, acute lesions were noted in earlier cases and fibrosis in later cases, suggesting a progression of disease from necrosis to replacement fibrosis, and a long time course.

Clinical presentation varied and included ascites, weight loss, decreased activity, loose stool, and faded hair coat. Most affected cheetahs had at least one elevated laboratory value, including gamma glutamyltransferase (>10 U/L), alanine aminotransferase (>200 U/L), aspartate aminotransferase (>100 U/L), total bilirubin (>0.6 mg/dL), or bile acids (>25 μmol/L).

Current monitoring includes periodic blood sampling for CBC, serum biochemistry, and bile acids. Cheetahs with abnormal laboratory results are scheduled for repeat blood collection or liver biopsy, and may be started on empiric treatment.

Medical records of cheetahs at SDZSP were reviewed in order to understand the epidemiology, identify potential risk factors, and elucidate the cause of this liver disease.


We would like to thank Drs. Kirk Suedmeyer and Mike Garner for sharing the necropsy report for one case.

Literature Cited

1.  Gosselin, SJ, Loudy DL, Tarr MJ, Balistreri WF, Setchell KDR, Johnston JO, Kramer LW, Dresser BL. Veno-occlusive disease of the liver in captive cheetah. Vet Pathol. 1988;25:48–57.

2.  Terrell SP, Fontenot DK, Miller MA, Weber MA. Chylous ascites in a cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) with venoocclusive disease. J Zoo Wildl Med. 2003;34:380–384.


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

Ilse H. Stalis, DVM, DACVP
San Diego Zoo Global
Institute for Conservation Research
San Diego, CA, USA

MAIN : Felids : Veno-Occlusive Disease in Cheetahs
Powered By VIN