Bone Fractures in Elephants

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Physical / Traumatic Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names --
Disease Agents

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:

Clinical signs

  • An elephant with a fractured limb will lie down or stand in one place, being unable to move properly. (B10.49.w21)
  • Crepitus (grating) is heard when the broken ends rub against one another. (B212.w24)
  • The affected area is swollen. (B212.w24, P501.2001.w5)
  • Severe lameness. (P1.1981.w3)
  • Lameness and loss of function of the affected leg.
  • There is inability to bear weight on the affected limb. (B212.w24)
  • There may be excessive mobility at the fracture site. (B212.w24, P501.2001.w5)
  • There is acute pain. (B212.w24, P501.2001.w5)
  • The affected limb may be visibly shortened. (B212.w24)
  • If several ribs have been fractured, impaired respiration may be noted. (B453.7.w7)
Further Information
  • The prognosis is poor for limb fractures. (B10.49.w21, B214.3.7.w3)
  • If healing occurs, the bone is usually deformed. (B214.3.7.w3)
  • A fractured rib may heal, but if several are fractured, impaired respiration may be fatal. (B453.7.w7)

Diagnosis and Investigation:

  • Radiography. (P1.1981.w3)


  • Rest may allow healing of a simple fracture. (B212.w24, B451.10.w10)
  • In cases of limb fracture, the affected extremity should be immobilised. (B214.3.7.w3)
  • Splinting of the broken limb has been used successfully. (B214.3.7.w3)
  • Casting may be used:
    • A polyurathane cast, covering the leg from the stifle joint to the foot, reinforced by longitudinal metal straps on the medial and lateral surfaces, these being attached, for the first four weeks, to a stainless steel pin driven lateral to medial through the proximal tibia, was used successfully to treat a simple fracture in the distal third of the tibia and fibula of an adult female African bush elephant. (P1.1981.w3)
    • In an adult female Asian elephant with a spiral fracture of the distal tibia and fibula, a three-layer cast was applied consisting of a gauze contact layer, cotton wool padding layer and fibreglass casting tape outer compressive layer applied as a circumferential full limb cast, with a weight-bearing shoe fixed to the cast under the foot. The cast was applied under deep xylazine sedation with the elephant in lateral recumbency. The leg was recast after eight, 14 and 30 days, then splinted, with the last splint cast removed at 60 days from the initial treatment. Some development of "bed sore ulcer" was found at the tarsal joint and the proximal nails, but was treated by cleansing and application of antibiotic cream. The elephant was considered recovered after 90 days. (P501.2001.w5)
  • Plating can be used in young elephants. (B10.49.w21)
    • Plating was used unsuccessfully in an adult Elephas maximus - Asian Elephant with a fractured tibia and fibula. Weight-bearing after the operation resulted in bending of the plate; an external metal brace was added. After four weeks the plate was removed and an external splint applied. At four months callus at the fracture site had broken down, the animal was non-weight-bearing on the other hind leg and the elephant was euthanased. (B450.18.w18)
  • An intramedullary pin was used for repair of a humeral fracture in a four-year-old Elephas maximus - Asian Elephant. (B450.18.w18)
  • For older elephants, the limb can be held immobilised in a rested position. (B10.49.w21)
  • It may be possible to rest the limb by supporting the elephant in a sling while it heals. (B10.49.w21)
  • Antibiotics, both systemic and topical, should be given for any open fracture to avoid/control osteomyelitis. (B10.49.w21)
  • An analgesic should be given for severe pain, e.g. Morphine ( 3 - 6 mg/100 kg four times daily for analgesia, 6 - 20 mg/kg four times daily for analgesia and sedation, or meperidine (75 - 150 mg/100 kg four times daily for analgesia and sedation). (B10.49.w21)
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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