Diaphragmatic Hernias in Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2001
Kevin Kimber1, MS, DVM; Geoffrey W. Pye2,3, BVSc, MSc; Patricia M. Dennis3,4, MSL, DVM; Scott B. Citino3, DVM, DACZM; Darryl J. Heard2, BSc, BVMS, PhD, DACZM; R. Avery Bennett2,5, DVM, MS, DACVS
1Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA; 2Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 3White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, FL, USA; 4Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ohio State University Columbus, OH, USA; 5Bay Area Veterinary Specialists, San Leandro, CA, USA


A 7-year-old, male castrated cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) at White Oak Conservation Center, Yulee, FL USA and a 9-year-old, male intact cheetah at the Central Florida Zoo, Sanford, FL, USA were diagnosed with hiatal hernias. Both cats exhibited clinical signs of intermittent inappetence, vomiting, and regurgitation. On thoracic survey radiographs of both cheetahs, a soft tissue density in the caudal thorax was seen at the location of the esophageal hiatus. Endoscopic examination of both cheetah showed pooling of gastric fluid in the distal esophagus, esophagitis, and bulging of the gastric mucosa through the esophageal hiatus. In one cheetah, medical therapy with omeprazole was unsuccessful in reducing the incidence of regurgitation. Consequently, the cheetah was surgically treated by closure of the esophageal hiatus, esophagopexy, and gastropexy. Following surgery, the regurgitation ceased except for a brief period (5 days; 7 weeks after surgery). The cheetah died suddenly 12 weeks after the surgery. Necropsy revealed that the gastropexy had stretched and allowed the stomach, the proximal duodenum, the spleen, and a large amount of omentum to become entrapped in the thorax. The stomach filled with gas causing compression of the lungs and heart. The second cheetah was treated medically with success for 7 months using omeprazole. The cheetah was euthanatized at that time following development of clinical signs consistent with leukoencephalomalacia. Necropsy of this cheetah showed a portion of the liver was damaged from being entrapped in the hernia, but the distal esophagitis had resolved. The two cheetahs in this report did not share a common ancestor within the previous five generations, according to the international Cheetah SSP studbook. Forty-two of 68 institutions with captive cheetahs responded to an e-mail survey and the results revealed a prevalence of 0.81% (2/247 cheetahs) for this abnormality. Both cheetahs had gastritis associated with Helicobacter, but it is unknown what influence this had on the formation of their hiatal hernias.


We would like to acknowledge the staff of White Oak Conservation Center and Central Florida Zoo for the excellent care they gave these cheetahs.


Speaker Information
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Kevin Kimber, MS, DVM
Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA

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