Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join Today
Giraffe Preventative Medicine Guidelines

Recommended Preventative Medicine Guidelines for Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis sp.),


            Preventative medicine is key to providing long-term health care for all animals, including giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis sp.). Use of a preventative program helps to avoid intra- and inter- specific infectious disease, developmental problems, and in the long term management is cost effective.

            Giraffe are commonly kept in zoological facilities and generally present few problems. In many instances however, giraffe can be difficult to clinically manage, due to the mechanics of dealing with a megavertebrates.  Operant conditioning, even with limited physical facilities, may assist with the evaluation of captive giraffe and is encouraged.  A preventative health care plan should also address the social and psychological needs og the individuals and the group as a whole.  Activities that stimulate normal behaviors have beneficial physical effects on the animals and make for better display animals as well.  Use of browse is strongly encouraged for this and other health effects addressed in the nutritional section.


Physical examination


            Giraffe are difficult animals to physically examine due to the inherent dangers of manual and chemical restraint.1-3   In general, current recommendations advise against yearly immobilization for physical examinations until safe methods for routine sedation and handling are defined. When performed, a physical examination should include;

1.      Visual examination during normal ambulation for symmetry, gait, and overall appearance.

2.      Verification of permanent identification (microchip, tattoo, ear tag, patterning, etc.).

3.      Physical examination to include auscultation, hoof condition and wear, ophthalmic and aural exam, visual assessment of the external genitalia, haircoat density, dental assessment, EKG when possible, etc.

4.      Clinicopathologic assessment;

A.    Bloodwork to include:

a. Complete blood count

b. Serum chemistry panel

c. Mineral panel

d. Serology to include Leptospirosis sp (17 serovar panel- Appendix II), Malignant Catarrhal Fever, Bluetongue, Brucellosis, M. paratuberculosis, and New World West Nile virus status.

B. Routine urinalysis.

5.      Estimated or actual weight.

6.      Fecal analyses

A.    Parasite screen- fecal flotation, direct.

B.     Enteric pathogen screen; salmonella, campylobacter

C.    Mycobacterium paratuberculosis surveillance- 3 fecal cultures (see Appendix).

7.      Tuberculosis (TB) test- intradermal testing can be performed in the caudal tail fold with 0.1cc Bovine PPD as opportunity arises. It is not currently recommended to immobilize giraffe on a routine basis for tuberculosis screening unless clinical signs support testing, a history of tuberculosis in the herd warrants screening, or impending shipment is to occur.

8.      Recommended vaccinations-

A.    Giraffe are susceptible to Clostridium tetani.4 Vaccination with tetanus toxoid should be performed every other year or opportunistically.

B.     Other vaccination for infectious disease (Leptospirosis sp., rabies, etc.) is left to the discretion of the institutions and perceived risks. There are no reported infections with New World West Nile virus in giraffe and vaccination is not recommended at this time.

9.      Prophylactic treatments as needed

A.    Ivermectin

B.     Vitamin E/Selenium

C.    Pyrantel tartrate

D.    Fenbendazole

10.  Hoof trimming

A.    Some animals can be conditioned to allow routine hoof trimming in a restraint. Hoof trimming should be performed as needed to prevent long-term problems.


Parasite Control


            Routine fecal examination (minimum twice yearly) should be performed on all individuals. Persistent parasitemia should be addressed with rotational anthelmintics based on a comprehensive parasite program.5-6   Larval drug resistance can be determined prior to developing any deworming program as resistance has developed in giraffe herds in certain areas.  Testing can be performed with Dr. Tom Craig at Texas A&M.


 Literature cited


1.      Bush, M. Anesthesia of high-risk animals: Giraffe. In: (Fowler, M.E., R.E. Miller, eds.) Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine, Current Therapy 4. 1999. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA. Pp. 545-547.

2.      Bush, M., D.G. Grobler, J.P. Raath, L.G. Phillips, M. A. Stamper and W.R. Lance. 2001. Use of medetomidine and ketamine for immobilization of free-ranging giraffes. J.A.V.M.A. 218(2): 245-249.

3.      Fischer, M.T., R.E. Miller, and E.W. Houston. 1997. Serial tranquilization of a reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) using xylazine. J.Zoo Wildl. Med. 28(2): 182-184.

4.      Nofs, S.A., T.A. Reichard, W. Shellabarger. 2002. Tetanus in a Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata): Observations and implications at the Toledo zoo. Proc. Am. Assoc. of Zoo Vet. Ann Conf., Milwaukwee, WI Pp. 186-190.

5.      Isaza, R., G.V. Kollias. Designing a trichostrongyloid parasite control program for captive exotic ruminants. In (Fowler, M.E. and R.E. Miller, eds.). Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA 593-597.

6.      Young, K.E., J.M. Jensen, T.M. Craig. 2000. Evaluation of anthelmintic activity in captive wild ruminants by fecal egg reduction tests and a larval development assay. J. Zoo Wildl. Med. 31(3): 348-352.


Appendix I


1.      Fecal specimen testing for M. paratuberculosis from giraffe.

a.       Collect at least 3 grams of feces daily for 3 days. Refrigerate specimens until the third specimen is obtained, place in seal able baggies or large seal able plastic tubes, place on ice and ship via overnight express to;

Johnes Testing Center

University of Wisconsin

School of Veterinary Medicine

2015 Linden Drive, West Room 4230

Madison, WI 53706-1102

Phone (608) 265-6463


2.      Serology specimens for M. paratuberculosis ELISA and AGID.

a.       Collect 1cc of serum in sealable plastic tubes and send on ice to;

Johnes Testine Center

University of Wisconsin

School of Veterinary Medicine

2015 Linden Drive West, Room 4230

Madison, WI 53706-1102

Phone (608) 265-6463


Appendix II


1.      Leptospire titers-

a.       Collect 2cc of serum in seal able plastic tubes and send on ice sent to;

            National Veterinary Services Laboratory

               1800 Dayton Road

               Ames, IA 50010

                Phone (515) 663-7266