Chiropractic for Giraffes

giraffe torticollis chiropracticA 2-year old male giraffe, estimated to weigh 450kg, developed severe torticollis during transport between zoos (stress?).

The giraffe was transported for about 20 hours and was reported to have remained calm during transport. Before unloading at the destination, the giraffe had severe left lateral torticollis at C4–C5 with compensatory right lateral torticollis at C3–C4 and superficial bleeding of the ossicones with blood streaks on the inside of the trailer at ossicone height (image).

Despite initial medical management, the giraffe developed marked neck sensitivity, focal muscle spasms, and decreased cervical range of motion.

Lateral cervical X rays, with the giraffe standing and unsedated, were taken and revealed no obvious osseous pathology. Thirteen weeks after presentation, chiropractic adjustments were applied to the left C4-C5 intervertebral articulation in an effort to restore normal segmental motion and motor control because of concerns for long-term clinical deterioration (why would humans be any different?).

Desensitisation training was initiated to allow palpation of the affected cervical region. Using operant conditioning to assist patient positioning and tolerance, a series of manually applied chiropractic adjustments were applied to the affected cervical vertebrae in an effort to restore normal cervical mobility. Laser therapy and cervical range of motion exercises were also used to reduce cervical muscle hypertonicity.

giraffe upcspineOne year after initial presentation (healing takes time), the giraffe had nearly normal cervical range of motion but continued to have mild thoracolumbar scoliosis. Small regions of muscle hypertonicity continued along the neck, but were markedly improved.

The combined application of these non-traditional therapies produced marked clinical improvement. This case highlights the potential benefits of combining traditional medical management with chiropractic treatment and physical therapy techniques for management of severe acute-onset torticollis in a giraffe.

Reference: Dadone, L. et al. Successful management of acute-onset torticollis in a giraffe. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 2013. 44(1):181-185.

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