Constipation/Impaction in Elephants

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names --
Disease Agents
  • There may be many causes, including eating of dry fodder, liver disease and intestinal parasites. (J12.5.w1)
  • Large quantities of earth and gravel. (B10.49.w1)
  • Feeding of excessive quantities of very fibrous feedstuffs. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Reduced drinking may be a factor. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Tooth problems leading to improper chewing. (P502.1992.w8) See: Molar Maldevelopment and Malocclusion in Elephants
  • Elephants eating too much after prolonged work (e.g. ceremonial parades) has led to a period of fasting and stress. (P502.1992.w8)
    • Watering and feeding immediately after heavy work/a long walk in the heat of the day may precipitate impaction. (P502.1992.w8)

Further information on Disease Agents has only been incorporated for agents recorded in species for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Only those agents with further information available are linked below:

Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s) --
General Description

In Elephants:

  • Constipation has been reported in weanling elephants. (B16.18.w18)
  • Common disease found in captive elephants. (B214.3.7.w3)
  • In some severe cases, constipation has been reported to lead to intestinal rupture after the ingestion of earth and stones. (B214.3.7.w3)

Clinical signs:

  • General dullness and depression. (B16.18.w18, J12.5.w1, P502.1992.w8)
  • No faeces are passed, (J12.5.w1, P502.1992.w8) or small, fibrous and dry faeces may be passed. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Straining as if trying to defecate. (B16.18.w18)
  • Anorexia or disinterest in feeding. (B16.18.w18, B214.3.7.w3, J12.5.w1, P502.1992.w8)
  • Dehydration. (B16.18.w18)
  • Excessive thirst may be seen (J12.5.w1) or there may be reduced water intake. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Body temperature may be increased. (B214.3.7.w3, J12.5.w1)
  • Restlessness. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Signs of abdominal discomfort. (P502.1992.w8)
    • Frequent lying down and getting up again, an anxious expression, tenesmus, rubbing the abdomen on solid objects. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Bloat. (B214.3.7.w3, P502.1992.w8)
  • Gastric fluid may be vomited with anterior obstruction. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Mild jaundice may be noted. (J12.5.w1)
Further Information Pathology:
  • In severe cases:
    • Dehydration. (P502.1992.w8)
    • Peritonitis. P502.1992.w8
    • Gastro-intestinal tract: Intestinal rupture, areas of gangrenous intestines (sometimes associated with rupture), intestinal mucosal ulceration. (P502.1992.w8)


  • Oral mineral oil or prune juice. (B10.49.w21, B16.18.w18)
  • Manual evacuation of the rectum and/or enemas with warmed water and mineral oil to break up the impacted faeces. (B16.18.w18, B214.3.7.w3, J12.5.w1).
  • Intravenous fluid therapy with dextrose, dextrose saline, normal saline or lactated Ringer's solution: 10 -25 litres given on alternate days. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Administration of calcium borogluconate intravenously and calcium pantothenate intramuscularly. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Antispasmodics in individuals with signs of colic. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Parasympathomimetics to stimulate intestinal motility and secretions. (P502.1992.w8)
  • Laxatives:
    • Note: Laxatives such as osmotics or irritants should not be given until there is proof of at least some matter being passed through the intestinal tract, or the problem may be made worse. (B10.49.w21)
    • Epsom salts (up to 2 lb) may be given orally as a laxative. (J12.5.w1)
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics. (P502.1992.w8)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken).

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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