Dental Disease and a Left Displacement of the Abomasum in a Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulate): Lessons Learned
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2017
Kimberly A. Thompson1, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM; Ronan Eustace2, DVM; Colleen Monahan3, DVM; Colleen Turner4, DVM; Vengai Mavangira4, BVSc, PhD, DACVIM (Large Animal Internal Medicine)
1Binder Park Zoo, Battle Creek, MI, USA; 2Potawatomi Zoo, South Bend, IN, USA; 3Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, Lansing, MI, USA; 4College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA


A 10-year-old reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulate) bull presented with acute abdominal pain (colic). The bull had a 4-month history of being a poor eater. Physical examination, management, and monitoring over the following 72 hours were performed with the aid of two standing sedations. The giraffe developed a metabolic alkalosis and pre-renal azotemia. A metallic ping sound was auscultated on the left side near the 10–12th rib. Administration of intravenous fluids via jugular catheter was unsuccessful due to the high venous blood pressure. Pre-renal azotemia worsened, and compensatory respiratory acidosis and paradoxical aciduria developed. Due to worsening condition and inability to stabilize the giraffe, euthanasia was elected. On necropsy, there was a left displaced abomasum (LDA) with fluid sequestration (40–50 gallons) within the rumen. The molars had flattening of the occlusal surfaces, and a computer tomography scan of the head showed significant dental disease. This case reinforces that giraffes considered poor eaters should be evaluated for dental disease.1 A high-concentrate, low-roughage diet, reflective of how giraffes are fed in captivity, is the main predisposing factor for LDA development in periparturient dairy cows.2,3 During necropsy, the position of the abomasum must be noted prior to removal of the gastrointestinal tract to ensure that cases of LDA are not missed. This case emphasizes the importance of blood gas analysis as a diagnostic tool for ruminants with acute abdomen. Giraffe critical care poses many unique challenges, and each case adds vital information to future veterinary management of this species.


The authors would like to thank the staff at Binder Park Zoo for their dedication and hard work in caring and training the giraffes under their care.

Literature Cited

1.  Clauss M, Franz-Odendaal TA, Brasch J, Castell JC, Kaiser T. Tooth wear in captive giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis): mesowear analysis classifies free-ranging specimens as browsers but captive ones as grazers. J Zoo Wildl Med. 2007;38(3):433–445.

2.  Shaver RD. Nutritional risk factors in the etiology of left displaced abomasum in dairy cows: a review. J Dairy Sci. 1997;80(10):2449–2453.

3.  Van Winden SCL, Jorritsma R, Müller KE, Noordhuizen JPTM. Feed intake, milk yield, and metabolic parameters prior to left displaced abomasum in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci. 2003;86(4):1465–1471.


Speaker Information
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Kimberly A. Thompson, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM
Binder Park Zoo
Battle Creek, MI, USA

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