Two giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), a 5-yr-old female and a 7-yr-old male, were diagnosed with clinical Orthopoxvirus (cowpox) infection in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Clinical signs were similar, including inappetence and the development of multifocal ulcerative and vesicular lesions extending along their tongues, rostrums and throughout their oral cavities. Disseminated skin lesions were also found over their bodies, mostly affecting their feet, flanks and genital areas. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays performed on dry swabs of these lesions confirmed the clinical suspicion of Orthopoxvirus (suspected cowpox) infection. Cowpox virus is endemic in Europe, where wild rodents are the main reservoir hosts, but clinical disease may occur in opportunistic hosts with felids and elephants amongst the species most often affected.1 In a previous report from 1973, the virus affected two giant anteaters, both of which died.2 In this case, the first animal made a full recovery after it was anesthetised on seven occasions in order to administer nonspecific supportive care, including parenteral fluid administration, antibiosis, pain relief, anti-inflammatory medication and supplementary feed via an orogastric tube. Acyclovir was administered at a dose extrapolated from dogs and cats. The second animal died under anesthesia during initial assessment and postmortem revealed cowpox lesions that were partially obstructing its glottis. The two outcomes in these cases made it possible to examine the full extent of the lesions present on a postmortem specimen, as well as to show that, in some cases, intensive treatment may result in full recovery from this serious zoonotic disease.
The authors would like to thank colleagues based at Chester Zoo and The Institute of Veterinary Science and Veterinary Laboratories Services at The University of Liverpool, for their assistance in the diagnosis and care of these anteaters.
1. Kurthe A, Nitsche A. Cowpox in zoo animals. In: Miller RE, Fowler ME, eds. Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, Current Therapy. Volume 7. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:32–37.
2. Marennikova SS, Maltseva NN, Korneeva VI, Garanina N. Outbreak of pox disease among carnivore (Felidae) and Edentata. J Infect Dis. 1977;135:358–366.