One small step for rhinos, one giant leap for wildlife management- imaging diagnosis of bone pathology in distal limb
OPEN PloS one | 23 Jul 2013
G Galateanu, TB Hildebrandt, A Maillot, P Etienne, R Potier, B Mulot, J Saragusty and R Hermes
Chronic foot disease poses a threat to the general health, represents a tremendous clinical challenge, and often is a reason for euthanasia in captive megaherbivores, among them the elephant and rhinoceros. Nevertheless, apart from the elephant, foot pathology is handled as being confined only to soft tissues whereas bone pathology is often overlooked. As a case in point, the authors selected the second largest mammal on land, the rhinoceros. We performed a computed tomographic (CT) study using the highest resolution available in veterinary world, followed by digital radiography of eight distal limbs from two white and one Indian rhinoceroses. Our study demonstrated that bone pathology in rhinoceroses' foot is present and in large numbers, yet none of these were diagnosed ante mortem. Even when the animals were euthanized due to foot problems, the decision was based on soft tissue pathology rather than orthopedic reasons. Even more worrying is the fact that the largest number of osteopathologies was present in one of the white rhinoceroses that showed no discernable related clinical signs. This study describes for the first time the existence of bone pathology in white rhinoceros foot, in addition to the two previously described rhinoceros species - Indian and black rhinoceroses. Furthermore, the chronic foot disease reported for the Indian rhinoceros in our study was not restricted to soft tissue structures as was presumed ante mortem but included severe bone pathology. New evidence suggesting that osteopathology in rhinoceroses' distal limb is more widespread than it was thought before could force us to rethink of radiographic diagnosis in captive megaherbivores as routine examination incorporated into their health management. The anticipated improvements in radiologic examinations in megaherbivores will increase the effectiveness of their management and husbandry and open the way for improved animal welfare and better wildlife conservation.
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