DISEASE SUMMARY PAGE

Wounds in Elephants

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Summary Information
Diseases / List of Physical / Traumatic Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names See also:
Disease Agents
  • Causes of wounds in elephants include bullets, spears, snares, leg chains, use of "kahs" (neck yokes made of wood and wire), inappropriately administered darts, bite and tusk wounds from other elephants, and (in wild Asian elephants) wounds from tigers. (B10.49.w21, B212.w22, D301, B388.4.w4, B450.18.w18, B453.7.w7, J2.1.w1, J12.5.w1, J12.74.w2, P9.2004.w3, P503.1.w5)
  • Penetrating wounds or severe bruises may cause development of abscesses. (B70.B4.w1) 
  • Penetrating wounds in elephants often occur on the soles from stepping on foreign bodies such as stones, nails or wires. (B22.34.w12, P5.39.w1)
  • Culture of infected penetrating wounds commonly reveals a mixed growth of  bacteria, such as Staphylococcus spp., Streptococcus spp., Pseudomonas spp., Proteus spp., Escherichia coli and Enterobacter spp.. (P5.39.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 In Elephants:
  • Ulcers can occur if a superficial wound or abrasion is left untreated. (B64.27.w4)
  • Penetrating wounds, lacerations and abrasions are commonly reported. (B22.34.w12, P5.39.w1)
  • Penetrating skin wounds may develop into abscesses. (B64.27.w4)
  • Bullet wounds have been reported. They can be superficial or deep wounds. (P502.1992.w4)
  • Severe wounds due to inadequate capture techniques such as used of unprotected chains on the legs, use of "kahs" (neck yokes made of wood and wire) and inappropriately administered darts, have been reported. (P503.1.w5)
  • Wounds from leg chains have been reported in zoo elephants. (B450.18.w18)
  • Small wounds of the limbs are common, specially in young elephants. (D301.3.w3)
  • Ear wounds are commonly caused by bites from other elephants. (B10.49.w21)
  • Minor ear wounds such as edge tears, spear holes and bullet holes in the pinna, usually heal readily. (B453.7.w7)
  • Elephants in Asia are sometimes mauled by tigers. (B212.w22, B453.7.w7, J12.5.w1)

Clinical signs:

  • Lacerations, abrasions, penetrating wounds. (B22.34.w12, B450.17.w17, P5.39.w1)
  • Oedema and swelling may be present. (B450.17.w17)
  • Purulent discharge may occur. (B450.17.w17)
  • Discomfort or pain may be evident. (B450.17.w17)
  • Bacterial infection may occur. (B450.17.w17)
  • Wounds may develop into abscesses. See: Subcutaneous Abscess in Elephants
  • Neglected wounds may develop to ulcers. (B10.49.w21) See: Skin Ulcers in Elephants
  • Ear bite wounds, if not treated initially, are seen as areas of sloughing of crushed tissues. (B10.49.w21)
  • Infarction, necrosis and sloughing of a portion of the ear pinna has occurred following probable trauma. (B70.4B.w1)

Descriptions of different types of wounds are available in Elephants and their Diseases- A Treatise on Elephants - Part IV - Chapter IV - Wounds. Abscess. Serious Abscess. Full text included.

Further Information
  • Superficial wounds and abrasions tend to heal fast in healthy elephants without much or any treatment. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4)

Investigation/ Diagnosis:

Treatment:

  • Remove any foreign bodies, using fingers, forceps or, for dirt and gravel, flushing with warm water. Remove any fly eggs or maggots (see Myiasis). (B212.w22)
  • Flush deep wounds with antibiotic or antiseptic solution. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4, B450.18.w18, J12.5.w1)
    • Do not use excessive force. (B212.w22)
  • If the wound does not penetrate the full dermis thickness, it may be treated with antiseptic or antibiotic ointment. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4, B450.18.w18)
  • For individuals in which more than a single treatment may not be possible, flushing with a solution of two parts of nitrofurazone in one part of dimethylsulfoxide may prevent the development of abscesses. (B10.49.w21, B64.27.w4)
  • If the wound is ulcerated, debridement of the wound edges and application of antibiotic, such as nitrofurazone ointment, is indicated. (B64.27.w4) 
  • Ear bites from other elephants should be treated using topical antibiotic treatment, frequent warm water bathing and parenteral steroids. (B10.49.w21)
  • Unpasturised honey (initially as a coating on laparotomy sponges packed into the wound) was used successfully to treat a purulent neck wound, 10-12 cm wide and 25-30 cm deep, on the neck of a female Loxodonta africana - African Elephant. Twice daily (once daily from day 101) lavage of the wound plus dressing with unpasturised honey was used. (P9.2004.w3)
    • Honey was chose after failure of the infection to respond to topical treatment with anti-inflammatory ointment an 1% silver sulphadiazine cream) together with systemic antibiotics. (P9.2004.w3)
    • Initially, systemic antibiotics were used together with the honey (oral enrofloxacin, chosen based on culture and sensitivity results) (for five weeks). However, a single-dose pharmacokinetic study indicated that oral administration at the dose rate used (1.5 mg/kg) produced subtherapeutic serum levels of enrofloxacin at all times to 24 hours. (P9.2004.w3)
    • The wound appeared to heal faster, and with less scarring, than expected. (P9.2004.w3)
  • Incised wounds or lacerations may be sutured following debridement. (B70.B4.w1)
    • Single interrupted sutures should be placed about 1.25 - 1. inches apart and leaving a drainage space at the dependent end of the wound. (B212.w22)
    • Mattress sutures with thick, non-absorbable suture material, should be used. (B70.B4.w1)
    • As an alternative to sutures, strips of strong adhesive plaster may be used. The hair on the skin should removed and two strips of adhesive plaster prepared, one with a central hole, the other with a narrow central portion to fit that hole. The strips are stuck to the skin on either side of the wound, the narrowed strip is passed through the hole in the other strip and the ends of the strips are pulled to bring the wound edges together, then the free ends of the strips are glued down, each on top of the strip on the other side. (B212.w22)
  • Dressings may be applied to keep the wound clean and keep insects away from it. (B212.w22)
  • Amputation was used to treat a chronic ulcerating and granulating wound of the tail stump of a female Elephas maximus - Asian Elephant (the distal 60 cm having been bitten off by another elephant). The amputation was carried out about 7.5 cm proximal to the lesion. Vessels were ligated, a vertebra transected using an osteotome, the defect closed using No. 2 chromic catgut and the skin closed using vertical mattress sutures of Vetafil. The wound dehisced after 10 days and was debrided and sutured with No. 3 silk. Partial dehiscence occurred and the wound finally healed after four months. (J2.1.w1)

A descriptions of the strips for closing wound is available in Elephants and their Diseases- A Treatise on Elephants - Part IV - Chapter IV - Wounds. Abscess. Serious Abscess. Full text included.

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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