Tusk Development Problems in Elephants

Click here for full page view with caption

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names Closed sulcus
Disease Agents
  • Some tusk development abnormalities appear to be genetic or congenital, while others occur due to trauma. (B453.7.w7)
  • Tusks may fail to erupt from the sulcus. (B70.B4.w1, D301.3.w3)
    • Failure of tusk eruption may be due to trauma at an early stage of tusk development. (B70.B4.w1)
  • Variations in shape and growth, or lack of tusk growth, may be congenital or genetic. Variations in growth may also occur due to injury or infection when the elephant is a calf. (B10.49.w21, B10.34.w42, B451.10.w10, B453.7.w7)
    • A sharp blow to a tusk may cause loosening and rotation in the socket. (B10.49.w21)
  • Damage to the developing tusk, for example due to pieces of wood or thorn becoming embedded into the sulcus, may result in division of the pulp and formation of a bifid or multiple tusk, or development of irregular supernumerary tusklets (which may or may not have their own pulp). (B453.7.w7)
Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s)
General Description

Clinical signs:

  • Presence of a bifid or multiple tusk. (B453.7.w7)
    • If untreated, there may be associated abscessation of the tusk sulcus and pus running down the tusk. (B453.7.w7)
  • Tusks with varied shape or direction of growth. (B10.49.w21, B10.34.w42, B453.7.w7)
  • Blind tusk (failure of eruption):
    • Swelling over the sulcus where the tusk should erupt. (B70.B4.w1, D301.3.w3)
    • Discomfort. (D301.3.w3)
    • Pushing the head against objects. (D301.3.w3)


  • Deformed tusks and supernumerary tusklets sometimes have a thick layer of cementum. Their dentine is irregular, with patches of normal dentine and within this, small or large foci of reactionary dentine. (B453.7.w7)
    • Supernumerary tusks may consist wholly or mainly of reactionary dentine. (B453.7.w7)
Further Information Treatment:
  • For a tusk which fails to erupt normally:
  • A tusk which has been loosened in its socket may be fastened, in its proper position, to the other tusk, until healing stabilises it. (B10.49.w21, B10.34.w42)
  • It may be possible to correct tusk growth which has occurred in an abnormal direction by adapting human orthodontic procedures. (B10.49.w21, B10.34.w42)
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)

Return to top of page