DISEASE SUMMARY PAGE

Dermatitis in Elephants

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Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names See also:
Disease Agents
  • Dermatitis has been reported commonly in captive elephants, as a result of an inadequate daily skin care. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4)
  • Dermatitis may occur in association with sunburn, urine scalding, trauma or infectious agents, or may be of unknown cause. (B450.17.w17)
  • Infectious agents associated with dermatitis in elephants include most commonly Candida spp., Staphylococcus spp. and Streptococcus spp. (B450.17.w17)
  • Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was found, together with Candida albicans, in one case of severe dermatitis in a male Elephas maximus - Asian Elephant. The source of the MRSA could not be found. (P6.6.w1)

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

Clinical signs:

  • "Dirty, dry, scurfy and warty-looking skin"(B64.27.w4)
  • Pruritis. (B64.27.w4)
  • In an adult (42-year-old) male (with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Candida albicans infection) skin lesions developed first along the dorsal trunk, then along the left side of the trunk, the lateral edge of both ears, along the neck (where the ears lie) and on the tip of the trunk. The first lesions, on the dorsal trunk, were small haemorrhagic ulcers, progressing to skin sloughing, with oozing of serum. Later lesions were small to large and coalescing ulcers, also oozing. (P6.6.w1)

Pathology:

  • Biopsy findings have included:
    • Eosinophilic dermatitis. (B450.17.w17)
    • Purulent epidermatitis. (B450.17.w17)
    • Nodular fasciolitis. (B450.17.w17)
  • In an adult (42-year-old) male (with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Candida albicans infection) the only changed blood parameter at 18 days after the onset of clinical signs was a raised fibrinogen. (P6.6.w1, V.w84)
Further Information Diagnosis:
  • Swabs for culture and sensitivity testing to determine any pathogens are involved. (P6.6.w1)
    • In an adult (42-year-old) male Elephas maximus - Asian Elephant, methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was confirmed by PCR for the Mec (methicillin resistance) and Nuc (Staphylococus aureus thermonuclease) genes, and by latex agglutination test for the for PBP2 (penicillin binding protein 2b, characteristic of MRSA). (P6.6.w1)

Treatment:

  • Daily bathing or hosing combined with a scrubbing, using a mildly abrasive material, such as pumice stone or stiff brush. (B64.27.w4)
  • In an adult (42-year-old) male (with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Candida albicans infection) lesions were sprayed daily with chlorhexidine, diluted 1:5 in water. This was applied using a child's water-gun. Treatment was reduced gradually, after repeated skin swabs did not reveal MRSA, to every other day then to twice weekly for two months while the skin lesions healed. Healing was complete by three months after the first signs. (P6.6.w1)
    • Parenteral treatment was oral rifampin (7mg/kg twice daily for 10 days, fucidic acid I 6mg.kg twice daily for 10 days) and probiotics. These were administered in food treats (hot cross buns, sugar cane). (P6.6.w1, V.w84))
  • Application of a non toxic oil, e.g. mineral oil or neatsfoot oil, after the bathing and scrubbing. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4)
    • In some cases oil may worsen the condition by absorbing more dirt. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4)
  • Topical antibiotics may be given. (B450.17.w17)
  • Parenteral antibiotics have been given in some cases. (B450.17.w17) 
  • Steroids or anti-inflammatories are sometimes used. (B450.17.w17)
  • Debridement has been used occasionally. (B450.17.w17)

Prevention:

  • Daily bathing or hosing combined with a scrubbing, using a mildly abrasive material, such as pumice stone or stiff brush. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4)
  • In cases when there is access to abrasive logs or logs, the elephants will rub off the dead skin after being bathed or hosed. (B64.27.w4)
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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