Use of a Pressure Mat for Quality-of-Life Assessments on a Geriatric Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2019
Hilary Householder1, DVM; Sarah Muirhead2; Doug Russo2, CJF, AWCF; Valerie Johnson3, DVM, MS; June Olds, DVM1,2
1Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines, IA, USA; 2Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA; 3Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA


Lameness is one of the most common problems plaguing adult giraffe in human care and is frequently a factor resulting in humane euthanasia.1 Lameness may be secondary to a variety of causes, including osteoarthritis, hoof overgrowth, fractures, or systemic diseases caused by metabolic disease or nutritional deficiencies.1 Common diagnostic procedures include visual examinations with subjective lameness scores, thermography, and radiology. A 21-year-old female reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) was placed on quality-of-life monitoring due to a chronic history of malunion fractures of P2 of the lateral claw and of P3 of the medial claw of the right front foot causing chronic, progressive lameness. Using behavioral training, gait analysis was performed using a Tekscan pressure mat to obtain objective data before and after an anesthetized examination with multiple treatments performed. Utilizing the pressure mat, initial gait analysis indicated reduced vertical force placed on the right front foot (109.85 kg) compared to the left front foot (145.18 kg), as well as lower maximum peak pressure applied to the right front foot (160 kPa) versus the left (168 kPa). Serial monitoring with the pressure mat showed right front foot improvement with 77% increase in vertical force applied and 118% increase in maximum peak pressure applied. This case demonstrates a relatively easy, effective, and objective method to assess giraffe lameness using force plate analysis that provides useful, unbiased information aiding in quality-of-life decisions.


The authors thank Dr. Drew Gall and the Large Mammal team at the Blank Park Zoo and Dr. Jennifer Schleining for their assistance in the care and treatment of this giraffe, and the Anesthesia Department of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center for their assistance in the immobilization event.

Literature Cited

1.  Dadone L. Lameness diagnosis and management in zoo giraffe. In: Miller RE, Lamberski N, Calle PP, eds. Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine: Current Therapy. Volume 9. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:623–629.


Speaker Information
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Hilary Householder, DVM
Blank Park Zoo
Des Moines, IA, USA

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