Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Like a Foal with Extra Long (And Crooked) Legs: Equine-Specialist Vet Helps Louisville Zoo's Giraffe

by Fran Jurga | 18 March 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

A month-old giraffe born in February at the Louisville Zoo is responding after surgery to correct a hind limb deformity. Scott Bennett DVM, a well-known surgeon with Equine Services in Simpsonville, Kentucky performed the surgery at his clinic.

For the first time since his birth, Bakari is currently eating well and is now standing for hours at a time instead of minutes.

Through digital X-rays of Bakari’s legs, Bennett said he determined that Bakari had an angular limb deformity in both hind legs, which the Zoo described as "one side of his bones growing faster than the other", forcing Bakari to wobble and walk sideways.

“Dr. Bennett said the deformity probably started in utero, and that he sees many horse foals with the same problem,” Zoo vet Roy Burns DVM said.

The Zoo said that Bennett performed periosteal stripping, a brief surgical procedure that speeds bone growth on the short side of the leg. As far as Bennett and Burns know, this is the first periosteal stripping ever performed on a giraffe.

Periosteal stripping, also called periosteal elevation, is routinely performed on the front limbs of valuable Thoroughbred foals who show signs of angular limb deformities that might hamper their running ability or detract from their saleability in the auction ring.

Horses helped Bakari both with the technique of his limb surgery and in his immune system. Since he couldn’t stand to nurse, the Zoo’s veterinary team conducted a plasma transfer where horse immunoglobulins (or antibodies) were transfused into the giraffe through an intravenous line. Two plasma transfers were necessary to establish a protective immune system.

Bakari is a Masai giraffe; his name means "Hopeful" in English.

Thanks to the Louisville Zoo for the great photo of Bakari and their help with this article.

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