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Oklahoma City Zoo giraffe euthanized during surgery

Kyah, a 6-month-old giraffe from the Oklahoma City Zoo, was facing a life-threatening birth defect. The giraffe underwent surgery Tuesday at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
by Matt Patterson Modified: April 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm •  Published: April 8, 2014

— Kyah, a 6-month-old giraffe from the Oklahoma City Zoo, was euthanized Tuesday after surgeons encountered complications during a surgery that was viewed as the only chance to save her life.

The 520-pound giraffe, born in September, was taken to Oklahoma State University on Tuesday morning for what was seen as a long-shot operation. The animal suffered from a persistent right aortic arch, the result of a birth defect. A vessel in her heart had grown around her esophagus, preventing her from eating solid foods. As the giraffe grew, the vessel coiled tighter around the pathway for food to reach her stomach. The surgery was seen as her only chance.

“The surgery was risky but critical because her mother, Ellie, was trying to wean her and she wouldn’t have thrived without the ability to eat solid foods,” said Jennifer D’Agostino, zoo director of veterinary services. “Although there were many risks, the surgery was her only chance to survive.”

Ellie has had three calves at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Kyah was the only one with the birth defect.

The condition is more common in dogs and cats. It was the first known example of a giraffe suffering from a persistent right aortic arch. The procedure required surgeons to open her chest cavity to locate the problem area. The decision to euthanize Kyah was made after attempts to repair the vessel that had grown around the esophagus were unsuccessful. A necropsy will be performed as part of the zoo’s standard procedure when animals die.

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by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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We knew going into this procedure that Kyah’s chances were extremely low and we felt we gave her every chance possible to thrive. Collaborations such as these also allow us to learn more about the species in our care.”

Jennifer D’Agostino,
Oklahoma City Zoo director of veterinary services


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