A zebra that was treated for hoof trouble for more than three months was euthanized Wednesday after Oklahoma City Zoo staff members decided her infection could not be cured.
Zephra, 19, was euthanized the day before Thanksgiving after a painful infection immobilized the half-ton animal, said Jennifer D'Agostino, director of veterinarian services at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Zephra was diagnosed in August with laminitis, a general inflammation in the hoof. It can be triggered by a variety of things, such as heat or a virus, though zoo officials aren't sure what caused Zephra's case, D'Agostino said. The zebra was given a horseshoe, which temporarily relieved the pressure.
But Zephra began to limp again, and a more extensive exam revealed a painful abscess. She was immobilized several times so experts from throughout the state could help treat her. Because Grevy's zebras are wild and aggressive, Zephra had to be anesthetized for each treatment.
Despite treatment, her pain and the infection wouldn't go away, D'Agostino said. The tip of the bone inside her hoof was dying. The only solution was surgery.
Henry Jann, an equine surgeon from Oklahoma State University, performed the surgery Nov. 10. They bored a hole into the bottom of her hoof, removed the dead bone, packed it with antibiotics and wrapped it in a hard cast.
Zephra showed a lot of promise for the next week, D'Agostino said.
“She was doing great,” she said. “She was walking without hardly any limp.”
But she quickly deteriorated. The infection got worse and her foot began separating from the hoof. Zoo officials cleaned her and gave her another day. But when they unwrapped the bandages Nov. 23, they knew the problem was too much for her to overcome, D'Agostino said.
“As soon as we took the bandage off,” she said, “we knew.”
Zoo veterinarians, along with Zephra's keepers and zoo management, decided the zebra should be euthanized, D'Agostino said. The animal was administered a lethal dose of anesthesia.
The zoo's other adult Grevy's zebra, Darasa, banged her head against the side of the barn where Zephra was euthanized, D'Agostino said.
“I think Darasa knew,” she said. “I think Zephra was just kind of done.”
Zephra's body has been donated to Skulls Unlimited. Her bones will either end up on display at the Museum of Osteology or become part of an educational exhibit, D'Agostino said.
In retrospect, D'Agostino said Zephra's condition was common and complex.
“The whole time we thought it was all going to be fine. The infection got the better of her,” she said. “We knew that this was the road it could go down.”