The Role of Copper and Vitamin A Deficiencies Leading to Neurological Signs in Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and Lions (Panthera leo) in the United Arab Emirates


Neurological signs like ataxia and hind limb paresis have often been reported in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), lions (Panthera leo) and snow leopards (Panthera unica). As a cause, copper and Vitamin A deficiencies have been discussed. Many cases were seen in cheetahs and lions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) within the last years. The aim of this study was to find correlations between nutrition, serum, and tissue levels, focusing on copper and Vitamin A. Blood and tissue samples of affected and unaffected animals were analyzed at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai, UAE. Animals were split into three different groups (A, B and C) according to their diets. Minerals were determined in serum, tissue, food and water samples, and serum was additionally analyzed for Vitamin A and E. Liver, kidney and spinal cord samples were taken for histopathological investigations. Mean serum copper and liver copper levels of animals fed pure chicken muscle meat without supplements were significantly lower (0.41 ± 0.71 μM/L; 2.16 ± 0.95 ppm wet weight) than in animals fed a whole carcass prey diet (12.16 ± 3.42 μM/L; 16.01 ± 17.51 ppm wet weight) (p < 0.05). Serum Vitamin A and E levels were highest in animals fed whole carcass prey diets (1.85 ± 0.68; 27.31 ± 5.69 μM/L). Liver zinc concentrations were highest in animals fed pure chicken meat only (43.75 ± 16.48 ppm wet weight). In histopathology, demyelination of the spinal cord was found in all of the affected animals and most commonly when fed a diet based on poultry without supplements.

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Kaiser, C. , Wernery, U. , Kinne, J. , Marker, L. and Liesegang, A. (2014) The Role of Copper and Vitamin A Deficiencies Leading to Neurological Signs in Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and Lions (Panthera leo) in the United Arab Emirates. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 5, 1978-1990. doi: 10.4236/fns.2014.520209.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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