*This is the second part of a series documenting the care that Goody the Giraffe receives at the Sacramento Zoo.
Goody, the Reticulated Giraffe, has osteoarthritis which is particularly bad in her front left fetlock (ankle) where she also has a chronic joint abnormality (poor conformation). As she has aged and her arthritis progressed, her joint continues to degenerate. Any condition in a front leg is particularly difficult for giraffes because they bear nearly 75% of their weight on the front legs. While other four-legged animals can distribute their weight more easily to deal with front leg problems, or even adapt to the amputation of a leg, giraffes need both front legs to be able to walk, sit, stand and run.
Although we cannot change Goody’s condition, we have been working hard to ease the effects of her degenerative arthritis and joint abnormalities. Zookeepers and veterinarians spend a lot of time treating Goody in a variety of ways to help her live more comfortably. All of her treatments are under the close supervision of the veterinary staff which coordinates specialists from around the community to aid in her care.
A typical day for Goody
Goody goes into the barn where she stands on an electro-magnetic therapy mat while eating breakfast. At this time she also receives oral arthritis medications Meloxicam and Gabapentin.
Ice wraps (designed for sport horses) are wrapped around her fetlock. She wears the ice packs for about 30 minutes, until she’s ready to go outside with the herd.
If she is particularly sore, lidocaine gel (a topical anesthetic) is applied to her joint.
She joins the herd in the yard for exercise, diet, enrichment and socialization.
Goody usually returns to the barn and waits at the door for a keeper to allow her into a private stall.
After a snack, keepers will usually ice her shoulder or give her an acupuncture treatment.
11:00 am to 3:30 pm
Goody lays down for a nap and rests.
Afternoon medications are administered and she receives dinner.
Goody can either return to the herd or stay in the barn overnight depending on how keepers have assessed her comfort level that day.
Other Therapies Provided:
- Due to the pain and stiffness, she walks abnormally causing uneven wear on her hooves. Zookeepers trim her feet routinely, with the guidance of a farrier (professional that specializes in equine hoof care), to help keep them in a healthy and normal shape as possible.
- In addition to medication we also utilize alternative therapies. Some – like icing and stretching – are similar to what human athletes use. Others – such as acupuncture, pulse electromagnetic therapy, and laser therapy – are more holistic approaches.
- Recently zookeepers have been test fitting a shim (a wedge designed to go between a horse’s hoof and horse shoe that corrects the hoof if its angle is incorrect). The extra support when the shim is attached to the underside of the hoof, helps stabilize her steps. Keepers are continuing to modify the design of her wedge and trying to adapt it into a comfortable metal “shoe” she can wear all the time.